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WORDS WITH DIFFERENT MEANINGS IN OTHER COUNTRIES.


Part 1

Since setting up this site I have become more aware of the differences in language between the U.K. and the U.S.A. whether it be different meanings for the same word or different words for the same thing, so thought it may be fun to start a page listing some of these differences. 

This page has now been online for several years and I had no idea how much interest it would provoke.  I now have a file full of comments, views and definitions.  My big problem is how to present all this information in a way which is useful, informative and entertaining.  This is still a work in progress.

Another thing which has become apparent is the fact that there are no definitive answers;  not only do different counties/states use different terminology but there appears to be differences between generations as well.  All this makes it very difficult to produce information with which everyone agrees.

What has become very evident over the years is just how much language is merging between all the various countries. Here in the UK we have adopted many, many "Americanisms" into everyday language and, I believe, some British terms are now used in the USA. This is probably due to travel and the wide exchange of TV programmes etc. 

I think this exchange of TV programmes may also be the cause of a lot of misconceptions. Many people contacting me see to think we still use the type of language which they hear on programmes such as Upstairs, Downstairs, Pride and Prejudice etc., which, of course, is not the case. Then, of course, there are programmes like Eastenders which is set in the East End of London and the language used is from that area (minus all the swearing of course) but people from other parts of the UK not only sound very different but use completely phrases and terms. 

In short this is a very complex subject.

At the foot of this page you will find examples of reaction received from visitors who sometimes differ and sometimes agree with the original offerings and those given by others.

 

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CV (curriculum vitae) Resume

Melissa Archuleta

In the US we do say "CV"/"curriculum vitae" as well as "resume," but it has a different meaning. 

In American usage, resume condenses all one's accomplishments into one page, whereas a CV is a complete account that can be many pages long.

Alex

Biscuits Cookies.

Linda Rice kindly  points out that "biscuits" in America are unsweetened dinner or breakfast pastries.

Bun (a sweet individual cake, sometimes with dried fruit) Muffin (nearest example I think!!!)

Wouldn't it be a cupcake rather than a muffin?

Rachy

Muffin is correct. A cupcake is like a miniature cake often with frosting. I believe the same cooking mold can be used.

Simon Slade

Roll or Bap Bun

Courtesy of LInda Rice

Bottom/Bum/ (slang)/Posterior/Backside Glutes                     Linda also sent in this one.

Apparently usually used in 'gyms'

Butt, Backside or Derriere

Submitted by Michelle McLane

Headmaster/Headmistress Principal

Submitted by Maxine Dorot

Flagpole Flagstaff *   

Both Linda Rice and "Rob" have contacted me saying they had never heard this expression in the U.S.A. - sorry.

I have now been informed that both words are used in America.  Apparently Flagstaff, AZ gets its name from a rather prominent flagpole/flagstaff that was erected there years ago.

Thanks to William Hitch for this information.                

Silencer (on motor vehicle) Muffler*          *Both suggested by John Stevens
Spanner Wrench
Shoelace Shoestring

Apparently another debatable one!!!

Cinema Movie-house

Here again both Linda and Rob pointed out this is usually known as a movie theater not movie-house

Film Movie

William Hitch has made the comment that the word "movie" is still used generally, but critics favour (favor) "film".  He makes the observation that this may be so they are not laughed at in Cannes!

"Movie" and "film" are definitely both used in the US. In my mind "movie" suggests Hollywood and "film" suggests art-house, but it's not hard-and-fast, and I like to use the two words interchangeably to combat snobbery.

Alex

Postman/Postwoman Mailman/Mailwoman
Ladysfinger Okra
Courgette Zucchini
Swede (or yellow turnip) Rutabaga

Jack

Wardrobe Closet

To be technical, wardrobes are stand alone and not built into the room, whereas a closet is built into the room. At least in the US.

David Walker

This made me think and actually here in the UK a free standing piece of furniture in a bedroom is called a "wardrobe" but we tend to say "built-in wardrobe" or even "cupboard" when it is built into the room.


In the Southern part of the US, the word "chiffarobe" or "chifforobe" is still often used instead of wardrobe.  

It was used in "To Kill a Mockingbird" and in Flannery O'Conner novels. My grandmother always referred to her standing wardrobe furniture as a chiffarobe. The closet was a built-in space. 

Valencia Scott Colombo

Class Grade (pre-college schools)

Class (high schools (sometimes);  colleges (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior)

Thanks again to William Hitch

Parcel Package
Lorry Truck

Most of the above were contributed by Swami Narasimhan for which we are most grateful.

Toilet or Lavatory

Loo or Bog (slang)*

* The English often call the toilet the LOO or, an even more "slangy" term is the BOG.

