Do Americans understand British English?

(446 Posts)
knickernicker Mon 07-Apr-14 09:14:28

I can't think that there is any American phrase, word or accent that I wouldn't understand, but I wonder if an American would understand everything I say.
I remember sitting for a meal with some people from Boston and being acutely aware of needing to edit what I said to remove any British idiom. It was an odd feeling as when watching American films I forget they're a different nationality.

kelda Mon 07-Apr-14 09:15:34

I visited New York years ago and not all Americans could understand what I was saying.

Hassled Mon 07-Apr-14 09:18:22

There are a few differences which really surprise me - if a Brit says something is "quite good" they mean "not really that good at all - it's passable". If an American says it they mean "very good".

And "sketchy" is another - to me you have sketchy plans which means they are vague or unclear. In the US you have a sketchy area, which means dodgy.

Hassled Mon 07-Apr-14 09:19:43

Yes, I think Americans find our regional accents much harder to follow than we find their regional accents. I always remember watching Shameless with an American relative and him asking if I minded having the subtitles on.

Goblinchild Mon 07-Apr-14 09:19:44

You may be deceiving yourself. smile
I have a number of American friends from various states, and we all understand each other at a basic communication level. Some of the more subtle interpretations can go awry though, even between Texans and those from Minnesota let alone a Brit.
It is fascinating to unpick the differences, some of them are considerable.

knickernicker Mon 07-Apr-14 09:53:52

Take the word pavement for example. Would an American know what that that was, work it out by context or simply not know at all?

WowOoo Mon 07-Apr-14 10:04:02

Most of my American friends understand me. There are often expressions - idioms and slang that need to be explained. I'm trying to think of examples.

I remember finding it hilarious that I should take a fanny pack with me when we were going walking. Had no idea! (It means a bum bag type thing, I think)

schoolclosed Mon 07-Apr-14 10:13:35

Bit of both, I reckon. I remember a long and involved discussion about the difference between sketchy, skeezy and skeevy. I'm still not sure of the detail, but I vaguely remember that one of them had an undertone of sexual deviance!

On the other side, I stopped using the word "fortnight" pretty fast. Re: pavement... Some do, some don't, I reckon.

MoreBeta Mon 07-Apr-14 10:21:28

I was in Texas once with a Greek friend of mine about 25 years ago. We had been invited to a very extensive barbecue with a lot of very traditional middle aged, mid western Texans. There was a lot of square dancing and cowboy boots and Stetson hats about.

Anyway my Greek friend who had perfect idiomatic English suddenly pulled out a pack of cigarettes and said at the top of his voice:

'Oh I'm dying for a fag, I haven't had a fag all day!"

Heads swivelled and hard stares followed. I had to explain through gritted teeth to my Greek friend what a 'fag' was in American English and that in certain parts of America they weren't quite as liberal in their views as in London or Athens.

BreakingDad77 Mon 07-Apr-14 10:54:36

Slang, and sayings will be lost on some, and sarcasm can make some go mental!

FairPhyllis Mon 07-Apr-14 11:03:33

I lived in the US for 7 years.

There are a lot of idiomatic phrases and slang in BrEng that Americans don't get, and they often find it hard to understand some regional BrEng accents. I have an RP accent which most people find OK, but some people struggled to identify where I came from (someone once asked me what my native language is).

There are also some subtle syntactic and semantic differences but they don't usually impede general communication.

'pavement' in the US means the road surface. So generally an American would understand something slightly different to what you meant.

ImogenJH Mon 07-Apr-14 11:07:09

I had a bit of difficulty with my Scottish accent. They loved it, couldn't understand a word I was saying mind, but loved it all the same. The only difficult bit was when a friend of my friends was going outside for a cigarette. I now know not to say "Are you going for a wee fag." Didn't realise what a "fag" meant in America.

blueshoes Mon 07-Apr-14 11:37:04

I wonder whether some Americans have difficulty with the way the British pronounce "can't".

I work in an American firm so these is what I have observed in the work context. Not purporting to describe all Americans, of course ...

Ordinary americans don't get the 24 hour clock. They call it military time.

When Brits sign off emails with the formal "kind regards", some Americans see it as being dismissive.

When Brits write "Dear xxx", again being formal, Americans might view it as being too intimate and reserved only for close family and friends. They get "hi" or "hello", even when addressing superiors.

NotCitrus Mon 07-Apr-14 11:57:19

Depends lots on where you are and who you talk to. I tend to have no trouble being understood in cities, and there's lots of geeks who love UK telly and get a lot of references others wouldn't, but when I visit my rural Midwestern family, their friends include people who have never met a foreigner before except for Mexican fruit pickers, and I have to put on my best American accent just to be understood.

The problems tend not to be when they don't understand, though explaining to my cousin what I'd meant when I called him a wussy shandy-drinking wanker took over an hour. It's when people think they understand the words but they have different meanings, like driving on the pavement, or the time I was at a family do and it was really hot and MrNC and I agreed we both were desperate for a drink, and there were shocked faces.
Eventually someone whispered to me, "Bit early for alcohol, isn't it?"
Who said anything about alcohol? Turns out they only use the word 'drink' to mean alcoholic drinks, and actually say the word beverage otherwise - or more usually pop, juice, water, coffee etc.

GoodnessIsThatTheTime Mon 07-Apr-14 12:39:33

I have a southern english accent but had troubke asking for water in some restaurants!

