Found In Translation: UK English Baby Glossary

When I moved to the USA many years ago from Ireland (which is not my home country, if you ask), I had the occasional run-in with the different words used on either side of the Atlantic (or, more often, SAME words with different meaning). Now as a new mum, I had to learn a completely new word book of baby vocabulary.

Here for those of you who might travel to Europe – or just want to have a good laugh – today I present you with some basics of British baby-talk.

Let’s start by changing the baby, shall we? For that, of course, you will need some nappies. Dirty ones go into a nappy bin or, if you’re a bit more posh, into a nappy disposal system. Since we just established the absence of “diapers”, there are no diaper bags. Your baby items will fit comfortably into a changing bag.

But before you put a new nappy on, you will want to clean your baby using a top and tail bowl and drying her afterwards with some cotton wool.

Are you going out? If you don’t want to use a carrier, you will need a pram. The term pram can be confusing.  Many people use the word to mean a pushchair or travel system, but it is also the name for a traditional, coach-style pram. Make sure your tyres are in good shape!

Are you staying in? Baby can be put to sleep in a cot (or if you’re visiting, you’ll probably have a carrycot or Moses basket). You might notice that more European parents are rather concerned that their baby might kick a blanket off and get cold than suffocate underneath it. That’s because the use of cellular blankets is more popular than fleece blankets. Also, European parents don’t give their babies pacifiers, but pacify them with dummies.

If you’re bottle feeding, make sure you have some extra teats (however if you pronounce it ‘tits’, you may as well just stay with nipples:) and a bottle and teat brush.

Lastly, stock up on bibs and cloths to wipe the posset. Now this word is tricky. What is posset you want to know? Wikipedia will tell you that “A posset (also spelled poshote, poshotte) was a British hot drink of milk curdled with wine or ale, often spiced, which was popular from medieval times to the 19th century”. That’s not really helpful. And although somebody once said that it sounds like something the British would wear on their heads to horse races, it is rarely worn on heads (although as a new parent you possibly had it on yesterday:))). Americans call it un-euphemistically spit-up!

What other British words do you find confusing?

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