Both of these are used, loo being the most common. I came across a lot of trouble in America when asking directions to the loo.

Pav


On the subject of the toilet/rest-room debate on your UK/US differences page, it occurred to me that the word ‘toilet’ refers to the furniture itself rather than the room it's housed in, but perhaps the reason why we refer to the room specifically as a toilet is that until about 40 years ago the majority of UK homes had separate rooms for the toilet and the bath (my parents live in a bungalow built in 1961, which still has a separate loo). In fact in pre-war Britain, a great many working class homes had the toilet housed outside.

 I would also suggest that 'bog' is probably considered slightly more vulgar than 'loo' as most people in the UK will happily say 'I need the loo' but not so many will say 'I want the bog'.

Adrian Hodges

 

 

Restroom (or John I believe)

Apparently "Bathroom" is more commonly used (thanks to Dr.  Bren Ewen for this.)

William Hitch advises all the following can be heard in the USA "toilet, lavatory, john, restroom, washroom, latrine (army), head (navy), bathroom, mens'/ladies' room, outhouse (old country) and crapper (slang) - Sorry!

We Brits find this very strange "why disguise what the room is used for?

You certainly wouldn't want to "Rest" in British toilets!!!!

Flat Apartment

If you say you live in a flat to an American, they are likely to ask "a flat what?"

In the US: an apartment can mean either a complex with areas of living for rent or the rented area of living itself. But as far as I know, almost everyone would say "Want to go up to my flat?" or "I have a flat two blocks from here."

It's possible that rural Americans haven't heard the term, though I think it's pretty widespread.

To be more specific, a flat would imply a standard apartment. A studio is a very specific way of saying a tiny apartment and a penthouse is one on the top floor and is of better quality (usually luxurious [at least in comparison]).

Kim

I have to correct that and say that "flat" doesn't mean apartment in the U.S., ever, and we wouldn't say that. We might say come up to my "place" or "apartment" or even "pad" (this usage is from the 70s and would be sort of retro). "Flat" is definitely a British term (even in Canada, which is where I'm living now, and Canada/US/UK English is a whole other thing...).

Karin Carlson

Garage / Petrol Station/Service Station

A garage is where you get your car repaired/fixed. We get fuel from a petrol station.

Joe Woodhead

A garage is also where cars are housed.

Gas Station.

A "garage" in America is where you park your car at night.

 

 

Trousers Pants

Now this one is really confusing!  in the U.K. the word 'pants' is only used for "underpants" hence, when an American says he is going to put on a fresh pair of pants before going out, it cracks us up.

"Pants" is now being used by our younger generation as a word to describe something they don't like.  e.g. The film was 'pants'!.

Braces

Another confusing one.  In the U.K. braces are two pieces of wide elastic which fix to the top of trousers, over the shoulder and then back onto the top of the trousers, thus holding them up.

 

It is also a term used in order to straighten teeth (in both countries I believe).        Simon Slade

Suspenders

 

Suspenders are what ladies' use to hold up stockings, although this term was also used for the contraptions men used to use to hold up their socks (so I am told!).

As a Yorkshireman if you can borrow his 'suspenders' and see what happens!

Suspenders in the US can mean what is already listed as well as the meaning in England, to hold up pants.

Suzanne


The word suspenders in the US almost always refers to those stretch bands that hook from back to front used to hold up men's trousers.  A woman's stockings (before pantyhose) were held up by elastic garters or a garter belt.

Valencia Scott Colombo 

All the above 'quips' (in red) were kindly contributed by Nik Shearer - there is more of his humour (humor) at the bottom of this page.

Queue Line
Lift Elevator
Pavement Sidewalk
Clothes Peg Clothes Pin
Bicarbonate of Soda Baking Soda
Castor Sugar Superfine sugar, Deluxe sugar or Baker's Sugar

Ann O'Donnell

Rubber Eraser
Minced beef Ground beef
Mohican (as in hairstyle) Mohawk

AndyPandy

Mobile cellphone

AndyPandy

Ghetto Blaster Boombox

AndyPandy

Video Recorder VCR

AndyPandy

New Wave (in Britain means guitar music which wasn't quite punk made from about 1977-but never used to describe any music made post 1979) New Wave in America seems to mean any contemporary popular music from about 1976 to at least the turn of the millennium.

AndyPandy

Electro - in Britain the name for hiphop type music from about 1981-mid-80s American's seem to call a lot of this music freestyle.

AndyPandy

Roundabout Rotary *

I think that's only used in New England (where I grew up); most of the US says "traffic circle.

Alex

I'm pretty sure the part about roundabouts/rotaries/traffic circles is wrong. I live in Indiana, and I have never, ever heard anything other than roundabout.

