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I have recently received some more interesting differences in the language we use, this time between Australia, USA and U.K. and even India and beyond.

Ann, June and Pat Isaacs have confirmed that Christmas Crackers are called "bon-bons" in Australia, although the term "crackers" is sometimes used.

Niklas from Mozambique

I'm a Swede living in Mozambique. Every eight weeks we travel the 90 km's to South Africa to "chill out" for a couple of days. Things are different there; even the English language differs a lot from the one we Europeans know.

A barbeque, for example, is a "Braai", wherever you go!

Another word you always encounter as a tourist is the "Robot", meaning a traffic light.

They say: turn to the "right at the robot" (and not: turn to the "lite at the lite", as in Hong-Kong ;-)

Renny J. Thomas has sent in two new phrases with differing meanings -

1.     Here in India, we use the word 'Freak Out' (its kind of slang) when we want to say that we are going to have a party or a bash. In the US, I believe 'Freak Out' means doing drugs, losing your control and kind of things. They just use the term 'Party' as in 'We plan to party tonight'. In India, people would say - 'We are going to freak out to night'. Not sure what it would mean in UK. I got to know this during one of my conversations with our client (from the US).

In the U.K. "freak out" means to go slightly crazy, wild or to have a strong emotional experience.

2.     The second one - 'Madam'. In India, this is used to address a lady with respect. But in the US, I believe it has a very different meaning. In the US, I believe a Madam is someone who runs a business of ............ (ill repute) They use ma'am if I am right. Addressing a lady as 'Madam' in the US can get you into deep trouble if I am correct.

In the U.K. we may use the term "Madam" when addressing a letter to an unknown lady and, occasionally sales staff in a shop may say "madam" but this is becoming more unusual in today's disrespectful society. The term "a madam" is used for a woman in charge of prostitutes.

While it's true that Americans use the noun "madam" to refer to a female keeper of a house of ill repute, the word still has currency in other situations.  As a term of direct address, "Madam" is still sometimes used as a polite, but firm, means of commanding attention in a difficult encounter, as in:  "Madam, would you please remove your hands from my throat!"  In correspondence, the term is still used salutations, though sometimes spelled with a final "e":  "Dear Sir or Madame".

Richard A. Swanson

As Renny J. Thomas wrote.. he and his mates use "Freak out" to have a party... I think it is confined to them only... Nowhere in India, I have heard such slangs to have party... Everywhere people use we'll go to party or somewhat like that.. even when they speak in their own languages, they say, the word "PARTY"... Moreover, we hardly use slangs in India, we use very formal, "correct" but not "good" english, we are more concerned about the "formal" shape and grammar of the language which is same as that of "Queens English".

However, because of the influence of our mother tongue, we use some words differently, as we directly translate our thoughts to english, so it may sound strange to english ears, like we use "X Uncle" in place of "Uncle X", "Village" in place of "Countryside", "backside of the house" in place of "Back of the House"

In some Hi-tech places like Bangalore or Hyderabad people use American English nowadays. Still, they call, the stranger or shopkeepers as "Boss", like english "Guv'nor".. The word "Cab" is used as in USA, however most people still say it taxi.... 

Funny thing, although its officially wrong to say, Most people in India use "Title" as "Last name", almost everybody thinks married women use "Mrs", they can't use "Ms"; Its your gender that makes the title like "Shri or Mr" for lads, "Mrs or Ms/ Kumari" for ladies..... no question for Dr, or "Sir"(Are there any "Sir" in India)...

Very few people call a doctor as doctor when s/he talks with the doctor. We always use "Sir" or "Madam" ("Ma'am is considered casual, so not preferred").. Not only doctors, but every officers.

In Machinery we use more American names, like Truck (Lorry is the old kinds of trucks running since British days), use trailer, Sedan, Omni, etc.

Shantanu Gogoi (ASSAM)

  • Australians call the soda 7up "lemonade" and they don't use the term "soda".

I think I am right in saying that in the U.K. 7up is called just that.   Lemonade is mainly used for a colourless, sweet carbonated drink although it is also sometimes used for a fizzy lemon flavoured drink (like bitter lemon).  Soda is a colourless, carbonated drink originally made from Bicarbonate of Soda, which is used to mix with spirits such as "whisky & soda".  This is the drink used in "soda syphons" - which I suppose is fairly obvious.

The above were sent in by Laura Blackwell who is an American living in Australia.

Gavin Smith has kindly elaborated on the above -

Lemonade in the UK is always fizzy lemon drink, just like orangeade is always orange flavour, cherryade is cherry, limeade is lime etc (none of these drinks usually contain fruit though)! It can either be colourless or cloudy yellow (called ‘traditional lemonade’, which does usually have some real lemon in it). 7Up is just a lemonade brand, like Schweppes. Similar to Fanta and Tango both making Orangeade. So to UK ears, Americans would be right to call it 7Up and Australians would be right to call it Lemonade. In the UK we use either.

