Is this really English … American?

Ever since I heard Ray Romano say, in an episode of his TV show when they visited Italy, ‘does anyone here speak American?’ I’ve often wondered if, being an English speaker, there were two very distinct different versions of the language.

Spelling wise, there is.

You say color, I say colour, you know the sort of thing.

But then there are words like ‘heater’.

Yes, like a lot of people I thought the word means a device that warms you up in winter, or when it’s cold.

Apparently not, and this is where it pays to know a little about the American language, though maybe not necessarily that one Ray was talking about.

For instance, a heater – is a gun apparently, and an expression used often during the 1930s through 1950s, particularly in films.

Quite loses all of its magic though when you yell out to your friend, throw me a heater will you, and it’s not the gun!

Give him a heater, no, not because the recipient is cold, but it is an instruction from the catcher to the pitcher – yes, it’s another name for a fastball.

And what do you know, all three definitions turn up in an American dictionary, the one referring to the gun being labeled ‘dated’, and, yet another adds the notation ‘slang’.

I’m betting Humphrey Bogart used the term more than once in a gangster film.

There are other definitions, but none so colorful as that for the gun and the fastball, except perhaps for the short winning streak at the casino.

5 thoughts on “Is this really English … American?

  1. This is really neat! I’m American and I can’t say I’ve ever heard a gun referred to as a heater, but as you’ve said it was used mostly in the 30s-50s. I can see how it’s evolved to modern day though, as ‘packing heat’ refers to ‘carrying a gun’ or ‘being armed’.

    Liked by 1 person

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