Story and photos by Manos Angelakis
Speaking in Dialect.
It is often said that the UK and the USA are "two nations separated by a common language". I originally thought that it was said by Winston Churchill, although many sources attribute the statement to George Bernard Shaw or Oscar Wilde.
No matter who said it, it is a fact that important linguistic differences between the two countries exist. H.L. Mencken, author of The American Language (1936), wrote that "When two-thirds of the people who use a certain language decide to call it a freight train instead of a goods train, they are 'right'; then the first is correct usage and the second dialect." British lexicographer Ernest Gowers disagrees believing that the British were the first to speak the language, therefore their usage is definitive.
Below is a list of expressions that could be helpful as they have a different meaning in each language and could be useful in decoding what a speaker is saying, depending on their country of origin.
In Britain you go to a chemist, in America you go to a pharmacy.
In Britain, if you order “chips” you get French fries; to get potato chips, you have to ask for “crisps”.
And then there's “rubber”, which in some places is an eraser, and in others it's a condom. In the British countryside, “rubbers” are rain boots.
In Britain pudding refers to dessert in general, but if you see “black pudding” or “blood pudding” in a menu, it is actually sausage.
A “lift” in London is an American “elevator”.
An American “truck” is a “lorry” in England.
A jumper is in America a dress-like garment with no sleeves, often worn over a blouse or shirt; in Britain it is a long-sleeved knit garment, usually worn over other layers i.e. a sweater.
A young woman is a “bird” in Britain and a “chick” in New York City.
The rear end in Britain is a “bum” not an “ass”; an ass is grey, has long ears and eats grass according to the well known limeric.
To get a bottle of wine or harder stuff, you go in England to an “off license” while in America you would go to a “liquor store”.
In America you talk about “guys” while in Britain you talk about “blokes”.
In America, if you don’t have a ticket to an event, you go to a “scalper”; in Britain you go to a “ticket tout”. And you can always watch in England an event on the “telly” and curse all those “adverts”, instead of “TV and ads”.
In Britain, you put “petrol” in your car, while in America you put “gas”. Your car in England has a “bonnet” and a “boot”; in the States it has a “hood” and a “trunk”.
In London you walk on “the pavement” while in New York you walk on “the sidewalk”. And you cross the road at the “crossing” in some areas referred to as “zebra crossing” (crossings in England always have stripes) not the “crosswalk”.
A “subway” in Britain is a pedestrian underpass; of course in Manhattan it is the underground train. The underground train in London is “The Tube”.
A trash-can is in Britain a “rubbish bin”. The tap is “a faucet”.
In Britain "vests" refers to undershirts, and what Americans would call vests are referred to in Britain as “waistcoats”.
“Pants” in America are called “trousers” in Britain. American “suspenders” are British “braces”.
In London “I’ll knock you up in the morning” means I’ll wake you up by knocking on your door.
A “pack of fags” is, in London, slang for a pack of cigarettes.
In London you “telephone” while in the States you “call”.
I hope these examples come handy… at least you’ve, hopefully, learned something new.
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