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Examples of language differences between countries and states

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has sent in the following interesting information on the use of

verbs are used differently in the UK and in USA.

would answer the question ‘Have you got a pen? with ‘Yes, I do’; Britishers
say ‘Yes, I have’ (unless, of course, the question is worded ‘Do you have a
pen?’ !)

are also differences with the past tenses of the verb ‘to wake’. Americans
say ‘waked’ and sometimes ‘had woked’; in the UK the preferred equivalents
are ‘woke’
 and ‘woken’.”

adds –

I don’t know where that Malcom
Bale person is from, but “waked” and “had woked” are
most certainly NOT the preferred past tense of “to wake”.
“Waked” and “had woked” would generally only be heard
from rural dialects, small children still learning grammar,
Black/African-American dialects, and maybe Hispanics. “Woke” and
“woken” are still the preferred words in the US.


and Alex comments

I have never heard anyone in the
US say “had woked” — are you sure about that? I’ve heard
“waked,” but I think “woke” and “woken” are
more common over here too.

In commonwealth countries- Get down; in US- always get out

In India- We say Happy Independence Day; in US- Happy 4th of July


Linda Weber saw my
phrase “now it’s down to you” on the CD Rom page and pointed out that in America
they say “now it’s up to you”, this started
thinking as we also say “it’s up to you”. 
then did I put “it’s down to you”?  I tried to work out when we use each
expression. As I couldn’t come up with an answer I looked them up in the dictionary –

up to = incumbent on e.g. it is up to you to say

down to = be attributable to or be the
responsibility of

I still don’t know the answer – it would appear
both fit the bill.

writes as follows:-

I spent 6 weeks living in the UK
for work this past summer and got a hell of a kick out of the difference in
lingo. I brought back some of it to share with my fellow Americans, my
favorite being the use of “cheers” for everything from “thank
you” to “good bye”. I use it all the time and it drives my
friends nuts, when we are out, because the wait staff usually have no clue
why I would be saying “cheers” to them. Cheers in the States is
used only in drinking situations, similar to a toast or a prost.

Tony Smith, who was
born in Leamington Spa which is approximately 10 miles south of Coventry in the U.K. has
kindly sent in the following observations:-

“As a child I only ever heard “I
guess” (as in “I guess he was angry”) in American films/TV programmes and I
assumed it was an “Americanism”.  However, as I grew up and found work in
Coventry I heard the phrase more and more and began to realise that it was probably of
British origin (albeit localised). 

Some of the people using the phrase were of an
older generation and not at all keen on the influences that our American cousins seemed to
be having on the language.

Another one I believe may have originated here
is “swell”, meaning “good” – although I have nothing to support this
at all.*

For the sake of fairness I should add that I am
aware of the very large contribution made from the U.S. to the English language (re. Bill
Bryson et al) and one of my favourites is “gotten” which I think should be used
more.  Some of my colleagues would recoil in horror!”

* Marion
comments as follows:-

“The term
“swell” comes from the 17th century “A Swell” which
was a term used for a young man of high fashion. It was also used to
describe those “Gents” who enjoyed the membership of an
exclusive London club……you had to be a good guy to get in, so I think
it stems from that.”


There are also differences in language within
countries, here are some contributions from Canada (courtesy of Mrs.
R. Lehman

The metal pieces put on the bottom of shoes to
prevent them wearing out are called BLAKEYS in British Columbia, CLICKERS
in Alberta and Saskatchewan and TAPS in Manitoba and Newfoundland.

Doughnuts – In British Columbia a jam
filled doughnut is called a JELLY or JELLIED DOUGHNUT;
  in Alberta and Saskatchewan BISMARKS; and in Manitoba – JAM

Baby’s pacifier (or dummy) is called a SUCKEE
in British Columbia and Saskatchewan but in Newfoundland it is known as a DUMB
(I won’t tell you what this would mean in the UK!)

Nik Shearer advises this is
known as a “dummy tit” in Scotland.

GARBAGE in Canada is know as TRASH
in the U.S.A. and RUBBISH in the U.K.

In India they use the word SHIFT
when moving from one apartment to another, whereas in the U.K. and America the term used
would be MOVE.

Thanks to Alpesh
Khushalchand Shukia for this one.

Nik Shearer
informs me that the term “flitting” is used when
moving house – as in “I’m flitting”.  I am sure in the South of England
this would be confused with the term “moonlight flit” which means leaving
without paying your bills.!!!

In the U.S. a ‘fag’ is a gay man and I heard a
story once of an English bloke in the US politely asking a burly bloke at a bar if he
“had any fags”*** – he very nearly got punched!

***Nik shearer
rightly points out that, in order to explain the above sentence, I should have mentioned
that, in the U.K. the word “fag” is also the slang word for a cigarette!!

