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What Words Are Different Between America & Great Britain?

What Words Are Used In A Different Way Between Americans & the British?

Here, to kick things off are some that come to mind - with the US version first:

Pants = Trousers.
Panty Hose = Tights.
Gas = Petrol (or Diesel). (Gas to a Brit = Natural Gas that flows into the home. Why would Americans call a liquid a Gas)?
French Fries = Chips. (The British do use the term French Fries to describe the think sticks that the Americans eat but the Brits usually have 'Chips' - meaning the thicker fried potato 'fingers'). Do try & have Fish & Chips when in the UK.
Interstate or Freeway = Motorway. (A fast multi-lane long distance highway).
Railroad = Railway.
Condominium = Flat or Apartment block.
Sidewalk = Pavement.
Subway = Underground / Tube. (A subway in Britain is the term applied to an underground passage such as you might find taking pedestrians under a busy road. It would not be used as a term for underground trains but could be used to describe the passageways taking people to the platforms to catch such trains).

Posted by
31294 posts

fab1,

There are NUMEROUS word and slang differences between U.K. English and other parts of the world. The list is extensive, but a good reference is THIS website (*the link shows the slang - click the tabs at the top for other categories).

THIS website is also a good source of reference. For example, one of the most common terms that shouldn't be used in the U.K. is "Fanny Pack".

Posted by
571 posts

"Fanny Pack" is really not that offensive in the U.K. The usual term over here is "bumbag", which is just as likely to cause elderly ladies to swoon.

The word that caused some surprise is the verb in the film title "The spy who shagged me". Shag is a vulgar term for the act of love, and while it might be commonly used in some circles without causing offence, we are not used to seeing it on film posters. (Note the use of film, rather than movie).

Posted by
2246 posts

I have a British-born customer right now and it's always fun to talk to her. She's keen on this or that, or wants to know what the on is for a particular option (how much extra for that?) She asks if there are any others on offer.

Posted by
7598 posts

A couple of differences:
Have you got vs Do you have
Shall for first person singular and plural, but will has become common usage for first person in the US

Posted by
3418 posts

I love the site "effingpot" (http://www.effingpot.com/) It is hilarious and it really helps to explain the differences.

Here's a few of my favorites and some that might be useful:
British- American
Lift- Elevator
Courgette - Zucchini.
Crisps- chips (potato chips)
chips- French fries
biscuit- cookie
fairy cake- cup cake
mince- ground beef (or other ground meat)
rump steak- sirloin steak
Aubergine - Eggplant
Berk - A fool
Don- professor
Jumper- sweater/cardigan
pants- underwear (what we call pants are trousers)
vest- undershirt
waistcoat- vest
wellies- galoshes (rain boots)
loo/ W C/toilet- restroom/bathroom (when the Brits say bathroom- they mean the room with a bathtub/shower in it- not a public place to relieve yourself)
bin/rubbish bin- trash can
lorry- truck
milk float- milk delivery truck
garden- yard
cash point- ATM
hire car- rental car

Posted by
1248 posts

I always tease my friend from England when she tells me about her book (boook, as in boo with a k), or to look or cook in the same pronunciation. Of course she teases me right back about my pronunciation.

Posted by
742 posts

Met some campers in Oregon woods and told them I had arrived in the dark the previous night, "but thankfully I was carrying torch".
They had visions of the olympic runner...
Flashlight..

Posted by
1976 posts

Car trunk = boot
Car hood = bonnet
Cookies = crackers
Cell phone = mobile
Jail = gaol

Usage of first-person plural instead of first-person singular in some cases, such as "Give us a hug" instead of "Give me a hug"

Posted by
1020 posts

Don't announce that you are "stuffed" after a hearty meal. That's another Brit slang for shagged (see earlier post).

Posted by
1536 posts

I work for a British based company and the word "bespoke" comes up in presentations and conversations with the Brits. I think this means "new" but perhaps Nigel or someone can clarify for me.

Posted by
3418 posts

"Bespoke"- custom ordered/made. Americans would say special ordered or custom tailored....

Posted by
1838 posts

Many thanks to all who have replied to my post thus far.

In Britain, "Bespoke" means upmarket - made to measure. If you use a bespoke tailor in London, you will be using the very best.

To refer to a Brit's garden as a "backyard" would be regarded as an insult as a yard is generally a term used to describe a builders yard where you would find piles of sand / timber etc.. Fortunately, most Brit's are aware that Americans use this term & do not intend to insult.

Posted by
1882 posts

This is a delightful conversation. Loved reading James Herriot books and seeing him referring to the boot, bonnet and Wellies. Didn't someone say the only difference between US and UK is the language?

Posted by
908 posts

Not to go off on a tangent, but fab's initial post reminded me of the regional differentiation in terms/phrases within a country much less between two countries! I lived in WI for a while, and I recall "nylons" being used instead of "panty hose". Don't get me started on "bubblers" (WI and RI)! :)

All fun stuff!

