Vocabulary Swap Between America And Britain

For a bit of hapless chatter on your way to life and times from America to the U.K., take a look at the following. Though the information endeavors to be true, hopefully it will also bring a smile. All this brings back those greatest memories of our years in the mother land. If, indeed you are anticipating a lengthy stay in Britain, these notes may actually be helpful as well.

  • Attitude

First, I must say that keeping a pleasant attitude is imperative. Be willing to laugh at yourself and along with the natives regarding the differences in your languages; these distinctions are going to be glaringly obvious no matter how you hard you try to mix and mingle. Try to avoid stressful situations when possible; it is certainly much easier to keep your cool than to strain to retrieve it.

  • Examples

Food: A cookie in the U.S. is a biscuit in the U.K., whereas a French fry is a chip; thus the infamous and superbly delicious menu item, Fish ‘n Chips. And at a sandwich shop you may purchase a bag of crisps, instead of a bag of potato chips. In Britain, tomato sauce equals ketchup, so, unless you really love ketchup, don’t order spaghetti with tomato sauce. For the brave shopper and designated cook, preparing Ratatouille consists of tomatoes, onions, and aubergines. Aubergine equals an eggplant to an American; it is a word borrowed from the French.

Traffic and Cars: In Britain, highways are Motorways indicated with an M on a map. On the other hand, a Dual Carriageway is a road with two lanes going in each direction; a four lane highway in America. Probably one of the scariest traffic patterns are found where there is a “round about.” Some of these actually exist in towns in the U.S., but usually drivers have no idea what to do with them so they just continually drive around until no traffic remains, then they slip off onto what is hopefully the correct exit, hopefully without a collision. In England, drivers use them to turn around or find the correct exit. While going around, use the left lane; when exiting, safely maneuver to the right lane, and then by all means exit. For the driver, parts of a car include the bonnet, or hood; and the boot, or trunk. The latter terms are American. Pedestrians cross in a striped Zebra Crossing. Of course there have been scores of silly jokes made of the English crosswalks such as, “But Mom, where are the Zebras?”

Miscellaneous: There must always be a miscellaneous section. A flashlight in the U.S. of A. is a torch; an elevator, a lift; and a drugstore or pharmacist is a chemist. When the weather begins to chill, a jumper is usually just what you need; that is a long sleeve pullover or lightweight sweater. This last item probably needs no introduction: soccer is football in England, and English (or European) soccer bears little resemblance to American soccer, at least when crossing over from high school soccer coached in Great Britain to America.

  • Here and Happy

Hopefully you have enjoyed this bit of bloke (friendly) chatter between the two countries. Assuredly, there are many more examples you may even be a bit embarrassed to discover, but with the right outlook on the whole situation, you will become increasingly more comfortable. After all, without their differences, why vacation away from home? Enjoy your stay in Great Britain, no matter the length of time you have.

Gregory Thomas is a linguistics expert and travel fanatic who often blogs in his free time. He covers a wide array of topics ranging from learning new languages to the benefits of accent reduction courses.

Photo Credit: :: arshad ::