Another great phrase is “keep your pecker up”, very
British and more or less means “be positive/keep your head up”.  In the US
it is down right rude as ‘pecker’ refers to the male anatomy.  I recall a story of a
British Edition of a particular newspaper forwarding a telegram to a journalist through
its US Edition with those words on it – it was rejected on the grounds that the telegram
was obscene ( a long while ago but it highlights the difference!).

Date – British is day/month/year whereas in the USA it is
month/day/year.  This can be particularly annoying on websites when you come across a
download site that has files dated 10/01/01 and you don’t know if it’s the 10th of January
or the 1st of October and can’t tell if it’s a recent file or not.

There are also many spelling differences e.g. optimise,
customise, analyse etc.  American English replaces the “s” with a
“z”.   Flavour, colour, humour, armour etc. have the “U” dropped
in American English and Tyres are Tires in the US.

(This has created a lot of problems
for me on this site – I am British so spell words one way whilst a number of my
contributors are American so they spell it another.  Hence the mix of spellings
throughout the site.)

A cheque is ‘check’ in US which makes it confusing if you
want to check a check for mistakes.

A car tyre is spelt “tire” so you could quite
easily ‘tire of fixing the tire”.

My thanks to Nik
Shearer for taking the time and trouble to send in all the above.-

An American asking for “Sprouts” would probably mean “Bean sprouts” whereas
in the U.K. this would mean “Brussel sprouts” (which is a small green leaved

Thank you Richard

Durex in the U.K.
is a make of “condom”, whereas, I believe in Australia this is a self adhesive

advises – “Durex is not adhesive tape in Australia, its a condom brand
(probably the best known one) same as in the UK!”

Again I stand
corrected as it would appear Durex adhesive tape is no longer available in

In the U.S. if something is “Mickey Mouse” it is flimsy, not good quality or just hurriedly
put together.  In Australia if someone says they will “Mickey Mouse” it for
you they mean they will make it perfect.

American businessmen tend to use the term “bird” as an airplane.  As in ‘I just got off the
bird this morning’.  In Britain “bird” means a girl – another one to get
you into trouble!

Knocked up” in
the U.S. means pregnant whereas in the U.K. this means to wake someone up by knocking on
the door.  (We do now use this term to mean ‘pregnant’).

XXXX in Australia
is a brand of beer in the U.S. it is a brand of condom – whoops that slippery slope again.

Thanks to Karen for
sending in these examples! and to Cassie for the correction.

John Conolley reckons that comparative philology should include the study of rude terms and has
sent in a few to get the ball rolling.

In the U.S., “fanny” means a girl’s backside. I gather it means something
rather different in England. (as this is a family site
I would rather not elaborate on this one!)

The word “bollocks” is not used in the U.S. It’s merely “balls.”

“Git” is not used, except far up in the hills, where dog breeders might use
it to refer to a dog. (In the UK this term is used to refer to
someone considered to be stupid – rightly or wrongly!)

“Pillock,” which I’ve heard on British TV shows isn’t used in the U.S., and I
don’t even know what it means (here again its a term used meaning
“idiot” or “fool”)

“Knickers” is rare in the U.S., and would mean the old-fashioned boy’s
trousers (excuse me, I almost typed “pants”) that are cut off and tied
(buttoned?)halfway between the ankles and the knees. (In the U.K. this is a  word for
ladies undergarments more modernly known as pants.)

“Bloody” is sometimes used in the U.S. by accretion
from the British, but no American knows what it really means, or why the British consider
it a dirty word. (more information on the history of swear words can
found at http://www.straightdope.com/mailbag/mbloody.html 

I’m aware that the word “kaks” is used in some parts of
England for trousers, but few Americans have ever heard it. (As far
as I am aware not widely used in the U.K. either, not in the South East anyway!)

Apparently “keks” is a very common British word in
the North of the country.  In Sweden “Keks” means biscuits.  
“Strides” is also used in Sweden for trousers (as in Australia!).

Thanks to Simon Francis for this information.

And the best one of all, of course, is “arse,” which lost its “r”
by being filtered through New England English, to become “ass,” which evidently
strikes the British as odd. (

“ass” in the U.K. is a sort of Donkey although in some British dialects it could
have a different meaning!)

The next contribution is a little risque but no
offence intended.  In Australia the phrase “I have the s****” means
“I’m annoyed, angry/mad/cross”, however, in the U.K. this would mean “I
have diarrhoea!”.

Thanks to Effie Makris
for this one

It has been pointed out by J. Bunce that the
term “gas” used in American English for fuel is, in fact, an abbreviation of the
word “gasoline”.

I remember once when talking to an American
colleague I mentioned my boss was “abroad” and could not understand the laughter
at the other end of the phone line.  After a little thought I realised he had thought
I was referring to my male superior as “a broad!!!”.

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

Differences between Australian,
British and American English

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

Differences between some of
the more common British and American words and

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.