U.K. Vernacular Q? "Marks and Sparks"?

Aug 11th, 2009, 08:00 AM
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U.K. Vernacular Q? "Marks and Sparks"?

Sometime ago in a post i used the term "Marks and Sparks" in reference to Marks and Spencer, a mainstay anchor of many British High Streets - especially revered by tourists for their food delicacies.

But when i used it a Brit reprimanded me for saying it because no one ever calls it that.

So i dropped use of the term, which i found fun but could think of no real reason why it would be called Marks and Sparks

but lo and behold the other day in a post by a Scottish person (not Scotch) referring to where one could buy Haggis the term "Marks and Sparks" was used.

So what's the deal, please, on Marks and Sparks - is it strictly a Scottish term or in all ov England - perhaps it's archaic and out of use (except in Scotland where it may take decades to catch up to England)?

Anyone know why the name Marks and Sparks came about.
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Aug 11th, 2009, 08:41 AM
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Pal, fear not, it is certainly called that by 'Brits'. It is not exclusive to Scotland or England or anywhere else.

'Sparks' merely rhymes with 'Marks', nothing more profound, so it is easy to say. M&S holds a dear place in British hearts as it was always a bastion of quality and value, famously for underwear. In the last decade the company has had real problems because they took their corporate eye off quality except in the food departments where it remains excellent so consequently expensive. Much has been done recently to repair the damage.

Whenever I venture out to re-equip I still seem to finish up there more often than not.
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Aug 11th, 2009, 09:05 AM
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Whoever "corrected" you was either talking out of their rear end or has some mysterious reason for wanting to keep our slang to ourselves.

I knew some people who would always refer to C&A (now departed these shores) as "Coats'n'Ats".

As for Debenhams, we shall never know what happened to Freebody.
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Aug 11th, 2009, 09:21 AM
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thanks interesting to learn these tidbits

one thing an American was always struck with on a typical High Street was the Spastics Society Shop (name?) - which was quite an un-PC term for physically challenged if used in the U.S.

Say if Brits called Stephen Hawking a 'spastic' i suppose i may have been accepted - but if an American called Stephen Hawking a 'spastic' it would be really unacceptable in public parlance.
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Aug 11th, 2009, 09:26 AM
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Stephen Hawking isn't a spastic, at least not in the UK. Spasticity is a generally used as another term for cerebral palsy. The Spastics Society is now called Scope.
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Aug 11th, 2009, 09:27 AM
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>one thing an American was always struck with on a typical High Street was the Spastics Society Shop (name?) - which was quite an un-PC term for physically challenged if used in the U.S.<

The Spastic Soceity changed it's name to SCOPE in 1994. No shop has used that name since then.
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Aug 11th, 2009, 09:31 AM
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<<< Say if Brits called Stephen Hawking a 'spastic' i suppose i may have been accepted >>>

It has been unacceptable for at least 30 years - and in any case Stephen Hawking doesn't have cerebral palsy, he has muscular dystrophy
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Aug 11th, 2009, 09:42 AM
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see as a casual tourist i thought Spastic meant handicapped (but even handicapped today here is a bit pejorative - physically challenged) - see how tourists can jump to conclusions!
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Aug 11th, 2009, 09:56 AM
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Where would you have seen it within the last 15 years? As Alan said its long been unacceptable and the name change was in response to that.
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Aug 11th, 2009, 09:58 AM
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Since everyone became an expert on Marks' commercial performance, it's become increasingly modish to call them M&S, which has long been their standard name in the trade and in the financial industry. I'd say 'Marks & Sparks' gets rarer every year, and that 'Marksies' thing Caroline Ahern uses is an invention of a Coronation Street scriptwriter. 'Marks' is still common though.

But there's a wider point here. Using a foreign country's slang is always dangerous, as PalQ discovers every time he talks about the Chunnel. Even if the term IS used by some natives, no foreigner ever really knows the changing connotations it might have developed.

