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http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/statusicon/post_old.gif 06-21-2006, 10:57 PM pdr (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/member.php?u=185) vbmenu_register("postmenu_661045", true);
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Is this common US usage?
...but I'm having a whale of a time creating a conflict...

Is this common American usage? Meaning having great difficulty?

I've only ever heard it meaning a great and good time.

Also I'm struggling a little with Southern African-American expressions in a book I'm reviewing.

...upside the head...
Would this be the equivalent of a clip round the ear?
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pdr

...upside the head...
Would this be the equivalent of a clip round the ear?



Hey pdr, Stephen King uses that one a lot: "upside my head" - I took it to mean a whack across the side of one's head...

I thought "whale of a time" implied a partying effect
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The Blessed American Heritage Dictionary will often be Your Friend, s.v.

upside the head (http://www.bartleby.com/61/75/U0137500.html).
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I've never seen "whale of a time" used for anything negative. It means an enjoyable time. I've seldom seen it at all, and I think it's less common than it used to be.
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And this...?
Thank you, ladies. Tricky, this American vocab stuff.Here's another for you.

...in back of...

meaning as I read it, behind a place? Such an ugly expression to my Kiwi ears.
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If having great difficulty you'd be more likely to hear "I'm having a helluva time" or "heck of a time".

You're right on about upside the head. . . .like "I'm fixin' to slap you upside the head if you don't quit talking that way" You're likely to hear that anywhere in the South. . .not considered an African American expression as far as I know. About everyone I know says it.

Edited to add: Yes, in back of = behind
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Yep; you know where I'm going with this, right? In back of (http://www.bartleby.com/61/95/B0009500.html).
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Funny that you say "you know where I'm going with this". Those three expressions have been around all my life in the midwest (and I'm no spring chicken). They're common usage - not college paper level common usage but general populace level common usage. I'm sure there are regional expressions from other parts of the country that would sound odd to midwesterners. But they're all three fine and the meanings are well known. Puma
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time
"Having a devil of a time" is very common where I live.
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"In back of" is the opposite of "in front of." It's very common, not slang exactly, more respectable than that, although formal writing would usually use "behind" instead.

Don't confuse it with "in the back of," which identifies the place of something in the interior of something else. The shed is in back of the house. The gardening tools are in the back of the shed. The cheese is in the back of the refrigerator. The salami is in back of the cheese. Jody's truck is in back of the warehouse. Jody's dog sleeps in the back of the truck.

You might also hear "The shed is back of the house" or "Jody's truck is back of the warehouse" or "I went around back of the garage" or "We want to install a bird feeder back of the pine tree." That is, "in back of" can be shortened to "back of," but it can't be lengthened to "in the back of," which means something else.
Last edited by reph : Yesterday at 01:07 PM.
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Thank you everyone.
I am particularly interested in the 'in back of' expression as it's causing a holy war amongst the Language teachers in my area at the moment.

A new text book teaching English to teenagers wants to teach them 'in back of'. The Language teachers want to teach 'behind' as a more 'correct' English word and of more use than a solely American expression.

I'd never heard it before or met it when I was in America. Even my New England colleague here says he doesn't recognise it as good American.
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After thinking about it, I realized I do use "in back of" in conversation.

"I was in back of a truck on the freeway that had a funny bumper sticker."

"I was in back of a man in the grocery checkout line who purchased a case of frozen dinners."

"I couldn't tell if there was someone walking in back of me or not, so I turned around."

"Behind" sounds more formal to me. I do use "behind" when I'm writing, though.

(Maybe it's regional? I'm in California.)
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I'm in California, too. If "in back of" is regional, I'm unaware of it. Have you tried Googling the phrase, in quotes, and noting its contexts?
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in back of
I don't know if "in back of" is regional, but it sure sounds illiterate to my midweastern ear.
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Wow. "in back of" is illiterate? I use it all the time. I thought it was standard English. I use it like Peggy's examples.
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Pdr, I can't believe they want to teach "in back of" as being correct! What's wrong with "behind"? It's shorter, and internationally recognized and understood. I'd say "in back of" is a regionalism. To the best of my knowledge, it isn't used in either Canada or England. (Although people do tend to imitate what they hear on TV, and American TV shows are everywhere.) Although informal, regional expressions do have a place--particularly in dialogue!--they shouldn't be taught as being the norm.

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Go back to what Reph said - "in back of" is the opposite of "in front of". Behind is equivalent to "in back of" - but what are you using in place of "in front of" - before?

Also, someone else said "in back of" was used in ways such as "the ladder was in the back of the shed" - behind certainly doesn't work in this instance. "In back of" is a shortened form of "in the back of" and behind (and before for in the front of) are not equivalent in all instances. Puma
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reph
07-04-2006, 07:50 AM
Recovered from Google’s cache.
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06-23-2006, 12:20 PM

Peggy

FWIW the Merriam-Webster Dictionary lists "in back of" as a synonym for behind.
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06-23-2006, 01:26 PM

reph

I'd probably say "the person behind me in line," but I wouldn't find "the person in back of me" so unnatural. But, then, I'm in California, and everyone knows we're weird.

