Saturday, December 03, 2011

Separated by a common language

Something I ran across in The Spectator while looking for something rather different:
I reckon myself fairly competent as an interpreter of American newspaper headlines, but the Washington correspondent of the Morning Post sends one which, even with his translation as a guide, I still find baffling at points. It reads


and its purport appears to be that the University of Chicago has invited an Oxford professor to supervise the production of a dictionary of American English. Most of it, of course, crystal clear. But—Midway? And Limey?
‘A Spectator’s Notebook’ (by ‘Janus’), 1 January 1937, p. 6

There was a follow-up the next week:

Thanks are due to correspondents who have explained satisfactorily the American terms, “Midway” and “Limey.” “Midway,” as I rather suspected, is the University of Chicago, and for fairly obvious reasons. “Limey” is more interesting. In old sailing-ship days the Board of Trade required the crews of British vessels to be served with a ration of lime-juice when ten days out of port as a preventive against scurvy. Hence “lime-juicer” or “limey,”=(1) a British ship, (2) a British sailor, (3) any Britisher.
‘A Spectator’s Notebook’ (by ‘Janus’), 8 January 1937, p. 38
I would have thought that 'Limey' would have been better known back then, but perhaps not. (It was commonly known in my household growing up, but then again it was half-Limey.)

What threw me a bit was the use of the word 'dope' as a verb...

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