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wayitis
Apr 21st, 2012, 12:55 AM
As George Bernard Shaw once observed, England and America are two countries divided by a common language. That trans-Atlantic linguistic divide will be magnified by Olympic proportions this summer when an estimated 250,000 Americans come to town for the London Games.

Yes, the Internet, television, movies, global travel and business have blurred language differences, and many people in the U.S. and U.K. are familiar with those bizarre figures of speech from both sides of the pond.

Yet important differences remain, prompting this rough guide to just a few of the potential colloquial conundrums that await baffled American visitors to the old country. (A caveat: This is not a definitive, all-inclusive list and doesn't take into account different spelling, accents, Cockney rhyming slang or expletives!)

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FOOD AND DRINK

Those are "chips" that go with your burger, instead of fries. You'd like some potato chips? Those are "crisps."

A soft drink or soda? That would be a "fizzy drink." A soft drink can refer to any nonalcoholic beverage. If you want the hard stuff, go to the "off-license" rather than a liquor store.

If the waiter asks if you'd like "pudding," he's referring to dessert in general, not necessarily the soft treat that Bill Cosby once pitched in TV ads. By the way, if you see "black pudding" or "blood pudding" on the menu — well, that's not dessert at all. It's sausage.

A "cracker" isn't only what you put cheese on. It's also a very good thing, as in "That goal was a cracker!" It can be an adjective, too: "London will put on a cracking opening ceremony."

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OLYMPIC LINGO

Let's talk "sport." That's singular in Britain, not like sports in the U.S.

Those "blokes" (guys) hawking 100-meter final tickets? They're not scalpers, they're "ticket touts." Incidentally, if you can't get any tickets, you can always watch on "telly" where the commercials are called "adverts."

You'll definitely do a lot of "queuing" (waiting in line), especially at Olympic venues for security checks. Whatever you do, don't "jump the queue."

Going to watch the finish of the marathon or cycling road race? Yes, the venue is the "Mall." No, that's not a shopping center. It's that iconic boulevard leading from Buckingham Palace to Trafalgar Square. And, it's pronounced the "mal."

Headed to the Olympic Stadium to watch track and field? The preferred term in England is "athletics."

Of course, soccer is "football." The sport is played on a pitch, rather than a field. A player might kick the ball into the "stand," rather than stands — and there definitely are no bleachers. Players wear "shirts," not jerseys, and "boots," not cleats, and their uniform is called their "kit."

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TRAVEL TALK

Londoners don't walk on the sidewalk. They walk on the "pavement."

That crosswalk? It's a "zebra crossing" (pronounced zeh-bra, not zee-bra).

The best way to travel around the city during the Olympics will be by the "Underground," the rail network commonly known as the "Tube." It's not the "subway" — that's a pedestrian underpass.

Tube trains have "carriages," not cars. When you get on or off the Tube, don't forget to "mind the gap" between the platform and the train.

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ON THE ROAD

Anything to do with cars can be oh-so confusing — and not just because you drive on the left side of the road here.

London's roads are full of maddening traffic "roundabouts," not circles or rotaries.

The hood and the trunk? No, no. That's the "bonnet" and the "boot." The windshield is the "windscreen," side-view mirrors are "wing mirrors," the stick shift is the "gear stick."

A highway is a "motorway." You park in the "car park."

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RANDOMLY SPEAKING

You take "the lift," not the elevator.

That little corner store where you can buy newspapers and magazines and snacks? It's usually called a "newsagent."

Looking for a trash can? Try a "rubbish bin" instead.

Thumbtacks don't exist; they're "drawing pins."

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EXPRESS YOURSELF

If someone is feeling "chuffed," don't worry. That means they're delighted, as in, "I'm chuffed to bits that I got tickets for the closing ceremony."

If someone says they're "gutted," it has nothing to do with fish. They're just bitterly disappointed, as in the British Olympic sprinter who's "gutted" after failing to qualify for the 200-meter final. By contrast, he'll be "over the moon" if he makes it.

You'll hear "Cheers" a lot, and not just in the pub. It's a term for thank you. So is "Ta."

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ON THE OTHER HAND

Some words take on a totally different, even opposite, meaning in the two countries.

"Torrid" is a prime example — positive in American sports, negative in Britain.

In the U.S., if Kobe Bryant goes on a torrid run in the fourth quarter, he's scoring a bunch of points. In England, if Chelsea striker Fernando Torres is having a torrid season, he can't put the ball in the net.