We also don’t buy coke brands; if I asked for coke I could get a Coca-Cola, a Pepsi, a Virgin Cola or anything else - unless I specified. I guess Americans refer to brands instead of products, just like ‘a Xerox’ instead of a photocopier and ‘a Hoover’ instead of a vacuum cleaner.

Soda water in the UK is just the carbonated tap water that I use as a mixer in bars. It’d be confusing if someone asked me for a glass of Soda in the UK; it just means ‘fizzy’, it doesn’t state which type of fizzy drink you want. You can ask me for a ‘vodka, lime and soda’ though, and you’d be fine.

Carbonated mineral water isn’t ever Soda though; it’s called ‘sparkling’ mineral water. Non-carbonated is called ‘still’ mineral water.

Noah Duncan has kindly contributed the following on the above subject -

I am an American living in Michigan. I wanted to clarify that in the American Mid-West and West, Lemonade only applies to the drink made from lemon juice, sugar, and water. Any thing carbonated is referred to as Pop or Soda-Pop. On the East coast carbonated beverages are referred to as a soda. In the American South all carbonated beverages are referred to as a Coke, when in a restaurant the waitress would ask you what kind of Coke you wanted.

The only exception I know of to this in America is the carbonated juices which are referred to as sparkling juices, at least in the Mid-West. "Soda water" is called just that where I come from, and it is only used in making drinks (usually ones involving alcohol). Brands in America are used to distinguish what specific type one is talking about, with the exception (of course) of the south and Coke.

I'm on the east coast of America, more specifically Boston. I've never heard a Coke-A-Cola be referred to as a soda-pop, we call them soda or, more commonly in Boston, tonic, just to clarify. 

Also, we call the place we buy shampoo, lotion, and medicines either a pharmacy, or more commonly, a drug store. 

And the sugar spun treat called Fairy Floss in Australia and Candy Floss in the UK, is known as both names and Cotton Candy in the US, or at least in Boston. 

Although we would address a woman of power as Madam in a letter we, especially children, say ma'am for addressing a woman and miss for a young lady whose name you don't know. If you know their name, you would say Mrs., Ms., or Miss. (last name). Same rule with men, only using sir or Mr. (last name).

Liz Smiles


  • Australians label food "beautiful" whereas in America this word is only used to describe an object like a person or a place.

  • "Arvo" is used in Australia meaning "Afternoon", American's just say "Afternoon".

  • "Homely" means ugly to Americans whereas it means cosy, unpretentious, unsophisticated, or unassuming in the U.K. Contributed by Frances.

"Homely" in America does not mean ugly, simply very plain, like a woman who is not pretty, but not necessarily ugly, she would be called homely.  Anon

The following have all been contributed by Anne who, I am sure you will agree, has a way with words:-    

  • In Australia, "pissed" means drunk. In America, it means very angry.

    This is an interesting one as in the U.K. "pissed" means drunk and "pissed off" means angry.

  • "Aubergine" is the word everyone but America uses for a type of large vegetable with purple skin. Americans call it "eggplant". I have no idea why.

Both "aubergine" and "eggplant" are used in New Zealand and Australia. In my experience, eggplant is more common.     Amanda

  • In Australia, a "napkin" is a women's sanitary product. In America, it's a piece of paper or cloth you use to wipe your face and hands when you eat. Ask for a "napkin" at an Australian restaurant... heheheheh.

  • In Australia, a "nappie" is what you put on your baby's bottom to catch the poo. In America,  it's called a "diaper".

  • In Australia, "barbie" is what you put beef, shrimp and chicken on to grill it outside. In America, it's an anatomically incorrect female doll that comes in a pink box.

  • In England and Australia, a "flat" is a place people live with one or two bedrooms. In America, this is called an apartment.

  • In Australia, the roads are called "bitumen". Americans have no idea what this is. It confuses them. The American term is "asphalt". This confuses Australians.

Yet again I have been brought to task over the above entries.  Aymie from Australia disagrees with some of the above definitions as follows:-

Firstly, Australians both say 'pissed' to mean angry or drunk, depending on context, we also say 'pissed off' for angry.

We say 'eggplant' not Aubergeine, I've never met someone to call it that.

A napkin is a piece of paper used to clean hands or face, not some woman's sanitary product, we call those 'pads' or 'tampons', so dancing around the words there. :) Very, very rarely it may be called a 'sanitary napkin,' but so rarely its never said but the meaning would be understood, if that makes sense.

We do know the difference between a barbie and a Barbie doll. It is called a barbie or BBQ, and the doll is called a Barbie. It all comes down to context.

We use the word 'apartments' more often than flats, although you might say 'a block of flats.

We use both the words asphalt and bitumen, depending on which ever you like to say more I suppose. We do NOT get confused when Americans say asphalt.

