American language help

Hi everyone, please excuse me gatecrashing this group as although I am not American I would like to ask your advice relating to my work with Americans.

I offer totally private, custom made tours of the wine region I live in, advertising them as 'bespoke' tours. An American (living in France for 20 years) told me this is not an American word and I should change the words as it wont bring me any business. Is this true?

Also, apart from the obvious (using vacation as opposed to holidays) can you think of any other words that may work better, ie words that Americans will use when searching for a private tour guide, offering custom made tours including hotel pick up.

Thank you so much for any words of wisdom you can offer, I'll try not to interrupt again and I will appreciate your advice,


I speak Spanish and Portuguese as well as French but when I travelled around Latin America, I would encounter the same word in Spanish meant different things in different countriess and some words in Spanish meant completely different things (sometimes embarrassingly) in Portuguese. One had to stick to formal language and avoid the street languages of the various countries to avoid confusion and embarassment.

Okay, this is the last time I respond to this and and I officially wash my hands of the whole thing. THIS WAS A JOKE, A JOKE, OKAY!!!! I don't speak French because I just got here, as if I owe you an explanation anyway. I've already been called ignorant and if I want to be scolded, I have a wife for that. A wife who, by the way, speaks French. I am taking lessons, okay? Just saying. Oh, and I'm an American so all the Brits you took to task for being superior, well, the only comment I saw here about the Queen's English was from me, once again, an American.

Me too Madelyn!! in fact it's this post that FINALLY helped me understand more precisely what it meant... ok i didn't make the effort to look it up, either... i assumed it meant something like "tailor-made", "customized" etc.

If the Brits will indulge the yanks for a moment, while we come up to speed... Madelyn's mention of bespoke shoes sent me to the search engine. Here is the relevant bit from the article Custom Cobbling:

"It’s time to start controlling what your footwear says about you. Here are some made-to-order and even bespoke shoes that will let you express yourself through shoes. Not familiar with the difference between bespoke and made-to-order? Sigh. I’ll take off my bitchy fashion hat for a moment to explain: Made-to-order is extreme customization—when a customer takes an existing style and selects the color, materials, and details. Bespoke is when an item is made from scratch to a buyer’s specification. Measurements are taken, and a pattern is then cut, tailored to fit, and personalized. The term is generally applied to men’s tailored clothing. Bespoke items, like haute couture, often require several fittings and sometimes even sketches. It is a process so involved that your tailor—or in this case, your cobbler—will likely be your new best friend by the end."

Imagine my surprise. I own an old but still serviceable pair of Tony Lama "bespoke" cowboy boots, which I had always referred to as custom made. They gather dust in the top of the closet. I am in wellies country now.

You just come off looking a bit pretentious man. Honestly. Xenophobia is xenophobia. I'm going to say something a bit xenophobic and ask you if you are living in France why can't you speak French? Just saying.

Katherine, you wanna help me with my site? My web designer is crap, he didn't even finish the page and it took ages for him to do it. Design layout is crap, everything. Hit me up.

Call travel agencies in the US and offer your services. For all of you Brits, I've been to your countries and most of your countrymen don't speak the Queen's English. So give me a break. Your sense of superiority is pretty disgusting. If you want contact with some high end travel agencies, I can call some of my people in the US. I may actually be able to help you. However, it is pretty ridiculous to come to an American forum and belittle the people that you are hoping to get business from. I'm not saying that about you Tracy but rather others. I live in France and I'm American and I've got a pretty good business. I get the comments from the French but I give it right back to them with my own lovely stereotypes to show them how ridiculous they sound. We all get a laugh out of it. Good luck.

I am a well-educated American and I had never encountered the word "bespoke" in all of my 60 plus years until recently. During a visit to London I saw a sign in a store window that read, "bespoke shoes." I assumed that the phrase meant shoes that had already been "spoken for", i.e., shoes that had been worn and had been refurbished! But, no, how could that possibly be the case, when the store was located in a posh neighborhood? I was clueless! So, no, when communicating with Americans, avoid the use of "bespoke". Perhaps "tours to your taste" might be a fun way to express personalized tours or custom tours. Good luck in your endeavors.

Hi Tracy, I encountered the exact same thing being English but working in New York writing marketing literature - I'd used the word bespoke only to be met with blank expressions... it seemed to be a word that doesn't exist in American - I used the word 'tailored' as a substitute and it was lesson learned for all concerned!

We are two peoples, divided by a common language.

Personalized or customized would work just fine.

Very good point, will try and use winery more.

That would be brilliant Marshall, thank you, I will be in touch - have to go and put the kids to bed right now.

Again, a big 'like'. I totally understand where Bruce was coming from and really appreciate all the comments folks have made. I have worked with many nationalities over the years, many of them American, which is why I asked the question. In the end, the most important thing is that we all understand each other and many people do not understand 'bespoke' so it needs to be changed.

Living in France for many years has made me aware of language difficulties, often I have looked up a word French and then on finding the translation had to look the word up in English even though I consider myself to be relatively well educated. Entrepreneur is an absolute classic Robin!


I disremembered.

Thanks Ley :-)

Big 'like' Misha :-)

That's brilliant :D ! And the French don't have a word for entrepreneur, according to W!

Well, you have hit the nail on the head Catherine, I haven't lived in the UK since 1989 so I don't even have a clue about current English. We don't have much contact with pure English speakers and as the majority of our friends are mixed English/French speakers we tend to speak a polygot of French/English and we all understand so nobody notices the errors! It makes it very difficult to pick up the kids grammatical errors in English as well.

I was was speaking to my mum recently and I said that one of the few things I missed from the UK was the opportunity to have a verbal sparring match in my own language, it's probably one of the many reasons I enjoy SFN.