Monday, November 14, 2016

Turn that frown upside-down!

Turn that frown upside down!

Don’t worry, this isn’t an exhortation to cheer up. I hate those. When people tell me to cheer up, it just makes me want to stab them harder.             But I learned something really interesting at GRL, and since then I’ve been sharing with everyone. Ask J.A. Rock. I shared it with everyone she introduced me to on our recent road trip.

First of all, my apologies to whoever brought this up at the panel at GRL. I missed your name, but I’ll take your wisdom to my grave!

So here it is: did you know that “frown” means two very different things, depending on whether or not you use UK English, or American English? Really.

Ask an American what part of the body you frown with, and they’ll tell you it’s the mouth.

The mouth! How crazy is that? (Clearly I am on the UK English side of the argument.) In the UK—and the rest of the commonwealth, I guess—we frown with our foreheads. What we call a frown is probably what Americans would think of as a scowl. And what they call a frown, we would think of as a downturned or grimacing mouth.

On our road trip, J.A. and I listened to the audio books of our Playing the Fool series, narrated by the awesome Nick J Russo. And every time Mac frowned—and Henry is as annoying as fuck, so this happened a lot times—we had to try and remember who wrote that section, and what Mac was actually doing with his face. It’s weird to think we’ve been writing together for so long, and never suspected we were envisaging two entirely different things.

“He’s scowling!” I insisted when we got to one line with a cranky Mac. “Why would he be doing that weird thing with his mouth?”

“What? Frowning?” J.A. asked me.

I hate her sometimes.

She has a point when it comes to the emoji. It’s called a frowny face, and it’s clearly all to do with the mouth. Otherwise instead of :( it would be ):( Which actually looks like an emoji for a corset. But, like the rest of the UK-English speaking world, I guess I thought the forehead scowl was implied. Or that instead of seeing that as the eyes and the mouth, why not tilt your head and see it as the eyes and the forehead. With no mouth at all.

The point is, emojis aside, I’m going with dictionary.com which defines a frown as “to contract the brow, as in displeasure or deep thought; scowl.”

This woman here, who I found on an ad for wrinkle treatment, is frowning. She's probably annoyed because she's only in her twenties and some asshole thinks she needs botox already. 



This guy here though? I don't know what's going on with his face, but that's not a frown. 


I’m not frowning at all as I write this though. I’m laughing, because just when I think I’ve finally got the hang of this language in all its weird local variations, it throws something like that at me. And when I say laughing, hopefully that means the same thing to everyone reading this. But who even knows anymore?


7 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. Mac frowns and scowls, sometimes at the same time when Henry annoys him. It's all good, because we get how Mac feels. "laughing" emoji

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  2. Right? As long as we know he's pissed off, again!

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  3. Why is it always American English that makes this language even weirder? And how do we, non-native speakers, deal with all these confusing rules and differences in vocabulary huh? :p

    Anyway I'd like to say that to me, this :( is a "sad face", while this è_é is a "frown"...

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    1. I think :( is a sad face too, and I love your frown!

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