Kimberly

Roundabouts: I live in NJ and I am 44 years old. There were many of these and they are almost universally referred to as "traffic circles" or just "circles" in NJ.

I have been a professional driver for over half of my life and have intimate knowledge with nearly every one that still exists in NJ. As the population and congestion grows they are being re-engineered to alleviate the problems they cause.

Most people do not know how to properly navigate a traffic circle. The percentage of people calling them roundabouts in NJ is extremely low. Even the street signs will say "circle ahead".

Micheal

Perambulator (or Pram) Carriage*

Stroller

Daniel Ausema

Chips Fries*

If you say CHIPS in Britain people think of quite large bits of cooked potato in the US they are STEAK FRIES (as you get large ones with meat), whereas the type of fries you get in McDonalds are called fries OR chips. Being a Scotsman i would dare call those nonsense little bits of potato 'chips'.

Nik Shearer point this one out.

Crisps Potato Chips

Another from Nik

Holiday Vacation*           * All sent in by Debbie - thanks.
Boot (car) Trunk
Bonnet (car) Hood
Petrol Gas **

It has been pointed out by J. Bunce, that this is an abbreviation of the word "gasoline" - a word previously used for fuel.

Gas in the U.K. and apparently Australia is an air like substance which fills any available space.  Some gases can be bottled and used for such things as cooking.

Gas can also be used to mean idle chatter.

I am told "gas" means "funny" in Ireland

Thanks to Effie Makris for these observations.

 

I've also heard the word "gas" used to mean "funny." It's not unique to Ireland. I do remember watching old movies using the term - usually as a noun. "That story was a gas." It's not in common use now. However, some people think passing gas is funny.

Simon Slade

Definitely does refer to the third state of matter as well as to gasoline in the US.

Alex

Moulting  (e.g. animal losing hair) Shedding         Sent in by Tamara Davis

 

For other examples Part 2 ,Part 3 and Part 4 and here!

 

 

Kristina Hackenburg has written as follows -

Wow where are you getting your info? 

Bun- in the US we have cinnamon buns and sticky buns that are sweet too.

Bottom/bum- we most def don't use the word glutes unless we are working out or at a doctors office  its a technical term. we say ass, butt, backside, rear end, and we do say bum- its not a word we say alot but its an english word that came here but one of the most common words that people say in music and songs in america is BOOTY. 

Ive never heard the word flagstaff, just flagpole.

we DEFINITELY don't use the word shoestring- we ALWAYS say laces, or shoelaces, and we have heard of the word shoestring, its not odd, but no one says it.

I HAVE never heard of the word movie-house. its movie theater why do you think all american commericals end or begin with the phrase - coming soon to a theatre near you. now if we said we went to the theatre, we would mean like, broadway, not a movie.. and another very common use is just movies.. we went to the movies. we were at the movies. 

As for movie and film. in school i would say film, to a friend i would say movie. do you want to watch this movie- is much more common then do you want to watch this film.. but say, an award for best new film- would not sound odd at all. 

class/grade- we say class of 2001, highschool class of 1994, or kindergarden class of 2000. we say what class do you have next referring to a specific subject (like biology).. and we say get to class, (if you are late for school), pick your classes (When in college) and also always, senior class, junior class, sophmore class and the whole freshman class.. now we always say 1st grade- 12th grade too for school before college. and when you get to high school you are a freshman in high school,. sophmore in highschool, junior, senior etc. but we use those terms for college too. 

also, when saying toilet- sometimes because we teach children to say "little girls room, or little boys room- sometimes in joking, teenagers or adults might say "ive just got to hit the little boys room real fast" 

oh and we park in the driveway, and we drive on the parkway.

trousers/pants- okay, we say pants as in anything that is a full length bottom.. but most commonly americans where denim, and we just call them jeans, and if they aren't jeans, we call them by what they are- khakis, sweat pants, and if they are anything else we will say dress pants, work pants, depending on what we use them for.. dress pants are worn to church, or somewhere nice, work pants (if you are a painter) refer to pants you already ruined, but if you are a lawyer (work pants are dress pants). we dont say trousers.. if we did, i would assume they are khakis. oh and a side note: to pants someone (verb) is to pull there pants down in public. 

braces/suspenders.. suspenders in the us are not for socks, or stockings, women use garter belts for that with little straps that attach.. but suspenders attach at the belt loop on the outside of slacks/pants/trousers and are held up by your shoulders then attach on the back of your trousers on the belt loops. Braces are for teeth. 