"oh wa-der"

hellymelly Mon 07-Apr-14 12:55:19

My friend nearly had a heart attack when her new American Boyfriend asked if she minded him having his hand on her fanny as they walked down the street.. .
I had a horrified reaction in New York asking a (black) coffee maker for a white coffee. He went ballistic, so am assuming that sounded like a racist insult? Rubber is another word not to bandy about in the US as I also found out to my cost. The innocent request for a rubber being greeted with complete shock . My (white) colleague had a similar reaction to my white coffee request, when he asked a (again black) waiter to fetch him something. "FETCH ? Roared the waiter. "FETCH? You think I'm a DOG?" My poor colleague was mortified, and it took some time to calm the situation and explain that was a commonly used term in Britain. I think generally issues around race are much more sensitive in the US, even with the problems we have, Britain is a more accepting culture and far more racially integrated imo.

Fluffythefish Mon 07-Apr-14 13:07:14

I once confused an American by saying that I did something "fortnightly" as she had never heard the term.
But my favourite confusion was having a conversation with some American friends of my parents when I was 14. We were discussing the different words we use e.g. pavement and sidewalk, when the man turned to me and said "and what do you say for 'period'" I was totally discombobulated and embarrassed until he said "oh yes, 'full stop'!". I was SOOOO glad I hadn't attempted an answer smile

Newjobthankgod Mon 07-Apr-14 13:12:43

I am an American who is back in the states after 13 years in North Yorkshire. I love love love using what I picked up language wise in Yorkshire to mess with people here. Good times.

MardyBra Mon 07-Apr-14 15:45:17

I once slipped up by describing someone's flat apartment as "homely". Apparently homely means plain or ugly. "Homey" would have been better.

jumblebee Mon 07-Apr-14 16:06:24

I had an argument with a man in the middle of New York City about the correct way to pronounce "tomato", which ended up with me shouting down the street at another random man "it's to-MAH-toe!!"

Another man, who was listening to my tedious "I'm so fat" rant, turned to me and said "girl, you ain't fat, you thick". I was a bit like shock until I realised it was meant in a thick bodied, junk in the trunk type way wink

SconeRhymesWithGone Mon 07-Apr-14 17:39:41

Sometimes the differences are subtle. Americans use the expression "telling off," but much less than the British. Its US connotation is a severe and angry reprimand and more likely to be used in the context of one adult to another. We would not normally use that expression for correcting children but instead would likely say "scold."

One reason that "fetch" can be problematic is this:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stepin_Fetchit

JuanFernandezTitTyrant Mon 07-Apr-14 17:48:25

I once had to step in on a conference call between me and my supervising partner (I'm a lawyer) and the two Texan lawyers on the other end to explain that every one was talking about a "draft" to mean different things. My boss asked "when can we expect to receive the draft?" (as in first draft document) and the Texans were getting crosser and crosser because we hadn't agreed terms yet and here was he pushing for the draft (as in money transfer).

PedantMarina Mon 07-Apr-14 17:57:55

Re: request for idioms. "coals to Newcastle" help any?

And don't even get started in with cockney rhyming slang...

blueshoes Mon 07-Apr-14 17:59:15

I agree about Americans not understanding 'fortnightly'. To my US colleague, it sounded quaint and Elizabethan.

Americans use the word 'spank' in the way British use 'smack' as in children. Spank has sexual connotations in UK.

Other subtle differences such as British use the term "rude" to mean raunchy or "nasty" to Americans. Of course, there is the hilarious "pants" v. "trousers" and "braces" v. "suspenders".

SconeRhymesWithGone Mon 07-Apr-14 18:01:09

Also "to smack" someone in the US usually connotes hitting the head or face. So if a British person refers to smacking children, an American who does not know the usage might register a more violent image than intended.

blueshoes Mon 07-Apr-14 18:02:32

Fluffy, loved the "period" anecdote.

Juan, that must have been a long time ago. Do Americans still use the word "draft" for money <imagines telex machines and travellers cheques>. I work in a US law firm and I don't think any US lawyer would mistake what we mean when we say "drafts". However, I would love to hear a proper Texan accent ... <cheeks in hands>

SconeRhymesWithGone Mon 07-Apr-14 18:05:03

I do think "coals to Newcastle" would be understood by most reasonably well read Americans.

blueshoes Mon 07-Apr-14 18:06:30

Following from "rubber", Americans use the words "prophylactic" in a rather disconcertingly normalised sense which would send the average Brit into a fit of sniggers, like "we need to put up a prophylactic wall to separate the teams".

MardyBra Mon 07-Apr-14 18:13:36

Why do some British actors end up taking on a slightly odd tone when working in the States? It's almost like they are modifying their speech so the American audiences can understand them.

I'm thinking Tracy Ullman in Ally McBeal, the British woman in LA Law, and not forgetting the amazingly weird accent from Jane Leeves (Daphne) in Frasier.