Posted by
4546 posts

i always enjoy hearing "fancy" used as a verb in British English.

"Fancy a coffee?" or "She fancies him"

Posted by
1292 posts

Bespoke means something made for your particular requirements. A bespoke tailor is one you go to to get measured and then go back a few weeks later to pick up the finished article having been made from the cloth up. Upmarket because they are very expensive as opposed to off the shelf. A building or a car though would not be bespoke, but a building may have a bespoke kitchen, bespoke tiles etc and a car bespoke a bespoke interior, bespoke wheels etc. Hope this makes sense.

Posted by
1292 posts

Like Emma, I have never heard stuffed as a mild term - 'I'm stuffed' after dinner, or when the work you've been doing for two hours fails to save, or 'the car's stuffed' when it breaks down. A mild perjorative that can be used infront of granny.

The American for 'bum-bag' puts my teeth on edge though, the one I find funny is the American use of 'pissed' and has been able to change meanings of scenes in TV programmes like West Wing.

The other thing is some words are rude or perjorative in some parts of the country, and completely harmless in others, 'to be knocked up' is a prime example. A friend tells how their fiance's father asked if she would 'like to be knocked up in the morning', meaning do you want a knock on the door and a shout at 7.30.

Posted by
1248 posts

Emma, she is indeed Scouse. I've learned plenty of interesting turns of phrases from her and her hubby!

Posted by
1838 posts

Should anybody be wondering about the comment by George (above) - potatoes were being offered in 3 ways. "Chips" would be like very big French Fries whilst "boiled" would be simply potatoes boiled in water and "Jacket" would be a baked potato including the skin.

The word "gotten" as used by many Americans is, I believe, derived from old English but is never used in the UK today. Indeed, it would be regarded as a poor use of English.

Posted by
1292 posts

The American use of gotten is actually used in the same way in a few British dialects, my own included.

Posted by
2246 posts

I discovered the word Rocket after my first flight to Europe, at Heathrow, groggy and reading the ingredients in a sandwich. I asked at the counter "what is rocket?", and the young man replied 'Oh that's leaves'. Turns out rocket is arugula or other leafy things that go in salad...also known as leaves..of course.

Posted by
1248 posts

The common use in Britain of the word "lovely" as in "he's a lovely guy". We just don't use it often, let alone to describe a person.

Also on the real estate TV shows or any show about decorating they say a place is "homely" and mean it positively. In Canada, that means ugly, as in "that girl's a bit homely". About a nice cozy home we'd say "homey".

Posted by
12040 posts

It's a lot more fun getting pissed in Britain than in America.

When my dad was growing up in the 1930s in the US, knickers were in style for boys. I don't think knickers have ever been stylish for boys in the UK (maybe some weird men might take a fancy...).

Bum vs Bum. Look it up.

Posted by
3696 posts

@Rachel... I almost forgot that I drank out of a bubbler when I was a child in Milwaukee, and I also drank soda...moved to Michigan and drank from the water fountain and soda was pop (sounded very backwoods to me:))

Posted by
1536 posts

Thanks for the clarity on bespoke. In the context I've heard or seen it used means customized or custom.

When in college in western Wi went to Milwaukee and I asked for a pop and got a blank stare. Finally I realized soda meant same thing.

Posted by
10344 posts

Someone may have said (perhaps George Bernard Shaw) that the UK and US are "two countries separated by a common language"?

Posted by
4666 posts

The one that occasionally causes confusion with Americans discussing transport: "coach" in British English for a long-distance inter-city bus.

Posted by
1248 posts

To "pull" the opposite sex, meaning to pick up (at a bar, for instance).

I always have a laugh when a British person "has the hump" about something, meaning they're ticked off or upset.

Posted by
1020 posts

Perhaps "stuffed" has lost its oomph over the years. When I used it quite a few years ago, I was privately instructed about its connotations in Britain.

Posted by
1976 posts

"Stuffed" may have the same meaning in Germany that it once had (or perhaps still has in some areas) in England. Americans use it to refer to many things: "I'm stuffed", "Stuffed peppers", "Stuffed animal", etc. but in Germany it has a vulgar connotation. So does the phrase "I'm hot," which in American English doesn't automatically have a sexual connotation. Germans would say "I'm warm."

I'm fascinated by British slang, as well as slang used in other English-speaking countries. We all speak English, yet we have no idea what each other is saying sometimes.

Posted by
1292 posts

Stuffed animal is also a difference. A cuddly toy, like a teddy bear would not be referred to as a stuffed animal in British English. A stuffed animal is one that has had a post mortem visit to the taxidermist.

Now what do you think of the term chuffed?

Posted by
5562 posts

One of the funnier work related differences in publishing is that US refers to the page count of a book, or the number of pages. The UK says extent. The extent of that book is long. And indeed the word bespoke is frequently used. And on the academic level, in the US our professors and students using LMS's--Learning Management Systems. In the UK the use VLS's--Virtual Learning Systems. Any word you use, though, it's still probably Blackboard. :) They have lecturer's and tutors as well as professors. We have TA's, and adjunct faculty.

