+3 votes
in Fun & Humor ☻ by
American English

The shopwalker in a large London store was asked by an American lady if he could supply "two starters and a catcher."

Uncertain as to what they were but too proud to admit that his store might not know of them he said, "Certainly, madam - if you will leave your name and address we will send them round."

She did so.
Enquiry by the shopwalker on all floors failed to trace these articles and the managing director himself could throw no light upon them.

However, when at lunch he spotted a friend who had lived in America and immediately asked him.

"Oh yes," said the friend, "I know them.
Starters are the pads of hair, ladies, who have very little, use to pad out their own and a catcher is a hair net to keep it all in place."

Upon his return from lunch the managing director told the shopwalker what he had heard and the shopwalker was clearly staggered.

"Good heavens," he exclaimed. "I thought the thing out for myself and I've already sent round two Seidlitz powders and a bed pan!"


Link: http://www.language-translation-help.com/british-english.html

3 Answers

+3 votes

:D:D:D:D Surprise! LOL


Lol, Rooster, I appreciate these "false friends" and differences between UK and US English, which are a fertile ground for misunderstandings, surprises and awkward moments.


+3 votes

I never heard of a 'starter' in that sense before.  Is it perhaps old-fashioned?   I know 'shopwalker' is outdated even in England, the American term being 'floorwalker,' but I never saw one in my life, except in old movies. :) :D


Yes, T(h)ink, these are old-fashioned terms.

Actually, I think that the history of some famous department stores, for instance, Selfridges and the series "Mr. Selfridge" (I read about it), but saw only 3 or 4 episodes) inspired me, when I found this joke on-line.

Still, "shopwalker" and "floorwalker" are, seemingly, not outdated, if checking "the Free Dictionary" or Wiktionary (but very few dictionaries are shown):




The Oxford dictionary lists 'shopwalker' as a dated word.



Thank you, T(h)ink ...



YW, Marianne.  It's interesting that 'floorwalker' seems not to be dated in England; maybe they still have them?  I never saw one in person in the US, although they were frequently used in (usually comical) scenes in old movies.


Lol, T(h)ink - thank you for sharing; as I see, there are still lots of great laughs from the past to discover.

Here's another one:



:D :D :D

+2 votes

Dear Marianne,

Although the meaning of 'Seidlitz powder' was obvious from your context, :D still I had a good time learning about it, as well as 'Sedlitz water' and the town of Sedlec in the Czech Republic!

I especially smiled at this information about the water (which is different from the powder): 'Sedlec (Seidlitz) was described in an 1867 guide to European spa towns as "a wretched-looking place, hardly meriting the name of a village, and the wells - whence the water should be derived - are a few shallow, circular pits, whose contents very seldom find their way to this country [ie England]." '


Dear Virginia, that is interesting and inspiring, reminding of cures and wellness, spa towns, "mineral waters", and another, famous name, i.e. Selters (also the prototype of seltzer, a soda water variety).

And, inevitably, here's another hilarious episode about cures and the "amazing" effects of certain waters:








Marianne, I checked and Chaplin was only 28 when he made that film! Yes it is hilarious, and some of the special effects still cause one to marvel.


Indeed, Virginia, and I am still enjoying these marvelous slapstick scenes.



And one for you, Virginia:


Marianne, on this clip, some of the physical abilities are truly remarkable, if you look closely!


Oh yes, they were very talented and doing a bit everythink, acrobacies, juggling, playing music, singing, etc.

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