SconeRhymesWithGone Mon 07-Apr-14 18:16:44

blueshoes So true. I learned that the hard way in the UK a couple of years ago when I was overhead telling DH before setting off on a long walk that that I was taking a prophylactic arthritis pain tablet. grin

JuanFernandezTitTyrant Mon 07-Apr-14 18:20:30

blue no it was less than 12 months ago, but I am a banking lawyer and they were Texans

My boss was most amused to be addressed as Sir throughout the call.

blueshoes Mon 07-Apr-14 18:24:12

On a hiding to nothing
Have his guts for garters
Gutted
Bees knees
Feeling poorly
Lurgy
To fancy someone
Thick (as in stupid)
Dogs bollocks
Taking the mickey
Wank
Shag/bonk

SconeRhymesWithGone Mon 07-Apr-14 18:26:39

Another subtle difference, though not affecting understanding, is that Americans almost universally use the name of a state as an adjective, so "Texas lawyer" and "Texas accent." Occasionally I will come across an American character in a British book saying "Texan lawyer, etc." which strikes a slightly inauthentic note.

blueshoes Mon 07-Apr-14 18:29:40

scones <heehee - childish>

Juan, I guess the Texan lawyers were not used to high finance. I can imagine them using "sir" or "esquire" ...

SconeRhymesWithGone Mon 07-Apr-14 18:31:12

Bees knees is also an American expression as is bonk. Shag made it across the pond some years ago and is pretty well known now.

BertieBotts Mon 07-Apr-14 18:32:59

I think that British people tend to understand more US slang than Americans understand British slang.

I live abroad so most expats are American. The pavement thing is generally an issue when talking to children rather than adults.

I teach EFL and it's not that often that I have to say "Use X in BrEng but Y in AmEng." Certainly not once a lesson but several times in a week.

blueshoes Mon 07-Apr-14 18:33:34

I guess from the Spy who Shagged me ... <smile>

blueshoes Mon 07-Apr-14 18:37:02

Some US expressions which had me stumped:

Blowing smoke up each other asses
It's a crapshoot
Where the rubber meets the road

SconeRhymesWithGone Mon 07-Apr-14 18:42:19

When I was a student in the UK, one of my American friends named Miranda had to be counseled not to use her nickname due to her propensity to bounce up to people, stick out her hand and announce in her thick Mississippi accent "Hi, I'm Randy."

ohmymimi Mon 07-Apr-14 21:17:33

blueshoes I get the origins of crapshoot and rubber/road expressions, but, 'smoke up the ass' - where the heck does that come from?

'Randy' grin

I got caught out saying 'OMG, I'm SO pissed' here in the UK when I meant 'pissed off'. Small, but important difference in meaning… blush.

English, either one of them, is not my first language so I am v aware that I have to be careful with slang or colloquialisms… 'Tis a minefield.

bluebayou Mon 07-Apr-14 21:30:27

Omymimi , do believe it means giving each other B/Shit

NoGoodAtHousework Mon 07-Apr-14 21:36:06

The funniest we had was 'cheeky'. They couldn't get it at all. And when we were asked what it meant all I could come up with was 'well it means...um....cheeky!'

bamboobutton Mon 07-Apr-14 21:38:32

On holiday in NY about. 10 yes ago and can remember a couple;

1). Waiter couldn't understand 'water'. We repeated it 4 times until american sil said 'wadder' to the waiterhmm

2) at the air port coming home assistant in radiohut, or something, couldn't understand 'batteries'. Again we repeated it over again but gave up and did a massively overacted 'badddddeeeerrriiieeeesss' in an over the top exaggerated us accent, which he understood.

Was very hmm

SconeRhymesWithGone Mon 07-Apr-14 21:45:31
DowntonTrout Mon 07-Apr-14 21:50:00

DD was most amused on a Caribbean beach when an American lady started proclaiming very loudly to her DCs-

"I've got a sandy fanny! Look at Mommys sandy fanny!"

knickernicker Mon 07-Apr-14 21:50:03

Not about language but at Boston airport, I asked for a cup of tea at a coffee shop. it was anathema to themi thought Boston was known as the most British place in America.I bet Frasier could get a cup of tea if he wanted one.

bamboo I have found that here the T is replaced by a 'd' sound. For instance we live in Katy, but everyone calls it Kady. Most confusing, as I couldn't work out where this Kady was before we moved here.

SwedishEdith Mon 07-Apr-14 22:00:44

What do Americans say if they fancy someone? Or how would they say "He really fancies himself"?

Raxacoricofallapatorius Mon 07-Apr-14 22:01:02

Do they watch much British TV in America?

So, so many. I grew up in Canada with an English mum and have now lived in England for 11 years. Canada is a bit of a linguistic No Man's Land between the two. The DDs and I have to adjust how we speak when we visit and again when we come home again! (DH not so bothered)

Not strictly vocabulary but Americans often say street names without the "Street" or "Road" bit, so you have someone giving directions as "the corner of Adelaide and Winchester" instead of Adelaide Road and Winchester Road. So DH will say "I'm going up to Kingston" and I say you are not, you are going to Kingston ROAD.

Americans do not understand the concept of the High Street. In a small town or village it would be "downtown" I guess.

Don't get me started on Fanny Packs grin

SconeRhymesWithGone Mon 07-Apr-14 22:09:08

High Street concept is called Main Street in US.

SconeRhymesWithGone Mon 07-Apr-14 22:19:13

Until the advent of BBC America, most British shows were shown on PBS (Pubic Television System) and were/are considered a bit high brow.
Masterpiece Theater featured, for example, Upstairs Downstairs, The First Churchills, Poldark, Brideshead Revisited, Love in a Cold Climate (the one with Judi Dench). Downton Abbey is now Masterpiece's most popular series ever.

Later we began to get the "Britcoms," Fawlty Towers, Blackadder, Are You being Served, 'Allo 'Allo, You Rang, M'lord, Keeping Up Appearances, As Time Goes By. No soaps.

