Biscuits and More

To highlight the potential hazards of using English around the world, George Bernard Shaw said “England and America are two countries separated by a common language”. Our little expat community in France that we now call home, includes mostly residents from the UK. No problem for us we thought since theTravelsketcher made many business trips to the UK before he retired, and I worked with researchers in the UK. In addition, we have enjoyed many vacations in the UK, so with all that exposure we thought we had a pretty good understanding of the language differences. Not so fast!

We have had some confusing and amusing interchanges with our neighbors since arriving in March. But first I want to point out that none of these are right or wrong, they’re simply different word usages or expressions that take getting use to. Here are a few that stand out.

1. Biscuits

If you answered all three, you are correct! All of these are biscuits, depending on where you live. As part of getting our cat, Neville, settled in France, we purchased several different brands of cat food. Our neighbors, who have become good friends, also have a cat, and generously feed some local stray cats, so we arranged to give Neville’s rejects to them, hoping the food wouldn’t go to waste. They were away when I stopped by to drop off the food, so I left the packages on their porch. When chatting with them later they thanked us for the biscuits. They could tell from the puzzled looks on our faces that we were confused; we hadn’t left them any biscuits. Next came a lively and entertaining discussion about the differences between biscuits, cookies, and crumpets. When we think of biscuits, we think of the light, fluffy, savory, delicious creations our dear friend Tim so expertly bakes.

They can be served at any meal, and are usually accompanied with butter and jam, or honey. A popular, and filling breakfast in the US is biscuits with sausage gravy.

2. Hose Pipes and Garden Hoses

On a hot day last summer, my neighbor was telling me about a “hose pipe ban” that was in effect in the UK. Again, that puzzled look crossed my face and she pointed to what we refer to as a “garden hose”. I think of a pipe as a solid piece of tubing, not at all flexible. Again, we chuckled at another new (to us) term.

3. “Pinch, punch, it’s the first of the month!”

My neighbor said this to me as she pinched and then punched my arm, leaving me, once again, with that deer in the headlights look. I googled this one to find it dates back to old England when people believed in witches. A pinch of salt and a punch were ways to prevent wizardly shenanigans.

4. Greetings

We quickly noticed that our greetings are quite different. Our neighbors ask: “are you alright?” To us this indicates that perhaps something is not quite right, that maybe one looks ill or upset. I was quite puzzled the first few times I was greeted with this. A common greeting in our part of the US, which our neighbors may find odd is: “hey, how’s it going?”

These are just a few of the differences we have come across since moving to Europe. There are many more that have resulted in fun discussions. Whether you take a holiday or a vacation, call the sweet treat served at the end of a meal pudding or dessert, say you’re chuffed or pumped when excited about something, or refer to something expensive as posh or fancy, the main point is that we are communicating. Embracing the differences, and learning to accept others for who they are and where they come from is all that really matters in the end. And learning some new expressions helps to expand our understanding of others.

Cheeky Neville with his posh collar drinking out of the neighbor’s birdbath. By George, I think I’ve got it!

I’ve grown to really like some of these expressions, and use them as part of my regular vocabulary. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, our neighbors have become good friends, and the differences have brought us closer together as a result.

As always, I would love to hear from you, so please leave a message if you’re so inclined.



Special thanks to Tim and Lisa for their contributions to this post.

Tim’s buttermilk biscuits supreme

These are perfect for breakfasts (slathered with red raspberry preserves or drizzled with honey), to accompany soups (dip ’em!), even–our favorite–as a superior replacement for shortcake in summer berry desserts.


2 cups sifted flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup butter

2/3 cup buttermilk (no buttermilk in the fridge? Substitute yogurt mixed with a little milk)


Preheat oven to 450 degrees.


Combine dry ingredients in mixing bowl. Cut in that cube of butter until it resembles bread crumbs.


Now flour the surface on which you’ll be pressing and cutting the dough.


Back to the mixing bowl: add the buttermilk–and here’s where I get lusciously tactile with these primal elements: I flour up my hands, plunge in, mix the mass to a yummy dough, and toss it onto my floured surface. I press it out with my fingers instead of rolling it…the biscuits just turn out better for some reason. (Effect of body heat in fingers on the butter crumbs? A rougher, more textured biscuit topography rather than slate-smooth?) I prefer thicker rather than thinner biscuits, maybe 1/2 inch, although I stack them in pairs (see below).