side walk/pavement - in the US we use either. my mother has yelled plenty at me when i was a child saying "get on the pavement, get out of the street"

chips/ chips are hard and packaged in bags they aren't served fresh those are fries. the bigger fries are called steak fries, then we have french fries (which is a common term for any) that are regular sized and then curly fries that come in curly cues. 

ground floor/first floor- we always say ground floor for the one that is the lowest (usually underground)(but not to be mistaken with the basement) the term ground floor is only used in big buildings, like hospitals that have floors underground that are used not for storage. and first floor for the floor that is the first floor above ground.

dummy/pacifier.. we would never say dummy, unless we were referring to someone dumb, and we would never never be allowed to say dummy tit, because its offensive in america to say tit. pacifier is used, and binky, or bink. binky more commonly to other adults, but adults will say to children "wheres your bink?" 

we say angry just as much as we say mad

tights/ panty hose.. ahh this is complicated.. okay tights are thicker that pantyhose, pantyhose are see through, pantyhose are also known as stockings, and tights are also known as stretch pants (but the word stretch pants is frowned apon because its like an old lady thing to say), all are also known as leggings, now if they go to the knee and no higher they are known as knee highs, and if they go to the thigh, they are thigh highs, and if they go above the stomach they are called control tops. 

we say taxi just as much as we say cab

we say shops as in smaller stores

time tables are what we call multipication "do you know your timetables

estate agent- is called a realator or real estate agent

we say jam just as much as we say jelly

we will never call jello jelly

a garden grows vegetables or flowers, a yard is just grass

we say plug for outlet too. and socket. we never say power point. 

pub isnt uncommon in the names of bars here. but we dont say we are going to the pub

solicitors in the us are people who come door to door to sell things. and there are tons of people with stores that say "no solicitors" on the fronts

surgery is what you get when they cut you open. not where you go to get it done

a tap is what you put in a keg of beer

gravy is a brown sauce used on turkey, but many italian americans still refer to gravy as tomato sauce, and all the generations after them still use it

PLEASE UPDATE"


 


Kim writes as follows:_

It mentions that roundabouts are rare in America. I can count at least five within ten minutes from my house in New Jersey. They aren't at all rare. I've driven to Canada quite a few times and also all over the East coast and LA area in California. Roundabouts, or circles as they call it in my area, can be found all over the continent as far as I know. Also, "in a roundabout way" is a phrase I use and have heard used all my life.

Pavement could mean anything paved, depending on the context.

Tap and faucet are synonymous here. For example, one wouldn't say faucet water, but tap water.

Pissed off is used the same, to be "pissed" means to be drunk but is sometimes a shortened way of saying pissed off.

Git, probably from movies and books, has become a word not totally rare. I'm an Anglophile at heart, but I've heard classmates call someone else a git before. It could also be "get out" if you have a lazy way of speaking.

Bum, derriere, backside, rear-end, bottom, butt, buttocks, and tush are the most common word to refer to the gluteus maximus. Bum could also be slang for someone homeless or lazy. A tramp is used for a woman who... doesn't respect her body - usually a street walker/hooker/"skank", etc.

I've never heard anyone refer to a flagpole as a flagstaff except in old (as in over 200 years) literature.

The same goes for shoelaces. (Except for the old literature part)

I prefer the word film, but movies is more commonly used. Film is more likely to refer to a work of art, whether it be "arty" or not.

Mailmen could also be referred to as a postal worker.

Porridge and oatmeal are the same but porridge could also be a similar substance.

It's never movie-house. I've never heard that. Cinema is less common, but used.

A lounge means the same as a living room, but a living room is not the same as a lounge. A lounge could be anywhere, but a living room is found only in a home.

We do say waistcoat for certain types of vests.

A cafeteria could also be called a canteen or cafe.

To be "sacked" is the most common way of saying fired that I know of.

Plug and socket are synonomous with outlet.

Dustbins are any bins you can dispose something in, but trashcans are larger and sturdier.

Old ladies say pantyhose. Most people would call thin tights stockings and if they aren't see-through, tights.

The underground can refer to where the subway train is located. As in, you'd go to the underground to catch the subway.

Fall is not the proper term we use. That's more just for little kids, but at least half of the country says fall for autumn.

The ground floor is located on the ground. The first floor could be the second floor or the ground floor, depending on what the building is. Most hotels, hospitals, and large buildings call the floor on the ground the ground floor or lobby - the button in the elevator/lift would be a G or an L.

Most people say taxi. I think certain regions say cab, but it's not very popular. Although, there would not be any confusion if one did say "I'm catching a cab".

Yes, mad means angry. But if I wrote a paper for English and put "mad" instead of "angry", my teacher would be "mad". Mad can also mean insane or "very". Example of very: I'm mad thirsty. Only teenage boys say that, however.