Pam

Posted by
4546 posts

I still remember the laughter that ensued when one of my female colleagues (who grew up in Hong Kong) asked one of my male colleagues (a recent college grad from Pittsburgh) if he had a rubber ...

You should have seen the expression on his face, when she asked. And the expression on her face, after the Americans told her what a rubber was in American English.

Posted by
7923 posts

Love how the British often use the word "brilliant!"

Posted by
1063 posts

One you may not of heard (especially if you're North American), is the rhyming slang for a North American, lamb shank or septic tank = Yank.

Posted by
81 posts

I like the words for being exhausted/tired: nackered (sp?) or shattered.

Posted by
2246 posts

Alexandra, I, too, love that word, I've seen it written as knackered, it just says it all.
And Susan, brilliant is great because it makes you smile when you say it ;-))

Posted by
742 posts

The very funny Fast Show, has a character whos catchphrase is. "brilliant"
Johnny Depp also guested on a sketch with male tailors.

Posted by
25771 posts

Be careful with using knackered or knacker willy nilly.

While it may - and does - mean exhausted, based on worn out horses being sent to the knackers yard for disposal; it also has two other meanings. A knacker is a derogatory term for an Irish Traveler, often known as a gypsy. Be careful using it. Knackers is also a term for a part of male anatomy which tends to come in pairs. Be careful using it.

Posted by
4998 posts

Researching our upcoming trip to Scotland, we found many British adventure outfitters offer bespoke bicycle or sea kayak trips.

And you can hire a bike or a car, and let an apartment or office, rather than rent.

London is full of "To Let" signs --- a cheeky (!) graffitti artist could draw an "i" between those two words and change the sign's meaning.

A woman in Edinburgh cautioned us years ago that something was "too dear," so we found something cheaper.

My favorite (favourite?) is "swarf," for debris and general messiness.

Cheers (so long, take it easy)!

Posted by
4998 posts

Also, when you put something in the trunk of your car, you stow it in the boot.

That's where you'll find your spare tyre (tire), too (unless your car has run-flats).

After trips to France, I have a problem with American use of "entree," too, so I have to think of "appetizer" (appetiser in Britain) or "starter" and "main course."

A busy phone is "engaged."

I hear lately on the BBC radio and news in the US the pronounciation, "con-trahversy" instead of "con-troe-versy."

And is "Feb-roo-ary" versus "Feb-yoo-ary" a "thing" in Britain, as here in the US? How about "nuke-lee-ar" versus "nuke-yoo-ler?"

Anto to the OP, I guess someone in Britain decided to shorten "Petroleum," while someone in America decided to shorten "Gasoline." In many US "gas stations" you can get both refined crude oil for your tank and compressed air for your tyres (although it's generally no longer free), so you can get both liquid and gas. And if you eat one of their microwave burritos or hot dogs (do British petrol stations offer bangers?) you might end up with gas yourself ;-)

Posted by
4998 posts

Rick's Website today includes a Travel News article from Budget Travel about mosquitoes, and refers to them as "buggers." I believe that term could be offensive in some English-speaking parts.

At Heathrow years ago, a young man behind me, queing up (getting in line) to resolve a ticketing problem, exclaimed, "Bollocks!" then apologized profusely. I wasn't offended in the least, but some folks might have been.

Posted by
4998 posts

And what about "anti-clockwise," instead of "counter-clockwise?" Anti-clockwise sounds like someone who's averse to anything clockwise.

And "clockwork" for "mechanized."

Posted by
2246 posts

Emma-no "poncey" here, where does that come from? If I can use it, I will!

Posted by
1292 posts

Ginsters is a hard G, from a Cornish family name. I agree with you transportation sounds over the top, and accommodations just sounds strange, as if you have to get up in the middle of the night and move to a new room.

Posted by
4998 posts

I've never heard "poncey" before, but it makes me think of Ponce de Leon, the Spanish explorer who searched for a Fountain of Youth in Florida.

It would seem that Americans use "transport" as a verb and "Transportation" as a noun.

Saying "accommodation" makes a crummy 1-star place sound more "posh," (another British favorite (favourite?)) than it is.

Posted by
4998 posts

Regarding another word mentioned several times above, a few names come to mind: Fanny Brice, Fannie Flagg, Fannie Farmer, and Fannie Mae. A co-worker from Vietnam, after having learned (learnt?) his first several words of English, couldn't believe that another co-worker was named "Dick"!

Posted by
4998 posts

Something else--regarding institutions. In the USA, it's "a University" or "the Hospital," and in Britain you simply go "to University" or are sent "to Hospital." Think of the time saved each year by folks who don't have to spend the time writing or saying those articles!

I wonder if Portuguese and Brazilians, or French and Quebecois have the same issues?

Posted by
4998 posts

So I'm dwelling on this question, and have work to do, but more things keep occurring to me: in Britain, a "scheme" is simply a plan or a program, but in the USA, "scheme" generally has evil connotations.

