Jeggings and pearls

LogoJeans + Leggings = Jeggings

Early on one of our recent walks around the central core of Coatepec, Mexico a pair of jeggings on a mannequin standing outside one of the many tiny clothing shops caught my eye. These were jeggings with a twist. Not only were they leggings designed to look like tight jeans, but they were studded with imitation pearls. I looked but kept on walking. Later, as we circled around and headed back toward our friends’ house where we were staying, we passed the shop again and this time I couldn’t resist taking a closer look.

Entering the store, I looked around but didn’t see more of the jeggings anywhere. Approaching the clerk, I asked “Hablas Ingles?” (Do you speak English?) and as usual, the response was “No”. Beckoning for her to follow me out front, I pointed to the jeggings. “Grande o pequeño?” I asked. (Large or small?) Though I tend to wear a size medium in most things, that word wasn’t part of my extremely limited Spanish vocabulary yet! “Uno talla,” was the response. (One size) I recognized the word “uno” and that was enough to tell me that this was a one size fits all garment. The clerk took them off the mannequin and I held them up to myself to ensure that they were long enough. They were and my mind was made up. They were coming home with me! It didn’t hurt that the price was only 100 pesos; less than $7 CAD!

With their cozy fleece lining, these jeggings are surprisingly warm. In fact, since returning to Canada, I wore them outside at -27ºC (-17ºF) and didn’t freeze! Granted, I only walked half a block from the grocery store to the post office and back again, but they were plenty adequate for that. It may seem surprising that I was able to buy something this warm in Mexico, but Coatepec is in the highlands where it can get a bit chilly at this time of year. Since their homes aren’t insulated and don’t have central heating the people tend to dress quite warmly.

I strongly believe that leggings are not pants and that they should be worn with tops that are long enough to cover the buttocks and crotch. I’m undecided where these new jeggings are concerned though. Clearly, the pearl studded imitation pockets on the front and the details on the back are meant to be seen.


Screen Shot 2019-02-11 at 6.02.45 PMPearl embellished clothing has been very much on trend for the past year or so. I’ve seen sweaters, dresses, jeans, and even shoes adorned with imitation pearls. One of my favourite fashion bloggers, Josephine of Chic At Any Age, wore this cute pearl studded beret in one of her recent posts.

Adding faux pearls to a garment that you already own would also be a simple DIY project. I’d thought of doing that to a pair of jeans, but now that I have my pearl studded jeggings, I won’t need to!

We need some politically incorrect weather!

I hate to be one to whine about the weather, but when you live in farming country and a prolonged wet spell like we’ve been experiencing lately occurs in the middle of harvest, it adversely affects the mood of the entire community. Early snow blanketed much of the province last week bringing harvest to a halt. Extended exposure to heavy, wet snow or rain will adversely affect the quality of the grain. We desperately need warm, windy weather to dry the crops and the muddy ground so that the heavy harvest equipment can get back into the fields. Livelihoods depend on it. We need what has long been known in this part of the world as Indian summer!

The question I’ve heard asked several times lately is “Can we even use that term anymore?” Is it politically correct to use the title Indian summer? After all, it’s no longer acceptable to refer to the aboriginal people of North America as Indians. In the US, they are Native Americans and in Canada, First Nations.

Clearly, there are terms, such as Indian giver for a person who gives something away and then takes it back, or Indian time which implies that aboriginal people are always late, that are culturally offensive, but what about Indian summer? Is it derogatory to call that beautiful period of warm, dry weather that often occurs in late autumn Indian summer? And if not Indian summer, what should we call it?

The origin of the term is somewhat hazy. Its first recorded use appears to have been in Letters From an American Farmer, a 1778 work by French-American soldier turned farmer, J.H. St. John de Crèvecoeur. There are many references to the term in American literature in the following hundred years or so. There have been many guesses made as to why the phenomenon was referred to as Indian summer, but no one knows for sure. There is, however, no evidence to show that it was ever intended or used in a negative or insulting manner. There are those who claim that because the term refers to a short period of summer-like weather that comes after that season appears to have ended, it like Indian time, implies that native people are always late. I would argue that that appears to be a recent interpretation, probably dreamt up by those who want to prove that the phrase is politically incorrect.