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DRESSING DOWN

The lexicon for clothing can be a minefield.

Be particularly careful when you talk about "pants." In Britain, that refers to underwear. Trousers is the more appropriate term. (Pants can also be an adjective, meaning bad or lousy, as in "That film was pants.")

Suspenders don't hold up trousers; "braces" do. In British English, "suspenders" are what Americans call a garter belt.

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WEATHER OR NOT

For those cool evenings, pack a "jumper," as opposed to a sweater. Or a jacket called an "anorak." But note: "anorak" is also a somewhat derogatory term for a nerdy, obsessive person.

And, finally, with London's rainy reputation in mind, don't forget to carry an umbrella.

Yes, if there's one phrase worth remembering, it's this:

Bring a brolly.

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pierce85
Apr 21st, 2012, 01:39 AM
Nice read!

Halardfan
May 7th, 2012, 07:13 AM
Here in Japan, American English is the dominant form. But I'm trying to change that! ;)

Vartan
May 7th, 2012, 07:48 AM
Gutted and Cheers are used in American English.

dybbuk
May 7th, 2012, 07:57 AM
Gutted and Cheers are used in American English.

I saw several things in the list that you can hear normal American say, or at least are widely known by Americans even if they aren't widely used. I've noticed many people try to exaggerate the difference in American English and British English. I think this is especially true on the British side, probably to make British English seem more romantic and special.

Sean.
May 7th, 2012, 09:27 AM
^ On the other hand, I went travelling with some American students last summer & some of the things I said would be met with blank stares.

Alizé Molik
May 7th, 2012, 09:33 AM
I saw several things in the list that you can hear normal American say, or at least are widely known by Americans even if they aren't widely used. I've noticed many people try to exaggerate the difference in American English and British English. I think this is especially true on the British side, probably to make British English seem more romantic and special.

:rolleyes: to the bolded section.

There are differences but they are only superficial. The good thing about English is that there are usually multiple mutually comprehensible options for whatever it is you are trying to express. With a little patience it's possible to make yourself understood.

Sean.
May 7th, 2012, 09:41 AM
:rolleyes: to the bolded section.

Agreed, that was a bit unfair. It's more often the other way around, with Americans romanticising British culture!

Dave.
May 7th, 2012, 03:04 PM
Agreed, that was a bit unfair. It's more often the other way around, with Americans romanticising British culture!

That's my experience too, with Brits usually bemused by the very notion.

Miss Atomic Bomb
May 7th, 2012, 03:07 PM
Agreed, that was a bit unfair. It's more often the other way around, with Americans romanticising British culture!

That's my experience too, with Brits usually bemused by the very notion.

+1

KournikovaFan91
May 7th, 2012, 03:31 PM
Well none of you get the Irish colloquialisms, so bow down bitches.

Mikey.
May 7th, 2012, 03:46 PM
I've always found the differences fascinating! :lol:

Here in Australia we have no problems understanding either version of English as we have had a lot of influence from both the UK and US over the years. We're basically a mix of UK, US and a little of our own culture these days. The only problems come from the opposite direction, when people from either the UK or US (more so the US) try to understand some Australian English. Really though it's only a few things most people wouldn't understand. Like for example how we shorten words and add an 'O' onto the end. Like "sarvo" and "servo" for "this afternoon" and "service station". People from overseas often give me WTF stares when I accidentally mentioned these, forgetting they probably have no idea what I'm going on about.

dybbuk
May 7th, 2012, 04:46 PM
:rolleyes: to the bolded section.

There are differences but they are only superficial. The good thing about English is that there are usually multiple mutually comprehensible options for whatever it is you are trying to express. With a little patience it's possible to make yourself understood.

I find rolling your eyes to be a really impressive comeback, myself. I have so many British friends and I can't tell you how many times they've tried to break down slang like I there was no way Americans could understand them. Then not to mention how there are instances of British television shows and movies SUBTITLING their programming for American audiences. Like the English spoken in Skins is much too foreign for America. There's a definite idea amongst some Brits that their English is too different from American English for Americans to properly understand it. When in reality a large majority of what they say is perfectly understandable, and the rest will usually make sense in context.

Sean.
May 7th, 2012, 05:26 PM
I find rolling your eyes to be a really impressive comeback, myself. I have so many British friends and I can't tell you how many times they've tried to break down slang like I there was no way Americans could understand them. Then not to mention how there are instances of British television shows and movies SUBTITLING their programming for American audiences. Like the English spoken in Skins is much too foreign for America. There's a definite idea amongst some Brits that their English is too different from American English for Americans to properly understand it. When in reality a large majority of what they say is perfectly understandable, and the rest will usually make sense in context.