Here's one situation in which "in back of" and "behind" aren't synonymous. If you're talking about the parts of a building in an abstract way, independent of your location, you can say "The loading dock is in back of the store" or "The loading dock is behind the store." Directionality is built in because it's understood that a store has a front and a back, as a house does. The front is the surface that a store presents to the world; it's the side that has the main customer entrance.

Suppose the manager's office is in the rear of the store, with an outside door that opens onto the loading dock. If you're standing outside the rear of the store and some distance away, and a new employee asks "Where's the entrance to the manager's office?" you don't say "It's in back of the loading dock." That would be inconsistent with the implicit front/back axis of the building. You say "It's behind the loading dock." The dock is between you and the door.

Similarly, you use "behind" when telling a person where a building is that's hidden from view by another building in front of it.
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06-23-2006, 01:41 PM

reph

Behind means the position, placement of one thing behind another. In back of refers to the position of things inside something."In back of" refers to the relative positions of things that don't overlap. "In the back of" refers to the position of a thing inside another thing.

"In the back of the garage" means "within the rear portion of the garage."
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06-23-2006, 02:59 PM

Sandi LeFaucheur

Blimey, isn't it just easier to say "behind" and be done with it? I can see that "in back of" means something different from "in the back of"--but what if you're in a noisy area, or the person mumbles, or you're half deaf and miss the "the"? You could be wandering around a warehouse for hours--days-weeks--heck, you could DIE wandering around the back of a warehouse on the inside when indeed you should have been outside. And all that heartache would have been solved by the word "behind".

And they actually want to teach it as correct terminology? Hmph.

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06-23-2006, 07:32 PM

pdr

I would if I could!
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But this is an American based board, Sandi, so I will merely point out that the text book is an American one and say no more.

I will tell you, though, that I have another American text for English language learners who are adult and want to learn English for travelling. One of the units is about touring New Zealand, in July, in a car with a sunroof, travelling through the mountains in South island!

Even my students laughed!
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06-23-2006, 07:52 PM

TWK

I'm from Philly, and we very commonly say "in back of."
Examples:

"Get in back of me!"
"Suzy's in back of me."

There's nothing wrong with saying "in back of," except that some people might find it a bit gaudy.
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06-24-2006, 04:38 AM

Sandi LeFaucheur

Pdr, this textbook--is it to teach English (well, American) to teenagers who have newly arrived in America? (As opposed to newly arrived in Australia, New Zealand, England, Ireland, etc.) If so, I can see the merit of including more informal expressions. After all, that is how they would want to speak. However, if it's for use worldwide, I don't think it's so appropriate. Unless, of course, you also include a load of Cockney rhyming slang!
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06-24-2006, 06:53 PM

pdr

Nope!
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I'm in Japan. The texts are to teach English (usually American English) as a foreign language to the Japanese. It's a general course aimed at teaching basic English communication.
That's why there were objections.
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06-24-2006, 07:06 PM

Sandi LeFaucheur

Then I think you should stay away from all regionalisms. Even if an expression is common usage over a whole country, it's still a regionalism. There are enough words and expressions in the English language which are common to all countries. Do you teach "bloke" as the correct word for man? Or the rhyming slang "dustbin lids" for kids? If not, then why include what is obviously an expression common to just one country? Now, my husband could do you a textbook written in Cockney rhyming slang if you like! Just be sure to tell them that "th" is pronounced "f".
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06-24-2006, 07:32 PM

Fern

then why include what is obviously an expression common to just one country?

The texts are to teach English (usually American English)Just an opinion, but if they are teaching American English and its an expression used all over America, then what is the problem? No matter how it sounds to others Americans have been using it for many many years, so if they're teaching American English, then the question is, are you going to teach it as it is, or as you want it to be?
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06-24-2006, 08:07 PM

Sandi LeFaucheur

I don't want to start a war here, but surely when teaching English, it's best to teach a sort of "standard" English. In Canada, when you're taught French, (bear in mind that my memories of being taught French date back to the 60s and 70s), whether you're taught Parisian French or Quebec French depends on your teacher. Some taught "le weekend" some taught "le fin de semain" (I think I have that right); some taught "le hotdog", some taught "le chien chaud". My knowledge of French is pretty scant, so I don't know if there's a "standard" version accepted world-wide.

