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Divided by a common language

By July 2, 2015Language

Anyone who likes the Reading Addicts Facebook page will understand what fun it is when we misunderstand each other, even though we all speak English. I’m from the UK, and of our 314,000 Facebook fans, many are from the US, so I often find myself corrected for putting ‘u’s in words and things.

With Independence Day just around the corner it seems the perfect time to celebrate our differences!

I don’t dislike American English, although I am a great defender of British English in the UK – they’re fairy cakes not cup cakes, and the ‘u’s and ‘gh’s in words really do matter, otherwise where would you be without your neighbours?

Anyway, the biggest thing I love about Br v US English is the terms where the words are completely different. I can remember an evening spent with some cousins in Chicago giggling about the differences between car parts in the UK and the US, think hood/bonnet, fender/wing (although I love your fender just for the term fender bender), trunk/boot, even tyres/tires is different.

So when I stumbled across these amazing images on today I just had to share them with you! Feel free to add your own in the comments if you can think of any more!

We hope all of American cousins have a wonderful Independence Day and don’t forget, if you ever want to come back, your ‘u’s are here waiting.

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  • Charlotte says:

    Note to self: If I ever make it to England, don’t compliment someone on their pants! 😉

    I would have had no clue what someone was referring to by “elastoplast” – never heard that before in my life! And if someone said “plaster” I would think they were referring to drywall/building material.

    Personally, I think “piss off” is still pretty British. It’s too polite. No one I know has ever said “piss off”. We say “fuck off”.

    I’m still highly amused that books have been “translated” from British English to American English (Harry Potter was!). But I guess it could be a bit confusing, especially for kids.

  • june seghni says:

    if this sort of thing floats your boat you might like to look at lynnguist’s blog, (if you don’t already know it)

  • Hazel says:


    When books are translated from English to American English it’s at the request of American publishers who think that our respective languages are just TOO different for Americans to understand. I’m a Brit and I’ve heard complaints from many American Harry Potter fans that the books were translated at all. Many of those people ended up buying two sets – the translated ones and the originals.

    The same problem exists with television – so many British shows have been remade in the US – and most of them flopped. It’s a shame they couldn’t just be shown as they were. Sometimes we have problems understanding some American accents just as you do with some of ours – but you work it out, your ear learns to pick up the different sounding words and even most of the slang.

    There certainly are some big differences between English and American English, but as a child, I grew up on US cop shows and was bewildered by many terms – but that didn’t stop my enjoyment and I worked out the meanings of most by context anyway. Besides, nowadays there’s the internet for language differences so I for one wish books and telly wouldn’t be translated. What better way to get to know a different culture than by reading their books and watching their television? Over here, we’ve learned a lot about you by watching your TV shows and films. I’m sure the American public would enjoy a lot more stuff if they got it untranslated, as it were.

  • Tim Wild says:

    Pretty sure you’ve got ‘muffler’ and ‘scarf’ the wrong way round. I’m British. A muffler is a sound suppressor. I wear a scarf around my neck in winter.

    • Amy Peterson says:

      We do the same (both scarf and muffler) in the US. Beeb would be short for Justin Bieber, but I have never heard an abbreviation of the BBC here, nor is flippant used as often as sarcastic or facetious. Everyone I know calls a waffle a waffle, some get fancy and call them Belgian Waffles. And most of us call the telly a TV. The whole money thing was just wrong, C-note,a Jefferson, a Franklin, a 20, cash, a 5-spot, are just a few of the ways money is referred to here. Splurge as opposed to “spend too much money”, it is as if the person who compiled the list has never heard American English, lol.

      • Roberta says:

        The waffle referred to here is the verb, not the noun. The money mentioned is how Americans refer to British money, not how we refer to US money.

  • jennifer says:

    You forgot chuffed (happy).

  • Eevee says:

    You have scarf /muffler the wrong way round

  • Marcia says:

    Visited UK in 1972 found out it was not cool to say stuffed at the dinner table

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