Thursday, August 23, 2007

Do Americans know what bollocks are?

This somewhat unlikely question has been bothering me for some time. I have heard "bollocks" used as a description, or its great phrasal verb derivative "to bollocks-up", reasonably frequently on the US radio and podcasts I listen to. It was used again in Slate podcast I just listened to today ('paper' version here). Slate is sort of hip and wants to be down with the kids, so it might not be surprising if they use it, but considering most US radio I listen to is the sedate NPR, the US equivalent of BBC Radio 4, the use of bollocks seems quite jarring considering America's normal ultra-primness in public when it comes to just about any reference to the human body. It makes me wonder if it is just a phrase they have picked up from Brits but don't actually understand? Most linguistic trans-atlantic travel has been in the other direction, at least since the 17th century!

I would love to hear from any Americans on this.

3 comments:

ed said...

wanker is another one that americans are quite happy to use. david hasselhoff used it the other day on his 'america's got talent' tv show. the easily offended piers morgan, a fellow host, expressed Shock and Horror that hoffy had used it.

diane in california said...

There is a bar in San Francisco named The Dog's Bollocks (actually, I think they spell it Bollix and I've seen it also spelled bollux in the US). An Irish co-worker was amazed when he saw this. We've used bolluxed-up for along time, not frequently, but it's out there - at least since WWII. We use it as a euphamism for effed-up. "Bollocks" in any spelling is only vaguely naughty to us. Some know, and some don't, what it means in the UK.

The Irishman and I almost killed ourselves laughing, once, making each other say dirty words. (Hey, how would I know what a mickey is, besides a cartoon mouse?)

There are lots of settings and lots of Americans. In my particular setting (mental health clinic), staff references to the human body, bodily functions, sexual preference, etc., are our primary form of entertainment. What real Americans do is way different from what's allowed by government censors (the FCC, poodle of the Christian Right).

Joanna from New Mexico said...

how come I never hear these words?!! I am American!! Of course I don't watch much Television as American TV I admit is HORRID and rarely listen much on NPR except Amy Goodman.

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