Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What did you say? American English vs British English

It's well-known that"England and America are two countries divided by a common language" but I wonder how many people realize that even the simplest words can have different meanings and be cause for confusion.

These are some examples:
anxious: Most Americans would use the word, anxious to mean they are eagerly looking forward to something whereas most Brits use the word to mean they are worried or dreading something.

Homely: in America homely refers to a person who is physically unattractive (ugly) whereas it has a completely different meaning in Britain where homely means down-to-earth and welcoming. A person and/or their home can be called homely and it's a compliment!

pavement: To Americans the pavement is the road surface while in England, the pavement is what you walk on (Americans call it the sidewalk).

There are also difference in spellings such ss pernickety (British spelling) and persnickety (American spelling)or titbit (British spelling) and tidbit (American spelling), hotchpotch (British spelling) or hodgepodge (American spelling).

Sometimes it's the preferred use of a word that is very noticeable:
Americans say almost, Brits say nearly
Americans say cute , Brits say lovely
Americans say awesome, Brits say brilliant
Americans say Good job!, Brits say Well done!
Americans say garbage, Brits say rubbish
Americans say faucet, Brits say tap
Americans say shopping cart, Brits say trolley
Americans say watch out as a warning, Brits say mind.

And completely different words that have different meanings:
A flashlight is called a torch in England.
A sweater is called a jumper.
A jumper is a type of dress in America but is a pinafore dress in England.An undershirt is a vest and a vest is a waistcoat.
Pants are trousers in England.
Underwear are called pants.
A headband is an Alice band.
Pigtails are called bunches and (hair) braids are plaits.
A barrette is a slide.
A stingy person would be called mean in England.
Pudding is dessert.
Paper towels are kitchen towels.
The principal is called the headmaster or headmistress.
The substitute teacher is called the supply teacher.
A wrench is a spanner.
A wading pool is called a paddling pool in England.
To knock on wood for luck, is touch wood in England.

When speaking about sports in England such as bowling, you need to specify that you mean ten-pin bowling, not lawn bowls, since both types of bowling are popular. And to add to the confusion most Americans would assume a Brit means ice-hockey not field hockey when a Brit talks about hockey.

To be "kitted out" means to be dressed in the appropriate outfit. To be "vetted" means to be checked out before you are hired for a job.

When referring to buildings, the first floor in America is the same as the ground floor but in Britain, the first floor is what Americans call the second floor!

Sometimes it's the use of popular brand names that are used as everyday words. For instance, the Brits refer to vacuuming as "hoovering" and ball point pens are called a "biro", and clear sticky tape is called "sellotape" (Americans call it "scotch tape"). Another example of a brand name used for an everyday product in America is "Saran wrap" which the Brits call cling film. A plaster is called a Band-aid in America.

There are some very British expressions that don't mean anything to Americans such as a "nosy parker" which is just another name for a nosy person. To "suss out" someone or something, means to figure out. A "row" (rymes with cow) is an argument. Workers hired to do building work and who botch the job and don't do the work they are hired for are referred to as "cowboys". A fortnight is another word for two weeks (fourteen nights).

Is it any wonder that sometimes there is a moment of confusion or wild misunderstandings from Americans in Britain and vice versa, from Brits in the USA?

Edited (on 22 Dec. 2010) to add:
I've written about just some of the many differences between American English and British English. If you want to learn more about this fascinating subject, I recommend this excellent blog which is devoted to the subject:

Separated by a Common Language written by Lynne Murphy, an American linguist in England.


  1. Wow, now there's a comprehnsive look at our language differences! The first floor/ground floor thing still drives me mad to this day. And leads to lots of confusion when I go back to Britain after a long time away...

  2. Hello, britoutofwater! I still have to stop and think about the first floor/ground floor thing too - and I've been livng in England for 21 years.

    It's little differences in our language like that, that can make life difficult!

