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Two Nations Divided by a Common Language

Does anyone have some entertaining "British English versus American English" stories to share? I'll start.

This last May, wife and I stopped off at a local pub for dinner near our flat. Come to find out:

"Mixed leaves" is what Americans would call a tossed salad.

"Mixed greens" is steamed vegetables (asparagus and broccoli in this case.)

Posted by
17976 posts

This isn't a story, exactly, but I was told this, and then it was confirmed by a Brit I worked with.

The word "quite" has an opposite meaning in British English than in American English. Here, if we say something is quite good, it is rather good, but when Brits say something is quite good, it is just barely good.

Posted by
635 posts

A couple of years ago my wife and I went to Bavaria and Italy, with a couple of nights in Dublin thrown in at the end. I'd studied German in the past, and we both took an Italian class at the local college before our trip. So in both Germany and Italy we were able to get by in the local languages.

Then we got to Dublin, and we couldn't understand anybody. Ok, that's exaggerating. But I did have a nice conversation with the owner of the hotel where we were staying (Ned O'Shea of O'Shea's Merchant in Temple Bar). We were both speaking English -- through an interpreter!

Posted by
7124 posts

'Mixed greens' would create confusion in Australia as it could possibly refer to a green salad. Here one would more likely see 'steamed greens' on a menu.

Posted by
1838 posts

Ask for ‘chips’ in the UK and you will get thickly cut French Fries.

What Americans call ‘pants’ = trousers in the UK. (Pants are an undergarment).

Sidewalk = pavement.

Posted by
1063 posts

" Entree in particular I always have to think twice. It sounds like it should be the starter not the main (as we would call it)."

Yes, that one caught me out in a restaurant in Florida, I had to ask my friends wife (who lives there) why there were no main courses on the menu.:-)

Don't really understand why the French word for a "starter" would be used to describe a main dish.

Posted by
14323 posts

I once insulted a friend's mother in London when I said she had a very pretty front yard. After a short awkward silence, the semantics were explained. A UK yard is an empty lot or a slur on someone's "garden." Pastries are always a conundrum - I'd walk into a bakery and know what everything is called in Chicago, but not a clue in London, I could only point. I did know from living in Jerusalem that a cheese roll is a cheese sandwich on a roll, not a sweet pastry.

An English girl and an American girl here were roommates. The English girl put "squash" on the shopping list, the American came home with zucchini. Turns out, in England the sweet fruity syrup concentrate you add to water or seltzer is called squash. Zucchini is "courgettes."

I worked in an office with an English girl here in Israel. Once a month we had to send out flyers, which meant manually stuffing hundreds of envelops. She'd blush and beg us not to talk about "stuffing" anything. On the other hand, she had no problem asking if anyone had a rubber.

There are regional differences in the US too. In Chicago, we used to drink chocolate phosphates (as in let's get a chocolate phos). It's chocolate syrup with seltzer. My aged uncle was snowbirding in Florida and ordered one. The waitress had no idea what he was talking about, he got angry because he thought she was just being difficult and he had no idea how to make one (typical old guy), he just knew what he wanted. The story was related to me by a New Yorker who was with them, telling me he'd ordered a chocolate phosphorus.

Posted by
2514 posts

one of the biggest differences especially for travellers is the term VAN. American see this as a car that seats around 7 people.
In the UK we use vans for transporting goods, a car that transports a larger number of people is a people carrier?
Another big problem for travellers is the way American use dates and times, seems the 24hr clock is pretty well unused and dates to me are the wrong way round, today for me is 13/07/2016 but for you guys in the US it is 07/13/16.

Posted by
4666 posts

Yes, the different order when dates are written as all numbers can cause some serious and expensive misunderstandings. It's always best to use the actual names of months in transatlantic correspondence.

Posted by
533 posts

On my first trip to the UK, I was getting a ride from Oxford to Bristol with some people I knew from work, and talk turned to where we would stop for lunch. The driver said that coming up in a few miles was a GARRudge, and we could stop there. I didn't have the foggiest clue what he was talking about until several minutes after we actually got there, when I realized that (1) the word he pronounced as GARRudge, I would pronounce as garAHZH, (2) what he was calling a garage, I would call a gas station, (3) this particular gas station had a convenience store, and (4) British convenience stores sell those prepackaged sandwiches, not (just) the junk food that you would expect to find in America.