Posted by
742 posts

The US tennis player , Mardy Fish, always makes me smile.
That just be a yorks/north notts thing though.
And as the Puritans did away with the c-word for male hen ...Rooster
How was the cartoon character Woody Wood-Pecker ever allowed. on screen

Posted by
10344 posts

Quiz time for North Americans
(UK residents are disqualified from the quiz, especially Richard, who has recently by PM taught me the pronunciation of several interesting English place names, which shall remain unnamed):

OK, N. Americans, what's the correct local pronunciation of these London place names:
Southwark
Beauchamp Place
(edit: words below added at Richard's suggestion)
Worchester
Beaulieu
Kirkcudbright

Posted by
1976 posts

@Kent:

Suth-uck
Beech-am

I learned this from watching a series on PBS called, I think, "The Story of England." The show focused on one town in England and for each episode looked at what the townspeople went through during Roman rule, the Middle Ages, etc. It was really fascinating. I was struck by the pronunciation of these places. Do the English really dislike the French so much that they refuse to pronounce French words the correct way? :)

And what about place names like Leicester (Lie-sester, anyone?) and Worcestershire (Wor-sester-shire). Warwick = warrick. Do these names come from Old English? Why aren't they pronounced like they're spelled?

Posted by
1292 posts

@ Sarah, English (like French) spellings often became fixed prior to uniform pronunciation of them. As for French, a lot of the French in English, esp placenames, come from Norman French rather than Parisian French and the pronunciation often reflects this.

One for the place names from round here.

Milngavie.

Posted by
7923 posts

"Accomodations" sounds very formal to me too.

Do the English really pronounce Worcestershire as Sarah wrote (Wor-sester-shire)? I thought it was Woos-te-sheer... : )

I remember the first time I said "Edinburgh"... my travel agent (this was 1989) laughed and taught me the correct way.

Posted by
1063 posts

"And what about place names like Leicester (Lie-sester, anyone?) and Worcestershire (Wor-sester-shire). Warwick = warrick. Do these names come from Old English? Why aren't they pronounced like they're spelled?"

Leicester = Lester, Worcestershire =Woostersheer, Warwick you've pronounced correctly.

Posted by
4998 posts

The USA isn't immune to spelling/pronounciation issues, either: Tucson, AZ for example. Buena Vista, CO is pronouned by some as "Bwain-a Vissta," by others as "Bwain-a Veesta," and by others as "Byoo-na Vissta." Locals simply say, "Beunie."

Posted by
1063 posts

While we're on the subject of female names, what about Fanny Chmelar (pronounced smeller) a German tennis player, very unfortunate name.

Posted by
4998 posts

Just read emma's latest message -- I imagine any guy wearing Sr. de Leon's get-up today, that is, tights and striped baggy shorts, might seem poncey (or Ponce-like), even if accompanied by a metal breastplate, helmet, pointed beard, and sword.

Posted by
4998 posts

Just read harleydonski -- hilarious! So it's a Fanny Chmelar with fuzzy balls, then?

Posted by
742 posts

Even more off topic.
Worcester Sauce...has a (better) cousin.
Hendersons from Sheffield, theres a sweary song about it on Youtube by the.
Everly Pregnant Brothers.

Posted by
4528 posts

Leicester is already an 'abbreviation' of the earlier Ligora Ceaster and other variations. The Romans called it Ratae Corieltauvorum and the Welsh language preserves what may be a form of an earlier name of Caerlŷr.

There was a campaign in the 70s called 'get the ICE out of LeICEster' to simplify the spelling but it never caught on.

Posted by
1882 posts

Just curious if locals in the UK have different pronunciations for their area than other residents of UK? For example, in the US, we live near Avon Grove, pronounced locally something like aah von grove not like Strafford on Avon or the Avon cosmetics. People usually not from our area, even one of our newscasters, says Avon not aah von. In California, we pronounce Marin County as Maran County and locals as Marin County as we are not locals. Similar things over the pond?

Posted by
1020 posts

Re Brit pronunciation, anyone care to give the phonetics for Suffolk and Norfolk? The first time I heard them I thought "Excuse me?"

Posted by
1838 posts

Well, I really started something with this post! Now one of the popular on the RS Forum.

Posted by
1063 posts

"Re Brit pronunciation, anyone care to give the phonetics for Suffolk and Norfolk? The first time I heard them I thought "Excuse me?"

OK, I'll bite............Suffuk, Norffuk.

Posted by
1292 posts

"Just curious if locals in the UK have different pronunciations for their area than other residents of UK? For example, in the US, we live near Avon Grove, pronounced locally something like aah von grove not like Strafford on Avon or the Avon cosmetics. People usually not from our area, even one of our newscasters, says Avon not aah von. In California, we pronounce Marin County as Maran County and locals as Marin County as we are not locals. Similar things over the pond?"

