Friday, May 11, 2012

British English Vs. American English

Recently I had a conversation with a British friend who is part of our group for a month.  As we were talking, I asked her, "Are you fixin' to leave?"  (Yes, I am from California I said "fixin to"...I sometimes surprise myself when I say that phrase.)  Looking at me with a confused facial expression, she said, "I have no idea what you just said.  What does that even mean?"  Then I had to translate my momentary Southern American English to "normal American" English.

A few weeks back I was talking to my mom on Skype.  I told her how I had some left over chips, so I put them in the fridge to eat at a later time.  Confused, she asked, "Why did you put your chips in the fridge?????"  Then I remembered - chips in America are not the same as the chips in England!

What are some other differences between American and British English?  I've started a collection of words and phrases that differ and thought I would post some for you to enjoy yourself!

(Left word will be British, and the right word will be translated into American.)

  • Mate - Friend
  • Flat - Apartment
  • Tea Towel - What you use to dry your dishes
  • Nappy - Diaper
  • Lift - Elevator
  • Jumper - Sweater
  • Jim-Jams - Pajamas (I think this one is my all time favorite!)
  • Crisps - Chips
  • Chips - French Fries
  • Candy Floss - Cotton Candy
  • Finz - Gold Fish (You have nooo idea how excited I was to find my favorite snack!!)
  • Straight Away - Right away (For example, "I need to do my homework straight away/right away!)
  • Mobile - Cell Phone
  • Mum - Mom
  • Rubbish - Trash
  • Courgette - Zucchini
  • Trolley - Shopping Cart/Buggy
  • Queue - Line
  • Trousers - Pants
  • Pants - Underwear (Often I use the phrase, "Put on your big boy/girl pants and deal with it!"...I guess either translation works with the word "pants", but I work really hard to remember to say trousers instead!)
  • Cinema or Film - Movies (Apparently this word is very American.)

Some of those words I've noticed myself adapting to, but also the words, "proper" (Example: "Do you have the proper book for this assignment?")  and "brilliant".  And just like my British friend had to tell me, "I have no idea what you just said"...There are times when the situation is reversed.  Sometimes I look at my British friends with the same confused look with the question of, "What does that even mean?"  Sometimes figuring out what food products are called here are even an adventure (such as the zucchini being called a "courgette").

I hope you've enjoyed your first lesson on British English Vs. American English.  If I remember, I'll try to share more with you another time.  I only wish I could tell you how to pronounce words that America and England have in common.  The only one I can explain easily on my blog and in written form is the word "idea".  Many British people I've heard use this word say, "idear" instead.  A lot of their "er" parts in words also turn into an "a".  For example, "Jumper" would sound more like "Jumpa" ("Did you bring your jumpa?").

Now that you've learned some of their phrases and words, it is time to start practicing your British accent.  Maybe you can do better than me!  Apparently, I am "rubbish" at imitating how the British speak! ;-)

The Travelin' Chick,


  1. LOL, my mum has been on this side of the pond for 67 years and still adds the er.

  2. Love the lesson! Love you, kid! Mom

  3. Kara - Yeah, I'm sure not all people who have lived here nearly all their lives drop their "ers", but most British people I've met do.

    Mom - You'll get to have a personal lesson soon, which is MUCH better than my blog! I am excited!

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