But PBS was very much for (and still is) a niche (pronounced "nitch" btw) audience, so many Americans would not have watched them.

Now we have much more with BBC America. Luther, Broadchurch, etc.

We also had and still have quite a lot of British mysteries: Morse, Inspector Lewis, Inspector Banks, Miss Marple, Foyle's War (my current favorite), Rebus, etc.

bluebayou Mon 07-Apr-14 22:24:36

Band-Aid for plasters
Rubber band for elastic band

SconeRhymesWithGone Mon 07-Apr-14 22:27:46

Shot for jab (or jag in Scotland)

RudyMentary Mon 07-Apr-14 22:28:25

They struggle to understand the word 'water'

They panic when you say you have a torch in your hand luggage grin (flashlight)

SnowieBear Mon 07-Apr-14 22:30:59

I remember fondly a stint working in LA with a UK living Texan boss who was keyed into BritEng. We were having dinner with the rest of the team, which included my extremely pompous NY counterpart. After a few drinks I couldn't bear him any longer and I told him he was talking"a lot of bollocks". He queried this directly with the boss in front of everyone and I held my breath... my wonderful, genial boss said in his Texan drawl "I'm afraid she doesn't quite see eye to eye with you on that one, son..." grin

TheZeeTeam Mon 07-Apr-14 22:31:12

I live in the States and can honestly say that everyone I know understands everything I say. The only time I have ever really had a problem was in a Drive Thru when a Hispanic woman misunderstood my, "Dr Pepper" for "Orange" about 20 times. However, it entertained my children who still laugh about it to this day.

SnowieBear Mon 07-Apr-14 22:32:57

Funnily enough, I'm originally Spanish, but just sound forrin, as oppossed to Spanish... no-one picked up on it, assumed Brit throughout... loved it.

vehiclesandanimals Mon 07-Apr-14 22:33:38

The way we talk about time is confusing to many (most?) Americans. Half-past, quarter-to/past don't mean anything to them. I've also had the look of confusion at the mention of "fortnightly". And was once met with a furious scowl when I described an American's lovely, cosy apartment as being "really homely".

There are so many baby-related words that are different (diapers, stroller, pacifier) - we are so exposed to American culture that we understand their words, but the same does not apply in reverse to nappies, pushchair (which I would have thought was obvious), dummy).

lessonsintightropes Mon 07-Apr-14 22:37:44

I find myself switching a lot when I'm in the States. I taught EFL in Ecuador and my students requested that I teach them American English as it's more relevant for them in a work context. So typical changes are things like trash can/rubbish bin. Tbh the only time I've ever really had mass confusion was when we were in the South on our honeymoon and people had a really hard time understanding me (from NW but don't use glottal stops and do pronounce distinctly, which apparently was harder than slurring) but got my DH's accent (Midlands) very easily.

SconeRhymesWithGone Mon 07-Apr-14 22:39:21

In the South, where I am from, half-past, quarter-to/past are common ways of referring to time, which is a reminder that we Americans don't always understand each other. There are many regional expressions, especially in the South, that have not migrated to the rest of the country.

vehiclesandanimals Mon 07-Apr-14 22:45:29

Didn't know that, Scone - we used to live in NY and nobody there seemed to have a clue what I was talking about when I'd suggest meeting at half past something (to the point where I used to use these expressions deliberately, as the refusal to understand something so patently obvious was a particular bugbear of mine).

SmashleyHop Mon 07-Apr-14 22:50:57

This is a constant in my house as I am an American living here now with the British DH. I have dropped a few jaws here with my use of fanny/spank/babyisms. However most of my friends and family seem ok with DH's accent- what he would call "posh scouse" which I am beginning to understand is an oxymoron.

The only issue I have noticed come up often is when he says his name. Most seem to think it's Don, when in fact it's Dan. My poor mom was also really confused why my DH would put his motorcycle in a carriage.

Pronunciation is a huge source of hilarity and conflict in our house. I chuckle at the way he says scone, Nicaragua and controversy.. He laughed for over an hour when I pronounced Greenwich "Green-witch" to be fair though I had been up hours with a sick baby.

Beastofburden Mon 07-Apr-14 23:00:19

So what do they say instead of fortnight?

blueshoes Mon 07-Apr-14 23:05:20

Clothes can be interesting.

Sweaters (US) v cardigans and jumpers (UK)
Sneakers and tennis shoes (US) v trainers (UK).

blueshoes Mon 07-Apr-14 23:11:13

Smashley, on pronunciations, there is also:

Schedule
Data
Adversary
Leicester grin

almapudden Mon 07-Apr-14 23:15:31

An American friend of mine was working as an assistant in the Games department at an English boarding school. She wanted to ask the girls she was coaching to collect the balls at the end of a lacrosse session.

She told twenty 14 year old girls to get on the field and shag the balls.

ananikifo Mon 07-Apr-14 23:18:54

Beastofburden: two weeks.
Fortnightly= every two weeks (no special word)

Dappydongle Mon 07-Apr-14 23:24:37

Sultanas don't exist.

SmashleyHop Mon 07-Apr-14 23:29:31

YY blueshoes- been through those. smile On reflection I must just have a hard time with place names over here. DH often jokes that I think England is Middle Earth. Any place with -shire at the end is pronounced like "the shire" York-shire made my BIL spit his food out.