I recognize that many injustices have been committed against our indigenous people. I am as horrified as anyone else by the unspeakable horrors that today’s elders endured growing up during the residential school era. I am not, however, a slave to political correctness. Changing words doesn’t right old wrongs or heal old wounds. Yes, we need to be sensitive and aware of those occasions when what we say is truly hurtful. There are words and phrases that we should no longer use, but Indian summer? Personally, I think that anyone who claims to find that one offensive is simply looking for something to be contentious about.

So, politically correct or not, I’m going to say it. We need Indian summer!


To Xico for lunch

After starting my day with a zumba class, I was ready for a hearty lunch. We caught a taxi in Coatepec and headed for Xico, a smaller town about 9 km away. Here’s the sight that greeted my eye as I stepped out of the car!


Turning around, we crossed the street and headed down the newly restored pedestrian avenue lined with colourful homes and shops. It felt a bit like a step back in time.


Toward the end, road construction was still underway.


The restaurant that was our destination was located near the end of the street. Fortunately, shortly after we arrived, it was time for the construction crew to take their afternoon siesta. The machines shut down and the workers gathered in the shade across the street from where we sat in the sunshine on the outdoor patio. Again, I had to remind myself that it’s the middle of February!


There’s very little English in use in this part of Mexico. Richard M and Colleen function fairly well in Spanish and are able to help us order from the Spanish only menus. There have been a couple of surprises, but they’ve both turned out rather well! On our first morning in Coatepec we went out for breakfast. I thought I’d ordered an omelette, but it was actually fried eggs in a very tasty sauce. Today, I was expecting a shrimp sandwich, but it turned out to be an absolutely delicious omelette! If the surprises continue to be this yummy, I hope there are a few more of them!

Don’t get your knickers in a knot!


If you’ve known me or followed this blog for very long, you know that I’m a self professed word nerd. It may be quirky, but I love words. Who else do you know who would watch a lecture series entitled The Secret Life of Words: English Words and Their Origins while walking on a treadmill?

So, it only makes sense (to me, at least) that a word nerd with an interest in fashion would be fascinated by some of the words used in the fashion business. Today I’m focusing on fashion words that are used differently in different countries. For me, they add to the fun of reading fashion blogs from around the world.

When I was a child, I often wore a jumper to school, but did I wear this


or this?


Here in Canada, as well as in the US, the first picture is a jumper, but in the UK and Australia, a jumper is what we in North America would call a sweater! The jumpers that I wore are known as a pinafores in the UK.

While we in North America understand the meaning of trousers, that’s not a word we’d likely use. Instead, we’d talk about our pants. That could be confusing if we were in the UK, however, where people would be embarrassed if anyone saw their pants. There the term is slang for underpants!

Depending on which side of the Atlantic you’re on, you might not want to get your knickers in a knot or your panties in a twist! Knickers is the British word for a lady’s underpants while here in North America, we usually call them panties.

Of course, men have different underwear words too. Some British men wear y-fronts, those old fashioned underpants with an inverted y shape in front. North American men usually refer to their underwear as briefs, shorts or boxers depending on the style they prefer.

Even babies get in on the underwear confusion. British and Australian babies wear nappies, but in North America, they wear diapers.

What do you call these?


Here in North America, we call them coveralls, but in the UK they’re overalls. Here, overalls are bibbed pants/trousers held up by over-the-shoulder straps. In Britain, however, those are dungarees.

Are you confused yet? Can you think of any other examples?

The sky is falling!

After writing a couple of somewhat controversial posts over the past few days, it’s time for a more lighthearted one.

chicken little

Richard was recently accused of name calling when he used a common English idiom in a comment on Facebook. In response to a doom and gloom posting expressing a friend’s fear about what the newly elected NDP government would do to our province’s economy, he wrote “I just checked again. The sky is still safely in place, it did not fall.” He was, of course, making reference to The sky is falling!, an idiom which had it’s origins in the ancient folk tale, Henny Penny, or as it’s sometimes known, Chicken Little, about a chicken who believes the world is coming to an end. The phrase features prominently in the story, and has passed into the English language as a common idiom indicating a hysterical or mistaken belief that disaster is imminent.

I don’t know if our friend truly believed that Richard was calling her Chicken Little or if she was just very upset. The idiom is one that has been used frequently in discussions and articles in Alberta since the May 5th election. In fact, it appeared twice in one article that we read today. In any case, the misunderstanding reminded me again what a challenging language English is and how much fun we had teaching it in both China and Japan.

