True Stories of Confusion!

Fanny Pack or Bum Bag???

The first time I heard someone talk about his or her "fanny pack" I nearly died. A word of warning for any US people visiting the UK .I suggest you call them "bum bags" like we do otherwise you may get some really peculiar looks. Surfice as to say the word fanny here refers to a much more intimate part of the female anatomy than your backside ;0)

Jane Yeadon
Brownie Guider, London, UK


When I was pregnant with my now 2 year old, in the UK, Mark's parents asked if we would like Mark's old cot for the baby to sleep in. The first chance that Mark and I were alone, I went on and on, something like 'What kind of a country is this, having babies sleep on cots! How dangerous! I want to go home where we know what we're doing!' Mark calmed me down, and although completely confused, said he would take me shopping to see if there was anything safer than a cot. When we got to the store, I pointed to a crib and said 'That is what a baby should sleep in, for heaven's sake!' He said ever so sweetly, 'Yes, dear. We call those 'cots''.

Catherine Butler
Brownie Leader, Frisco, TX - Tejas Council

Spotted Dick

Some American GS Leaders attended an International Camp our County (North Yorkshire West, UK) hosted in 1994. They were very puzzled to know what 'Spotted Dick' was - they had seen it on a restaurant menu!!

Their best idea was that it was a banana with chocolate chips!

Liz Watts
Troop Leader, Girl Scouts of Tres Condados Council, California, USA
Former Brownie Guider and County Hillwalking Adviser, UK

Footnote - I was actually going to post the end of this story to the list a few days later, but I was too busy at the time. The end of the story would have included an explanation as to what 'Spotted Dick' actually is (I was hoping to get people's imaginations moving!!), and a description of the Yorkshire meal that was cooked in honor of our foreign guests that included Spotted Dick! - Liz


A couple of people replied to a question on the WAGGGS-L list asking "what IS Spotted Dick"?

A steamed sponge type pudding with currants (hence the "spotted") mixed through - normally served hot with custard. Where the "Dick" element comes from I have no idea. Delicious but fattening. It is also normally made with suet and not margarine. Very much a "comfort" pudding.

Jan Bain
Guider 1st Banff Guides, Banff & Buchan, Scotland

Spotted Dick is a steamed sponge pudding with currants in it. I don't know how it got its name - it is an old traditional pudding. Someone possibly named Richard or Richards made a pudding that was spotted with currants.

Eileen Kermode
Guide Guider, Maghull, Liverpool, England


I thought my spouse and I had certainly run through all the UK-US faux pas until the day we were in the stationary store. He was looking for some decorated/multi-colored erasers to give to his students for rewards. I nearly died when I heard him ask the clerk if he could get a special discount if he purchased colored 'rubbers' in bulk.

Catherine Butler
Brownie Leader, Frisco, TX - Tejas Council


My daughter, with 5 other girl scouts from the US, several from the UK and Canada visited New Zealand for a guide-hosted tour of the South Island. The US contingent arrived a day early and were hosted in Nelson. One of the girls was walking about with the host daughter and asked about boys, or in slang terms, "Hotties." The host daughter asked about the term, which was defined as a hot looking guy.

New Zealand was enjoying their winter months, without the central heating so common in the US. That night, in an effort to make the US visitor more comfortable, the host mother asked her guest, "Would you like to sleep with a hottie?" My daughter's friend says she replied, "sure, but where will you find one on such short notice?" All the while the host daughter was rolling on the floor laughing.

As many of you have already figured out, or know, what in the US we call a hot water bottle is called a hotty in NZ.

Kathi Yu
Silver Spring, MD, Girl Scout Council of the Nation's Capital

Torches and Flashlights

I spent one summer during my college years working as an intern on an international magazine staff based in Los Angeles. Other interns were from Sweden, Australia, and the UK. One weekend we decided to drive to the ocean for a moonlit walk on the beach. As we went to our rooms to gather our gear before going to the cars, one of the UK folks cautioned me, "Be sure to bring a torch!"  I couldn't imagine where he expected me to find a pine bough in the middle of Los Angeles, or why he'd want to use torches on the beach instead of flashlights. Didn't realize until he showed up a few minutes later with a flashlight in his hand that a flashlight was a torch in the UK.  :)

Jane Schuler
Cadette Leader, Knoxville, TN


While I was staying with my mum-in-law in England, I remember that I would make a pot of tea, then set it out to cool so that I could use it for 'iced tea'.  My mum-in-law would always see the pot, and throw it out as it had gone cold.  I never told her that was the whole point!  She must have thought I was a really stupid, making pots of tea and then not drinking them!

Catherine Butler
Brownie Leader, Frisco, TX - Tejas Council

A cautionary tale from Canada

I once asked where the washroom was in a Holiday Inn in the US and found myself in the laundry room......

Wendy Baker
Campbellford, Ontario, Canada


When my parents visited Texas, they stayed with some friends of my Uncle, and when offered a drink my dad asked for shandy. For those of you from outside the UK, it's a mixture of beer and lemonade (what you would call Sprite!). Mixing it with American lemonade didn't have quite the same effect!

Another one was squash, which in America is a type of vegetable, but here is a concentrated fruit juice drink which you add water to.

Kim Dobson
Guide Guider and Brownie Guider
Reading, Berkshire, England


When I was a missionary in Japan, the gas man came to our apartment to check out the hot water heater. I still couldn't understand Japanese very well and didn't know what he wanted, so he said in English, "bathroom". Thinking that he needed to relieve himself, I showed him where the toilet was, which was in a small room like a closet. He shook his head and pointed to the room next to it which had the bathtub and hot water heater in it. He wanted to check out the hot water heater in our Bath Room!

Charlotte M. Meyer

Do you have any funny stories that you would like to share? Contact The GuideZone Team with your stories, comments or suggestions!

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This page last updated March 24th, 2000