Friday, January 24, 2020

Brit Speak, America Speak; same language, different meanings....

England-born Sue Speight and American Christene "Cookie" Meyers in York Minster, go back to back in an ancient part of the hallowed cathedral. The two friends have an array of colloquialisms and enjoy one another's language differences. 
Sisters Misha, Cookie and Olivia, with niece Amarylla
are bundled up in "jumpers" and "overcoats" UK style.
In the US, sweaters and jackets.

ASK FOR a burger and fries and you're likely to get a blank look in the United Kingdom.
"You mean chips?" asks the waitress.  "No, I don't want potato chips.....Oh, yes, that's right. Fries are chips here, so yes, please, I'd like chips with my burger."
That was years back, 30 trips ago to England, Scotland and Wales.
I soon learned that there are more than a few fun differences in language and many harmless ways to tease one another. George Bernard Shaw famously said that “England and America are two countries separated by the same language.”
On my first adult visit to the Cotswolds with college friends, the hotel clerk asked, "When would you like a knock-up?"
Of course he meant, "When should we call to awaken you?" Naturally, in the U.S. it means with child, as in "she's knocked up."
Chips in America are potato chips.
Chips are french fries in the UK and
if you want our chips, ask for crisps.
WHEN ORDERING FROM a menu or shopping, residents of both countries may climb a learning curve.
In England, our eggplant is aubergine; Zucchini is courgette.  Molasses is treacle. Shrimp are always prawns in the UK.
And if someone offers you a biscuit with afternoon tea, do say yes.  It's a cookie, not that morning pastry we load up with jam.
untri for a foreigner in either country is often confusing.
These are called chips (in the UK) 
and fries (in the states.) 
 "Let" means to rent out in England, to allow in the U.S., "please let me pass."
Flat is an apartment in the UK, off-key or low of pitch in America.

Cookie takes a break at "interval" during a play; in the
UK that's what we in the U.S. call intermission. 
AA is an automobile association in England, Alcoholics Anonymous or American Airlines in the US.
In the UK, a la mode -- fashionable; in the US, with ice cream
Lounge can mean a room of relaxation in the UK; in America, always a bar with alcohol.
banger, in the UK is a sausage, or car on its last legs; in America, it's a gang member, party or song. Bash means "have a go" to a Brit; in America, a fun party.
BOMB IS a particularly fun word to analyze on both sides of the pond.  In the UK, the phrase has long meant a striking success.  That's catching on in the US, but it still means to go south in a hurry as in "opening night completely bombed." It can also mean to imbibe excessively.
In our country, a governor is head of a state; in the UK, he's "boss" of something.
This photo of the Eiffel Tower 
might be called "brilliant"
in the UK, "pretty" in US
A boot in the UK is a car trunk, while in the US it means footwear. A lorey is the UK's version of truck. In the UK, a jumper is not something you use to start a dead car engine. It's a sweater.
BOTTLE CAN mean courage in the UK; in the US it's a container.
Jelly is a dessert in England; in the US, it's fruit spread for toast.
Aside from its better known meaning, a hog in the UK can also be a  yearling sheep; in the US, it's slang for a hot motorcycle.
Brilliant in the UK means tops or very best; in the US, it means bright, smart, pretty.

These Englishmen and women are enjoying a pint at the pup,
where in the U.S., we'd have a drink in the bar.
Pecker means courage "keep your pecker up" in the UK; it's penis in our country and "willie" is a UK penis. (My Irish gran also referred to a man's "John Thomas," --"he should keep it in his pants.")
A geezer in the US means an old fart; in the UK, he's a gangster.
Buffet in England means a snack, usually on a train; in the US it is a sideboard or serve-yourself arrangement, sometimes lavish.
INTERVAL is a theater intermission in the UK; in America, a gap in space or time.
A "jolly" can be a short trip in England (she's off on a jolly) while in America it means jovial.
Our vacation is an Englishman's holiday. Bugger -- don't bother me: "bugger off" in the UK; in America, an endearing term for a child. "What a cute little bugger.".
Carriage in England is usually a railway coach; in America, transportation for a youngster.
This train car might be called a carriage in the UK. 
Mind in the UK means watch. "Mind the step."  "Give way" means watch out or let pass.
Crisp; thin fried pastry, like our chips; in America, an adjective meaning crunchy.
Entree is a starter in the UK, a main course in America.
A UK half is a half-pint, usually beer; in the US it's a measurement. Our bars are their pubs. Pissed means drunk in England, angry in the US, with an "off" added.
A bonnet is a car hood in England; in the US, it's a lady's hat. Our overalls are UK dungarees. Our robes are dressing gowns in the UK, where a vest is a waistcoat. A macintosh is a raincoat in the UK. Sneakers or trainers?  Galoshes or wellies? Depends on which side of the pond you call home.
These kids might be called bairn in Scotland and North England; they could
also be referred to as tykes, tots, nippers, moppets or squirts.  (Our great-
niece and nephew, Penelope Margaret and James Brian Ganner.)

A jock is a Scotsman in the UK, or a private soldier; in the US, an athlete.
We don't use "nick" often but in England, it's a common word for ''steal."  Ditto pinch.
Panda is UK slang for a police car while we think of an adorable endangered animal.
KNICKERS -- women's underwear in England, "don't get your knickers in a tizzy." Seldom used in the US.
Frame in the UK can mean plan or propose something: "let's frame it." In the US it's what goes around a painting or photo or a scheme to misrepresent or set someone up.
A mate is a friend, not a partner or spouse.
A mobile is a cell phone in England while we use the word to mean able to move easily.
A mum is a mother; we think of a flower or a caution for quiet. A nappy is a diaper in England. In the US, a wee snooze.
THE FIRST floor in the UK and Europe is our second floor. Ground level in America is their first floor. And never the twain shall meet.....isn't it fun?

 Keller and Cookie with Nick and Nora on a recent hike in San Diego.

  NEXT UP:   Join us as we bid farewell to a loyal friend and true road warrior, Nora, our beloved Yorkshire terrier. We look back on her lively life, her travels with us and her circle of global friends and admirers.  We explore her musical tastes and recall her fondness for Greenies and strawberry ice cream. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn, love and live and visit us Fridays for a fresh take on travel, the arts, family, pets, nature and more:


  1. British but USA residentsJanuary 26, 2020 at 2:45 PM

    This is darned fun. Thank you.

  2. Westchester WordsmithsJanuary 27, 2020 at 7:03 AM

    Brilliant! We chuckled and nodded our heads.