Simple answer is yes. Beyond the main cities where most people know the pronunciation, smaller places often throw people if the spelling seems to be vaguely related to pronunciation, such as Milngavie. Also in Scotland -mouth at the end of a place name tends to be pronounced as -mouth, in England this tends to be swallowed to become more -muth.

Posted by
4666 posts

When I lived in Shrewsbury for a couple of years I was surprised to find that local residents pronounced it as written - most people elsewhere in Britain pronounce it "Shrowsbury".

Posted by
10344 posts

Anyone--
The spelling of the English town that's pronounced:

Penny-stone
is.....
(what?)

(brace yourself for the correct answer)

Posted by
5562 posts

Indeed the British are not alone in having multiple pronunciations. Think about Nevada the state and how the locals pronounce it and how everyone else does. Then there is Nevada (Nevayda) Missouri. And in Chicago you have Goethe (Gothey that's a long o) Street on the Gold Coast. :) Ask anyone from Wisconsin about Barry Alvarez's first Rose Bowl game and the sportscaster's inability pronounce the state name properly. It hurt our ears. (You need to slur that s and c.)

Back to the words, I don't think that anyone has pointed out holiday vs vacation. Also, on the same note, all my British work colleagues out of office messages say that they are out on "annual leave." I am reasonably confident that no American would use that phrase in the normal course of life.

We would say hot breakfast not a cooked breakfast. Then there is sweets for candy and having sweet rather having desert. Or, having a pudding.

This list is endless!

Pam

Posted by
1976 posts

I see I wasn't clear in my post about place names. I was writing them phonetically to try to show the difference between how they're written and how they're pronounced.

@Gail mentioned this earlier: In the U.S. we pronounce some place names differently from the foreign places which inspired the names. St. Louis is its own bottomless pit of mispronunciations, such as Gravois Road (we pronounce it Grah-voy) and Bellefontaine Cemetery (we pronounce it bell-fountain). Anheuser of Anheuser-Busch is pronounced Ann-heiser.

Near STL, we have the New Madrid Fault (MA-drid, instead of ma-DRID) and the town of New Athens (Ay-thens).

Posted by
1063 posts

"You're so awesome" is definitely a US phrase rather than a UK one.

Another annoying one is "wow", when a 57 year old work colleague keeps saying it with monotonous regularity, I do sometimes wonder what the world is coming to.

Posted by
17984 posts

QUITE

That's an example of a word that we both use, but has entirely different meanins in British and American.

In American, "Quite good" means that it is really good.

In British, "Quite good" means that it is just barely good.

Posted by
7923 posts

I live in Marin County and have never heard it pronounced "Maran"... that would sound really strange to everyone here.

There's a town about an hour north of here spelled Suisun.... it's pronounced Sassoon.

Teenagers and 20-somethings say "Awesome dude" here all the time.

What always grates on me is how Americans pronounce Notre Dame University or the football team... "Noter Dayme"... nails on a blackboard to me.

Ok, now back to the more fun British words... : )

Posted by
3138 posts

Re Terry Kathryn's "bits and bobs": In the US, we might call them, "tchoschkes."

As for male anatomy, has anyone mentioned willy? Or for insulting a male, calling him a wanker? While I'm on this, dosh = money, and schtum = keeping quiet. Nosh, however, has the same meaning as in The States (that's The U.S.A.), snack or nibble. How many Brits realize it's a Yiddish word?

I taught for a year in a London primary (we would call it elementary) school. The kids all call the female teachers "Miss," married or not. Some were even referring to the teacher, in the 3rd person, as "the Miss." Male teachers were addressed as, "Sir." The meal the kids ate around noon was dinner, or di'uh in a south-of-the-river accent.

Posted by
10 posts

School children in the US address their teachers as Mr. ______ (surname). Women are addressed by their titles. Mrs._____, (if married), Miss______ (if female/unmarried), Ms. ___________ (if that is the teacher's preference or you are unsure or want to be politically correct). I'd venture a guess that most US students have never addressed any person as Sir. ;-)

Posted by
10344 posts

@ Rosalyn: Would your location be Bark-ley, UK? or Burk-ley, CA (home of UC Berkeley)

Posted by
3418 posts

In the US most school children eat LUNCH in the CAFETERIA (or worse yet the Cafetorium- a blend of cafeteria and auditorium). The "Cafeteria ladies" serve 'mystery meat'. In the south some female teachers still get the occasional 'mam'(stretch the a just a bit and slur it to get the real effect). Down here we stand IN line not ON line.

One Brit expression I love is 'sorted' - meaning worked out. We had an exchange teacher at one school where I was assistant principal (similar to asst. headmaster). She used that one all the time.

As to place names- in North Carolina it's Concord (con-cord - like the plane) up north it's Concord (Con-curd- like the grapes). And if you want to prove you're 'not from around here' try Cherryville (it's usually Chur-vul, occasionally Chur-a-vul, but NOT Cherry-Ville).

