Two countries separated by the same language. Words used in the UK and the US, commonplace in each, gain very different takes when used by the other. Classics include “fanny” referring to the back part in the US and the front part in the UK made Doctor Huckstable’s occasional threat to his daughter that he would “whup her fanny” far more uncomfortable in the UK. Also, the next door neighbours in Mork And Mindy, the Wankers, went over rather differently over here. Culturally, “nigger” has less of a negative connotation in the UK in the past, separate from a history of slavery, allowing Agatha Christie‘s Ten Little Niggers to be published in the UK, the title based on the British children’s nursery rhyme, though the name was changed in the US and the song in the book changed to the American “Ten Little Indians”. Now both countries call the book And Then There Were None. Just as “paki” has no negative connotations in the US, but in the UK it is a very derogative term for someone from Pakistan or neighbouring countries.
One other different use, concerns the word “spastic” or its derivations “spaz” and “spazzy”. In the US, these refer to someone being keen or geeky over something. In the UK, it is a serious insult referring to someone being disabled.
Not long ago, we reported on a Transformers character being named Spastic, and how the name was changed not only in the UK, but the rest of the world after some outcry.
Well, in Teen Titans Go #1, published by DC Comics the other week, there’s an advert for Super Best Friends Forever which might prove equally as problematic. Batgirl being described as “a bit on the spazzy side”. No problem for American ears, but a bit of a double for Brits, maybe up there with advert describing her as “a bit of a retard.” Possibly worse.
Which is fine, it’s an American publication advertising another American publication, for an American audience. But it’s one that is also distributed in the UK, in comic stores across the land.
Again, it’s just another one of those international cultural mores that might be worth considering.