Tuesday, August 28, 2012
The Language Barrier Part 3: Of Mums and Moms
When I first saw the sign, "Mums for Sale, 5 dollars", I did an alarmeddouble-take. Well, all right, just for a fleeting couple of seconds. After all, in a strange country, you're never quite sure what to expect. Thankfully, all was not as it seemed. Since the sign was outside the garden centre, my head finally got around the fact that these Mums were actually Chrysanthemums. Americans, perhaps finding the word a mite difficult, call them Mums. I still, stubbornly, make a point of saying Chrysanthemums.
But whatever you call them, I have mixed feelings about them. Number one, garden centres, such as there are around here, are full of them and nothing but them. Rows and rows of them. Big ones, small ones, some as big as yer 'ead. They're OK as they go - but thousands of them could be deemed an exaggeration. Number two, they send a chill through my veins. They are harbingers of autumn and seeing their serried ranks appear with monotonous regularity in August makes me think of nothing but the sound of snowploughs tuning up. True, I have bought a few to brighten up the garden, the annuals having mostly succumbed to the drought-and-thunderstorm summer but I can only look at them with foreboding.
But if Americans call Chrysanthemums Mums, why do they call Mums Moms? They don't even pronounce the word as "Mom". It's more like "Maaaaaaarm" . Is it for the same reason that they call "Road Works" "Road Work" ? Just to be perversely different from the Brits? It's one of the small, niggling puzzles of living here and I'd be glad of an answer.