Posted by
4866 posts

I lived in Germany, where many Germans spoke the British English; Also, worked in Saudi Arabia where I met many British people. The only persons that I was not able to understand from the British Isles was a older gentleman from Scotland. However, years later, when we visited Scotland, the vast majority of the people spoke without the very pronounced Scots accent.

One side story was that one evening on St. Patrick's Day, I was drinking with some Irish guys in a Pub in Frankfurt, Germany. Since I had many Irish ancestors, I was telling them about that. All went well, until they asked me my first name, which is George. After, that they were very cool to me. Apparently, no one in Ireland would name his son George (the patron saint of England). Of course, I have Scots, Welsh and English ancestors as well.

Another story from Germany. I was renting an apartment in a high rise building and could not find how to dispose of my garbage. The Germans in the office didn't know what I was talking about. Also, they did not know what trash was either. Eventually, they figured out that I was talking about rubbish.

Posted by
2514 posts

Bum, still a favourite word in both countries and totally different meanings as is Fag.

Posted by
1879 posts

Oh the memories.............

The group will have an "Open Bar" -- in the US, that typically means free drinks. But, I was a management host for a group about 70 employees on a trip to England decades ago. At Warwick Castle there was some sort of mess-up with the arrangements, and after receiving profuse apologies from the staff there, the group was invited to walk up a relatively steep area to another building to wait, and with a big smile, the lady told me: "We'll have an open bar for your group." So, I addressed our group, explaining where we were to wait, but adding there would be FREE drinks. Found out that was not the case, so my corporate credit card quickly covered the drinks (and who knows how many that were not part of our group). "Open Bar" meant just that the bar would be open...duh!!

Another time at a pub, my husband ordered a martini with an olive....he thought it tasted strange, and it turns out (we learned) a martini is a brand of vermouth.

And, as my husband's cousins always say:

Car Park instead of parking lot
Hire a car instead of renting a car
Daily instead of a maid
Holiday instead of vacation
...........and, yes, a yard (even if it's just a plain patch of fescue) is called a garden

Posted by
2879 posts

We once needed to take our car onto a military base in the northern Germany city where we were living. In order to do so we had to register and get a permit. I called the base with license number, VIN number, make and model in hand. The questioning started. Pretty soon we were in trouble, the officer wanted to know if our car was a saloon. Did it have a boot he asked? Was the bonnet in the front or back? It left him scrambling to think of alternative ways of describing what kind of car they'd be needing to sweep the undercarriage each time we pulled in at the gate.

I learned that day:
Saloon=sedan (as opposed to Estate Car which was a station wagon)
Boot=trunk
Bonnet=hood

But a lot of odd images were swimming around in my head before I figured out I wasn't going in an old west tavern in my cowboy boots with a bonnet on my head...

Posted by
110 posts

MrsEB - The title references the line 'England and America are two countries divided by a common language'. It's been attributed to George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, and Winston Churchill (now there's a trio for you).

Emma - I'm surprised to learn it would be considered poncey restaurant speak. It was in a run of the mill pub near our flat. Thanks for the insight.

Posted by
2246 posts

I finally figured out that an egg sandwich is an egg salad sandwich, and not a fried egg sandwich like we make sometimes.

And there was that novel where the author was referring to "trainers"...ah yes, tennis shoes.

While I have the opportunity, I'll say again that British films should always come with English subtitles.

Posted by
110 posts

American subtitles, perhaps.

I always got a good laugh telling the locals, "I'm American, I don't speak English, but I studied it in college."

Posted by
1251 posts

On my first trip to Ireland in 1979, I was in a pub and ordered a soda. The bartender asked if I wanted it "By the neck". I gave him a confused look. He explained that "By the neck" meant I would drink it out of the bottle instead of pouring into a glass. So later on in my trip in a pub in Dublin, I order a soda "By the neck". The bartender gave me a confused look. I explained that I would drink it out of the bottle.

Posted by
25732 posts

egg salad

no, egg salad is egg with lettuce, salad cream (whatever that is under the skin), and maybe, but not guaranteed, sliced tomato.

Better egg and cress, which is egg and cress and a little bit of mayo.

Posted by
2246 posts

The plot thickens. What, pray tell, is salad cream?

Posted by
4539 posts

egg salad (US) is egg mayo or egg mayonnaise (UK).