You all will be happy to know after 4 years here I have almost stopped doing that.

juneybean Mon 07-Apr-14 23:29:42

An american asked me what "chuffed" meant the other day

ErrolTheDragon Mon 07-Apr-14 23:31:36

I've worked for an American company for over 25 years, and lived in the US for a couple, so I've come across a lot of these miscommunications. The first one I remember was the Americans being totally baffled by something in our (at that point entirely English-written) software being referred to as a 'one-off calculation'.

>So what do they say instead of fortnight?
Two weeks.

Nowadays, the group I work with in the US doesn't include anyone born in the USA (Chinese, indian, germans, brits and a Canadian) so we steer a middle course.

>Not about language but at Boston airport, I asked for a cup of tea at a coffee shop. it was anathema to themi thought Boston was known as the most British place in America.I bet Frasier could get a cup of tea if he wanted one

You're lucky they didn't bring you some tea leaves in a cup of salt water wink.

I was rather shocked when further south, 'tea' by default meant iced tea. You had to specify 'hot tea' if you meant, uh, tea.

mablemurple Mon 07-Apr-14 23:33:08

I remember causing uproar by saying to the children of the family I was staying with that we were going to have <main course> and chips for dinner. They were distraught that they didn't get any crisps and went into meltdown and the parents were really annoyed with me despite the fact that I had been in the country for less than two days confused. They also didn't understand the word 'queue' and we're highly amused when I told them how much I weighed in stones and pounds.

mablemurple Mon 07-Apr-14 23:36:59

were

Smashleyhop, your Dan/Don thing happened to us when we lived in NY.

DH was asked at work what my name is - he told them it's Jan & they said 'your wife is called John?' grin

SconeRhymesWithGone Mon 07-Apr-14 23:58:09

SwedishEdith asked upthread about what we say if you fancy someone. It is just plain "like" as in "I think he likes you." Or maybe "interested in." "Fancy" is much better.

For someone who fancies himself, that would probably be stuck-up or big-headed.

UK dungarees are US overalls - jeans are sometimes called dungarees iirc. A jumper there is a pinafore dress. Our tights are pantie-hose (sp?) 'Vest & pants' could cause embarrassing confusion

When we first arrived & were buying a used car we asked about 'servicing costs' (it was a 1970s full-size beast with an 8-litre engine so we were a bit concerned) & the guy looked completely baffled, as if we weren't speaking English at all. There are loads of different words with cars - hood, trunk, gasoline, fenders, station wagon, mini van, antenna, fully-loaded...

SconeRhymesWithGone Tue 08-Apr-14 00:10:36

We have tights, but these are thicker and opaque. Pantyhose is sheer.

MorrisZapp Tue 08-Apr-14 00:27:00

Ive learned from the Gap website that a UK vest is called a US tank, and a UK waistcoat is called a US vest.

And they cannot understand me saying water, even when carefully repeated. White coffee drew similar blank looks.

blueshoes Tue 08-Apr-14 00:30:31

Smashley, York-shire grin. I am proud you have finally gone native.

Errol, what didn't your colleagues understand about "one-off calculation"?

Scones, you reminded me of panties v knickers ...

zipzap Tue 08-Apr-14 00:36:51

As a student in the holidays I used to look after groups of American high school students over here as part of their tour of Europe. I used to have quite a long list of things to go through with them at the start of each new group.

Worst one I got caught out on was when I arranged to meet the group back at the coach at a quarter of two ready to move on to the next stop. I used to reckon on getting to the coach 20 mins early to sort everything out but I got back and the entire group was there. The leader was really angry, saying she expected me to be first at the coach, early not late etc, whereas I was horrified that they were all so early back at the coach and wasting valuable sightseeing time...

Turned out that for them, quarter of meant quarter to. For me - it was quarter past. Did mean we had a very surreal conversation where we were talking at completely cross purposes where we were talking about the same words but they had completely different meaning for both of us.

I also remember some groups getting very het up about how I wrote things down. They couldn't cope if a 7 had a line through it or if I did 4's the wrong way (open I think but can't remember for sure, was a long time ago!) or 0 without a stroke through.

Later on I was involved in designing photocopiers and one of my jobs was to translate the uk English interface into American English and Canadian English (different yet again). Which has been quite handy as one of those silly trivial facts that you can drag up when people want you to introduce yourself with a silly interesting fact that others don't know about; it's been a useful conversation starter!

GoodnessIsThatTheTime Tue 08-Apr-14 00:48:14

I'm English and never heard a quarter of. I'd have assumed you meant a quarter to too!

PigletJohn Tue 08-Apr-14 00:49:18

I was highly amused to hear a young American woman, smartly dressed for a dinner, being described as arriving "in vest and pants"

spamm Tue 08-Apr-14 01:08:26

I now live and work in the USA and my team have a whiteboard on which they record my strange English sayings - most recently I said something about a: "bulldog chewing a wasp". They loved that one.

They do use strange expressions for things, but I am getting quite used to it now, and my UK colleagues think I sound American, although the American colleagues think I sound quaint.

PigletJohn Tue 08-Apr-14 01:09:28

and once I lost my wallet in Wyoming. My UK bank sent a new card over for me, but the hotel filed it under "E," waiting for a Mr Esq to collect the package.

I think it was there, in Ididarod training season, that I heard someone say "I guess I'll mosey on down to Main Street"

Legologgo Tue 08-Apr-14 01:30:36

Lol at wife called john.

I love H's American firm once specifying women wearing a dressy pant suit.