It will be the American network station adding the subtitles, not the British producers. Besides, I think subtitles are used more to help the viewer understand accents, not because we think you're not able to understand our slang.

I can only speak from personal experience, but I've never encountered that feeling of superiority here. We understand that people don't always understand our humour, but that's different.

dybbuk
May 7th, 2012, 05:31 PM
The channel that does it is BBC, which may have Americans high up in for the American version of it, but I'm sure there are Brits controlling most of it.

Sean.
May 7th, 2012, 05:33 PM
^ My guess is they wouldn't do it if there wasn't demand for it. As I said though, it's more to do with accents.

There was a massive thing about American's not being able to understand Cheryl Cole, so it's obviously not unfounded. :)

Mynarco
May 7th, 2012, 05:39 PM
I know I am a bit off-topic but what's wrong with sub-titling? Just don't read too much into it.

njnetswill
May 7th, 2012, 07:55 PM
"mind the gap" is used here too.

The differences in English are all very minor. It's not like Chinese, where different dialects are not even mutually intelligible. My friends are always astounded to learn that Shanghainese and Cantonese are not understandable by Mandarin speakers.

Nicolás89
May 7th, 2012, 07:56 PM
For non natives speakers, American & British english are worlds apart.

njnetswill
May 7th, 2012, 08:02 PM
For non natives speakers, American & British english are worlds apart.

I can understand that. I grew up learning Mexican Spanish in school and could not understand the first Chilean I spoke to :help: :lol:

Mary Cherry.
May 7th, 2012, 08:14 PM
^ On the other hand, I went travelling with some American students last summer & some of the things I said would be met with blank stares.

I get that from fellow English men and women...well, southerners.

Nicolás89
May 7th, 2012, 08:48 PM
I can understand that. I grew up learning Mexican Spanish in school and could not understand the first Chilean I spoke to :help: :lol:

To be fair chilean & mexican must be the worst spanish accents / speakers by a large margin.

Sean.
May 7th, 2012, 09:33 PM
I get that from fellow English men and women...well, southerners.

Guilty as charged. I met a guy from Sunderland & could genuinely not understand a word. I thought he was Finnish or something. :o

Halardfan
May 7th, 2012, 11:00 PM
The term 'English English' which I sometimes have heard seems odd to me. Surely 'English English' is just English? The language originally from England.

Shvedbarilescu
May 7th, 2012, 11:21 PM
Great post wayitis as a Brit who grew up in New York but now has moved back to the UK and lives in London I am familiar with both the English and the American terms for pretty much everything on that list. Funny thing is, sometimes I can't remember which is the English term and which is the American term. It's interesting that for some words, like sweater, thumbtack and highway I tend more to the American words whereas for others like pavement, soft drink and queue I use the English terms. And some words like lift/elevator and trash can/rubbish bin I use both. I still struggle to remember which term applies in which country for a few of these words which I find kinda funny.

Thanks for that read. I will especially remember to use the terms drawing pins and rubbish bins while I am settled in London now.

Keegan
May 8th, 2012, 12:46 AM
Guilty as charged. I met a guy from Sunderland & could genuinely not understand a word. I thought he was Finnish or something. :o

You're better off talking to a wall than a drunk Geordie. It's literally "iaeugsliuvbsoai LIKE hsjgbolsiboa LIKE".

Brits never really understand me at first, probably because South African 'English' has Afrikaans influences, amongst others.

tennisbum79
May 8th, 2012, 12:54 AM
To be fair chilean & mexican must be the worst spanish accents / speakers by a large margin.
Off topic, but still on language.

When I was taking English as second language before attending regular academic classes, I had both Mexican and Venezuelan classmates and friends.
Mexicans used to say among all the Latin American countries that speak Spanish, Mexican Spanish was the most proper in its diction, writing style and pronunciation.
And Venezuelan Spanish was just a basket case of slang manure; they did not actually use those words, but that is what I understood.

My Venezuelan friend put up what I would call only a very timid protest or rebuttal.

Where does Chile Spanish fit in all this?

tennisbum79
May 8th, 2012, 12:57 AM
This is very informative and education thread. Thanks for creating it.


I wish we could have a similar thread for Australian and South African English

antonella
May 8th, 2012, 01:34 AM
And if your'e an American over there, need to see a doctor, and are told you need an appointment with 'surgery', don't panic, they're not going to yank off your arm, it just means- doctor's office.

wta_zuperfann
May 8th, 2012, 03:54 AM
... and don't run out of bog roll!

