Who’s On First, British Version

The scene is a ward of a hospital in Southern England.

I am chatting with a friend, another speech therapist who’s from South Africa. She and her roommate are joining us for dinner that evening. She’s asked if she can bring anything. I suggest that she could bring a dessert.

As we are parting company, she says, “So I’ll see you at six with pudding!”

I reply, “Pudding? How nice!”

She looks at me oddly. “But that’s what you asked me to bring.”

I answer, “Well, I just said dessert, but pudding’s great!”

She starts to frown a bit, “Isn’t that what you want?”

I’m worried that I’ve offended her by suggesting that I don’t like pudding. “No! I love pudding!”

“But you seem surprised. Do you want me to bring something else?”

I’ve really screwed this up, it seems, and I’m not sure how to fix it.

“No! Pudding is fine! Really. Any flavor.”

A nurse sitting at the desk is swiveling her head back and forth like she’s watching Wimbledon, but played really awkwardly by two people who don’t quite understand the rules and are using salad tongs instead of racquets.

“Flavor? Did you have something specific you wanted me to bring?”

“No, any kind is great.”

“But you want me to bring pudding.”

“Only if you want to.”

“But you asked me to!”

“Any dessert at all is fine! Really!”

“But that’s what I’m bringing!”

I’m worried now that 1) She’s going to pelt my front door with ambrosia salad, and 2) the nurse is going to sustain a neck injury.

“But anything is fine, really, pudding or whatever you want.”

“So you don’t want me to bring a dessert?”

Maybe we should just give up food.

“I would love for you to bring a dessert. It just doesn’t have to be pudding.”

About this time I’m seriousy considering that I’ve made a monumental mistake becoming someone who helps others with communication. Cause I suck.

The friend says, after a pause, “Wait…do you think pudding and dessert are different things?”

“Umm…I think pudding is a sub-class of dessert. Creamy stuff, comes in chocolate and vanilla? Sold by Bill Cosby?”

“Who?”

“Never mind. Do you think pudding and dessert are different things?”

“No. In this part of the world they both mean the treat you eat after dinner.”

“Really?” I ask.

The nurse looks at me. “I could have told you that.”

“Well what do you call the creamy stuff made from milk?”

My friend asks, “Like a custard?”

The nurse says, “No, I think she means a blancmange.”

“No!” I say, “Pudding! The stuff made by Jello!”

“We don’t say ‘jello,’ we say ‘jelly.'”

And now all I want is a gin and tonic.

22 comments

  1. ahhh-I feel your pain, as I am originally an American who roomed with a gal from Manchester once. (Now I live in Israel, and write for the UK website of a medical company-so yes am completely messed up.)

    I had no idea what a loo was and the words sweater, jumper, pants and knickers still make me break out in a sweat trying to figure out what article of clothing the person is referring to.

    And here in Israel Jelly is jello. arrghhhh but pudding is pudding (American kind)

  2. Oh the fun of cross culture communication! Now pass the pudding. And by pudding I mean chocolate cake. And wine. I mean, wine can be a dessert, right?

  3. We have this same problem at my house over the word “snack.” To me that means anything you can shove in your mouth with little or no preparation. Good examples: carrots, gold fish crackers, nuts, pretzels. To my husband it means: salty, oily chips or freshly baked chocolate chips that I was supposed to have known he wanted 11 minutes before he has to ask.

    But pudding…..I can see your concern.

  4. Hilarious.

    I watched an episode of Good Eats (that show on the Food Network with Alton Brown) all about pudding that was really interesting….prior to that, I would have been just as confused as you were.

    I love that it said pudding on the menus, but you didn’t notice! hehe

  5. I think the idea of Jell-o might have melted the entire room. Thank God you stopped before explaining Bill Cosby’s role in all of this. Hilarious!

  6. I had no end of trouble with ‘biscuits’ when I was in England.

    The idea of biscuits & sausage gravy grossed everyone out & I had no idea why. OK, it’s kinda heavy as a meal but not gross….

  7. I’m glad you mentioned flavor because I think the nurse was going to let you play tong tennis all day long without throwing you a bone or a biscuit.

  8. Oh, that’s funny. Reminds me of my family when we get together, my MIL is Korean, my BIL is Greek…it’s crazy! The words that my hubby and I mess up is “this ‘day'” vs. “next ‘day'” as in, “are we going to town this Thursday or next Thursday?” He says that “NEXT”= the very next one (as in 3 days from now) versus the one after ‘this’ one. Wow, now I’m even confusing myself!

  9. This is so funny. I would have that if anything a pudding in Britain as well as being a general term for dessert is also something a bit more baked, like a sponge pudding, or Christmas Pudding, or steak and kidney pudding which is gross and NOT for dessert.

  10. Hehehe This one kinda made my brain hurt. It’s like people who say “Coke” for any soda type beverage. I don’t understand the use of a specific subset to generalize all things within a category. It is illogical. LoL

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