I've just had the privilege of writing a guest blog for Amy Boucher Pye's series on THERE's NO PLACE LIKE HOME, which follows on from her book "Finding myself in Britain."
“Shrimp for supper,” I announced to my hungry husband. “Same recipe as that one I tried in the States last week.” I think he started salivating. We had visited our American grandsons in America, and I’d found a new recipe which we’d loved: skewered shrimp. Now I wanted to recreate it in Wiltshire, and had eagerly pounced on a packet of shrimp I’d spotted when shopping.
Time to cook; I’d soaked the bamboo skewers in preparation and slit open the defrosted packet. Out tumbled tiny, tiny pathetic pink things. Not the large succulence I was expecting; these were miniscule. Lots of them to be sure, but far too small to be threaded on to skewers.
And then I remembered – we are two nations divided by a common language. What England calls prawns are what America calls shrimp, and they are huge in the States and tiny in the UK. I should have looked for ‘jumbo prawns’ or ‘tiger prawns’ in England. At least I had remembered that zucchini are courgettes and summer squash merely the yellow ones.
We ate shrimp and courgette risotto for supper. It was edible (just) but not what was expected, and a poor substitute.Same word but different meanings. And I had forgotten my translation skills. The years we spent living in the States should have reminded me of the need for interpretation. I used to dread using some word in a sermon that might be perfectly normal and acceptable in English, but have an entirely different and unsuitable meaning for my American congregation.
“Let’s make a list of differences,” Patti exclaimed enthusiastically, as we told each other about trunks and boots, pavements and sidewalks, bonnets and hoods. A gloriously correct Southern Lady, Patti found paper and pen and drew a line down the centre (center!) of the page. She wrote at the top of the left hand column: “English” and listed trunk and sidewalk and hood. Her pen hesitated at the top of the righthand column and she turned back to me. “So what do YOU speak?” she asked, bewildered.
Two nations divided by a common language, said George Bernard Shaw.
And then there’s “home.” Where is it? What is it?
When we lived in Virginia, despite the fact that we were ‘having a blast,’ and following the Lord’s calling to minister there, I often had moments of overwhelming grief. I would wander into my elder daughter’s bedroom and stand there sobbing, knowing that she was thousands of miles away in the UK at university and that my son, also in England, was now married and would never join us to live in the States.
It wasn’t place I was missing, but people, family....
To read the rest of this article, click here to go to Amy Boucher Pye's blog