I've never heard of a fall hair piece. I'm guessing it's a completely obsolete meaning.

We have jam, jelly, and preserves. Jam is thicker than jelly, and preserves are the same as the ones everywhere else.

If someone is ill, they'd say they're sick. But ill would be more proper.

A queue would be where people line up to wait for something. A line would be a line as in a straight angle or where people stand. Line is just used most often.

 


JUNE 2011

Alora has kindly sent the following detailed observations on the subject:-

Just wanted to add some American information from someone who has lived in several different states all across the country.

1. Roundabouts. There's a joke amongst city planners: "The fastest way to cause an accident is to put in a roundabout." This is because they are rare. Despite living in several different states, I can honestly say I've encountered fewer than 10 unique roundabouts, and for most Americans (apparently outside of New Jersey, according to Kim's statement), that's high. I've met people who have never once encountered a roundabout. I have also heard them called "traffic circles" but "roundabout" is much more common. Unlike what has been listed, I have never heard of a roundabout being called a "rotary."

2. Pavement. I have not heard this term commonly outside of sports ("Hit the pavement!"), but when I have heard it, it always refers to the sidewalk. "Sidewalk" is the word I have heard almost exclusively.

3. Tap vs Faucet. I recall Shaun of the Dead, when Shaun's step-father said, "I ran it under a cold tap." We would never say it this way, but instead, "I ran it under cold water." Faucet is far more common: "Turn on/off the faucet" or "Clean the faucet" are two examples. As Kim said, we refer to it as "tap water" if someone is asking about the type of water (example: "Is that bottled water or tap water?"). From what I've experienced, that's the only use of tap that I can think of.

4. Pissed (Off). When someone says, "I'm pissed" or "I'm pissed off," it means the same thing: that person is angry.

5. Git. This is only used by people who are familiar with some British slang and wish to use it. We don't have this phrase in the States. I've seen a couple people say that it's a lazy way to say "Get out," but that's just "Get" and in, "I've had enough of you, you need to get." There are some folk who are fans of "redneck" words (rural folk who typically don't have proper manners or education) that may misspell the word as "git" instead of "get," but that's due to poor education, not laziness.

6. The Butt. Common terms I've heard: butt, ass, rear, buns, rear-end, junk in the trunk (for large butts), dumper (slang), bottom (usually used for kids), fanny (usually used for kids). Most Americans do not refer to the butt as a bum unless they're familiar with British slang and wish to use it. Also, glutes is something I've only used in reference to exercise: "Squats are a great exercise for your glutes."

7. Flagpole versus Flagstaff. According to someone who posted, a flagstaff is used in one state. From my experience, it's pretty much that one state...I've only ever heard flagpole or pole, but the latter only in this way: "We need to run the flag up the pole."

8. Shoelaces versus Shoestrings. The only time I've ever heard someone use "shoestring" is when describing a certain cut of potato. "Shoestring potatoes" are very thinly cut potatoes that are fried. For shoes, they're just shoelaces.

9. Film versus Movies. Most Americans say, "Would you like to see a movie tonight?" as opposed to "Would you like to see a film tonight?" However, if you asked a person to see a film, they'd know what you mean. As another person said, critics tend to prefer the word "film" when they're reviewing one.

10. Mailman/woman versus Postman/woman. Postman was in use a few decades back and is even used in the song, "Please, Mr. Postman." Typically, the person who delivers the mail to your home is called a mailman or mailwoman, depending on gender. If a person happens to just work for the Post Office, that person is a "postal worker."

11. Porridge versus Oatmeal. Technically speaking, porridge can be oatmeal, but not all porridge is oatmeal so calling porridge the US equivalent of oatmeal is inaccurate. Porridge can be made from various cereal grains, including oats. As a catch-all term, we refer to this as "hot cereal." Some hot cereal brands include B&G foods (maker of Cream of Wheat and Cream of Rice), Quaker (maker of Quaker Oatmeal) and Malt-O-Meal (maker of various malt-o-meal hot cereals, as well as cold cereals). Another hot cereal type dish made in the States is grits, though it's typically served with other food and not consumed as a stand-alone dish. It should also be noted that this is a food served in the southeastern US and not many other places (unless a restaurant specializes in some southern style foods). It should also be noted that Malt-O-Meal is regional as well; I've only ever seen it on the west coast.

12. Cinema versus Movie House. I can honestly say I've never heard of movie house. I mean, I hear it, I understand what it means, but it sounds very antiquated and I can safely say I've never heard another American say it. I've typically heard of it referred to as "the movies" if you're planning on going there, as in, "Do you want to go to the movies tonight?" If referring to it as a place, then "theater" (not to be confused with "theatre") or "movie theater" is used, as in, "They're giving away free popcorn at the theater tonight!"