KournikovaFan91
May 8th, 2012, 04:05 AM
I heard Venezuelan Spanish was like Valley Girl version of Spanish :shrug:

When I did two semesters of Spanish it was in Ireland with a Spanish teacher so I got the lisp and all going on. :p

Dani12
May 8th, 2012, 04:48 AM
... and don't run out of bog roll!

See at first i thought you were saying don't run out of a 'shit sandwich', but then my rational side kicked in and realised you were talking about toilet paper :scared:

Sean.
May 8th, 2012, 08:34 AM
Brits never really understand me at first, probably because South African 'English' has Afrikaans influences, amongst others.

I didn't really have any trouble understanding the South African accent, and I was right up north in Polokwane - so very Afrikaans. :lol: They admitted not always being to follow the conversation when I was talking to other Brits though. :speakles:

Mikey.
May 8th, 2012, 12:52 PM
... and don't run out of bog roll!

Ew :happy: I hate it when people say bog!

*JR*
May 8th, 2012, 01:33 PM
If there's a riot, things aren't set on fire, they're set alight. :devil:

HippityHop
May 8th, 2012, 01:35 PM
And don't go whinging on about something.

Mikey.
May 8th, 2012, 01:45 PM
And don't go whinging on about something.

Or moaning. :lol: I love that.

The 2nd Law
May 8th, 2012, 01:48 PM
When I was in America people had a hard time understanding me and the group I was with (we're aussies). Though I think in general, it was due to the accent.

On the flip side, I feel like Australians understand both US and British English really well, and we seem to speak a mixture of the two. I personally find Canadians and Irish/Scottish people the most difficult English speakers to understand :lol: Sometimes Kiwis are tricky too, but rarely. Never really had a problem with South Africans

Expat
May 8th, 2012, 01:50 PM
I speak in a mostly British (i.e. BBC English) accent. People rarely have problems understanding me here in California. Its quite similar to the Midwestern accent that is used in newscasts. Some people however tend to ask if I work in the media because its much more formal than normal American.

Mynarco
May 8th, 2012, 02:04 PM
Do people actually say bog roll instead of easier one like kitchen roll?

Sean.
May 8th, 2012, 02:21 PM
Bog role is toilet roll, not kitchen roll. ;)

Mary Cherry.
May 8th, 2012, 02:36 PM
Bog roll is one of the more sophisticated terms in my vocabulary.

Super Dave
May 8th, 2012, 02:54 PM
And don't go whinging on about something.

I don't get the first "g"...we say whining, pronounced "wine-ing"

Bog role is toilet roll, not kitchen roll. ;)

Toilet paper / Paper towel. ;)

Mynarco
May 8th, 2012, 02:57 PM
Bog role is toilet roll, not kitchen roll. ;)

oops :p
I've never heard of my English friends saying bog roll, they all say toilet roll :lol:

JN
May 8th, 2012, 03:29 PM
Ya got anything on the many uses of the word 'bollocks'?

pov
May 8th, 2012, 06:55 PM
^ On the other hand, I went travelling with some American students last summer & some of the things I said would be met with blank stares.
:yeah: Yep. And it works both ways although there has been a lot of "cultural exchange." Ten years ago the difference was more pronounced. As far as accents go - I still like most British accents more than I do most USA accents.

melodynelson
May 8th, 2012, 07:11 PM
I grew up with mostly American slang and words from TV and Internet, but I socialize more with British people here in Lisbon. I've been getting used to their slang, but "loo" and "bog roll" are "positively frightening" to my ears. :lol: I'll never forget when someone said "jabber," when they meant "injection." WTF?

I much prefer American-isms, but I use a few British ones too. English is great all around.

Mary Cherry.
May 8th, 2012, 07:21 PM
Ya got anything on the many uses of the word 'bollocks'?

Fantastic word.

The 3 main uses of the word that come to my mind are
A general exclamation of displeasure. For example when making a mistake/error one may cry out "shit", "bugger" or "bollocks".
Quite simply another word for testicles/balls/whatnot
To describe nonsense/rubbish/lies e.g. "Better than peak Pierce? What a load of bollocks."

On the contrary, if you hear someone describing something as "the dog's bollocks" then they mean it's bloody brilliant.

