Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Say What? American vs. British

Language, Derrida might say, is a slippery slope. It’s difficult to pin things down, to create concrete unmisinterpretable meaning (yes, I just made that word up).  That’s true enough when you speak a language fluently, but when you cross over into someone else’s linguistic territory, the ice you’re walking on becomes thinner and thinner, and the chances that you’ll make a dialect faux pas gets higher and higher. What do you do when diction damage has been done? Well, I blush, throw on my best Southern accent, and blame it on being from out of town. 

But, friends, I’m here to help prevent any such embarrassing flummoxes! Lest you commit a language gaffe, I have compiled a list of words and phrases which are not quite the same from America to Britain. I hope that this list prevents any future miscommunication, embarrassment, or insult.

We say ‘pants’ = they say ‘trousers’
We say ‘underwear’/’panties’ = they say ‘pants’/’knickers’
We say ‘sidewalk’ = they say ‘pavement’
We say ‘pavement’ = they say ‘asphalt’/ ‘tarmac’
We say ‘nerd’ = they say ‘boffin’
We say ‘hood’ (of a car) = they say ‘bonnet’
We say 'trunk' (of a car) = they say ‘boot’
We say 'I'm mad' = they say 'I'm cross'
We say "he's crazy' = they say 'he's mad'
We say 'she's a loony' = they say 'she's a nutter'
We say ‘I’m exhausted!’ = they say ‘I’m knackered’
We say ‘Bless Your Heart!’ = they say ‘Oh Bless!’*
We say ‘soccer’ = they say ‘football’
We say ‘football’ = they say ‘huh?’

I think this is a good start to keeping everyone from committing crimes against the English language. Hopefully, with these expert insights into our dialectical differences, we can move toward a greater understanding of our cousins across the pond.

* This confirms my theory that Southerners are really just Brits with better tea, and more charm. :)


  1. We say 'speechless' = they say 'gobsmacked'

  2. We say 'Remote Control' = they say 'Bibbly Smibbly Clicky Clacker'

  3. There are so many things that are different between the two dialects! I think I'll need to do a few more posts about it all - maybe on food or clothing- because there's been more than one occasion when I unintentionally stuck my foot in my mouth because I didn't know the double meaning (like the pants/ trousers thing).