Say What? English in the U.K. v. The U.S.
Foreign languages are hard, no matter how many Rosetta Stone CDs you buy. But what if you speak the same language but still have no idea what your companion is talking about? Although England colonized the U.S. for nearly 200 years, the countries have had their way with the English language. Rather than flounder around for some context, here is a brief guide to things with entirely different names in the U.K. and the U.S.
Boot v. trunk
Throwing something in the back of the car can get confusing when you’re not sure if it’s a car part or a shoe. Plus, one’s a lot harder to fit the luggage into. And just to make things more confusing, the trunk/boot is called a dickie in English-speaking parts of South Asia.
Bonnet v. hood
While we’re looking into cars, the name for the front is also under contention. They both kind of make sense when you think about it, as bonnets and hoods are both a type of hat for the car. In England though, hood actually refers to the fabric cover over the passenger compartment, aka the top of a convertible in the U.S.
Robot v. traffic light
Last driving-related term, I promise. But it’s such a weird one, it felt wrong to leave it out. When driving down the street in America, you’d be pretty alarmed if you encountered a robot directing traffic. But in England, along with South Africa, among other places, robots are just your standard red, yellow, and green traffic lights. Makes you wonder what they think are actually inside of them.
Lorry v. truck
Get ready for a history of language lesson, folks. “Truck” most likely comes from the Latin word trochus, meaning “iron hoop,” or the Greek trokhos, meaning “wheel.” Whereas “lorry” was used to refer to a freight car in the railway industry in the 1800s, or the verb lurry, meaning to pull or tug. It’s not entirely clear why they went such different ways, but interesting nonetheless!
Torch v. flashlight
If the lights go out, you’ll need to grab one of these (and hopefully you stocked up on extra batteries). But if you hear somebody calling for a torch, no need to fear the pitchforks – it’s just a flashlight, replete with ghost-story-telling, fuse-box-finding capabilities.
Chips v. French fries
Now this is an important one (I’ve been burned before by this). If you’re ordering in a restaurant, be sure to remember that chips are actually the deliciously fried potatoes known as French fries, or freedom fries to the more stubborn.
Crisps v. potato chips
…You’ve got to order crisps to get potato chips! It makes sense, I suppose, as potato chips are known for the crispiness, but still. Or you could avoid the confusion and pick the healthy route and order a side salad instead, but who actually does that?
Holiday v. vacation
Everyone loves a holiday, regardless of what it means, but where a holiday gives you time off work to take a vacation in the States, it’s the vacation itself in the U.K.. It also lends itself to becoming a verb. You can “holiday” in exotic locales.
Biscuit v. cookie
Honestly, you can’t really go wrong here. If you get mixed up, you’ll either end up with a flaky, delicious pastry or a chewy, chocolaty (if you pick right) cookie. So don’t stress when ordering, it’s a win-win!
Rubber vs. eraser
Get your head out of the gutter when somebody asks you for a rubber. They’re just asking for a harmless eraser! Although nobody really uses pencils after the age of 14, so this may be a moot point.
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