I hope that has cleared a little up, I do love to look at your website, it is very interesting, but I do not like to see these lies

  • Jenny Bone points out that in the UK this is called Tarmac or Tarmacadam - she also goes on to say that this term comes from the man who invented it (Mr. Mac Adam) who is now the owner of the Tarmac Company.

  • The place you buy shampoo, cough syrup and lotion is called a "pharmacy" in America and a "chemist" in Australia. In America, a chemist is someone who mixes chemicals in a laboratory.

In America while a 'pharmacy' may be used to describe your chemists, we usually just refer to it as a drug store.                    Anon

  • In Australia, the drugs you buy off the shelf  at the chemist's for a sniffle are likely to contain codeine, while the isopropyl alcohol is kept behind the counter in tiny, tiny brown glass bottles. In America, codeine is kept in locked controlled areas and dispensed by prescription only, while the isopropyl alcohol is sold off the shelf in big plastic bottles for 99 cents.

  • Americans chew cinnamon gum, eat red-hots and fireballs (cinnamon candies) and have cinnamon-scented candles. Australians only sell cinnamon in bottles in the grocery store.

  • Australians put beetroot on burgers, in salads and as a decoration in fancy meals. Americans barely know what it is.

  • In America, Woolworth's is a clothing store. In Australia, it is affectionately known as "Woolie's" and sells food.

  • The spun sugar "treat" is Candy Floss in Britain, Cotton Candy in America and Fairy Floss in Australia.

Malcolm has written to say -

"Arriving in Australia some 30 years ago, we were casually informed by a neighbour that his wife was 'in bed with a wog'.

Coming from the UK, we wondered why he treated this affair so lightly. Only later did we learn that she just had a touch of 'flu.

'Wog' in Strine is an infection (ie, a UK 'bug') - to us it was a highly abusive and politically incorrect term for a foreigner (usually of Arab or Asian origin).

[Incidentally, Durex tape was very much still in use in 1980 and sometimes caused me amusement or embarrassment in the office.]"

Amber Budden (Australia) has the following observations on the subject:-

A clarification on the "Napkin" thing - we call them "serviettes". Not sure what they are called in the UK. Some people will call them a napkin, it's another American phrase that is seeping into the culture.

I loved when I was in the UK that they called the petrol station a "Garage". Garage is used for a couple things, but mostly for a place where the car is repaired (eg - the car's in the garage this weekend, can I borrow yours?)

Beer mat - in Australia a beer mat is a mat that lays across the top of the counter of the bar/pub. I believe in the UK a beer mat is a "coaster" (round bit of cardboard that you put under your drink).

Some other fun Aussie stuff, not sure how many of it is the same or well known over there but:

Stubby Holder - what you put your can of drink in to keep it cold and your hands warm. Made out of wetsuit material usually.

Stubbies - can be a bottle of beer (I'll have a stubby) or the short shorts that AFL players wear.

Tinny - can of beer

"It'll go ya" - it will attack you (as in, "don't stir up the dog or it'll go ya". Incidentally stir up = wind up/agitate. Not sure if that's a universal term)

She'll be right. - "I hit my arm, but she'll be right". Means "it'll be OK". Can be said about almost anything. The cars playing up, but she'll be right. I have a sore head but she'll be right. This report is due in 30 minutes, but she'll be right. Etc.

No worries - not a problem. I mention this one because it's so widely used here, but I'm not sure if it's used in other places.

"Esky" = "Cooler" (the thing you put your ice and drinks in when you are going out for the day)

Quilt = doona.

"Knock off" = "finish". Eg "I knock off in 5 minutes". "knock off time is almost here". "I knocked off an entire pizza last night".

"Beer-O-Clock" = Knock off time :D

Thongs = Flip Flops. A Thong as Americans see it (the underwear) is called a G-String here. Some people might call a G string a thong, but mostly thongs go on your feet and g strings on your butt. Puts a new spin on the "Thong Song" that was put out a few years back.  We never say Flip Flops. We know what it means but don't say it.

Dummy = Pacifier

Road Train = Lorry.

Ute = what an american might call a truck.

Capsicum = Bell Pepper or Pepper. A pepper here is a chilli pepper.

Aymie was pretty spot on about a few of her comments - we know what a barbie is and what a Barbie is, an eggplant is an eggplant (used to grow them in the backyard), etc, etc. My only bone of contention is that I disagree about apartment/flat. The majority of people I know say Flat not Apartment. Apartment is considered an American word by most of the people I know. this could be a state-wide difference. For example:

In South Aust. we have "Three Corner Jacks". In Queendsland I think they are called "Bindis" and in other states also called "prickers" or Prickles. SA also has Star droppers and we say off instead of awff (just kidding QLD ;))

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:-

Same words but different meaning

a chart listing some of the differences between the more commonly used British/American words and phrases

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

Then there are all the suggestions of language differences (2 , 3 and 4) which have been sent in by visitors which are shown on three more pages.


Know of any more examples - then please send them in - june@hintsandthings.co.uk



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