Some of our adult students in Japan were particularly intrigued by idioms. Kyoko was a librarian who was already quite conversant in English and who wanted to study nothing else! In my opinion, she was an adult student paying good money for private lessons and should have been able to choose what she wanted to study, but the school had a different philosophy and I couldn’t get away with that. We agreed to compromise. She would study the prescribed curriculum if I would include one or two idioms at the end of each lesson.

So what is an idiom? It can be defined as an expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its separate words, but that has a separate meaning of its own. The origin of many have been lost in antiquity, but our language is littered with them. Some people, Richard included, use them frequently in everyday conversation. I use them much less often, but I thought it would be fun to do a bit of research and share the stories behind a few of the more common ones here.

raining c & dIt’s raining cats and dogs! simply means that it’s pouring rain. There are many theories about the origin of this one, but the most probable is that it had it’s beginning in 17th century England. Public sanitation wasn’t what it is today and during deluges, rainwater coursing down the streets would often carry dead animals with it. As a result, even though cats and dogs never literally showered down from above, they became associated with severe rainstorms.

pintMind your Ps and Qs means to watch your manners or be on your best behaviour. It dates back to a time when local taverns, pubs and bars served their patrons drinks by the quart and the pint. Bar maids had to keep an eye on the customers and keep the drinks coming paying special attention to who was drinking pints, and who was drinking quarts.

 horse's mouthWhen someone uses the phrase, straight from the horse’s mouth, we know that they have heard something directly from the source. They are, therefore, to be believed. Horses have been a prized commodity down through the ages. In the past, a dishonest seller might lie about a horse’s age, but a potential buyer who knew anything about horses knew that you could tell the age by examining the size and shape of its teeth, literally getting the truth straight from the horse’s mouth.

side of bedDo you ever get up on the wrong side of the bed? If so, you start the day in a less than pleasant mood. In Roman times, it was considered bad luck to get out of bed on the left side. Hence if you got up on that side, your day was destined to be a bad one.

redWhen you paint the town red, you go out and celebrate in a somewhat wild and flamboyant way that likely includes imbibing in alcohol. There are several suggestions as to the origin of this one, but the most common dates back to 1837 and a well-documented story about the Marquis of Waterford and a group of his friends running riot in the Leicestershire town of Melton Mowbray, painting the town’s toll-bar and several other buildings a bright red.

stagecoach11Do your kids like riding shotgun; running to jump in the front seat of the vehicle with you whenever you go out? If so, they are replicating a historically important role. In the days when stagecoaches were the primary mode of transport, the seat immediately next to the driver was reserved for an individual with a shotgun whose job it was to ward off any bandits attempting to loot passengers.

axeDo you ever fly off the handle? In pioneer days, handmade axes weren’t always the best examples of craftsmanship. Occasionally, a particularly poor design would result in the head unexpectedly flying off its handle. This became an apt metaphor for passionate bursts of rage or losing one’s temper.bite bullet

If our friend’s predictions about Alberta’s NDP government come true, we may have to bite the bullet, accepting the impending hardship and enduring the resulting pain. This idiom has a straightforward history. In days gone by, when doctors were short on anesthesia, they would ask the patient to bite down on stick of wood or a bullet during a medical procedure to distract them from the pain.

tighten-belt-100x100Or perhaps we’ll have to tighten our belts, lowering our standard of living because we’ll have less money than we had before. This saying comes from the depression era when there was little money for anything including food so people had to tighten their belts in order to keep their pants from falling down.

I could go on and on. There are estimated to be more than 25 000 idioms in the English language!

Do you have a favourite?

Speaking Canadian, eh?


Am I wearing a tuque or a knit cap? That depends on what part of the English-speaking world you’re from. Here in Canada, it’s called a tuque which rhymes with duke. Though used by 100% of Canadians, I was surprised to learn that the word is almost unheard of beyond our borders.

