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American English vs. United Kingdom English

Earline Fultz

On the message board we had a contest to find common words that are different in US English and English English. These are the results. See the discussion.

"England and America are two countries divided by a common language."
- George Bernard Shaw, 1856 - 1950 -

United States United Kingdom Notes

Baby Things

crib cot  
diaper nappy  
nursing breast feeding  
pacifier dummy  
prenatal classes antenatal classes  
rocking a baby nursing a baby  
stroller pushchair/pram/buggy  

Body Parts

bangs (hair) fringe  
brush your teeth clean your pegs quite archaic, not really everyday
butt/ booty bum  
legs pins  

Clothing

dress frock  
fanny pack bum bag  
garters suspenders ladies' lingerie
off the rack off the peg  
pajamas pyjamas (spelling)  
panties (underwear) lollies, spankies, knickers or knicks  
pants trousers  
panty hose tights  
run (in a stocking) ladder  
suspenders braces  
sweater jumper  
tennis shoes/sneakers trainers  
underpants pants  
undershirt vest  

Driving/Walking/Transportation

billboards hoardings  
blinker indicator  
disembark, to get off to alight  
driver's side off side  
drunk driving drink driving  
exit way out  
flat puncture  
gas petrol  
gas station garage  
headlights headlamps  
hood bonnet  
passenger side near side  
pedestrian crossing zebra crossing  
rent (a car) hire (a car)  
round trip ticket return ticket  
RV caravan  
speed bump sleeping policeman  
subway underground  
traffic circle, rotary roundabout  
train station railway station  
truck lorry  
trunk boot  
underpass subway  
windshield windscreen  
yield (on a sign) give way  

Expressions/Sayings

An expression of general annoyance Oh! Bollocks! Could actually be quite offensive if used without care!
Bye! Cheerio! (bit 1950s), Cheers (more common now)  
come in go through  
Dear Chuck, love, pet, hinny, hen, my lover Regional differences
different from different to  
Don't bump your head! Mind your head!  
Don't like/care for Not fussed  
extremely dead slow e.g., dead slow; dead sexy; dead good at ...
figure it out suss it out  
get along get on  
Give it up; you're wasting your time Leave it out.  
goodbye Tara - Welsh (and parts of England but very slangy)  
hit on chat up  
How are you? You ok?  
I could care less I couldn't care less  
I don't care I don't mind  
I don't have (something) I haven't got (something)  
I have (something) I've got (something)  
I'll knock on your door in the morning. I'll knock you up in the morning.  
I'm pleased that X happened I'm happy that X happened  
I'm stuffed! (after a meal) I'm stuffed (sexually satisfied - some disagreement here others say – it’s about too much food, as the US.)  
in the hospital in hospital  
It's hot today. It's close today.  
It's not kosher (it's not genuine). It's not cricket.  
mail a letter post a letter  
Most everything Nearly everything  
No problem Not to worry  
Oops! Whoops!  
right away straight away  
speechless gobsmacked  
the line's busy the line's engaged  
to deflate somebody to take the piss  
to get sick (catch a cold, virus, etc.) to get sick (vomit)  
to stand in line to queue  
to take the "scenic" route going round the back doubles  
turn the gas off turn the gas out archaic – would also say off, now  
uh-huh oh right  
was supposed to do x was meant to do x  
what's up with ... what about ...  
with respect to ... in respect of ...  
work it out sort it out  
Yikes! Crikey!  
You're splitting hairs It's academic  
Miscellaneous slang:
do the "wild" thing (polite ST version) shag  
friggin' (polite ST version) bloody  
pissed angry  