  3. The different terms are very interesting. I'd love to see more from time to time.

  4. Hi Kate, thanks for your comment, and your request. I do intend to write more about the different terms again.

  5. YOu left out "bangs". When one of my daughters was 10 she had her hair cut whle we were on holiday in the US and was mystified when the cutter asked how she wanted her "bangs" (what we call fringe)! jenny

    Sorry I have to post anonymously. I HATE anonymous posts. I can't get this blogspot software to recognise my user name and password no matter how often I reset! I'm really jenny from

  6. Hello Jenny. You're right - I completely forgot to mention bangs - known as a fringe here. My sons laugh at me when I use American words such as that. Even after living here for so long, I still sometimes forget which word to use in which country!

    I'm sorry blogspot doesn't recognize your user name and password which must be very frustrating. Thank you for introducing yourself.

  7. Look at my Word Face-Off blog for an interesting brief analysis of British/American variants and how Canada, Australia and India deal with them through time.

  8. Hello Francis, I had a look at your blog and left a comment.

    I think it's fascinating how much the English language varies (accent, spelling, and slang)from country to country.

  9. Heres one, I don't think its here. Americans call Britain England. The English(and Scottish and Welsh) call it Britain.

    ps. sorry don't mean to be anonymous but it won't work!


  10. You're right - that's a common mistake. Britain (or Great Britain) describes the combination of England, Scotland and Wales.

  11. yeah that one isn't so much a lingual difference as an actual mistake. it is wrong to refer to Britain as England. Great Britain does include England, Scotland and Wales. The UK includes Northern Ireland and other smaller islands.

  12. Actually in my experience the Americans are more attuned to the fact that the UK is made up of separate countries. The Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish are too, but the English, with the arrogance of being in a large majority, frequently talk about England when they mean Britain. I am English, and I only really noticed this when I went to live in Scotland. Every time someone said "Britain" where I would have said "England" I thought they were making a point for my benefit, until I got used to it. Now I really notice when English friends say things like "England's position in the EU".

  13. Iota, I'm very surprised to hear that in your experience Americans are more attuned than the English are to the UK being made up of separate countries! In my experience most Americans automatically think and say England even when they mean to refer to Scotland or Wales, not England. And a lot of Americans will say Britain when they actually mean England.

    I'm also surprised that you think the English frequently talk about England when they mean Britain. Really? I haven't noticed that at all. In fact what I have noticed is that the Scots and Welsh always refer to Scotland or Wales rather than Britain, and they are most reluctant to call themselves British. I think most English think of themselves as English and British.

  14. I know the meaning of anxious all too well as I have panic attacks from time to time. Where I live we also call shopping carts "buggys."

  15. Very interesting, Melissa. It's fascinating how terminolgy changes even from state to state.

  16. Excellent post... I loved it and I learned a lot! I've never lived in England, but I have lived on both American coasts and found some differences in language.

    West Coast East Coast

    Shopping Cart Carriage
    Rubber Band Elastic
    Liquor Store Package Store

    Just to name a few....

  17. Thanks! It's always nice to get positive feedback on my blog. I'm pleased that you enjoyed this post.

    And thanks for sharing some of the differences in language within America. It's fascinating how the English language and expressions will change depending on where you live isn't it? I'm originally from the midwest (Minnesota) and I notice we use the same expressions as they do on the west coast.

  18. And of course, when the Americans say fanny they mean your backside. For the Brits, it's a little bit more.... feminine!

  19. You're right. It could be very embarrassing for Americans if they use that word in Britain - although I think most Brits know what Americans mean.

  20. One difference I completely fail to understand:

    Brits say "I couldn't care less"

    Americans say "I could care less"

    What is that about??

    1. You know what's funny? I'm American, and the British terms make a heck of a lot more sense to me than the American ones.

      I hate it when we say "I could care less". It is so confusing!

      When someone near me says that, I think: "I COULDN'T care less. Learn some GRAMMAR!"

    2. I'm American and I say both. I normally say "I couldn't care less", speaking non-ironically (verbal irony) or non-sarcastically. The other one, - "I could care less" - is meant as verbal irony/sarcasm.

  21. I think the British expression, “I couldn’t care less” makes more sense. It means that “I could not care any less about this".

    The American version doesn't really make sense if you think about it.

    1. A lot of these common expressions don't make sense if analysed:

      "Head over heels" - well, that's my normal orientation. :)
      "Cheap at half the price" - well, it would be: "Cheap at twice the price" would make more sense.