A recent article in the Edmonton Journal listed several other words that are used almost exclusively in Canada or that have different meanings here than elsewhere. While English speakers in most of the world, use parking garage or parking deck to describe a multi-level concrete parking structure, here in Canada, we park our vehicles in a parkade. At the beginning of each school year, we buy our children a new package of pencil crayons but in the US, they’re called colored pencils and the British call them colouring pencils. On hot summer days, we give our children freezies, popsicle like treats that come in plastic sleeves. Elsewhere, these are known by a variety of other names including ice pop and freezer pop. Adults might prefer a treat from a mickey, the term Canadians use to describe a 375 mL bottle of liquor. Using that word could get us into trouble in the US, however, where it’s slang for a date rape drug!


If you’re as old as I am, you probably recognize the famous photo from the Beatles’ Abbey Road album cover. In Canada, we’d say that George, Paul, Ringo and John are in a crosswalk. It wasn’t until I taught English in Japan that I discovered that English speakers in some parts of the world refer to it as a zebra crossing!

Even within our borders or within families, we sometimes have difficulty agreeing on which words to use. Instead of using pencil crayons, children often colour with felt-tipped pens. In our family, we always referred to them as markers but my daughter-in-law insists that they should be called felts. According to my father, we use serviettes at the table but the rest of us call them napkins. In my parents’ livingroom, we sat on the chesterfield but in our house, we call it the couch. Others call the same piece of furniture a sofa. What an interesting and confusing language English is!

The dinner/supper conundrum is the one that has confused me the most. I think it’s a regional thing. Growing up on the BC coast, we ate lunch at noon. Supper and dinner were interchangeable words used to describe the main meal which was usually eaten around 6:00 pm. When I settled on the prairie, however, I found that people here often refer to the noon meal as dinner. If we’re invited to someone’s home for dinner, I’ve learned to ask what time they’d like us to come. Their answer tells me which meal they’re referring to! If I’m issuing the invitation, I’m careful not to use the word dinner at all. Everyone understands lunch and supper but dinner is just too confusing!

As Canadians, we’re probably best known for our use of the little word eh? which we tack onto the end of statements to turn them into questions as in “It’s sure been a cold winter, eh?” We do it without even thinking about it and it’s this unique Canadianism that often identifies us as being from north of the border when we travel in the US.

Following Augustine has readers from all over the English-speaking world. I’d love to know where you’re from and what words and phrases are unique to your part of the world. Please leave a comment!

The pattern of snack

Have you ever noticed how often we use the word usually? I hadn’t until I came to China to teach English and immediately noticed that the Chinese always say urally! I have no idea how the r sound crept in but apparently that’s the way all Chinese English teachers teach it. Wrong habits are hard to break and our students still need to be reminded once in a while but after lots of practice they do know how to pronounce it correctly now.

Though urally was one of the most common mistakes made by our students, who have never been taught by native English speakers before, we have encountered many other mispronunciations. Vowel sounds are particularly difficult. It isn’t any wonder considering the fact that one little letter like an a or an o can represent so many different sounds. Sometimes these mispronunciations lead to a complete lack of understanding but we also have a lot of fun with them.

Early in the term, one of my students told me that he liked eating snakes! I clearly remember being somewhat startled but this is China, after all! We’ve eaten bullfrog and catfish, restaurants serve silkworms and there’s one not far from here that specializes in donkey meat, so why not snakes? When I attempted to clarify, however, I discovered that he actually meant that he liked eating snacks! As it turns out, the snake/snack confusion is a common one and has led to lots of laughter in our classes!

Is it any wonder then that the headline "Snacks Dominate the Fashion World of This Early Spring" caught my eye when I picked up the April issue of Sichuan Airline’s in-flight magazine on our recent trip to Jinan. The magazine is published in Mandarin but some of the articles are translated into English. Clearly, they could use a more qualified translator but this particular article was hilarious! Here’s just one tidbit:

"It is the year of the snack, patterns of reptile animals have crawled back to the fashion world of women’s wear in spring and summer, among which the pattern of snack turns out to be the most popular. It seems like designers have already foreseen that the pattern of snack would be a fashion trend, this eye-catching animal pattern is now seen in all fashion fields."

The article was accompanied by photos of clothing with a snakeskin motif as well as snakeskin purses and shoes!

I haven’t been following most of my favourite fashion blogs lately because both WordPress and Blogspot are blocked in China. It’s also been several months since I’ve seen a fashion magazine so I don’t know whether or not snakeskin has caught on as a new fashion trend in North America. I haven’t actually seen it being worn here yet but for those who want to know, apparently the pattern of snack is the newest trend!