Posted by
2246 posts

"egg salad (US) is egg mayo or egg mayonnaise (UK)."

Okay...so is there an in between iteration of this language thing practiced in Virginia?

Posted by
31289 posts

It appears that there may be some language and food differences between the U.S. and Canada as well. Until reading this thread, I had never heard of a "chocolate phos".

So far I've been able to manage "English" when in the U.K. as that's where some of my family originated. However, I really had to concentrate on this one, and still didn't get all of it.....

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgPH0tYXJrA

Posted by
2246 posts

^^^ Very funny, and this is what I'm saying. Years ago I gave up on The Full Monty when I realized I needed to watch it twice! I really do enjoy the slang though, off the charts in that sequence, Ken.

Posted by
110 posts

And see, it took me an extra second to remember that "chocolate phos" (phos - fozz) was phosphate and not chocolate vietnamese soup (pho - fuh)

I'd offer, as gently as I can, that the chocolate phos phenomenon is a cultural food, rather than an English/Canadian/American food. I wouldn't expect anyone outside a particular subset to know a schmaltz sandwich or funeral potatoes, either.

Posted by
2353 posts

It took me a bit to figure out cookie = biscuit. On our first flight to Europe on BA I asked one of the flight attendants if she had something for a snack perhaps a cookie. Oh my did she look puzzled! After a little more discussion and show & tell we sorted it out!

Oh yes - you Brits do lots of sorting out!

But I think that is brilliant!

Posted by
3465 posts

The issue with trying to link all of these things together is that not only are many things known by different names from country to country, there are regional terms (chocolate phosphate example mentioned by another) mainly for food that no one has ever heard of outside those regions. The only reason I know what a phosphate is is because I saw it on a travel show on TV. Otherwise, I never heard of such a thing.

Same way that in the South of the US every soda is a "Coke" and you have to specify what you really want when someone asks you if you want a Coke. "Would you like a Coke?" "Sure, Dr. Pepper sounds good."

I really have not had any issues in understanding the various British English terms when I visited there. I can usually get an understanding from the context. Now whether or not they understand me is a whole 'nother issue. And if they don't it's nobody's fault but mine :-)

Posted by
9363 posts

What you call a chocolate phosphate, we call a chocolate soda in central Illinois.

Posted by
4539 posts

I think the closest thing we have to salad cream in the U.S. is Miracle Whip. Salad cream isn't as thick.

Okay...so is there an in between iteration of this language thing practiced in Virginia?

Not sure what you mean, but I did live in London for a year so got to make many mistakes ordering one thing for lunch and getting something entirely different from what I expected, writing documents and getting my English corrected, and learning entirely new expressions such as

  • using fancy as a verb as in "Would you fancy a coffee?" or "do you fancy him?)
  • station closed due to a "person under the train" (it means exactly what you think)
Posted by
1976 posts

Nigel beat me to the egg and cress reference. In the US we say watercress; I've never heard it shortened to cress.

"Made redundant" in the British Isles means "laid off" in the US

Is the following correct?:
British American
Biscuit Cookie
Cookie Cracker

In St. Louis, PBS (Public Broadcasting Station) is showing the second season of the Great British Baking Show. I don't care that much about baking, but I love listening to all the different accents and the different words they use for things. This season was filmed in Berkshire. One of the hosts pronounced it Barksha, just as Emma (I think) said it was pronounced. When I heard that, it took my brain a second to catch up and I was excited that I knew what the host said.

Posted by
3388 posts

This language divide goes much farther than just Europe. One can see the differences all over the world. I was recently on a trip to Rwanda where the same English word has very different meanings as well. I ended up making myself a little dictionary. It was also interesting to very carefully and slowly address a class of students and see nothing but blank faces. The classroom teacher would then repeat my exact words but with an African accent and looks of recognition would suddenly appear.

Posted by
3465 posts

Miracle Whip is sweeter tasting than mayonnaise, but not to the point you would confuse it with a dessert topping. It was created during the 1930's depression era as a more affordable alternative to mayonnaise. Over the years it has been pushed as a "healthier" replacement for mayonnaise as well since it is mostly water and has a lot less oil and egg than mayonnaise. We grew up eating it at home because that's what mom liked.

Posted by
324 posts

always assumed miracle whip was sweet, like a dessert topping . You learn something new everyday<<

That would be Cool Whip (frozen, used defrosted) or Reddi-Whip (whipped cream in an aerosol can).