Cut out the rounds with a sharp-edged cutter, not a mere drinking glass. (Reason: the rounded-edged glass doesn’t cut the dough as much as squish and seal the sides–which inhibits the biscuit’s baking process.) I stack the rounds two high on a cookie sheet, so the biscuits break easily in halves after they’re baked.


(Family tradition requires, at this point, to save some slivers of the uncooked dough that I walk around and feed to whomever’s in the house, directly to their mouths. It is considered a treat. I always feel like something between a father bird feeding nesting babies, or a priest giving a biscuity sacrament to household parishioners: “The body of Christ, broken for you…dinner is in ten minutes…go now, my child, and wash your hands…”)


Bake around 10 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Depending on how thickly or thinly you press your dough, and assuming you stack the rounds in pairs like I do, this recipe makes about 8 biscuits. It doubles well for larger gatherings.

32 thoughts on “Biscuits and More

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  1. Oh biscuits are my love language- I’m really excited to try out the recipe. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Side note- my daughter has become slightly obsessed with Neville and is always asking to see his pictures. So your cat has a 6 old groupie 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Let me know if you try the recipe; Tim has made them for us on several occasions and they’re delicious. That’s so cute about about your daughter’s liking of Neville! You can find him on Instagram at nevilleofnormandie; he loves getting new followers. 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  2. So funny, I wouldn’t have know the hose/pipe difference or the pinch, punch tradition either! Although biscuits up here would mean a boughten cookie, we would call the other baking powder biscuits. Always fun with the ‘same’ language 🙂 Maggie

    Liked by 2 people

  3. When I lived in France, much of my expat community were Brits, so I learned a thing or two from them about English expressions! And honestly, some of them rubbed off of me…to this day, I still say “flat” and “queue” when referring to “apartment” and “waiting in line,” respectively. But one thing’s for certain: I’ll never spell certain words with a “U” (e.g. neighbor, color, etc)! The biscuit recipe sounds incredible, and as I’m looking for some baking inspiration, I’ll need to try these out– thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. This post is very meaningful to me in that I’m married to an Englishman. In fact, I don’t usually push my blog posts in the comments, but I’m going to here because it matches this theme really well:

    Feel free to read or ignore.

    I’ve always noticed that the greeting of “are you alright” comes out all mashed together as “yalright.” Then again, so do our greetings. 🙂

    Fun read!

    One thing: No pictures of biscuits showed up. Not sure if it’s a problem on your end or mine…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment! For some odd reason it was in my spam folder in the WordPress comments section. I think that’s where a lot of my comments end up on other sites, waiting for approval. Thankfully I found it though. Thanks for sharing the link, I’m looking forward to reading it!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hey Tricia, “Are you alright?” This was a fun article. I’ve actually had biscuits in several diners across the U.S. and remember feeling quite bemused by the name. Sladja and I often do bits and pieces in class about U.S. and British vocabulary. If you think you get confused, imagine trying to make sense of all this as a Chinese student!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ha! Thanks Leighton, I’m glad you enjoyed it. Have you read the book “Dos and Taboos of using English Around the World”. Terry found it very helpful when doing business in the UK, Australia, and South Africa. I get what you mean about the Chinese students since we hosted Japanese exchange students when our daughter was in high school. Incidentally, were you able to see the photos? Another reader said they weren’t any photos, so I made so adjustments. Thanks again for your comments!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I hadn’t heard of that book, Tricia, so have made a note, thanks. Some photos were missing for me, notably the biscuits. I didn’t mention it because I wasn’t sure if it it was a temporary WP issue or perhaps some WIFI sluggishness at my end.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. This was in The Guardian this morning, great quote for this post.

    Oscar Wilde’s 1887 short story “The Canterville Ghost” makes the observation that “We [the British people] really have everything in common with America nowadays, except, of course, language.”

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What a fun post! As a linguist and a non-native English speaker, the differences between American English and British English have always amused me! They can be pretty confusinfìg when you’re learning the language too!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. What a great post! I wish I could pass a Tim Biscuit to you through my computer screen. It was a lot of fun to take these photos for you. I doubt you see any/many US ads in France. But do you remember the Geico Gecko? A tiny animated gecko who speaks with a British accent and is a mascot for Geico Insurance? In the most recent ad, he welcomes his new neighbors by bringing them a gift of a gecko-sized plate of “biscuits.” (Cookies.) It makes me think of you every time I see it. Which is a lot these days, because the ads are running during football (not soccer, you Brits) games.

    Liked by 1 person

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