No Briton should ever talk about Philly (except if you're Dora Bryan promoting the cheese) or Frisco or the Big Apple. Or even 'bucks'. It's equally wise for Americans to avoid our equivalents.
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Aug 11th, 2009, 10:04 AM
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well Lord Flanneur:

Mea culpa but i would never in Britain use Marks & Sparks unless that was indeed the general colloquial term so used.

I only used in some context about a Marks & Sparks thread i started and it came up.

wellyoudidnotknowthat - i should have been clearer - my 'was always' should been clear that in some years ago - i am well aware, as a habitual peregrinator along many British High Streets that there is no more Spastics Shops or Spastics Society Shops or whatever.

and our meaning for 'spastic' is someone like Hawking, who has lost voluntary control of their nerves, producing twitching, shkiness - i.e. a 'spastic' - the term is more aimed now towards normal people, like me, as a general low-level insult -'you spastic'
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Aug 11th, 2009, 10:07 AM
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AlanRow, Stephen Hawking has ALS (Lou Gehrigs disease), Not Muscular Dystrophy. It is amazing he is still alive - people don't normally survive so long with it. I have lost two friends to this terrible illness.
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Aug 11th, 2009, 10:11 AM
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Modish, I'm flattered, not often called that at my age. But I'm hardly an expert on M&S' (ooh, there I go again) commercial performance, it's been public for years. As was the plummeting quality of their clothing.

'Spastic' became a word of abuse over the last 50 years which is why it is now, correctly, unacceptable.
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Aug 11th, 2009, 10:45 AM
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Stephen Hawking is not spastic, nor does he suffer from muscular dystrophy. He has motor neurone disease. He does not shake or twitch at all. Spastic was an acceptable term (it derives from 'spasm') until probably the 70s or 80s. Then there was a vogue for 'sick' jokes - thalidomide, blind people, spastics etc - like the vogue for elephant jokes. Spastic then became a general term of abuse. The Spastics Society was rather late in changing its name, imo.
stfc is quite right about Marks and Sparks. You'd need to get a survey done to find out the order in which the British public prefers to refer to the company - Marks and Spencer, M and S, Marks and Sparks, or Marks.
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Aug 11th, 2009, 10:52 AM
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We once had Montgomery Wards on every Main Street and in shopping malls - long gone now but it was common to call it "Monkey Wards" - no reason but perhaps a child mis-pronounced it and it caught - perhaps same with Marks & Sparks (which i really like for some reason)
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Aug 11th, 2009, 11:42 AM
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<>

How do you feel about expats using slang? Or for that matter -- using any British term instead of their familiar American one? For example:
Garbage Can v. Rubbish Bin
Toilet Paper v. loo roll
Popsicle v. ice lolly

Raising our son here we're trying to teach him certain British words to avoid confusion or embarrassment. We feel like we're being culturally sensitive and aware -- but does this behavior offend you?
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Aug 11th, 2009, 11:50 AM
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Here in Wales we use 'Marks and Sparks' we also refer to M&S as 'Marksies' too.
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Aug 11th, 2009, 11:50 AM
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BKP - do i understand you correctly? you're americans living in the UK and worried about your son using British expressions?

more likely I'd be worried if he didn't. why would we be offended? if he needs the loo, asking for the men's room is just going to make him stand out, which no kid likes and you'd be doing him no favours if you made him say garbage or sidewalk.

i'd be careful about some words though, like rubber, as your relatives back in the US might not understand!

regards, ann
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Aug 11th, 2009, 12:02 PM
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i'd be careful about some words though, like rubber, as your relatives back in the US might not understand!>

or 'fag'
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Aug 11th, 2009, 01:16 PM
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I would use and expect to hear, all of "Marks and Sparks", M&S, and Markies (not MarkSies)

My generation (I'm just over 50), used spastic as a term of abuse in the playground. It has been unacceptable in polite company for more than 30 years. It was always used to mean someone with CP.

Kids nowadays say "spas" and it just means someone not up their personal standard of intelligence.

BKP, it never offends me to hear local slang in the mouths of others, but sometimes it's a bit naff.

I HATED the expats referring to may town as Furryboots City; just HATED it.
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