  22. "I could care less" is not an American expression; I believe they mean to say "I couldn't care less" but are not really thinking about what they are saying. This seems to be quite a common error, at least in the United States.

  23. Yes, you're right, it is a common error in the United States.

  24. In the U.S. people tend to say "heats up" whereas in the U.K. people tend to say "hots up". "Shall" and "shan't" are sometimes used in the U.K. but shall is rarely used and shan't is never used in the U.S.; people prefer to say will or won't. "Actually" is often used in the U.K. whereas in the U.S. people would usually say, "as a matter of fact". "Indeed" in often used in the U.K. but rarely used in the U.S., people preferring to say "really" or "so". Correct me if I'm wrong.

    1. Actually, I'm American and I use "actually" quite a lot, and hear it pretty frequently. I think that one is shared. If you say "Indeed" in the US, it's usually only used as just the one word, as a response to something you agree with. Everything else checks out.

  25. I am loving your blog, very political sometimes but to the point. I just say England if that is what I mean, or Wales etc etc..I live in Oxfordshire, but I am not English, I am British...Irish mother, Maltese Father, born in Northern Ireland ....I could be Irish if I wanted to be but doesn't interest me, and if anything would like to take the Maltese side..

    I know a lot of Expat Americans who are teaching English in the problem is if those students came to England thinking they know English they don't really, because Englands English is different to American English..!

    Also anyone from Scotland or Wales would not see themselves as British...!

    1. I'm Welsh and I can tell you that plenty of Welsh people regard themselves as British. I'm Welsh first and foremost, then British. I also have English friends who would say that they are English first and British second. On the other hand, I know of people who regard themselves as British first. It isn't true that all Welsh or Scottish people don't regard themselves as being British. When our backs are against the wall is when it counts...we're British then.

  26. Father Christmas (UK) = Santa Claus (US)
    Happy Christmas (UK) = Merry Christmas (US)
    Boxing Day (UK) = no equivalent in U.S.A.

  27. Thank you to Anonymous and Anne in Oxfordshire for your comments! I appreciate your input about the differences between American English and British English.

  28. The 'could care less' thing drives me nuts... it's couldn't! You could _not_ care less!

    Anyway, there's also 'gotten' a word which vanished from the British vocab, we just say 'got'. There's also odd pluralisations, US 'Game Console', UK 'Games console' and the 'Math' vs 'Maths' of course, US 'sports section' UK 'sport section' more likely, there's lots of others.

    Seems common to abbreviate in the US, 'Mash Potato' instead of 'Mashed Potatos' and I often see things like "Mr Brown said Monday...", UK "Mr Brown said _on_ Monday". I've also noticed lot of people using 'then' when they really mean 'than' - that's just wrong. It's interesting now that we're all communicating on the net that we're picking up each others words. I hear a lot of UK teens saying 'gotten' these days. I grimace whenever I hear it, but that's the nature of language, always evolving, I 'guess'.

  29. Those are all excellent examples of the differences in our language. Thanks!

    I think using 'then' when they mean to use 'than' is because they never learned the difference so they use the wrong word without even realizing they have. Some Brits use the wrong word too. I wonder if education is slipping in both countries.

    I thought of another word that gets used a lot in the UK but hardly at all in the USA. It's the word 'reckon' which always reminds me of a John Wayne movie (cowboys say 'I reckon'). I think most Americans would say 'figure' or 'guess' instead of 'reckon'.

  30. I have done it the other way around living in the states and coming from the uk, and like another poster commented the little things like how we say words and explain ourselves takes sometime getting used to..

  31. Hi Steve - welcome! Yes I'm sure as a British expat, it takes getting used to the different words and pronunciation there.

    I bet your accent gets a lot of attention too. I know that when my British husband and our sons visit the States, their accent is always noticed and commented on.

  32. The "reckon" thing always throws me for a loop. It seems so US Western, yet actually it's etymology hails back to Old English.
    The "Could care less" thing drives me nuts too, it's completely illogical.
    I must've been a brit in a prior life. I grew up in the US but all my life I've said things like "actually", and "quite", "a bit", and "rather" as adverbs. Everyone thought I was weird, lol

  33. I giggle every time I hear Brits say, "I reckon" and as you say the "could care less" expression is totally illogical.