Posted by
2246 posts

"egg salad (US) is egg mayo or egg mayonnaise (UK)"

Laura, I was confused by this, and wondered if there was an East Coast thing I had missed since you're in Virginia-so egg salad would be called egg mayo in UK?

Emma, thanks for the scoop on salad cream, it surely does sound like a good start to a home-made mayonnaise. I love that you recall it being (the American brand) Heinz, and thanks also for distinguishing between the common and the posh, always good to know.

I recall buying an egg sandwich at a Pret location in London, I think it had cress, or perhaps watercress.

Posted by
12193 posts

"Cress" is short for garden cress and it is a different plant from watercress.

Garden cress is easily grown in pots or even damp paper ( although it won't grow very long that way).

http://herbgardening.com/growinggardencress.htm

The two plants are in the same family ( Brassicas) but belong to different genera.

Posted by
51 posts

"I could care less" is wrong. People that say it mean "couldn't." Drives me nuts. Don't they
listen to what they are saying?

Posted by
3465 posts

Well, I could care less, but that would take effort I don't want to expend. :-/

Posted by
8889 posts

Yes, US dates confuse me (today is Friday 15th July: 15/7/16).
And floor numbers. The ground floor is zero, 0. Floors above that are 1, 2, 3 etc. Floors below ground are -1, -2 etc. What could be simpler?
The area at the side of a road for the use exclusively by pedestrians is a pavement.
And as for a F###y bag. A F###y is a crude term for a female orifice that I would expect most websites to have as a banned word. A money bag attached to a belt is a "bum bag". A bum is a more polite word for an arse, an ass is a type of donkey.
And a toilet is a toilet, a bathroom is a room with a bath in it, a rest room is a place you go if you are tired.

Posted by
1063 posts

"And a toilet is a toilet, a bathroom is a room with a bath in it, a rest room is a place you go if you are tired."

+1, I don't really understand the aversion to using the word "toilet" in America.

Posted by
1063 posts

I was on a training course in Baltimore in the early 90's, a bloke came into the classroom and casually said that there was a woman wearing suspenders in the office across the hall. Well, I don't think the rest of the class (American) had seen their 2 English classmates move so fast, we were very disappointed though to learn that "suspenders" in the US are "braces" (for holding trousers up) in the UK, suspenders in the UK is a garter belt in the US. :-)

Posted by
31289 posts

I heard a new one this morning on a news report. The BBC reporter used the term "pick up truck" to describe a truck that removes disabled vehicles. I've always referred to those as "tow trucks", as the term "pick up trucks" has a different meaning in this part of the world. Which description is most common in the U.K.?

Posted by
571 posts

I thought the U.K. tderms were "breakdown truck" or "recovery vehicle". To me, a pick-up truck is a vehicle with a low-sided rear section for carrying goods, especially designed for use over rough ground. It could be that the reporter just used the wrong term in the heat of the moment, which can more easily happen if you speak more than one language, or are reporting from a foreign country.

Posted by
25732 posts

not tow truck.

Not much gets towed here either. Cars are generally driven or winched onto a flat bed before being removed.

Posted by
908 posts

Oh, Harleydonski, it gets even better. At Ft. Wilderness Campground in Disney World they are called Comfort Stations.

Heard the phrase 'Horses for Courses' the other day on the BBC. That was a new one for me. (They were discussing Mr. Johnson.)

Posted by
5559 posts

You should see the lovely differences in the publishing and business world.

Number of Pages (in a book) is extent.
Backorders are Dues
We send copies to college professors, they dispatch them
We take courses in college they take modules

There are more. :)

Pam

Posted by
31289 posts

Nigel,

Vehicles are still "towed" in this area, using a hydraulic lift like this one.....

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2OYt5BpNek

Since many cars these days are front wheel drive, this method works well. No cable or hook required. Flatbeds are used also. It depends on what the tow company has available at the time.

Posted by
3178 posts

Didn't we just do this topic a month ago?

Sidewalk is a specific thing, a paved area above the curb just for pedestrians, Pavement is any hard surfaced ground in the US (a basket term for asphalt, concrete or pavers), so what is the term for any hard surfaced ground in UK if not pavement? Note that a lot of places down under say Footpath which to me is a narrow trail.

RE dates: the digital world only understands YEAR--MONTH--DATE so get used to it, that's how it's going to be for everyone. By that I mean that format will always be alphabetized in chronological order.

