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Bruin Fisher

Britishisms, Americanisms...

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I find the different usage of English in different parts of the world fascinating.

I'm reading Cole Parker's new story First Year - aren't we all?!

I've noticed he uses the term 'passel' a few times. I can see from the context what it means, but it's not a term I hear day-to-day. We do have the word parcel, which is a package, typically for sending through the mail. An old-fashioned parcel was wrapped in brown paper and tied with string but nowadays it's more likely to be a padded mail bag or an Amazon card sleeve.

So, here's my question: does passel mean the same as parcel - a bundling of objects together into one container - or is the meaning something else? There's a folk song by Steeleye Span called A Parcel of Rogues which shows the word meaning a group, in this case of people, although that's certainly not its normal use here.

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I find the different usage of English in different parts of the world fascinating.

I'm reading Cole Parker's new story First Year - aren't we all?!

I've noticed he uses the term 'passel' a few times. I can see from the context what it means, but it's not a term I hear day-to-day. We do have the word parcel, which is a package, typically for sending through the mail. An old-fashioned parcel was wrapped in brown paper and tied with string but nowadays it's more likely to be a padded mail bag or an Amazon card sleeve.

So, here's my question: does passel mean the same as parcel - a bundling of objects together into one container - or is the meaning something else? There's a folk song by Steeleye Span called A Parcel of Rogues which shows the word meaning a group, in this case of people, although that's certainly not its normal use here.

From the Oxford Dictionary of English (In WordWeb Pro):

passel /ˈpas(ə)l/

noun informal, chiefly US a large group of people or things: a passel of journalists.
– origin mid 19th cent.: representing a pronunciation of parcel.
Colin :icon_geek:
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Why passel would be a variant of parcel makes no sense at all to me as their meanings are in no way similar. One could easily have a passel of parcels, but not a parcel of passels. Yet it does seem to be such a variant.

Passel means an indeterminate number of things. It doesn't have to be a large number; the important part of the definition is that the number isn't fixed.

A passel of parsons

Passed by my garden

Securing their prayer books

In paper-wrapped parcels

Tied up in strings.

How many parsons

And how many prayer books

And how many parcels?

Of each but a passel

Not certain, those things.

C

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Perhaps they shared a common meaning in previous centuries when parcel could mean a gathered together group of indeterminate number. In addition to 'a parcel of rogues' I mentioned before, there is 'a parcel of land' - both mostly archaic usages now.

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Bruin

I wonder if it is a regional word in Britain, as it has aways been in use in my family as far back as my memory will go. Applied to a group of people and often with derogatory overtones. For example a fecund woman might be talked about: " She's no better than she should be, has a passel of brats and she's not 25."

Having said that my parents lived in Exeter during the war (WW2)and there is the possibility they picked it up from GIs stationed in the area, but I don't think so, more likely an old fashioned usage kept going in the family.

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Cole, exactly whose lap are you planning to lapse into?

'Lapse' above is obviously using the definition 'pass gradually into' (N.B., this definition is provided herein to avoid the reader the necessity of referencing various and sundry tomes on the English language and this parenthetical comment is included to avoid having to decide if the immediately preceding closing single quote, if left to close this sentence, should have the period on the inside or outside of itself {unfortunately using either would likely result in a number of divergent and perhaps even petulant points of view about the vagaries of English grammar [which, despite having been broken many years past without the possibility of repair,] are endlessly being bandied about hither and thither}).

Colin :icon_geek:

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OOOH! Loads o' LavishLy LoveLy aLLiteration there, coLinian!

Thank you, Chris, thank you!

Colin :icon_geek:

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Cole, exactly whose lap are you planning to lapse into?

'Lapse' above is obviously using the definition 'pass gradually into' (N.B., this definition is provided herein to avoid the reader the necessity of referencing various and sundry tomes on the English language and this parenthetical comment is included to avoid having to decide if the immediately preceding closing single quote, if left to close this sentence, should have the period on the inside or outside of itself {unfortunately using either would likely result in a number of divergent and perhaps even petulant points of view about the vagaries of English grammar [which, despite having been broken many years past without the possibility of repair,] are endlessly being bandied about hither and thither}).

Colin :icon_geek:

Oh Colin, you're an absolute scream. Quite brilliant. Hilarious. Thanks for putting a perma-grin on my face!

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That's what happens when I have to work the midnight shift at home to go online to our client in Perth, Western Australia. Then at 4:30 a.m. and not getting any sleep I had to get ready and go to work at the office in San Francisco. I was there the entire day then I came home and around 6:15 p.m. I went online and... the result was gobbledygook.

Colin :icon_geek:

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I only stayed up all night once; I was cramming for an exam in Minerology and had to memorize about a zillion mineral specifics. I passed the exam, but I'm not sure how because I was totally wiped. How you managed that and then worked an entire day afterwards is beyond my ken. Well done! It had to be determination overcoming exhaustion.

C

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Stayed up all night many times in the past. I was however paid for it - I worked shifts at several transmitting stations. The hardest thing though was going from night shifts to day shifts, even though you generally had 2.5 days or more. The idiot in me though had me going to a car rally the day after a night shift. How I stayed awake is anyone's guess.

As for 'passel', although the on-line dictionaries list the word as 19th century American, I'd not be surprised if in fact, it was far older.

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Well all I know is that if I had ever used "passel" in my Mother's hearing I would have been in kimchi, comma, deep.

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I'm currently editing an Englishman's story, and the differences in our two languages can be perplexing. They use prepositions differently than we do. If they use 'on' where we use 'in', should I correct it, or not? They also 'park up' their cars, while we simply 'park' them; I guess we're a more frugal country when it comes profligate world-use. But that sort of thing does play the dickens with editing. Oh, wait -- we're talking about Englishmen here. That should be 'play the Dickens,' huh?

C

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They also 'park up' their cars, while we simply 'park' them;

C

Actually we park our cars too, but we never park automobiles, or station wagons, or until recently SUVs.

Here in the UK there's quite a lot of usage which has become common and generally accepted although it's a product of insufficient education and wrong according to the strictest standard, and 'park up' is an example of that. Sometimes it's used to differentiate the whole process of parking a vehicle from the actual moment of drawing to a stop: "I unloaded the shopping and then I had to go back out to park my car because it was on double yellows. It took me ages to find a space and I eventually parked up next to the chippy on the corner of the High Street, and walked back." I would consider that usage acceptable, just about...

Where does the phrase 'listen up, people!' come from, though? I think that's one of yours, isn't it? In the UK we never listen up unless we are in thrall to US-led corporate-speak.

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I'm currently editing an Englishman's story, and the differences in our two languages can be perplexing. They use prepositions differently than we do. If they use 'on' where we use 'in', should I correct it, or not? They also 'park up' their cars, while we simply 'park' them; I guess we're a more frugal country when it comes profligate world-use. But that sort of thing does play the dickens with editing. Oh, wait -- we're talking about Englishmen here. That should be 'play the Dickens,' huh?

C

I think if the meaning is clear, you should leave the British on their side of the Atlantic (and the Aussies on their side of the Pacific). Sometimes in editing, though, I will make a change ('on' to 'in', for example) because I don't know if the Aussie or Brit has made an error. If the meaning is not clear or is misleading across the waters, then something needs to be changed. I had a recent instance where someone got 'onto' a board in order to pursue a change. I assumed they were elected or appointed to the board. But that was not the case; they were onto the board to object to something; we in North America use 'she was onto me for my bad behavior' in the same sense as 'onto a board' was intended. Anyway, some rewording clarified the text.

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