Thursday, August 30, 2012

Can I Have a White Low Please?

Being a Brit, soliciting for a white low isn't such an enormous deal reception. Actually it's a reasonably commonplace request once you ar offered a cup of tea or low.

The phrase "Two nations divided by a standard language" is usually cited as regarding the united kingdom and US. The origin of the phrase divides opinion conjointly, was it writer, George Claude Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill? I suppose like ME all of them used it from time to time.

When it involves the united kingdom with North America and also the US especially, this phrase applies terribly powerfully.

In the UK once you evoke a "white low" you receive a coffee with milk. therefore it's not a "Black coffee". It looks logical to ME that the choice to black is white. If we wish our low black we'll evoke it per se. an equivalent applies for white.

On recent visits to the US I've encountered problems with this phrase that I ne'er noticed  before. This perhaps as a result of I've drunk low over before.

Earlier this year I was on a domestic Delta flight within the US. As the drinks trolley was passing the air stewardess asked what drink would I like? "Can I have a white coffee please?" was my response.

Her eyes glazed over then she responded with "You what?"

So I repeated the request, just in case she didn't hear me the first time. This was greeted with a "You want what now?"

Recalling a not so distant trip to a Tim Hortons in Canada I remembered to rephrase my request. So I did. "A coffee with milk please."

To which I was shocked and quite offended to find the air stewardess burst into fits of laughter. It wasn't laughter with me either, it was at me.

At times I find air stewardesses' rude, especially American ones. This occasion was definitely up there. It surprised me that she was unaware of this phrase since she is someone who tenders to passengers on a daily basis. Her reaction though was very over the top for my liking.

In the end though I did get my white coffee (that is a coffee with milk).

Just for the record, I stopped asking for hot tea on airlines years ago. I often find it too weak as well as too milky. Everyone likes their tea a certain way and nobody else can make it the way you like. If I do have tea I tend to opt for herbal or fruit tea.

This language difference is quite a challenge at times when you slip into a relaxed mode. You are yourself and use terms which you (incorrectly) assume are universal.

Searching on Google there are roughly 110,000 searches a month for "white coffee" so it can't be that rare, can it? For some bizarre reason over 18,000 of those searches are from Malaysia. Maybe I should order my coffee in Kuala Lumpur? From a little bit of further research I see that the term applies to a leading coffee manufacturer in the country.

Further research also led me to Wikipedia. On this fountain of all knowledge which confirms my use of the phrase:- 
"In many English-speaking countries, "white coffee" is used to refer to regular black coffee that has had milk, cream or some other "whitener" added to it".

Yet it also emphasises that the term is rarely heard in the US. In fact in NYC they use the term "light coffee".

It all strikes me as very strange.

The Americans love their coffee. Although an Australian colleague of mine contends that the US coffee is very poor in quality and not a patch on that Down Under.

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