I made a discovery yesterday.
Americans don't use the word 'bit'. At least, not when they're talking about something other than the thing that goes in the horse's mouth.
I had a friend round, and her son was helping the Littleboys construct a marble run. Littleboy 1 was acting as the foreman, and was rather bossily ordering the other two about. He kept asking them to get him a 'red bit', a 'yellow bit' and so forth. At one point I had to intervene, and (being shamefully less good than my five year old son at actually following the instructions) I then asked him if "that bit goes there?"
"Oh," said my friend. "I've finally worked it out. Bit means piece."
She had thought we were referring to some technical marble-construction terms, and explained that, to her, bit was, well, getting the bit between your teeth. And thinking about it, Americans don't tend to say "It's a bit strange." They would say something was 'a little strange'. (US readers, If I'm wrong here, do let me know...)
It's strange how these little bits (ha!) of information can still surprise you. I remember being astonished last year to discover that Americans don't say they are 'cross' about something. It's mad, or angry. I found this out because someone was saying how cute it was that her son picked up British expressions from Thomas the Tank Engine. So, saying that I am a little bit cross about the fact that Littleboy 1's basketball lesson was cancelled today without our knowledge, would presumably be either quaint or completely meaningless to them. (I am more than a little bit cross about that, by the way. But I'll get over it).
Still, I feel as if I am being constantly educated. Today, for instance, I have been informed sternly by sons that 'dreidel' - a Jewish Hanukkah toy that they have been learning about at school - is not pronounced to rhyme with sidle, but cradle. At least I have the boys to put me right......