american vs. british

UK English vs. American English

A shortlist of terms that do not translate the same from one dialect to another. Other countries in the Commonwealth use different words also, but I’m not trying to be thorough. This list might also seem random because I watch/listen to a lot of British material and pick up random lexicon. If I made a clear mistake let me know and I’ll correct it.

UK English = U.S. English

lift = elevator

flat = apartment

rubbish bin = trash can* 

telly = TV

grey = gray

mate = buddy

biscuit = cookie

crisps = chips (tortilla, potato, etc.)

chips = fries**

hoover = vacuum cleaner

car bonnet = car hood

car boot = car trunk

number plate = license plate

football = soccer

tube = subway

(at the) cinema = (at the) movies

programme = TV show

curry house = Indian restaurant

mum/mummy = mom/mommy  

car park = parking lot

zebra crossing = crosswalk

mobile = cell phone

jimjams = pj’s (”pajamas” is an Indian word)

the Council = the County (when referring to local legislature)

E-numbers = artificial food additives, preservatives, and dyes

wellys = rain boots 

to nick = to steal

Detailed comparisons:

*An English “pedal bin” is a trash can with a foot pedal that pops the lid. American’s have those too, but we don’t specify the pedal. An American can you roll to the curb to be emptied is generally called a “garbage” can, but one indoors is called a “trash” can and if it’s small or woven it is a “waste basket.” Likewise there are a variety of other terms for “bins” in England, but I can’t remember them.

**The most confusing differences are often when it comes to food. For instance, English “chips” are usually wedge cut, fried potatoes that an American would not instantly consider a “French fry.” The equivalent to English chips in the US are called “potato wedges” or sometimes “potato fingers,” which as an American I find weird. English chips seem to rarely come in thin “fry” form and are most commonly in thick pieces. Meanwhile, Americans chow down on crinklecut fries, shoestring fries, waffle fries, chili fries, zucchini fries, and anything else they can get into the deep fat fryer.

An English “pudding” is not the flavored dairy custard Americans make with a mix, but is more like dense cake or sometimes bread with filling (which is specifically called “Yorkshire” pudding). American “pie” does not commonly contain meat or gravy (though we do eat chicken “pot” pie because it’s like a pot of stew in a crust), but pie is usually served as a dessert. Some American cities like New York and Chicago call pizza “pie” too. English milk chocolate candy (and I hear differing accounts on this) is much sweeter than American milk chocolate. Based on how I can only handle so much Cadbury chocolate in one sitting, I tend to agree. 

This is sort of food-related, but an English “pub” and an American “bar” are two very different kinds of establishments, so I hear. The following comparison is not true of all bars and pubs, but…You go to a pub to have a meal and a drink with your mates. You go to a bar to get drunk, laid, and possibly tattooed. These are the stereotypical (though not necessarily accurate) differences between English and American liquor establishments. You can still get plastered and make bad choices at a pub, and you can still have a quiet drink and a burger in a bar. Just don’t walk into a bar or pub for the first time and expect certain things (this paragraph brought to you by our mild-mannered English friend who thought it would be safe to wander into a bar in New York City before hastily wandering out again).

That’s all the comparisons I can think of off the top of my head. Please, if you’re from the UK or are just an American anglophile who watches lots of BBC, add whatever I’ve missed to the list! 

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Eddie Izzard : American vs British English

Basically where every argument between the americans and the british ends up
  • Americans: Omg look at this (insert object here)
  • British: What's a (insert same object)? That's a (insert british word for the same object)
  • Americans: Here in America we call it a (american term for same object) because FREEDOM
  • British: FREE HEALTH CARE
  • Americans: *gasp*
  • Canada: We have free health care, legalized gay marriage, AND bagged milk. we win