I was watching an American TV programme or film recently, I can’t remember what exactly, when I noticed someone use the term thrift store. I’d of course heard it used many times in the past, but this time I began to wonder why this American term is so different from its British-English version, charity shop.
Store and shop I’ve already covered, but I find it very interesting that American English emphasises thrift, but but British English stresses the charity aspect.
Not to over simplify things (and I’ll state from the get go that I’m not indulging in generalisations about American people), but it does seem to neatly encapsulate some of the main differences between American culture, and its forebears in Europe.
British English emphasises that these shops are charity operations, to help those in need. But American English, in a country where capitalism and rugged individualism are inextricably woven into the national identity, emphasises the economic aspect (finding a bargain), and downplays the charity aspect (everyone can achieve the American Dream on their own).
And as much as I like knowing that buying secondhand books from a charity shop is indirectly helping people, I’ll also admit that I love getting a bargain (my favourite is still getting the full-colour edition of House of Leaves for either €2 or €3). Just as I’m sure most Americans shopping at thrift stores enjoying helping people as well as saving money.
Still, it’s interesting to think about how ideologies are transmitted through language and can still influence us, despite our individual beliefs.
If you’re a thrifty person, you might be interested to know that you can resharpen an old razor blade by rubbing it a few times along some denim (in the opposite direction you shave).
But wait: should that just be sharpen!?
Don’t worry/be greatly disappointed (delete as appropriate): I’m not going to write about Tik Tok. I saw the name of the app recently, and thought about how I haven’t written about the origin of its name, as I have other social media.
But then, there’s not really much to write about, is there? It did set me thinking about tick tock specifically, as well as the curious fact that clocks don’t go tick tock. They go tick tick (and so on).
So why do we say tick tock?
Good question, and one I’ve been asking myself a lot while I’ve been writing lately.
Unprecedented times. Challenging, uncertain, trying times.
I’m sure you’ve heard it all at this stage, and probably will for a while yet (for any of you reading this in the future, I’m writing this on 9th September 2020, that should tell you everything!) I’m not going to write about the ongoing global pandemic, but rather that a term that I first heard because of it: smart working!
After writing yesterday about how the word revolting comes from the stomach (not literally: that’d be, well, revolting), I was thinking about just how much of a role that organ plays in the English language.
An easy joke, that one there in the title. But have you ever wondered why revolting has two such distinct meanings which let us make the joke in the first place?