Posted by
991 posts

When this post first came up my first reaction is @3$%# not another one of these. It's actually turning out to be quite fun. I'm well chuffed
@ Emma. Re my PM. Turns out it was actually Eddie Izzard who said It's Herb's. There's an effing "H" in it.

Posted by
5562 posts

I can't believe that trainers vs running shoes hasn't already been mentioned!

Another business one--dues are backorders not what you pay to belong to a club.

Pam

Posted by
34 posts

This is an interesting thread. I've lived in the US for many years, and confuse people when I say I'm taking a trip home.
I still refer to my brother as "our Jim".
Some other thoughts, try Mushy peas with your fish and chips. Just don't have them put on top of the chips, until you have tried them! An acquired taste which my husband does not have.

En-suite means you have your own private bathroom.
Self-catering cottages or flats are available for short or long term rental. Usually completely furnished although I did find one place that said they didn't provide towels! Which reminds me, a flannel is a washcloth.
I've been researching other accommodations as it's now difficult to stay with family. Stairs can be very steep and I don't want my husband visiting Casualty.
Sleeping policeman are a British method of slowing traffic. Another version of speed bumps, with the kerb bulging out into the road, so you have to wait to get through if there is much traffic.

Posted by
3138 posts

@Kent: My location is pronounced, "Burkeley;" but we're not berks, another mildly insulting term, in common use in the UK. However, our city, home to the University of California, was named for the British philosopher, Bishop Berkeley, who, no doubt, pronouced it "Barkeley."

Posted by
3418 posts

Keith- That's one that drives me crazy, too. If you don't care at all you SHOULD say "I COULDN'T care less". But many Americans are grammatically lazy or challenged. So .....

And I just thought of another word difference...
In England a decision is 'taken'... in America a decision is 'made'.

Posted by
991 posts

Sorry folks but I digress. OMG Keith. You have opened a can of worms. Another one that makes me go "hmmmmmm" is " .. I miss not having". eg. " I miss not having a dog" What the what does that mean?

Posted by
7923 posts

Yeah, it's just grammatically wrong and people just don't know any better... I say "I couldn't care less" or "I miss having a dog". Lots of people speak/write grammatically wrong. Even commercials do it, which reinforces bad grammar.

Another British phrase I was reminded of watching Inspector Morse last night... "rumpy pumpy".

Posted by
1063 posts

"Another British phrase I was reminded of watching Inspector Morse last night... "rumpy pumpy"."

I'm all for a bit of rumpy pumpy. :-)

Posted by
1292 posts

@ harleydonski, as long as you and your crumpet/totty of choice are consenting and you are not scaring the horses, I am well chuffed for you mate. Kushty, proper job etc

Posted by
4998 posts

I don't think this was mentioned above, but Amercans don't "suss" things out.

And our programs would be programmes across the Atlantic. So are all British shops shoppes, as well?

Posted by
419 posts

Just a short comment. Center City is quite commonly used here on the East Coast. In Philadelphia, for example, one does not go downtown, but one takes the train to center city.
It took me a bit of time to get used to that.

Posted by
638 posts

I'm surprise queuing/waiting line hasn't been mentioned! And speaking of the Underground/Subway, Mind the Gap/Watch your Step.

Posted by
24 posts

Many of the OP differences don't exist

Pants = Trousers.
Panty Hose = Tights.
Railroad = Railway.
Sidewalk = Pavement.

All these terms are used in the US s well as in the UK.

Posted by
25771 posts

Yes, 1smithee, but the meanings are different.

What does "pants" or "pavement" mean to you?

Posted by
1829 posts

In British, "Quite good" means that it is just barely good.

As with many other words, the meaning will depend on intonation. There was a recent survey asking people for their feelings about being British. The second available response was "quite good". I forget the numbers but because of the findings some newspapers reported that there were a lot of unhappy Brits. Other papers highlighted the poor choice of wording because " quite" said in an upbeat manner can mean pretty good/not bad. Also the survey did not take into account the British habit of understatement.

PS - I notice the USA use of the word "bring" where we would say "take". I suspect it may originate in Irish English because I have seen it used that way by Irish people. Some while ago a poster on this board said he was confused by an official statement about passport or driving licence requirements (I can't remember which) and it was because of this different use of the word.

Posted by
419 posts

Monkey wrench/spanner.
Turn/go, as in it's your turn/It's your go.

Posted by
4998 posts

@ Keith-sometimes underwear is/are referred to as underpants and an undershirt in the USA. I never thought about it, but we have no "overpants" or "overshirts." Overalls and overshoes, yes, but not the others.

@Linda-so is anything ever assessed as "quite bad?" In the USA, that would mean significantly bad. In Britain, would it be just slightly bad?

Posted by
1292 posts

'Quite' is, well, quite a useful word in UK English.

On its own it can be dismissive 'I was just washing the car', 'quite' ie part of the reply entails they don't believe you are or are coming in soaking wet and covered with foam.