    My mother is English so I grew up hearing an English accent and some English expressions although she made a point of using American ones so I heard a mixture of both. Confusing? You bet! LOL

    Perhaps you watched a lot of British movies and read British novels so you picked up British expressions that way.

  34. "Broady welcomed", British English for "enthusiastically received". Sometimes used to disguise the fact that one is putting words in ones mouth, apparently!

  35. Anonymous: your first definition of "broadly welcomed" to mean "enthusiastically received" is also the same in American English.

    I'm not sure about your second definition though.

  36. I think "broadly welcomed" is more common in the U.K.; "enthusiastically received" is more common in the U.S.

    The second definition is a reference to Emma Norton's reply to "equalitymatters". I guess you missed it.

  37. Thank you for clarifying what you meant by your second definition.

  38. hi!well,i like studying English language very much and i know there is many difference between US and UK but when i read all those comments i see that i need many years to master this language!!!!

  39. Indeed, it's quite amazing (and sometimes it's amusing) to see all the differences between American English and British English!

  40. I think Eddie Izzard summed it all up so magnificently and hilariously in a one-off show in the US about the arrival of the pilgrims on the Mayflower, just before he started his role in Joe Egg on Broadway in 2003. Commenting on the English language differences, when it came to the use of the word "herb", he screamed at the American audience, "There is a f****** 'H' in it!

  41. LOL - that's excellent! I always say "herb" with the "h" sound (I suppose because my mother is English). The American way - dropping the "h" - sounds very silly to me.

  42. It is intriguing to wonder why the Americans did choose to adopt this one word from their French period. I don't believe there are many more that are so explicitly French. Enjoy the day.

  43. I've always wonder why the word (the) isn't put before the word hospital in (BE)? IE- I'm going to hospital (BE) I'm going to the hospital (AE) just curious.


  44. Hi Lori, that's a very good question! I remember asking my (English) mother about it and she pointed out that when people say they are going to "the" hospital, it sounds like it's the only hospital. And my mother (quite rightly) pointed out that people don't say they are going to "the" school or to "the" university - they say they are going to school, or going to university. So I think British English is quite logical in this instance. To say you "are going to hospital" makes perfect sense.

  45. hahaha you think English people talk differently, listen to us Irish, we have our own sub sect of English like for example Chips and crisps becomes tayto's(they're a brand here) awesome and brilliant becomes deadly or mad. Well done or Good job becomes either good man or good lad. Various others I couldn't be arsed saying hahaha

  46. Hi David - Thanks for sharing some of the Irish slang and differences in the language. Very interesting!

  47. When I was younger I used to say "I don't care" a lot. One time an English neighbor of mine here in the States was offended by me saying "I don't care" too much. He literally took it to mean that I didn't care or was basically disregarding what what he had said. To me "I don't care" was similar to saying "I don't mind." I was more careful not to use certain American teenage expressions around this friend after that misunderstanding!

  48. Interesting how some of the differences between American English and British English can be so subtle and yet still be able to cause misunderstandings.

  49. Teaching the reading, writing and Spelling of English language words is tough work. Try "I felt rough after catching a bad cough in Slough".

  50. The expression I found alarming when watching 'Bones', 'CSI' etc is gang bangers. I gather that in the US this means people who belong to street gangs. However in Britain a gangbang refers to a group of people having sex with each other (either willingly or unwillingly). I wasn't surprised to hear such a term on a crime show but a bit shocked that the investigation seemed a little lacking in thoroughness!

    Vee in Yorkshire, UK

  51. Dear anonymous, I haven't noticed it used that way but as you say it must be about people belonging to street gangs.

    I think the most common definition is the same in the USA as it is in Britain.

  52. And, of course, there's a whole blog devoted to this subject!

  53. Another word that has different meanings on either side of the Pond - "roommate". In US a roommate is a person you share any sort of accommodation with, you don't necessarily have to share the same room. Not so in Britain when roommate would be a person sharing a room with you and "flatmate" would be the actual "roommate's" equivalent.