13. Lounge versus Living Room. A living room may also be called a den or family room (homes with multiple living rooms typically designate one as a "living room" and another as a "family room") and may include a television or a place to entertain friends. A lounge may also be used to entertain friends and may also include a television, but may be located outside of the home. Some people refer to the area around their pool as the "lounge area" or a deck as a "lounge area." A lounge may be located in a home (called "the lounge room" or "the lounge") and many times includes activities such as billiards, possibly a stocked bar, video games and/or a television. A lounge room may contain more alcohol and activities than an outdoor lounge.

14. Cafeteria. A cafeteria in the States is typically used as a place where school children eat while at school. "The kids are at lunch, they're eating the in cafeteria." Cafeteria food is considered sub par and typically unhealthy, though some schools are improving their menu, thankfully. For restaurants where a guest takes a tray and plate in front of a few different meal options they can pick from, this is referred to as "cafeteria-style" or "a cafeteria-style restaurant" as that's how cafeterias are run. Kim pointed out that some use "canteen," which is true but typically only true if you were in the military (depending on branch...for example, a canteen is only a canteen in the Army. It's called a galley in the Navy or a chow hall in the Marines) or work at a veteran's hospital. A cafe is far different from a cafeteria, as a cafe typically only serves various coffee drinks along with some pastries and possibly sandwiches or salads.

15. Sacked. This may refer to as getting fired from a job (most common) or getting tackled (less common in regular speech outside of discussing American football).

16. Plug, Socket, Outlet. Unlike Kim said, they are not synonymous. Outlet and socket are synonymous, but a plug goes into an outlet/socket.

17. Dustbin versus Trashcan. Dustbin is used regionally, I found this the most on the east coast. Everywhere else I've been calls it a "trashcan" or "garbage can" or "garbage," as in "Throw that trash in the garbage."

18. Pantyhose versus Stockings. As Kim said, pantyhose has fallen out of use for the most part, though if you said it someone would know what you mean. Stockings are more common. There are various styles and they're often denoted by style: thigh-high stockings, for example, are stockings that stop at the thigh.

19. The Underground. Being from New Jersey, which has subways, the underground refers to a place to catch the subway. Most of the US does not have subways, so the underground is only referred to if a town happens to have a historical city below the ground. Portland, Oregon is one such city, so if you ask where the underground is, you'll be shown to a place where you can tour it. Most cities do not have an underground, so if you ask for the underground, most people won't know what you're talking about and some may ask if that's some type of new dance club.

20. Fall versus Autumn. These are the same thing when describing the season between summer and winter. I have typically heard Fall.

21. Ground Floor. This is the level of the building that is located on the ground, no matter what the actual floor of the building is. Most commonly, the ground floor and first floor are the same thing, with floors beneath the ground floor being basement level floors most typically named with a number to denote how far from the ground floor it is. Example: B1 is the first basement floor and is right below the ground floor, but B4 is a basement floor four floors below the ground floor. The ground floor may also be referred to as the "level" floor, but typically using "level" is only common for parking garages. For example, if you parked your car on the first parking garage floor, you're on Level 1. If you parked it five floors up, you're on Level 5.

22. Taxi versus Cab. These are rather interchangeable and every American should know what they mean.

23. Mad. The only time Americans encounter "mad" for "crazy" is in older books or period movies. If someone said, "He must be mad," then that means the person must be angry. The use of mad typically gives way to using "angry" as one ages. Kids say they're mad, adults say they're angry, furious, upset, pissed or pissed off.

24. Jam versus Jelly versus Preserves. Each of these has their own meaning but most people don't know the difference. Jelly has fruit only in the form of fruit juice, which makes it a firmer spread. Jam's fruit comes in the form of fruit pulp or crushed fruit. Preserves are chunks of fruit in a syrup or jelly. Most people use Jam and Jelly interchangeably.

25. Jelly versus Jello/Gelatin. An American will never say "Jelly" when they want Jello or a gelatin snack. Jello and all other gelatin snacks/desserts made in the US are made from a protein (gelatin) in animal bones/skin. In many Asian countries, this gelling action comes from agar agar. Jello is a brand name but most people refer to any brand's gelatin snack as Jello.

26. Ill versus Sick. Sick is more commonly used but anyone would understand if you said, "I can't come to work today, I'm ill." Sick is more common to the point that days missed due to illness are dubbed "sick days." Ill and sick are also used to mean "awesome" in some hip hop culture.

27. Queue versus Line. The use of queue is very uncommon in the States to the point that if I were to ask how many were in the queue, most people wouldn't understand what I'm talking about. We refer to standing and waiting in succession as a line. Queue is starting to gain more popularity with companies that put you on hold when you call, saying that, "You are number X in the queue."