'Quite good' depending on nuance can mean - that is really good, that is really bad. That is surprisingly better than I was expecting 'how was your lasagna?' 'Quite good'

The lasagna is either the best the speaker has tasted. It contains the winner of the Grand National. Your reputation suggests it might have been inedible, poisonous, parsimonious with ingredients. In this case 'quite good' means everything from 'just about edible', to just short of 'really quite good'.
As for 'quite bad' this runs in the opposite direction. The traffic into work is 'bad', situation normal. 'Quite bad' I sat in a traffic jam for three hours moving at a crawl. 'Really quite bad' the traffic jam started at my house and was caused by an alien invasion at Sainsbury's.

Posted by
5635 posts

I'm enjoying reading all the posts. Not one to be a proper lady I incorporated wanker into my vocabulary years ago and given the reality of Hollywood it's appropriate. Would love to be able to use tickety-boo but can't pull it off with my bland California accent. I'm curious but in areas where you dwell is there a tendency to abbreviate places or is that annoyingly Southern California based? As examples; Southern California is SoCal, PCH is Pacific Coast Highway, DTLA, downtown LA and CPK is California Pizza Kitchen. Or is this a result of texting? Hmmmm.

Posted by
503 posts

OK, took me forever to figure out what a slip road is! I kept looking for a road named "Slip" and it seemed to be everywhere!

Posted by
5562 posts

Lay-by vs emergency parking or rest stop.

And in Scotland: Close vs Alley.

Posted by
1838 posts

Well, America, a 'slip road' in the UK refers to the entry / exit road from an Expressway / Motorway (Freeway or Interstate).

Keep it coming folks!

Posted by
1063 posts

I was on a course in Baltimore and a bloke came in and said that there was a woman in the office next door with suspenders on, well as there were 2 Englishmen (one was yours truly) and a Scotsman he was nearly trampled in the rush........
U.S. Suspenders = Braces
England. Suspenders = Garter Belt.

Posted by
4998 posts

In the USA, a woman with braces would indicate she had devices attached to her legs or arms for stability, or affixed to her teeth by an orthodontist to straighten them.

A mean stereotype, untrue I'm ...quite... sure, is that Brits have crooked teeth, and would not likely wear orthodontic braces.

A bloke with a garter belt stuck in his teeth, well, that would be another matter!

Posted by
51 posts

I've noticed that periods don't always follow abbreviations in the U.K. For example, Mr. vs Mr

Also, in the states we just say math while the British say maths

Posted by
991 posts

In the US a man might wear a vest with a 3 piece suit. In the UK he could do as well, but you won't see it.

Posted by
25771 posts

a period in the US is a full-stop in the UK

Posted by
4998 posts

@ Nigel- well, in the US, when drivers come to a red, octagonal sign at an intersection, they're supposed to come to a full stop, not a period ;-) Unfortunately, too few of them actually do come to a complete stop ;-(

So, when writing in the UK, is a "full stop" placed at the end of a sentence?

Posted by
25771 posts

a full stop is at the end of a sentence, yes.

Posted by
11263 posts

"in the states we just say math while the British say maths"

And in the opposite direction, in the US we say "sports" while the British say "sport."

The one that got me was "scheme." In the US, this always has a negative connotation, but in the UK, it's neutral. When I heard about the "tax free export scheme," I assumed it was illegal or at best underhanded (as something with this name would be in the US). It was merely a totally legal VAT refund.

The one that got my sister during her college year in London was "taking the piss." We simply don't use the expression in the US, and my sister emphasized that in England it was used ALL THE TIME. It derives from "taking the piss out of" someone, meaning to take them down a peg by making fun of them.

And of course there's lots of rhyming slang, some of which is actually used frequently. One I heard more than once is "butcher's," from butcher's hook=look, as in "Have a butcher's at that."

Even some of the grammar is different. In the US, we contract the phrase "I have not got a phone" as "I haven't got a phone," while the British say "I've not got a phone."

Posted by
742 posts

Stolen from bill bryson..
In the US the Postal Service delivers the mail, while in UK the Royal Mail delivers the post.

And how about house numbers,5300.
five thousand three hundred or fifty three hundred.
CPGrey has a couple of great youtubes about maps,royality UK and US history.

Posted by
1976 posts

Is the phrase "chalk and cheese" slang for anything in British English? I heard it on an episode of "Doc Martin" recently and assumed it was idiomatic.

Posted by
4666 posts

And, of course, "pissed" in English means very drunk, not angry. "Pissed off" means angry.

Posted by
1829 posts

My niece is officially a "Deputy Ward Sister" and is second in command on her ward. The grade below is a "Staff Nurse".

Posted by
2635 posts

"(e.g. London's Soho is just a word, whereas NYC's is actually short for something, I think)"

Keith, NYC's is short for "South of Houston", the area south of Houston Street (pronounced "How-ston"). I used to live in that area when I worked for an ad agency back in the 80's.

If you visit New York and get down to SoHo, walk along Houston Street and find Katz's Deli. They serve a great reuben sandwich that is enough for two people to split. It's also where the movie, "When Harry Met Sally" was filmed, the scene where Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal are talking, and Rob Reiner's mother (at the next table) says "I'll have what she's having."