Raxacoricofallapatorius Tue 08-Apr-14 09:50:01

I've never heard a quarter of for time either. And I'm painfully English.

Thanks for the television info. I think we probably watch more American TV than the other way round. Seems like they deliberately show antiquated, class-based drama. In fact, don't they remake our popular shows?

I had an American post grad student once who didn't get sarcasm. She was from Boston and said we never say what we mean or mean what we say. Monty Python horrified her and she said Blackadder was cruel and puerile.

Raxacoricofallapatorius Tue 08-Apr-14 09:51:37

How do you ask for white coffee BTW? And does nobody drink tea?

knickernicker Tue 08-Apr-14 09:54:12

Huge swathes of the UK refer to trousers as pants. I'm in Manchester and I'm the only person I know who calls them trousers so an American referring to pants wouldnt seem odd to ne.

Beastofburden Tue 08-Apr-14 09:55:36

Turned out that for them, quarter of meant quarter to. For me - it was quarter past.

I have never heard "quarter of" meaning "quarter past". I thought Americans used it to mean quarter to and Brits didnt use it at all.

I think that may be a family phrase....

I was amazed to find (this was quite a few years ago and in North Dakota, so may not be generalisable!) that Americans did not understand the word "queue". They even accused me of making up a word when I explained it to them

Also some confusion arising about "pissed"; I meant drunk and they meant angry.

Just on the different terminology for time issue: I grew up partly in S Africa, and in Afrikaans "half-vier", for example, would mean half past three (halfway to four in other words). I have never completely got the hang of the English way of using half-four to mean half past four!

80sMum Tue 08-Apr-14 10:13:04

There is no such phrase as "a quarter of" in English pertaining to time. That phrase would only be used to describe quantity.

I lived and worked in the midwest for a little while. My boss thought it was hilarious when I described the pizza she'd bought me as 'lovely'. Apparently she'd only heard it used to describe e.g pretty flowers.

Queueing = standing in line. Taken much more seriously by the British that by anyone else in the world, ime.

I used to hate having to ask for hot tea! That nasty over-sweetened cold stuff has nothing to do with tea! argh.

mummytime Tue 08-Apr-14 10:14:49

The half four meaning half three, comes from the German doesn't it? (dimmly remembering German lessons).

A tutor in the US was shocked when the British students kept asking if he had a "rubber" and to pop outside for a "fag".

I once got a fold away bed in a hotel room when travelling with my 2 month old, I'd asked for a Cot not a Crib.

Legologgo Tue 08-Apr-14 10:16:12

does she mean " a quarter to"

In North Dakota called queuing "standing on line". Even more strange than in line I thought!

Yes Afrikaans is a Germanic language and there are lots of similarities (although of course it is much closer to Dutch).

Also now remembering with a shudder that stuff they refer to as "tea".

Beastofburden Tue 08-Apr-14 10:19:31

yes, half vier means half past three; but they dont have "quarter of"; the German for quarter to is Viertel vor and quarter past is Viertel nach.

Beastofburden Tue 08-Apr-14 10:22:58

on time again- a pp said the Americans don't normally use the 24 hour clock and refer to it as "military time". When I was a child, the 24 clock was specifically a European thing; the Brits thought it was weird. I think it became popular here in the 1980s.

I have lived in the UK for over twenty-five years and still get confused over that time thing!

Ludways Tue 08-Apr-14 10:32:53

I lived there for several years and for the majority of time I was understood perfectly well, occasional explanation of words. However when theres a mismatch it can get to be very funny.

A few funny stories about the difference in the word fanny!!

Oh and I once got very good friends with a bloke I met in a lift, he'd stepped back onto my foot and I mumbled "wanker" under my breath, he turned round and laughed his head off, he was a Brit too.

I was once sitting in a bar in a out of the way place and a bloke came up to me and my mate and asked if we would allow us to use a durex on us in a broad London accent, my mate had no idea what he was talking about but I told him off, his mates wet themselves when he shouted over I was a Brit too.

I could go on all day!!

That doesn't even sound like British English - 'can I use a Durex on you?'

confused

Beastofburden Tue 08-Apr-14 10:39:28

weird "can I use a durex on you" must have been a bet, nobody says that IRL.

Beastofburden Tue 08-Apr-14 10:41:39

One thing I have noticed, weirdly enough, is that American colleagues when they write formal papers, have an incredibly pompous, 1950s style. It as if formal "high-class" American English has stayed the same for a long time , while British English has gone more towards Crystal Mark Plain English.

zipzap Tue 08-Apr-14 11:13:55

Sorry, I wasn't very clear in my post about times and 'quarter of'.

It was the group leader (American) that had said to meet at the coach at a quarter of two. It wasn't a phrase that I'd come across before really (I'm English) but it was fairly obvious to me what she meant - and that a quarter of had to be quarter past two because if something was 'of' something then it has that something and thus it was obviously quarter past (I was 19 at the time - it seemed perfectly logical!) - whereas if she had maybe said a quarter off two then that would have meant a quarter to. (and no, I haven't heard anybody using that expression, just trying to explain my logic!).

After it happened I polled my non-American friends as to what time they thought a quarter of two was. Everybody said they guessed - nobody had come across that way of describing the time before. But it was about 2/3s thought it was quarter past and a third thought it meant quarter to. So definitely unclear - even though I was on the side of the majority. Not much good for all those that had been waiting though - and it was another thing that got added onto my list of differences to go through on the way from the airport/port to the hotel!

Preciousbane Tue 08-Apr-14 11:20:21

Lots of Americans think I am Australian as I have a bit of a cockney sounding twang purely because my Mum is from London.

I have had amusement over my use of the word lovely. My worst was the bloody rude sister of my nieces DH at their wedding in the US who kept taking the piss out of my accent by trying to mimic me and kept saying
" On the BBC"

SwedishEdith Tue 08-Apr-14 11:34:18

Oh and I once got very good friends with a bloke I met in a lift, he'd stepped back onto my foot and I mumbled "wanker" under my breath, he turned round and laughed his head off, he was a Brit too

That sounds like start of a romcom grin

ErrolTheDragon Tue 08-Apr-14 11:35:08

Most of the Americans I work with do understand the word 'queue' -because in software, events are 'queued'. One of them did get a bit confused between that and 'depth cueing' (another technical term - where you give a visual 'cue' of 3D-ness.

>The half four meaning half three, comes from the German doesn't it? (dimmly remembering German lessons).

yes, I was testing my DD on her German yesterday (she's learning it, I vaguely know the numbers and not much else) and that came up.

My DH really did ask his US secretary for a 'rubber', and was childishly amused by a female colleague referring to her 'leather pants'.

OTOH, one of his male colleagues had absolutely no idea why approaching a female British colleague and warmly pronouncing 'Hi, I'm Randy' was perhaps not the best way to introduce himself.

ErrolTheDragon Tue 08-Apr-14 11:42:45

One of the more subtle differences is the word 'quite'. To British ears, 'quite' tends to mean 'ok' ('the weather was quite nice for the time of year') whereas Americans seem to use it more positively - more like if we said, 'oh yes, that's really quite nice'. Until I realised this I could get a bit miffed by something I'd worked on being described as 'quite good'.

EvansOvalPiesYumYum Tue 08-Apr-14 11:51:56

I lived in Germany for a couple of years in the 80s, working for the American Army. You can imagine - lots of Americans from all different parts of the US with their own accents and word usage. (As well as lots of us Brits too). Added to that, we all used German words for some things too, like "schrank" for "cupboard". It was like a whole new made-up language at times.

Aside from the usual "rubber", "fanny", "sidewalk" stuff, Dipsy Dumpster for a skip always used to make me chuckle - I still use it now, sometimes.

One of my (Brit) supervisors did get in trouble once, though, for calling a black GI a "good boy", not realising at all that it was offensive. She didn't mean it in the way he took it, we use the phrase all the time in a good way, but to a black American to be called a boy is insulting. Much of the time the language barrier is highly amusing, but sometimes it can unintentionally cause issues. She was upset by it for a very long time.

lazypepper Tue 08-Apr-14 11:53:06

I have some American family members. They came over for a visit recently.

Much uproar when I asked DH "here's your coffee, cock".

Cock is a bit of a term of endearment where I am in W Yorks. Not rude at all.

I asked about Americans using the term Handicapped so much. As opposed to in the UK we say "with a disability" instead.

I explained the "spunk", "spunky" to them.

Now that has a totally different meaning!

lazypepper Tue 08-Apr-14 11:54:09

I have quite a broad Yorkshire accent, but found myself speaking in more slowly, and much more 'poshly' - in the hope that they would all understand me.

EvansOvalPiesYumYum Tue 08-Apr-14 11:57:57

O/h's brother lives in California, and we went to visit last year. Preparing for a party one evening, BIL's wife was asking me to "Ceranne-wrap" (sp??) plates of food. Had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. Plus she was saying it really quickly with the accent, so it was coming out as "srainwraip"

Of course, she meant Cling-Film. confused

saren wrap I think (it's a brand) grin

SarAn wrap

it's like us saying hoover for vacuum cleaner

EvansOvalPiesYumYum Tue 08-Apr-14 12:28:44

Thanks - I know that now! Just took a while to get it . . .

(They say "Kleenex" for tissues). Some things are obvious, Saranwrap just wasn't grin

scotch tape (sellotape for us) is another of those

(in Aus the sellotape brand used to be Durex - which is a whole other area of embarrassment/confusion! grin)

Beastofburden Tue 08-Apr-14 13:05:07

again, when I was little it was called both scotch tape and sellotape- they were two brands of the same thing. Scotch tape had a tartan pattern on the cardboard bit.

oh you can still get Scotch tape here

but the common name in the UK is sellotape & the common name in the US is scotch (even for unbranded)

SmashleyHop Tue 08-Apr-14 13:17:40

Ha! I remember getting the panicked phone call from DH from the store.. "What the bloody heck is a Q-tip?? Nobody knows what this is! I've even asked a store clerk." Poor guy had no idea we call cotton buds Q-tips which is a brand name back in the states. Same as Scotch tape, Saranwrap and Kleenex. Although I was a bit confused why everyone was so proud of their vacuums. Assumed everyone owned a Hoover brand since they "hoovered"

"store clerk" grin

is that a cashier or an assistant, Smashley? wink

SmashleyHop Tue 08-Apr-14 13:34:20

Is that a thing too?? Crap- If I'm expected to know everybody's official job title I am screwed. Doesn't help DH purposefully teaches me the wrong words for funzies. I kept calling my toddler "Little Bugger" around DH's grandma since he told me it was the same as "cheeky monkey" Turns out I really offended her. He thought it was hilarious.