I have no idea what a phos or fozz is.

I was surprised that a contestant on that British Bake Off program said Pop for carbonated beverage, that was the standard term when I was young before Soda became standard.

Posted by
8889 posts

Tom, the part of the road between the pavements that cars drive on is just called the road, or the road surface if you are talking about the asphalt. Yes, a pavement could also be called a footpath, but footpath also includes unsurfaced paths beside a road, or cross-country where there is no road. Like this one: https://usercontent2.hubstatic.com/12970559_f1024.jpg
And "any hard surfaced ground" is not just a road, it may be a car park, factory yard, school playground or many other things.

Year-Month-Day (2016-07-16) is a lot more logical, but not used much outside the computer industry.
And why do US-Americans still use the confusing AM/PM system in timetables? 12:55PM is earlier than 1PM - totally non-intuitive. 12:55 followed by 13:00 is simple.

Posted by
4527 posts

Pop as a term from a fizzy drink is holding out in the north of England but in general elsewhere is old-fashioned along with 'tonic' and 'mineral', although the last is more common in Ireland.

The term was in far more common use when the drinks were sold by door to door delivery in thick glass bottles.

Posted by
9363 posts

By that I mean that format will always be alphabetized in chronological order.

Alphabetizing means putting in alphabetical order (according to the alphabet). You can't "alphabetize" in chronological order. Year-month-day is not alphabetical, nor is it chronological. First you have the day, then the month, then the year (so the European system makes more sense).

Posted by
3178 posts

Alphabetize, sort, you're splitting hairs. The way computers automatically order things in a list.

Anyone trying to file photos or memos or whatever on a computer knows that only the YEAR--MONTH--DAY format gives an intelligible, chronological sort, if the month is of the 01, 02, format (and also the days).

The European format gives the worst result.

Posted by
3178 posts

Sorting:

Say you have a folder named Building Grounds Committee Meeting Minutes. If you name the files in that folder by the date of the meeting 2016--05--09.docx (YEAR--MO--DA) then the files will sort chronologically. Name them starting day or month and you have a mess.

Back to the topic: tarmac in the US is the paved area adjacent to a terminal where the plane parks, I don't think it ever means generic pavement.

Posted by
5559 posts

The best way to resolve the date issue is to use this format: 15-July-2016. It's in excel and my boss uses it for all our reports that we share with the UK. The first thing I do when I get a spreadsheet from the UK is to change the dates to this format. If you leave it numeric, you can really seriously mess up. Believe me. I've done it. And when you mess up a pub date of a book by 3 months, that's a bad mistake! :( Pam

Posted by
8889 posts

Tom, "Tarmac" is short for "tarmacadam", i.e. an asphalt surface. I would not think this applies to airports, as they mostly use concrete surfacing.

I always name my files "Daily report yyyy-mm-dd.whatever", but I would not use yyyy-mm-dd in a normal sentence. The title of the report would be "Daily Report, Sunday 17th July 2016", which is unambiguous.
I have never heard of "Alphabetize" (Which I would spell alphabetise), but you can sort alphabetically or sort numerically, which are two different things.

And "I could care less" is the opposite of "I couldn't care less".

When the Harry Potter books were released in the USA, they produced different versions, with many words changed, for example "owl post" was changed to "owl mail". The same happened to the films, two different sound tracks.

My sister tells the story of visiting Florida when her daughters were young, and being unable to find anywhere she could rent push chair, or buy nappies.

Posted by
2353 posts

I love "nicked" or down at the "nick".

Calling your superior Guv

Posted by
3178 posts

This website implies that the current N American use a sidewalk and pavement are originally British.
http://separatedbyacommonlanguage.blogspot.com/2008/07/pavement-sidewalk-and-stuff-thereof.html?m=1

What will be interesting is whether things merge over time.

I can recall once arguing with an Indian whether the term "bogie" was used for a railway car in the UK-- I told him I was pretty sure bogie was Indian English only but he didn't believe me.

Once had to satisfy my curiosity and ask whether knackered was spelled with a K. The British person thought it was a peculiar question.

Also once heard a Canadian use the term "fair dinkum" in four different senses, the two that I remember are "authentic" and as in the expression "No shit!"

Posted by
2353 posts

When I was a kid - lavatory was the preferred polite word in school. Restroom, bathroom and lastly toilet!

