Do You Know the Garbage Man?

One of the fun things about having a foreign exchange student stay with you is the ability to learn another language.

…Even if that other language happens to be English.

Since James was from England, we didn’t anticipate there would be much of a language barrier. He spoke English. We spoke English. He had a funny accent. We are from New Jersey, so we had funny accents, too.

With all this in common, I didn’t think we would run into a problem communicating.

But when the time came to take the garbage cans out to the corner for pick up, we hit a snag.

“Hey guys, tomorrow is garbage day,” I said to my two kids and James.

“What does that mean?” James wondered. “Are we supposed to make more rubbish?”

“In the U.S. we call it garbage, not rubbish,” I explained to him. “And no, we have to take the garbage we already have out to the corner so the Garbage Men can pick it up.”

“What are Garbage Men?” he asked. “Do they keep the garbage?”

“No. They’re the guys who pick up the garbage we make and take it away.”

“Oh,” he nodded. “We call them the Bin Men.”


“Because the rubbish goes out in bins,” he said. “And then the Bin Men pick it up.”

“I guess it’s nicer to call them Bin Men than Garbage Men,” I admitted. “But that’s not their official names anyway.”

“What are they actually called?” he asked.

“Sanitation Workers.” I said. “How about in England?”

“Bin Men.”

“Oh. Guess they’re pretty different then.”

He thought for a minute. “In England the Bin Men throw the bins in the middle of your driveway when they’re done.”

I snorted. “Guess they’re not so different after all.”

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Filed under Cleanliness is Next to Impossibleness

6 responses to “Do You Know the Garbage Man?

  1. The thing about English accents is that those people could lie through their teeth and I would believe every single word they said. Straight up!!!! I doubt they would say the same about my redneck speak,

  2. Back in the olden days when I did my junior year of college abroad I remember loving the fact that the Brits called erasers rubbers. (This being back before condoms was the commonly used term.)

  3. justinelevine

    Lost in translation. 🙂

    BUT: I submit to you, this: … we’ve trained ours not to throw them down the driveway. True story.

    • You are RIGHT! That is the solution. I discovered the waving trick some years ago.. Of course, it only works in New Jersey if you wave with your whole hand, instead of with just your middle finger!