  54. Hi Lynne - yes indeed! It's included in my blogroll and I also recommend your blog all the time on twitter. :)

    Lynne is an American linguist in England. Please read her excellent blog:

  55. Hi Robby, thank you for pointing out the (important!) difference between "roommate" and "flatmate".

  56. This, among a few other things, chaps my hide:

    "In my experience most Americans automatically think and say England even when they mean to refer to Scotland or Wales..."

    It can't be that 'most' Americans you have ever met are unintelligent and uneducated, especially if you live in an urban area. We know what Great Britain refers to, we know what England refers to, we know what the United Kingdom refers to, we know whither Northern Ireland v The Republic of Ireland; many of us can even tell a Scottish Gaelic word from its Irish counterpart, and most of us can identify written Welsh.

    And only the complete idiots in any English speaking country say 'could' rather than 'couldn't' in the phrase, 'I couldn't possibly care less'.

    Please. Stop perpetuating the stereotype of the lazy-minded, dumb American who is apathetic of the rest of the world. I am sick to death of this insulting conceit. You fail us and you fail yourselves in this practice.

  57. Hi Catherine, I'm American and I do think that most (not all) Americans often say "England" as the all-encompassing word for Britain. It's a common mistake made by people from other nations too, not just by Americans.

    Heck, even the British need to be reminded that England and Britain are not the same thing. For instance, I've noticed the BBC will sometimes say Britain when they mean England.

  58. Maureen,

    Your reply was very gracious given the heat of my comment. I was in a tetchy mood yesterday. Thank you :)

    Merry Christmas!


  59. I understand, Catherine.I figured your comment was written during a moment of anger. Don't worry about it. :)

    Merry Christmas to you too!

  60. Actually, I think when people here (US) say England (meaning Britain), most are perfectly aware that England is merely one part of Britain. In my opinion it has more to do with manner of speech and less to do with ignorance. Few here would say U.K. for example. Sort of along the lines of saying pants vs. trousers.

    I also disagree heartily with the conclusion that "anxious" here means looking forward to something/being excited. I don't remember anyone saying they are anxious without said person experiencing some sort of anxiety (i.e. trepidation.) Someone might say they are anxious to start something and that would more likely than not mean that they'd like to dive right in to get the nerves out of the way.

    Also, someone above said: ""Actually" is often used in the U.K. whereas in the U.S. people would usually say, "as a matter of fact"."

    Well, actually, people here say actually all the time. You may note that I started my comment with the word "actually," actually :-)

    A New Englander.

    P.S. Hear, hear Catherine. I'm not even born American but am so sick of people perpetuating this image. When I leave the US, people in other countries (Europe) love LECTURING me how stupid Americans are and generally on all things wrong with this country. Often while snickering over something stupid like asking my (American) husband whether he'd like a sandwich. Because, apparently, all Americans are obsessed with sandwiches (which only goes to show how little the lecturers know).

  61. You may be right about your view that many Americans say England (meaning Britain) as a manner of speech. However, I still think that most Americans don't realize Britain consists of more than just England. I'm sure that most Americans probably realize the term 'United Kingdom'(or the UK) is more than England.

    Regarding the meaning of "anxious", it's been my experience that most Americans use the word to mean they are eager or keen for something to happen whereas the British use the word to mean they are worried about something.

  62. Perhaps "anxious" has to do with regional differences. I will do an informal and entirely unscientific study on my friends, New Englanders AND others. Anxious meaning excited as opposed to worried is news to me, and I have lived here for quite some time (but always in NE). It's of course possible I am unusually unobservant.

    I also thought more about the manner of speech hypothesis. When I think of Britain, I do tend to think of England, specifically the area radiating out of London, even if I know perfectly well it's not CORRECT. Those are the areas I have been to*. I suspect this "manner of speech" may have something to do with personal experience as well (in your minds eye you picture the places you've been to).

    I also talk about "taping" things (on a camera or digital TV recorder) even though I know that it's digital and no "tape" is involved anymore.

    New Englander

    * I dipped a toe in lovely Wales too. Scotland is next.