Posted by
1063 posts

When "I were a lad" at school, we went to "the bog" and always hoped there was still some "bog roll" left.:-)

Posted by
25732 posts

what, no khazi?

A bogie, in my British railway professional experience, is the frame which holds the axles for the wheels of a British railway vehicle, engine or carriage. It is generally articulated and suspended from the balance of the vehicle so that the vehicle doesn't derail as it goes around corners.

You will have two bogies, one at each end the carriage or engine.

I'd never heard of it having entomology other than British.

Posted by
8889 posts

You have never heard of "the school bogs", and "bog roll"? Bog roll or "loo roll" later is a term still in common use. Remember the bog roll, an industrial standard, smooth on one side and rough on the other? Totally unlike the smooth soft stuff you get in supermarkets today. When I started work that was still type you got in factory bogs. Can you still get it?

Posted by
3178 posts

So maybe bogie is not just Indian English but there it is used to refer to the entire rail car.

Posted by
5559 posts

Not reading enough British detective fiction if you've not heard of the bog. But evidently no one really seems to know why it is called the Bog. I've always figured it's because a bog is wet and can be nasty....

And Wikipedia has an entire entry on English Words Not Common in the US!

Posted by
31289 posts

I frequently watch British police shows such as A Touch of Frost and Heartbeat and always chuckle a bit at the lines "you're nicked" or "keep that up and we'll have ya down at the nick". AFAIK, no other country uses that term so it seems quintessentially British.

Still on the topic of policing in the U.K., one of my Sons brought this to my attention and I found it to be a very interesting read.....

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/policing-by-consent/definition-of-policing-by-consent

Posted by
2353 posts

I love Frost! and Inspector Morse & the subsequent Inspector Lewis.

Pretty sure I want no part of a "bog roll"!

Posted by
31289 posts

Emma,

The term "you're nicked" is appropriate for Heartbeat, given that it's set in the '60s. Inspector Frost is a more modern version, but given his age, his character probably used that term when he was a young "copper".

I don't think I've seen any Sweeney Todd, so I'm not sure I see the connection between a Strawberry Mivvi and a person / civilian member of staff? British terminology certainly is interesting!

Another term that I often chuckle about is "Porky Pies", especially the car window scene in Snatch. Vinnie Jones was fantastic in that movie (the "replica" scene in the Pub was also good).

Posted by
1063 posts

"I don't think I've seen any Sweeney Todd,"

The Sweeney was a police TV show about a division of the police known as the Flying Squad in the 70's and 80's, the "Sweeney Todd" reference by Emma is rhyming slang, "Sweeney Todd = Flying Squad", nothing to do with the "demon barber of Fleet Street".

Posted by
409 posts

I've never heard any Canadian use the expression, "fair dinkum," and I'm Canadian and have traveled all over Canada. That person was either Australian or was confusing Australuan and British phrases and was trying to fit in.

To me, a toilet is the receptacle for one's bodily waste, not the room. And it seems odd to criticize the use of "washroom" when lavatory means washroom. (The root, lav, Is from a Latin word for washing.)

As a Canadian of a certain age, I have seen our language become Americanized, mainly through constant exposure to US media, but also due to spell checkers designed in the US. Thus, chips have become fries, chesterfields have become sofas, thongs have become flip flops, Hallowe'en Apples has become Trick or Treat and the u is disappearing from many -our spellings, although I still cling to u and always will.

I resent the homogenization of North American English, and I enjoy the differences when I travel or meet people from overseas, and I think of their way of speaking as interesting rather than wrong. Vive la differerence!

Posted by
3178 posts

Sorry to not be clear, the Canadian giving the fair dinkum examples was in Australia at the time.

Thong used to be my preferred term also, flip flop came to prominence around when the thong underwear appeared, coincidence or not? My aunt also said chesterfield for years before finally giving that up.

Posted by
31289 posts

emma,

"Lies" was also my understanding of Porky Pies (sometimes abbreviated to "Porkys"). From what I've read online it originated from Cockney rhyming slang, and I've heard it on numerous other British shows.

The window scene from Snatch is available on YouTube if you're interested, but I won't post the link here as it has some "salty" language.