Posted by
11 posts

For occasional, light (starting to) rain - Sprinkling - (American); Spitting - (British?) - I hosted an exchange teacher several years ago who used the term spitting for light rain, but I don't know if this is common usage.

Also - I don't know what the American translation would be for
"Chance would be a fine thing"
or even if we have anything that captures this sentiment.
"Ain't gonna happen" doesn't quite capture the elegance.

Posted by
1063 posts

"For occasional, light (starting to) rain - Sprinkling - (American); Spitting - (British?) - I hosted an exchange teacher several years ago who used the term spitting for light rain, but I don't know if this is common usage."

Yes, spiting with rain is common usage, also called drizzle or mizzle if accompanied by mist.

Posted by
686 posts

Don't know if this has been mentioned: flyover

Lost in Southampton, I stopped at a convenience store (would you call it that?) for directions. The clerk said "go to the first flyover …."
Only once in the US have I seen or heard an overpass called a flyover.

Posted by
2635 posts

I was interested when I found that people were being called "crumpets" in British online articles. While reading an article about an actor, I found Benedict Cumberbatch has been called the "Thinking Woman's Crumpet". It derives from the slang use of the term "crumpet" to refer to a woman who is regarded as an object of desire. Female actors called "the thinking man's crumpet" included Joanna Lumley and Helen Mirren. Defined by the Cambridge Dictionary Online: "In British English, the term the thinking man's/woman's crumpet is a way of describing a man or a woman who is popular with the opposite sex primarily because of their intelligence but also due to their physical attractiveness." I guess the closest American counterpoint to "crumpet" would be that a male movie star is called a "hunk", but that doesn't cover all the bases of "Thinking Woman's Crumpet", because it only addresses the physical attractiveness.

Posted by
1248 posts

No one has mentioned the obvious -football!

Posted by
2635 posts

Nigel, okay, you'll have to tell us what that is! Obviously British slang, but what does it mean? Sports cheer perhaps?

Posted by
4528 posts

Ton and a half = 150, the number of posts in the thread at the time.

I've heard Americans call this a buck 50 ... mainly sports commentators.

Posted by
12357 posts

What about : Bloke - guy; fortnight - two weeks, nicked (not sure of this one) - to be arrested by the police?

About the French spoken (above) in France and that spoken in Quebec or Belgium: some very distinct differences,...

same as the German used in Germany and that in Austria, such as for the stairs....die Treppen (Germany) vs die Stiege (Austria), to withdraw money from the ATM....Geld abheben vs Geld beheben (Austria) , or the chart showing the order of the coaches on a given train, depature, and date....Wagenstandanzeiger vs Wagenreihung (Austria). Numerous other differences you notice when traveling in the two countries, aside from Straße and Gasse.

Posted by
2157 posts

I just love a reason to say "ship-shape and Bristol fashion". Why say "neat and tidy" when you can use that delightful phrase?

Posted by
7923 posts

I've always been curious... what is a "cream" tea?

Posted by
650 posts

what is gobsmacked? sophie kinsella uses it a lot in her books. Also a "one-off"?

Posted by
8293 posts

Gobsmacked is shocked speechless. A one-off is just what it says ... one time only.

Posted by
1536 posts

Here's another measurement difference that came up today at work again. In the US tons are just called tons = 2000 pounds. But then the UK has it's very own ton = 2240 pounds. The US version is call a short ton, and UK a long ton. And don't confuse either of these with a metric ton. I won't bore you with how I even know this. But in case you need to know how much a car weighs, you can always ask "short ton or long ton?".

Posted by
1063 posts

Also, a US gallon is 3.8 litres and a UK Imperial gallon is 4.5 litres.

Posted by
4998 posts

@Karen: Regaring tons (plural), I've seen British spelling as tonnes.

@harleydonski:Regarding Imperial volume, an imperial pint gives you more beer/ale than a regular (US?) pint

Posted by
8293 posts

A "tonne" is not a different way of spelling "ton". Tonne is a metric ton.

Posted by
7923 posts

Thanks harley... silly me, I could have googled it... ; )

Posted by
50 posts

We were in Bath and told our b&b hostess we wanted to do a day-trip to Salsberry (Salisbury). She looked very puzzled for a time and then replied, "Oh, you mean 'Solsbury'". Our pronunciation was close, but so far away...

Posted by
1063 posts

"an imperial pint gives you more beer/ale than a regular (US?) pint"

Yes, a US pint is 473ml and an Imperial pint is 568ml, BTW, (pedant head on) "ale" hasn't really been brewed in England since the 17th century when hops were added to the brewing process thereby turning ale into "bitter".

Posted by
51 posts

Another obvious difference that I don't recall reading is parking lot- car park.

Posted by
3138 posts

Traffic reports in the UK will warn of long tailbacks at certain places on the motorways; i.e., long traffic jams on the highways.