Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A rose by any other name...

We have an oldish, very polite British chap in our department who works on translation. He often goes around from office to office asking people what they think the precise difference in nuance is between various words, or whether a given word has a certain connotation for people of different generations. Today's encounter, however, made me laugh.

"Excuse me," he said, passing me in the corridor, "can I ask you a question?"
"Sure," I replied.
"Do you think there is any semantic difference between the words 'tosser' and 'wanker'?"

I had to think for a moment.

"If there's a difference," I eventually replied, "I think it's very slight. Maybe 'wanker' has more of a connotation of the person being stuck up, while 'tosser' is more of a general insult."
"Hmm..." he said, "Thank you. That's helpful."
"What on earth are you working on?" I asked, as he walked away.
"Oh!" he said, "It's not for my research. I'm writing a letter to the National Radio, and was trying to decide which I should call them."


Weekend_Viking said...


Anonymous said...

I am a lurker on your blog, but as an ex-Pat in Texas, this made me chuckle out loud. I can even imagine your colleague - does he wear a cardigan or a sweater vest?


Kate said...

Hehehehe! Fantastic.

Anonymous said...

awesome story.

Clair said...

:) hehehe

StyleyGeek said...

Frequently one or the other, Tex!

Anonymous said...

LOL - another lurker here... But I have to say - what made it even funnier for me, is that I was imagining the gentleman in question as sounding (and looking) like Ducky on NCIS, lol... (I don't suppose he actually does, does he?

Jana said...

I also think "wanker" is a sharper insult than "tosser". It means that you think the person actually engages in wanking. Whereas I don't think "tosser" necessarily does.

Or am I off-base here?