Posted by
1829 posts

You will find "accomodations" used in at least one of Jane Austen's novels, can't remember which one. Many terms and usage we think of as American are ones that originated this side of the Pond. "Gotten" is an example not seen as good English. I seem to remember seeing it used by Samuel Pepys and it still survives in terms such as ill-gotten or misbegotten.

I have a (completely unresearched!) theory that the US habit of lengthening words stems from German immigrants taking over their linguistic traditions.

BTW was very surprised to see the still used phrase "fagged out" ie exhausted used in another one of Austen's novels.

Posted by
3178 posts

I don't think Americans lengthen words generally, transport is a verb in US English and transportation is a noun, and "burgle" is not used so burglarized is formed from burglar.

Posted by
31289 posts

I'm not sure I understand why "transportation" or "accommodations" are incorrect?

Another British word for "exhausted" that I've seen is "knackered", again uttered in a very colourful manner by Vinnie Jones in the movie Eurotrip (the part in the ending credits always makes me LOL).

Posted by
1829 posts

Knackers can also be used to describe "men's bits" eg kicked in the knackers!

Posted by
4666 posts

"Knackered" originally meant specifically "exhausted from having lots of sex".

Posted by
571 posts

The Knackers Yard is where worn-out horses go to be despatched and made into pet food.

Posted by
4527 posts

Jane Austen also has characters playing base ball in Northanger Abbey.

Posted by
1063 posts

"I'm not saying transportation or accomodations are actually wrong they just sound wrong to these British "ears". Even our government department with responsibility for the area is the Department for Transport not transportation."

Another one that sounds strange to English ears is "transit", don't think I've ever used that word in a sentence. "Customs" is another one (used in the American way to describe immigration at airports), also luggages, I was told at school that there was no plural to that word, the same as sheep and cannon.

Posted by
8236 posts

I don't think most Americans pluralize the word luggage. When I see someone asking a question about luggages I assume English is a second language.

However, I would pluralize cannon. I did not realize that was not a singular word. Not that I use WIKI for all my information, lol, but....

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannon

Love the Hyacinth reference!

Posted by
1063 posts

Another phrase I find confusing is "lucked out", had to see this a couple of times to realise it didn't mean "out of luck".

Posted by
3696 posts

When I grew up in Milwaukee we drank soda and went to the lavatory and drank water from a bubbler...
then I moved to Michigan and we drink pop, go to the restroom or bathroom (not the toilet) and we drink water from a drinking fountain. I felt like I had become low class as I was drinking pop instead of soda:) So now I drink wine instead:)

Posted by
31289 posts

I quite enjoyed that YouTube video, but I can't comment on how accurate she was.

Regarding the meaning of "knackered", it sounds like it may have a different meaning depending on what context it's used. I assume Vinnie Jones would know the proper usage.

emma,

Hyancinth Bucket, indeed - LOL! I'm a fan and still watch the shows whenever they come on. How else could I have possibly learned about such things as "Royal Doulton with the hand painted periwinkles" or "private slimline white telephone with last number redial". One of my favourite characters is Onslow, whose philosophy is to enjoy life with beer in front of the telly, with occasional visits to the turf accountant. My favourite episode is the one where Hyacinth tries to commandeer a telephone booth, and henpecked Richard is forced to reprimand her, at which point the guy in the booth says "well done sir, in wartime you'd have been given a medal for courage like that".

I understand that a prequel of Keeping Up Appearances is being made, but I don't think it will be as good. I agree with Patricia Routledge - "they must be getting desperate".

Interesting discussion.....

Posted by
27 posts

On a recent episode of Doc Martin, there was an American visitor, played by Sigourney Weaver. She said something to the doctor, and he replied "I'm sorry, I don't understand what you're saying - your accent's very thick."
I loved it.

One word that that I find interesting is "surgery." To Americans, it means an operation, cutting into the body, and so on, and it might mean the place where such things take place. In Britain (I believe), it means not only that, but also a doctor's hours, and even other professional's hours. For example, a member of Parliament has "surgery" when he meets with his constituents.

Posted by
2353 posts

Am familiar with calling a physicians office his surgery...but never heard it used for any meeting.

From Oxford Dictionary:

surgery
Pronunciation: /ˈsərj(ə)rē/

NOUN (plural surgeries)

1The treatment of injuries or disorders of the body by incision or manipulation, especially with instruments:
cardiac surgery
he had surgery on his ankle

2British A place where a doctor, dentist, or other medical practitioner treats or advises patients.