  63. very interesting blog post friend, ya i had visited once England and i met with some surprised due to this little language differences.

  64. Hi Maureen,
    I stumbled across your blog and I really enjoy it. I know I'm a little late to the party but I'd like to give my (completely amateur) opinion of the "Could care less" debate. I have two suggestions.
    First, there are actually two similar sayings in the US. There's the "I couldn't care less" retort and the sarcastic "As if I could care less". As usage of these two phrases spread they would invariably become part of a single persons lexicon. When the opportunity arises to express yourself in this fashion it's not too hard to imagine someone confusing the two. As this mistake happened more often perhaps it took on a life of its own.
    My second idea revolves around Americans tendency to shorten speech. If something is worth saying you can bet some American will create a shortcut by omitting words, changing pronunciation, or creating contractions.
    What do y'all think?

  65. I'm pleased you found my blog and that you are enjoying it.

    You may be right about the reasoning behind Americans saying "I could care less" instead of "I couldn't care less".

    However, I think it's just become such an accepted way of saying it now, that the more logical (and correct) expression, doesn't sound right anymore to (most) Americans.

  66. Here in Australia we are somewhere in between. Sometimes we use the American, sometimes the English and there are times we go our own way.

  67. Maureen, in your post do you mean to say that "vetted" is British English? That is very interesting. I first became aware of the term 15 or so years ago. It's now used very commonly in the US, usually in connection with political candidates or appointees. Likewise, I didn't know that "suss out" was British English, or, indeed, what its origin was. I've been noticing that term increasingly used over the last 5 years or so. I wonder what its derivation is? Does "suss" derive from "suspect?" Very interesting.

  68. Yes, "vetted" is British English. I think it's used quite a lot in the States now because of the influence from watching British tv shows and movies. Same goes for "suss out" which is British English. Yes, it's a shortening of the word "suspect".

    All the different slang and expressions is very interesting indeed.

  69. I'm afraid I used to have awful rows with a dear American friend over the pronunciation of oregano. He insisted it was OH-REGG-AHNO. Whereas I think most English people would pronounce it aw-ree-gah-no. Any thoughts? -- Roy from Bexhill.

  70. It's interesting how such a simple word can by pronounced so differently, isn't it?

    I pronounce it the same way most Americans do and my British husband pronounces it the way you've mentioned.

  71. For what it's worth, the US pronunciation of 'oregano' is closer to the standard Italian--US cuisine having been influenced by Italian immigrants. I touch on it in a discussion of herbs on my blog:

  72. Very interesting, Lynne. Thanks for the info!

  73. I have tried to read all the comments but if I am repeating any I do partner is American and I am a Brit, we have constant fun and sometimes total bemusement with this but here are some to add....

    In the UK buggy is what you push your baby around in whereas in the USA it is a Stroller

    A zimmer frame in the UK is a frame to aid walking in the elderly/infirm and it is a walker in the USA.... A walker in the UK is one of the things with wheels on that you put a baby in to whizz round the floor in.

    How about sneakers (USA) = trainers (uk)
    Gas (USA) = Petrol (UK)
    Chips (USA) = crisps (UK)

    ohhhh there are so many and as for the American pronounciation of router.... *sigh


    ps...great post, you made us both laugh

  74. Hi Molly, I'm pleased you enjoyed reading this post. Thanks for adding some more to the list.

    A stroller is also called a pushchair here (as well as a buggy) which sounded so funny to me at first.

    Now I'm so used to using the British words/expressions that Americans ones sound funny to me!