28. Bun. We have sweet buns, also called sticky buns. If the bun is not sweet, then it's something to put food into, like a hamburger bun or a hot dog bun.

29. Roll/Bap. I have to absolutely disagree with Linda. We refer to baps as rolls, dinner rolls or bread rolls, never as buns.

30. Swede versus Rutabega. We do use Rutabega in the States but it is a regional term. Other parts of the country use Turnip instead. Without looking it up previously, those who learned Turnip won't know what a Rutabega is and vice versa.

31. Wardrobe versus Closet. In the States, a Wardrobe is a free-standing piece of furniture for putting one's clothing into. Wardrobe is also used to refer to someone's clothing in its entirety. Example: "She has a lot of black in her wardrobe."

32. Toilet. To explain the question of why Americans disguise the toilet as something else, like a restroom, I believe it's because we associate "toilet" with stuff like urine, feces and vomit. Also, when one goes to a bathroom/restroom/whatever, that person may just want to freshen up her make-up or see if his hair looks good and not actually wish to use the toilet at all.

33. Flat versus Apartment. I'm going to have to say that Kim's use of flat is 100% regional. I've never in my life heard an American use "flat" when s/he was referring to his/her apartment. Some Americans may refer to their apartment as: "my home," "my place," or even "my house" out of habit for when they used to invite people to a house. In the States, "flat" is an adjective, not a noun.

34. Garage. As was mentioned, a garage in the UK is where your car gets fixed but in the US it's where your car is parked. This isn't always true for the US, as many people park their cars outside their garages and use their garages as storage units or even an additional bedroom. In the US, if someone's car is being repaired, we may say any of the following: "It's at the repair shop," "It's being repaired," "It's in the shop," "It's being worked on," "My car is being serviced."

35. Trousers versus Pants. I would say that we in the States use "pants" instead of "trousers," with undergarments referred to as "underwear," (used by anyone) "underpants" (typically used for boys), or "panties" (for women and girls). Long underwear, also called long johns, thermals or thermal underwear, are used underneath the outer layer of clothing in cold climates to add an extra layer of warmth. Despite having "underwear" in the name, most people wear their regular underwear underneath thermal underwear, so the layering is done: underwear, long underwear, pants/long-sleeved shirt, jacket and possibly snow pants (depending on how cold it is...snow pants are the final layer of clothes for the bottom half of the person...they're like a water resistant jacket for the legs). That said, if someone said, "I spilled coffee on my trousers," then someone would understand what that meant. We often refer to the pants by the style: jeans, khakis (for khaki-colored pants), dress pants (for occasions one should dress up for), work pants (depends on the type of work someone does), etc..

36. Holiday versus Vacation. Americans do use the word holiday, but it refers to a special day, such as Christmas or Easter. In the UK, one says, "I am going on holiday" whereas in the US, one says, "I am going on vacation." Some jobs also offer "vacation time," which you earn while you work. Every X hours worked equates to Y hours of vacation time. Vacation time is used when one needs a vacation or whenever someone doesn't want to come into work on a given day. Vacation time is paid time off, so if you earn two weeks of vacation time, that means you don't have to show up to work for two weeks and you still get paid for two weeks worth of work. This is typically only offered to people who have jobs that required a university degree to get; it is hardly standard practice and most Americans do not ever see vacation time during their working lives.

37. Gas. Someone said that "Gas in the U.K. and apparently Australia is an air like substance which fills any available space." First, this is technically wrong since gas isn't an air-like substance on account that air is a gas...not the other way around. A gas is a state of matter and this is also true in the US, but only for people who have jobs that revolve around gaseous states of matter. For the layman, gas is short for gasoline or may also refer to a gas leak. This is when a gaseous substance of some sort, such as propane, is leaking into the air. For those with certain types of stoves (also known as "cooking ranges"), incorrectly turning off the stove may leak gas into the home. This is typically noted with a question to another person, "Do you smell gas?" It is implied in that situation that it is some type of home gas, like propane, as opposed to gasoline. The US also uses the word petroleum, but typically only when referring to petroleum-based products. Example: "Don't use paraffin wax, that's made from petroleum." To touch on the gas = funny comment, it was an old saying in the US from a few decades back to say, "It's a gas!" when something was fun to do.

38. Elastoplast versus Bandaid. This one is correctly translated, but I wanted to touch on the use of plaster in lieu of elastoplast and how that translates to American English. Plaster is used when making casts, molds (moulds), or when doing work around the home patching holes in the wall.