2.1 [IN SINGULAR] An occasion on which medical treatment or consultation occurs:
Doctor Bailey had finished his evening surgery

Posted by
2353 posts

Very interesting Nigel - learn new stuff here all the time.

Crazy neither the Oxford nor Cambridge online dictionary has a reference to it. The Free online dictionary does!

Posted by
5968 posts

Napkin vs serviette seems to cause problems. Some Americans seem to refuse to believe that they need to know these things. .

Posted by
31289 posts

The link provided by Nigel was very interesting! I'm not sure why a Politician's meeting would be referred to as a "surgery", as it doesn't seem logical. British terminology always provides a few surprises.

Another example that just came to mind is the TV show Dalziel & Pascoe. Apparently "Dalziel" is pronounced as "Dee-Ell", which doesn't follow the pronunciation one would think. I did some research on that, and there is a historic reason it's pronounced like that, but it still doesn't make sense.

Posted by
12322 posts

Consider the scene in "Good Bye Mr Chips" when a student (?) exclaims to Peter O'Toole, "It's in the dictionary!" He replies, "Oxford or Webster?"

Posted by
1276 posts

I read "elevenses" in a novel and had to look it up. Now I see it all the time in Brit lit..

Posted by
1282 posts

Another example that just came to mind is the TV show Dalziel & Pascoe. Apparently "Dalziel" is pronounced as "Dee-Ell", which doesn't follow the pronunciation one would think. I did some research on that, and there is a historic reason it's pronounced like that, but it still doesn't make sense.

It is because it is a letter that existed in Scots, that doesn't exist in the modern English alphabet - it looked like a 'z' but pronounced closer to a 'g' like in Menzies and Kilcadzow which have the same letter. Like the 'y' in 'Ye Olde Shoppe' is really a 'th'.

Posted by
2353 posts

Or even a "cuppa" of "Rosie Lee".

Is "Rosie Lee" another of those rhymes?

Posted by
3580 posts

British terms to come to terms with: Bap for bread roll, jacket potato for baked potato, chips for French fries, half-ten for 10:30, sorry for oops, pudding for dessert, "tea" sometimes referring to a meal, bacon for that breakfast meat which I still don't recognize, launderette as a cute way of saying laundromat. Coach for long-distance bus.
And not exactly language-related: what's with quoting "petrol" prices in pence. So some unit or other may be 145 p. Seems like that would keep people confused when most prices are quoted in GBP.

Posted by
3580 posts

A friend spent a year or two in London translating from English into American. Really!

Posted by
3178 posts

Never heard an American say or write "whilst" which seems to be more written in the UK than spoken there.

Posted by
2353 posts

Never heard an American say or write "whilst" which seems to be more written in the UK than spoken there.

I am an American user of the word whilst - not sure where/when but I have used it most of my adult life. It's a good word!

Posted by
8236 posts

Ken and MC - thanks Ken for asking about "De-Ell" and thanks to MC for explaining. A recurring character in a trashy romance series I read has that name and it always puzzled me when I listened to the audiobooks and he was called De-Ell.

Posted by
3178 posts

Thought this was interesting, talks about the progression of short a to ah in many speakers in England starting in the 17th century, and why US English retains the short a sound in nearly all cases.

http://www.bl.uk/learning/langlit/sounds/changing-voices/phonological-change/trap-bath-split/

I never paid attention to what seemed to me a willy-nilly sometimes a sometimes ah pronounciation scheme but it is related to the letter that follows the A: ah before S, F, TH, N, and M; else just a.

Posted by
1282 posts

Ken and MC - thanks Ken for asking about "De-Ell" and thanks to MC for explaining. A recurring character in a trashy romance series I read has that name and it always puzzled me when I listened to the audiobooks and he was called De-Ell.

Pam, you are welcome. Meant to add the pronunciations of the names I gave.

Menzies = Min'gis
Kilncadzow = Kilcay'gie.

Both of them the 'z' is closer to a hard 'g'.

Posted by
5 posts

"Rocket" is arugula lettuce. "Aubergine" is eggplant. A "lorry" is a truck. Trains "call at" stations instead of stopping at them, and they're always called "railway stations", not railroad stations.

Regarding toilets: Unless represented by a graphic sign, "Toilets" seems to be the most common sign. Sometimes I saw "WC" although that is more common on the Continent. The most common slang word seems to be "loo".