Two countries separated by a common language

Two countries separated by a common language

There is no evidence to support claims that Oscar Wilde coined that phrase.

What he did write was: ‘We have really everything in common with America nowadays, except, of course, language.’

The Canterville Ghost (1887)

There are few though that would disagree with him. Especially anyone who bought the Second Bernhart Dictionary of New English in 1983.

It lists over 10,000 words which had entered the language of the United States and was now being exported to the UK. What was needed was a translation, so here are some of the entries to give a flavour.

bête blanche  – white non-racist version of bête noir
blissout  – a state of intense happiness
blephanoplasty  – surgery for bags under the eyes
grade creeping  – automatic promotion for civil servants
begathon  – TV charity marathons
Uncle Tomahawk  – American Indian that co-operates with whites
Kwoks disease  – monosodium glutenate poisoning
delawyerise  – eliminating the need for lawyers
airdash  – a verb about politicians
Aunt Tom  – a backslider from womens lib

A news story you may have missed in 1983

Illegal parking tickets

Mr William Hui parked his car in Beacon Street, Boston, USA.

At 10.50am a traffic warden issued a parking ticket. At 2.30pm another ticket was issued.

This was fine as it went apart from the fact that Mr Hui was slumped over the steering wheel, apparently killed by a gunshot wound to his neck.

He had been there 6½ hours before anyone noticed something odd and called the police.

Best selling films of 1983

Return of the Jedi
Terms of Endearment
Trading Places
Sudden Impact
Staying Alive
Mr Mom
Risky Business

Best selling singles in 1983
01 Culture Club
Karma Chameleon

02 Billy Joel
Uptown Girl

03 UB40
Red Red Wine

04 Paul Young
Wherever I Lay My Hat

05 Spandau Ballet

06 The Police
Every Breath You Take

07 Rod Stewart
Baby Jane

08 Men At Work
Down Under

09 KC & The Sunshine Band
Give It Up

10 David Bowie
Let’s Dance

Best selling albums in 1983
1 Michael Jackson

2 David Bowie
Let’s Dance

3 Culture Club
Colour By Numbers

4 Paul Young
No Parlez

5 Spandau Ballet

6 Wham!

7 Men At Work
Business As Usual

8 The Police

9 Genesis

10 The Eurythmics
Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)

Fearing a life of boredom in America after the family re-locates from England Ginny Otis is in for quite a surprise when she encounters the ghost of Sir Simon de Canterville who can only be seen by Ginny and her brothers.

An understandably grouchy ghost at first, Ginny learns his sorrowful tale and vows to help him lift the curse that will keep him haunting the corridors of Canterville Hall forever.

Notable deaths in 1983


2    Dick Emery, British comedian, 65

24  George Cukor, film director, 83

28  Billy Fury, pop singer, 42


23   Adrian Boult, conductor

25   Tennessee Williams, playwright, 71


26  Anthony Blunt, art historian and spy, 75


4    Gloria Swanson, actress, 84

13   Gerry Hitchens, footballer, 48

23   Clarence ‘Buster’ Crabbe, swimmer, 75

30   Muddy Waters, blues singer, 70


31    Jack Dempsey, boxer, 86


12   Norma Shearer, actress, 82


29   David Niven, actor, 73

29   Raymond Massey, actor, 86


17   Ira Gershwin, lyricist, 86


10   Ralph Richardson, actor, 80


15   John Le Mesurier, actor, 71


8    Slim PIckens, actor, 64

26  Violet Carson, actress, 85

28   Dennis Wilson, singer, 39

Another news story you may have missed in 1983

Christmas lights cause traffic chaos

The Christmas lights that were hung across the street in Bromley, Kent were the pride of the town’s shopkeepers.

Unfortunately the lights were coloured red, amber and green and flashed in concert with the traffic lights along the High Street.

Motorists were unsure whether they should stop, go or proceed with caution. They had to come down after complaints to the police and regrets from traders.

They found their way to Gillingham, whose own community leaders found a safer place for them in a pedestrian only area of the town.

You can contact John Barber here: