Understanding English (UK)

It’s hard to believe there can sometimes be a language barrier between me and Sean, considering we speak the same language, but sometimes I don’t know what he’s talking about. Spelling and pronunciation are already issues because American’s thought the letter Z needed more attention and we dropped the use of U from so many words. While I have come to recognize (notice my use of Z instead of spelling it as, recognise) many differences and some of them I use, many of them I refuse to adopt because they don’t make sense to me. So to give you all an idea of where my confusion comes from here is a list of some of the many differences between American and UK English:

-Sweaters = Jumpers
-Tank Tops = Vest
-Vests = Waistcoat
-Car Trunk = Boot
-Car Hood = Bonnet
-Underwear = Pants
-Pants = Trousers
-Highway = Motorway
-Sneakers = Trainers
-Diaper = Nappy
-Pacifier = Dummy
-Parking Lot = Car Park
-Pharmacy = Chemist
-Baked Potato = Jacket Potato
-Broil = Grill
-Potato Chips = Crisps
-French Fries = Chips
-Closet = Wardrobe
-Faucet = Tap
-Stove = Cooker
-A line you stand in = Queue
-Flashlight = Torch
-Trashcan = Bin
-Restroom = Toilet
-Halfway through any hour ( Ex: 8:30, we would say eight-thirty) = Half eight
-Biscuits are cookies, but some of those cookies just look like crackers to me.
-Puddings are desserts and sweets, including puddings but there’s also meat pies called puddings.
-Tea is tea, but tea can also be dinner, but it can also be afternoon tea or high tea, both of which also involve foods like tiny little sandwiches and cakes.

A typical British greeting, “hiya, you alright?” = This means hello. It does not mean they want to know if you’re alright. They don’t care if you’re alright, just repeat it back to them and move on.

If you use an American term that isn’t recognized recognised by the Brit you are speaking to, you can expect a blank stare. Thankfully Sean has spent enough time in America that he knows what I’m talking about, but I still sometimes nod my head in fake comprehension or give a stink eye behind his back when he uses a term that I don’t know.


7 thoughts on “Understanding English (UK)

  1. So if what you call a tank top is what we (Brits) call a vest, what do you call what we call a tank top? Love it! We are from the UK, but live in South Africa – again, we supposedly speak the same language, but there are also some confusing differences. The fact that they call traffic lights ‘Robots’ here really threw me when we first arrived.


    1. I have no clue, I’ll have to ask my husband what he refers to as a tank top! Our neighbors were having a party and I was hanging out and speaking with them and their friends and I mentioned how warm the weather was when I first moved here and that I could wear a tank top comfortably and I got the most blank stares until I described it and everyone said, oooooh a vest! Learning all the differences is interesting, but then I wonder why we all don’t just use the same terms!


      1. What we call a tank top is a fetching knitted item often favoured by academic types (and were more widely popular in the 1970’s). It’s just like a wooly jumper (or as you would call it a sweater), but sleeveless. Usually v-neck – but no buttons, that puts us back into cardigan territory. I’d love to know what you call them.


  2. Oh I love this post – some of my favourite translation are in there. Thank you for clarifying “Broil” which always confuses me as it sounds so like “Boil”, apparently grilling is only done on the BBQ!

    The US name for what we call a tank top has in the past been a “wife beater” or “undershirt” from back in the day (US expression) when men wore them only under their shirts and stripped of the shirt to give the ‘old lady’ (English slang) a thump. But my American husband calls his a tank top (yay no wife beating here!)

    My favourite expression is how our British spanner becomes an American monkey wrench, and I have replaced “hi y’alright?” with the US equivalent of “hey, how ya doing’?” and find the reply “good thanks and you?” covers both 🙂


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