In the UK we use the term 'in plaster' when referring to a hard cast (made with Plaster of Paris) placed on limbs with broken bones. e.g. "Her leg is in plaster following the accident."  We sometimes say "Her leg is in a cast."

39. Pub versus Bar. In the US, we have a few ways to refer to an establishment that serves alcohol as their main revenue: bar, pub, tavern or "dive bar." All of them are the same, with "dive bar" typically being a dirtier place. Sometimes these are denoted with the type. Examples include: Irish pub, biker bar, or gay bar. Bar is far more common than pub or tavern, but if someone says, "Would you like to go to the local tavern/pub to grab a drink?" then any American will know what this means. Food is typically served no matter where you go; even a dive bar has "typical" bar food like fries, hamburgers and chips. Some places only sell small bagged snacks (I saw on Shaun of the Dead that they referred to them as "nibbles"), such as bagged chips, bagged pretzels or bagged nuts/peanuts.

40. To Be Made Redundant and Sacked. To add to the US side of the list: getting sacked (we also use this), getting canned (as in, thrown in the trash can because you are no longer needed/wanted), getting pink slipped (being released from a job used to be filled out on a pink form, aka a pink slip [piece] of paper), getting fired. If a person is quitting their job, a slang way to say this is, "I put in my two weeks." For formality, many jobs require (or heavily recommend) giving the company a written notice to the company to notify them that you are quitting the job. The standard time is two weeks, which allows the company to start looking for someone to fill your position. If you leave the job abruptly, then you can say, "I quit today, didn't even put in my two weeks." This is typically considered bad behavior and is only done by people who have a hard time controlling their anger. The reason this is a bad idea is when that person looks for a new job, the potential employer may contact previous employers who won't like that they "walked off the job" like that.

41. Solicitor versus Lawyer/Attorney. A lawyer and an attorney are technically two different things, though most people wouldn't recognize that. An attorney is a person who is asked to act on behalf of another. A good example is when someone knows that he will be going into surgery followed by a long recovery, he may appoint another person to act on his behalf when it comes to paying bills or signing papers. That person is his attorney and does not have to have any legal training, but it is wise to pick a person that does. A lawyer is a person who is allowed to practice law in a courtroom situation. An attorney that practices law is an "attorney at law." For example, in the US system of justice, a person who is arrested and cannot afford a lawyer will be appointed a lawyer for free on his/her behalf. In this case, the appointed lawyer is an attorney at law because s/he is acting on behalf of the criminal and was appointed to do so.

42. Tailback versus Traffic Jam. These are correct, although someone said that a "tailback" is a position on an American football team. In case anyone cares, this position is almost always referred to as a "halfback."

43. Trainers. The US equivalent is listed as "sneakers." This is not true. The US equivalent to a trainer shoe is a running shoe or athletic shoe. A sneaker is a similarly designed shoe that provides no support for running or other sports and is only worn for fashion and comfort.

44. Bangers versus Sausages. I disagree with the US distinction that a banger is a larger sausage. Sausages come in a variety of sizes and are denoted by sausage type, such as brat (short for bratwurst) or kielbasa. Sausages made from game meats, like deer sausage or caribou sausages, also tend to be thick like bangers. The only small sausages I can even think of are breakfast sausages...all other sausages are thick like bangers.

45. White Sauce versus Gravy. It should be noted that any thick sauce made from flour or corn starch + cooking fat is considered "gravy" in the US. Our gravies may be brown or white. The white gravy we typically have is served with biscuits and sausage as "sausage gravy" and is typically found in the south or in diners (apparently called cafes or "greasy spoons" in the UK).

46. Moulting versus Shedding. The US does use molting...but it's only for birds. Birds molt, mammals shed.


I'd just like to say, I'm Scottish and we use the word 'movie' as much as any American. 'Film' is what we tend to use in critical essays and all of that, but we use both of them as equally as each other.

We also use parcel/package equallymy family tend to say package.

We also use the word suspenders for braces for trouser/tops. Most people I know call them suspenders.

We only use the word queue if we're waiting for something, e.g. in a supermarket at the checkout. We use 'line' when we're told to 'line up' outside of class etc.

We also call lifts elevators. I tend to call them elevators.

And 'minced beef', we just call it mince.

For 'pram' we also use the word 'buggy'.

We use vacation and holiday equally.

Moulting and shedding are both used also.

But that's just what I've heard/used.

Nicole

This subject has created a great deal of interest and input from visitors.  For ease of use these have been split into several different pages including:-

Differences between Australian, British and American English.

Different meanings for American and British words.

a second list of words and phrases which have different meanings.  

Then there are all the suggestions of language differences (23 and 4) which have been sent in by visitors which are shown on three more pages.


 

 

 

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