Food/Drink/Smoke

(potato) chips crisps  
7-up or Sprite lemonade  
a cup of tea a spot of tea, if dining with Bertie Wooster. A cuppa is a useful term to know though  
arugula rocket  
baked potato jacket potato  
beer lager  
biscuits scones  
breakfast fry up not necessarily breakfast, but a selection of foods all fried. Also known as A Full English (it will be described as that on a caff (greasy spoon) menu. Really useful one to know
broil grill  
candy sweets  
cheap wine plonk  
cigarette fag  
cookies biscuits  
corn meal use polenta  
cornstarch cornflour  
dessert puddings  
dinner tea ... maybe. Dinner is what you would go out to have in the evening at a restaurant. Tea is what you may go out to a tearoom or the Ritz for a 4:30 cake/scone feast. Dinner in the domestic context is what you may eat in the evening, especially with guests, more informally for the middle classes is ‘supper’. Tea domestically is what you feed younger children at 5pm for their evening meal – it’s a bit of a negative class marker to call the evening meal ‘tea’.  
drunk pissed  
drunk (adj.) paralytic  
eat scoff  
egg salad egg mayonnaise  
eggplant aubergine  
English muffin simply a round, flat bread roll to be split in two, toasted, and eaten with butter  
entrees mains  
french fries chips  
get drunk get lushed obscure and Midlands
green pepper Capsicum. This might puzzle most English now, though it is in older cookery books– green pepper or red is what you see in the shops etc., Not bell pepper like the US though.  
Lemonade bitter lemon  
molasses treacle  
muffin fairy cake. Though fairy cake are about 1/3 the size of muffins. Muffin is very well understood in the UK now.  
napkin serviette class solecism rears its ugly head with this one. Napkin is safe
popsicle ice lolly  
roast (noun) joint (noun)  
rutabaga swede  
salad dressing salad cream is a specific table sauce (Heinz), quite out of fashion but with a certain retro appeal! It is a vinegary version of mayo. Salad dressing is safe, or French dressing for a vinegrette.  
sausage bangers  
shrimp prawns but ... shrimp is also used to denote very small prawns.  
soy soya  
spoonful of butter knob of butter  
sugar, brown Demerara for a particular large,granular kind. There’s also light muscovado, dark muscovado.  
sugar, granulated caster sugar  
sugar, powdered icing sugar  
sugar, superfine caster sugar  
take out (food) Take Away. Fast food places are often called takeaways.  
to go/carry out to take away  
zucchini courgette  

Furniture/Electronics

antenna aerial  
cell phone mobile  
sofa settee  
TV telly  
vacuum cleaner hoover  

Holidays

federal holiday bank holiday  
Merry Christmas! Happy Christmas!  
New Year's Day New Year  
Santa Claus Father Christmas  

Houses/Buildings

aluminum aluminium  
apartment flat  
bathroom/restroom loo loo is slang but is usually used
cot camp bed  
cow barn Byre - in about 1800! Or very regional. Also, shippen, on the same basis. Just a barn. Useful to know only in that converted farm outbuildings are used as rentals and may be sweetly named ‘The Old Byre’ or similar. Leave immediatley if it’s called ‘Ye Olde Byre’ on the grounds of taste.  
cul-de-sac close (with a soft "s")  
dirt (in yard) earth (in garden)  
do the dishes washing up  
dumpster skip  
elevator lift  
faucet tap  
garbage rubbish  
garbage can dustbin  
ground (an electrical wire) earth  
real estate property  
rent an apartment let a flat – bit confusing: a tenant rents a flat, an owner/landlord lets a flat or rents it out or rents it to (leases indicates a longer term rental).  
sidewalk pavement  
sod turf  
soil earth  
spackle filler (or polyfilla)  
stove/range cooker  
stovetop hob  
toilet washroom  
toilet paper bog roll (bit vulgar) – loo roll better  
townhouse terraced house  
yard garden  
yard work gardening  

Miscellaneous

afghan rug  
attitude arrogance, pomposity, condescension, self-importance  
auction flog – means to sell, not just auction  
awesome ace  
bachelorette party Hen's night  
bill bank note  
cheap (as in stingy) mean  
check cheque  
check off (a list) tick off  
checking account current account  
chilly, breezy (weather) fresh  
clothespins clothes pegs  
counter-clockwise anti-clockwise  
dish cloth/towel tea towel  
dish rag dish cloth  
doctor's office surgery  
eraser rubber  
exhibit exhibition  
expensive dear  
face cloth flannel  
field (sports) pitch  
fight row  
finished, resolved, complete, & done done & dusted  
flashlight torch  
get upset get your knickers in a twist  
gone bad gone pear-shaped  
grip, firm grasp purchase  
happy, pleased chuffed  
holiday (or federal holiday) Bank holiday  
leash (for dogs) lead  
luxurious (adj.) posh  
Main Street High Street  
manner, behavior, opinion, stance, position attitude  
mineral spirits white spirits  
money slang terms:
  • quid - pound
  • a ton - £100 note
  • a monkey - £500 note for the betting fraternity!
 