Keegan
May 8th, 2012, 08:46 PM
I didn't really have any trouble understanding the South African accent, and I was right up north in Polokwane - so very Afrikaans. :lol: They admitted not always being to follow the conversation when I was talking to other Brits though. :speakles:

I guess it depends how much slang I use. No one here knows the terms takkies or dagga or any of that, and that's what stopped a lot of people from understanding me, because there's a South African term for everyday items. Not to mention I come from a very, very Afrikaans area, much stronger than Limpopo and possibly even the Western Cape.

The latter part is actually pretty true. When I first moved over someone said "Do you watch footy?" and I had no idea what the hell footy was, amongst other stupid Yorkshire terms. Commoners! ;)

kwilliams
May 9th, 2012, 12:02 PM
I used to act as interpreter for British, North American and Australian people in South Korea. Thankfully, I watched a lot of tv programs and films from these countries growing up. I was also reasonably familiar with Kiwi English but was at a bit of a loss with South Africans!

Yoncé
May 9th, 2012, 12:17 PM
I've always found the differences fascinating! :lol:

Here in Australia we have no problems understanding either version of English as we have had a lot of influence from both the UK and US over the years. We're basically a mix of UK, US and a little of our own culture these days. The only problems come from the opposite direction, when people from either the UK or US (more so the US) try to understand some Australian English. Really though it's only a few things most people wouldn't understand. Like for example how we shorten words and add an 'O' onto the end. Like "sarvo" and "servo" for "this afternoon" and "service station". People from overseas often give me WTF stares when I accidentally mentioned these, forgetting they probably have no idea what I'm going on about.

And Australian English Slang differs from state to state as well :sobbing: I still remember the blank stare I got in Queensland when I wanted to find the milk bar :lol:

---

From my English teacher, who moved to Australia from Britain, if you hear something you do not believe "Are you kidding me on?" is also an acceptable response

Mary Cherry.
May 9th, 2012, 01:28 PM
And Australian English Slang differs from state to state as well :sobbing: I still remember the blank stare I got in Queensland when I wanted to find the milk bar :lol:

---

From my English teacher, who moved to Australia from Britain, if you hear something you do not believe "Are you kidding me on?" is also an acceptable response


See, I know that phrase as "Are you having me on?" or "Are you having a laugh?" Ah, the wonders of the English language :oh:

Also, what is a milk bar? :lol:

debopero
May 9th, 2012, 01:34 PM
I was trying to watch the movie "Trainspotting"...and could barely understand a single word :o. What accent is that?

Dani12
May 9th, 2012, 01:53 PM
And Australian English Slang differs from state to state as well :sobbing: I still remember the blank stare I got in Queensland when I wanted to find the milk bar :lol:

---

From my English teacher, who moved to Australia from Britain, if you hear something you do not believe "Are you kidding me on?" is also an acceptable response

What the heck is a milk bar? What state are you from? :lol:

Mikey.
May 9th, 2012, 02:22 PM
What the heck is a milk bar? What state are you from? :lol:

:hysteric: Case in point.

Dani12
May 9th, 2012, 02:24 PM
:hysteric: Case in point.

I'm not even from Queensland :sad:

Mikey.
May 9th, 2012, 02:35 PM
I'm not even from Queensland :sad:

I don't use the term myself but it just means a corner store or general store. :lol:

Yoncé
May 9th, 2012, 02:40 PM
See, I know that phrase as "Are you having me on?" or "Are you having a laugh?" Ah, the wonders of the English language :oh:

Also, what is a milk bar? :lol:

Its like a small general store that just has like newspapers, some food, drink more often than not no milk :lol:

What the heck is a milk bar? What state are you from? :lol:

Depending which state your from its a Deli/General Store/Corner shop/tuck shop :lol: Victoria! :rocker2:

Mary Cherry.
May 9th, 2012, 03:50 PM
So a milk bar is an off-license/newsagents? :lol:

Mynarco
May 9th, 2012, 03:54 PM
Milk Bar :lol: that's an interesting word.

Bayo
May 9th, 2012, 04:20 PM
I was trying to watch the movie "Trainspotting"...and could barely understand a single word :o. What accent is that?

Yes, aside from various Caribbean dialects, Scottish English is the most difficult for me to understand.

When I was studying German, Swiss German reminded me a lot of Scottish English. Practically incomprehensible when spoken quickly.

Sean.
May 9th, 2012, 04:27 PM
From my English teacher, who moved to Australia from Britain, if you hear something you do not believe "Are you kidding me on?" is also an acceptable response

Are you sure it wasn't "Are you kidding me?" ?