I'm just thinking that those students might well be at a disadvantage if they learn a phrase that is common in only one part of the world. Suppose--and this just may happen--they have business dealings with England or South Africa or Australia, instead of the US? Wouldn't it be more useful for them to learn phrases that are accepted world-wide? And we had enough difficulty ironing out the difference between "in back of" and "in the back of". Why confuse the issue?
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06-24-2006, 10:03 PM

reph

Sandi, if the students are learning American English, the absence of a phrase from Canadian English wouldn't warrant excluding it from their lessons. "In back of" is so common in U.S. speech that Japanese coming here are as likely to need it as to need many other phrases that the curriculum probably includes. They don't have to use it, but if they come over as tourists and ask directions, they may have to understand it.
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06-25-2006, 04:27 AM

Sandi LeFaucheur

They don't have to use it, but if they come over as tourists and ask directions, they may have to understand it.True. Very true.
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06-25-2006, 05:29 AM

pdr

I repeat:
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It's a general course aimed at teaching basic English communication.
That's why there were objections.

The students are not learning English because they will be travelling in the US.
These teenage students have to learn English. All school students have to.

Very few of this class will actually travel, only a small percentage of Japanese do.

Those that travel as workers for their companies don't go to the US. They go to India, Indonesia, or other Asian countries including China. However they must communicate with their co-workers in English. Our beef is that 'behind ' is more useful for these students and more standard for these countries than 'in back of'.
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06-25-2006, 06:08 AM

Snitchcat

I will second that 'behind' is more useful than 'in back of'.

I've had colleagues and friends ask me what 'in back of' means. In HK and China, I see 'behind' (and that's also what's taught in schools); I don't see 'in back of' at all.
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06-25-2006, 06:49 AM

Sandi LeFaucheur

Then, pdr, stick to your guns!

And here's another point--I'd stand to be corrected, but I believe people travel to Japan from all over the globe to teach English. (While on a train just last week, I heard a university student say how she was leaving to do just that in a few weeks. Evidently, it's a popular way for students to earn good money and travel.) Therefore, the expression may well be foreign to even the instructors.

Mind, if the rest of the team shouts you down, you could always go through all the completed texts with a thick, permanent marker and cross it out!

Just out of curiosity--what are the nationalities of the writing team?
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06-25-2006, 07:12 AM

Puma

pdr - There are many Japanese companies in the US and they all bring their executives (and some workers) with them (automotive industry is a good example). Those people have to be able to get along in different regional areas of the US (there's a big Honda plant in Alabama, several in Ohio, big one in Mississippi - plus Japanese automotive plants in California, Indiana, even Ontario). In addition to the big car and truck plants there are numerous supplier plants to manufacture parts for the assembly plants (we have three within twenty miles of where I live). There are a large number of Japanese families (enough to have Japanese school for the kids) on the west side of Columbus, Ohio, all tied to the automotive plants. So there is a need for contemporary American English. Puma
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06-25-2006, 12:52 PM

reph

It's a general course aimed at teaching basic English communication.
That's why there were objections.

...Those that travel as workers for their companies don't go to the US. They go to India, Indonesia, or other Asian countries including China. However they must communicate with their co-workers in English. Our beef is that 'behind ' is more useful for these students and more standard for these countries than 'in back of'.So "basic English communication" doesn't mean "the vocabulary they'll need when conversing with Americans." All right, then. They should learn whatever the students in those other Asian countries are taught. They need to know "behind." They don't need to know "in back of," or any other phrase, for that matter, unless their future coworkers are going to use it.
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06-25-2006, 08:11 PM

pdr

Ah, yes...
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but these kids, Puma, won't be going to the US. And, according to the Indian representatives I spoke to from the Indian branch of the company, they need to speak British English.

Yes, there are companies in this region who have sister companies in the US. They learn American English.

...but I believe people travel to Japan from all over the globe to teach English.

Yes, it's my biggest headache as I am often asked to work with very raw, newly graduated, first-experience-away-from-home kids who are not trained teachers, who are here for the trip, and frankly do more harm than good.
Because of the political situation in Japan they are usually American, but the JET system does allow Oz, UK and NZ kids in too.
Because they are not trained to teach they are very dependent on using texts. Hence the need for good texts.
Because they are young and have not seen much of the world yet they are not aware of the cultural difficulties in using, say, the word 'pants' to a woman in India or why it can be seen as insulting.

My company work is extra to my University work and frankly when I have to prepare a group of workers for India with one of these young students supposedly assisting I wonder why I do it. Sometimes these supposedly educated graduates don't even know the first thing about India, not even basics like its language or religion and they do not understand that 'I want' is not polite for an adult co-worker situation and that American idioms aren't helpful in this particular company situation.

Oops! That was a rant but I feel better. I've had a particularly dense assistant this time who still doesn't understand why you don't make jokes about beef on the hoof when talking about cows in India! Sigh!
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06-25-2006, 09:15 PM

Puma

My apologies, pdr, I didn't realize you were working with a specific group of people who were more than likely heading to India.

I'm a little familiar with the JET program, one of my daughter's friends taught English on a small island off the south coast of Japan through it. I'm also aware of some other "teach English" in a foreign country programs being promoted by colleges. It's very interesting that you are saying that some of these are doing more harm than good (and I know that a lot of American kids view them primarily as a way to see the world.) Who's financially supporting the programs?

Good luck in your endeavor (and feel free to rant anytime). Puma