nap kip  
parakeet budgie (budgerigar) ... not necessarily - different birdie – there are parakeets living in some London parks and they are like small parrots. Budgies are little blue birds, that used to be quite popular to keep in cages.  
period full stop  
Queen Anne's Lace wild parsley (or cow parsley)  
remit charter, responsibilities  
rubber condom  
scotch tape Sellotape It’s like Hoover or Band-Aide, a trade name that’s become the generic
shag dancing  
shoddy, quick fix bodge  
soccer football  
something that tries too hard to be adorable twee  
specialty speciality  
study revise  
stuff, gear, tools, supplies, etc. kit  
temp (worker) seconded (accent on 2nd syllable)  
terrific, excellent brilliant  
Thermos bottle Thermos flask  
Tic Tac Toe Noughts & Crosses  
tick off make angry  
tired knackered  
trash can rubbish bin  
two weeks fortnight  
umbrella brolly  
vacation holiday  
well tidy There is a Welsh custom of calling nice or good things ‘tidy’, but very obscure
Z (zee) zed  
zero nought  

School

grammar school (elementary school) private school Schools up to age 11 in the state sector are primary schools, in the private sector (some up to 13) are Preparatory or Prep schools. There’s more of a fudge nowadays and they both get called Junior Schools. A Grammar school here is an academically selective state school (only a few remaining and massively oversubscribed).
math maths  
private school public school Independent School is safer. Public schools really only refer to the top ones.
school university  
tuition fees  

Sexual

heartbroken gutted  
horny randy  
kiss snog  
knock up get pregnant  
penis pecker  
sexual intercourse shag  
to be pregnant in the pudding club  

Stores

fruit market green grocer  
liquor store Off License  
pharmacy chemist  
store (a business) shop  

People

arguments, disagreements and generic "trouble" argy bargy  
bad temper
  • be in a strop
  • have/throw a wobbly
  • have a cob on
  • throw your toys out of the pram
  • go off on one
  • having the hump (about something)
  •  
    bobby pin your bangs Kirby-grip your fringe  
    bookmaker turf accountant or betting shop  
    bum tramp, dosser  
    card shark card sharp  
    cop bobby  
    crazy mad  
    dumb stupid, idiot  
    eyeglasses spectacles  
    fanny bum  
    fired sacked  
    friend mate  
    girls/women birds  
    homely: unattractive person homely: cosy, friendly home  
    idiot tosser  
    jerk wanker dangerous as actually quite offensive and provocative term.
    laid off made redundant  
    lawyer solicitor  
    mom, mommy mum, mummy  
    muddled, confused at 6s and 7s  
    Realtor Estate Agent  
    school crossing guard lollipop lady  
    shot (vaccination) jab  
    slow poke slow coach  
    snicker snigger  
    stupid/crazy daft  
    supplier stockist  
    taking advantage of someone (or: taking something too far) taking the piss  
    tramp bum  
    tramp slut, ho  

    Verbs

    call ring

    call you tomorrow

    “Give us a bell”

    like fancy I fancy tea and scones
    whine whinge complain

    Street Names

    PatrickLondon: Something that's struck me - not so much vocabulary as speech habit. In the UK, we would give a street its full name, where at least some Americans seem to drop the "Street", "Avenue" or whatever. In London, and probably most other towns and cities too, there could be confusion between a district and a street or square("Victoria", "Bloomsbury"); and often, posh Georgian and Victorian developments would have their associated Lane or Mews for service access, so you could easily have in the same district a Square, Avenue, Street, Lane and Mews all with the same name. And developers often lacked imagination too.

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