  75. You have pretty much (well) covered it all. I can only add a few observations right (just)now... Be interested in comments:
    A jumper is a wool sweater in UK..
    Coveralls are overalls.
    Apron, pinafore.
    I prefer using "UK" now. They say the Past is another country. I'm afraid the English language evolves in both countries. I am quite old and after the war it was still a matter of pride to refer to Britain as Britain, meaning one entity united. Scots were also quite proud. This did not mean we ignored the differences but rather admired them... We must remember that Hollywood sometimes appeals to baser instincts;anything to make a buck. This has led to a lot of perceived enmity that we have all started to accept that in reality never existed. Because Ireland was contentious, Americans were led to believe that this was Britain-wide when the complete opposite was true. Yes, Truth can be changed. Back to differences:Over-easy as in eggs, is only American, but sunny- side up is British. Dissing as in Dis-respecting is a pretty (rather) new London fad.
    How much longer before Chester Draws becomes an American item of furniture?
    A pet aversion is Route (rowt), Suite(sweet) and Vase (Vayze). I still cannot use these pronunciations even to fit in.
    Jelly is Jello. Jam im is jelly.
    Honey was solely and uniquely American just a few years ago. Now when the word Hun is used in a blog, I know the writer is English. How ever did that happen ???
    Lastly, to call somebody a Big Head was the ultimate insult in my youth. In the US, to have a big ego is admirable! That says volumes about the contrasts in outlook and opinions.

    1. Interesting. Although I must say, to have a big ego is in no way admirable in the US. We call that arrogant, cocky, or ________ (insert profanity here), and only delusional people (e.g. Kanye West) think it's a good thing.

  76. I am visiting to England (Not Britain) in 2 weeks and find this blog really enlightening. I am from the U.S. and while I watch a lot of British TV (Love Midsomer Murders!), some of these differences were amazing to me.

    The difference that will probably cause me the most anxiety is the ground floor-first floor bit. I will have to remind myself of this constantly.

    I recently travelled to South Korea and made good friends with a group of Aussies. They seem to use a mix of slang (and of course their own. They got me in the habit of saying 'brillant' when I mean 'awesome'. I still use awesome a lot.

    There is a TV show called Man vs. Wild starring a Irish guy. (Ithink he is Irish, I could be wrong!) Listening to the differences in pronounciation is amazing:

    ah-loom-ah-num vs. al-u-men-e-um
    ad-ver-tiz-ments vs. ad-vert-is-ments
    veye-ta-mens vs. vit-ah-mens

    There are tons more, but it is just really interesting!

    Thanks for creating this brillant blog!

  77. Hi Jody, I'm so pleased you found this post useful and that you like my blog.

    Try not to worry too much about the different expressions. I think most Brits have seen enough American tv shows/movies so they would know what you mean when you use American expressons. Just be yourself.

    I hope you enjoy your visit!

  78. an obvious 1 I haven't spotted yet..... Nappies - UK, Diapers - USA.
    Most English people will know what a Diaper is but I wouldn't know if Americans would know what a Nappie is ;)

  79. You're right - most Americans wouldn't know about nappies but I'm pretty sure most Brits know what a diaper is.

    1. I suspect that on average, Brits understand more US usages than vice versa, because we have so many US TV shows and films- you pick up the words almost without realising.

  80. I can understand some of the differences in pronunciation, but I will never understand where you get the second "I" in aluminum.

  81. There's quite an interesting history to the two different spellings! Read about it here:


  82. Another one is "dummy", which Americans says "pacifier" In the UK and Ireland we say dummy, but we all know what pacifier means.

    Also Americans say "cell phone", while in UK and Ire we say "mobile phone" or simply "mobile" as Americans say "cell" for short.

  83. My favourite is fanny for bottom in American English, Fanny as a name in the U.K. and fanny as a part of the female anatomy in Australia. I love American spelling because it is definitely more logical, but coming from Australia, I have to say that I prefer the look of English spelling.

    1. "fanny" means the same in the UK as it does in Oz. It's not that common as a name any more, for that reason. :)

  84. A lot of the cited examples are not as clear cut as the author suggests:

    "jumper" and "sweater" are equally understood here. As are "pudding" and "dessert" - that one actually has some interesting overtones in the UK: "pudding" is considered more upper-class than "dessert" or "sweet".

    "Cute" is used, but it has a subtly different meaning from "lovely": "cute" is for babies or puppies or something else small and winsome and appealing - it's almost never used in a sexual sense (though that usage is increasing in the young, due to US films and TV and social media)

    And so on.

  85. Whine and Whinge, both meaning "shut yer gob and stop your _________ing". Take your pick, English rules for adding ing enforced.

  86. A bum bag in Britain is a fanny pack in America.


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