SconeRhymesWithGone Tue 08-Apr-14 13:36:32

There is no such phrase as "a quarter of" in English pertaining to time

This expression is common in the US South.

To ask for a white coffee, you would ask for coffee with cream.

Some Americans drink hot tea (forgive me, I have to differentiate because I am a Southerner). I learned how to make a proper pot of tea in the UK and I even use loose tea leaves.

Mignonette Tue 08-Apr-14 13:37:33

Some of my favourite Southern sayings from a friend-

'So good it makes you wanna slap yo mama round the head'

'Duller than a row of tents'

'Duller than a mud hen'

Gotta love the South for picture-esque sayings!

yep, that's a thing too!

oh that is mean with the Bugger grin. I hope she understood!

I know it's utterly harmless in the US - when we were there (early 80s) you could buy both a baby bike trailer, & some sort of child walkie-talkie, called Little (or Li'l) Bugger

oh! I just googled Lil Bugger & there's a sling called that now

& a VW Beetle camper conversion called Little Bugger!!!

SconeRhymesWithGone Tue 08-Apr-14 13:43:38

"That dog won't hunt." smile

duchesse Tue 08-Apr-14 13:44:51

I do find the racial tension in US English quite tiresome even though I can understand where it comes from. Every single thing that can be misinterpreted in a racial way, is. It's almost as though even the words "black" and "white" are suspect. I find the blandness that this touchiness forces into the language a big shame. This for me is one of the most shocking differences between the US and the UK, and the one that makes me feel the most foreign when I'm there. The self-censorship it imposes is nerve-wracking.

ErrolTheDragon Tue 08-Apr-14 13:52:33

The use of 'clerk' to mean shop assistant puzzled me for a while as a child reading Little Women and the like - but you figure it out eventually.

The US education system was also puzzling when reading various American classics - 'Sophomore' WTF? ('Freshman' I could cope with). Why was 'coed' only ever applied to female students? What the heck were all those Phi Beta Kappa type things?

Oh, and one that happened IRL - somehow my degree classification came up in conversation and I said I'd got a First - the bloke looked puzzled and then hazarded 'oh, is that like Magna Cum Laude'? Eh? Like that's more obvious?confused (I have only just thought to check and surely Summa Cum Laude wink (sounds more like a folk song ...)

Beastofburden Tue 08-Apr-14 13:55:57

I don't think "black" is seen as any kind of embarrassing or rude word in British English; it's a colour or a style of coffee. People may be black too but that doesn't seem to matter.

I once left my bag in a taxi when arriving to visit a friend in Utah and we rang the firm to see if we could find it. "What was the driver like?" she asked me.

"A young black guy," I said. She winced and said down the phone, "He was a younger, African-American driver".

Must be very tiresome to have to be so mealy-mouthed in US English. He wasn't even African-American, I think he was from Jamaica.

Beastofburden Tue 08-Apr-14 13:58:38

yy to Errol, the US educational system has a whole new language.

And what's with all this "graduating high school"? They haven't graduated, they are not graduates, they have left school, they will be graduates when they have done a degree.

<goes off to lie down somewhere very quiet>

SmashleyHop Tue 08-Apr-14 13:59:12

Oh don't get me started on the school system stuff. I walked into my yr 6 son's parent teacher conference thingy knowing absolutely nothing about levels. He told me DS was a 5A in English and writing. All I could respond with was "Is that good?" I'm so used to A+ to F system. DH did his best to explain. There is hope for me yet. smile

Raxacoricofallapatorius Tue 08-Apr-14 14:01:06

Coffee with cream? Is that actual cream? Because a white coffee is coffee and milk ime. Do you have to specify you want milk?

Beastofburden Tue 08-Apr-14 14:03:02

shamley I also don't get these 5A levels and I don't even understand what Year 5 is- I always have to add five and work out that this means they must be 10 years old.

I am a Brit and have had three DC go through school here.. but I can't seem to rememebr it at all.

SconeRhymesWithGone Tue 08-Apr-14 14:09:35

It is perfectly acceptable to refer to people as black in the US. Barack Obama refers to himself as black. Some people prefer African American. I tend to use African American formally, but I also use black. Most black people I know think either is fine, and I believe recent polls show that is the prevailing view among most African Americans.

BertieBotts Tue 08-Apr-14 14:16:24

No I think they call it cream in coffee even though they use milk.

confused

SconeRhymesWithGone Tue 08-Apr-14 14:18:35

Yes, actual cream, but normally "half and half" which is half whole milk and half cream, similar to single cream in the UK. If you want milk, you would need to specify milk. You would also likely need to specify milk when ordering tea or you might get cream.

Beastofburden Tue 08-Apr-14 14:20:35

I guess thats what the skinny latte jargon is about, trying not to get cream in coffee. Anyone know the American for a nice cup of tea with semi-skimmed milk?

ErrolTheDragon Tue 08-Apr-14 14:21:57

>You would also likely need to specify milk when ordering tea or you might get cream.

Bleugh. It's no wonder not many americans drink tea. A cup of non-boiling water with a Lipton's Yellow Label teabag on the saucer, and half-and-half.

Beastofburden Tue 08-Apr-14 14:25:08

Bleugh. It's no wonder not many americans drink tea. A cup of non-boiling water with a Lipton's Yellow Label teabag on the saucer, and half-and-half.

Not just the US. Happens across Europe except then you get longlife milk in little foil packs.

SconeRhymesWithGone Tue 08-Apr-14 14:25:14

Errol You are so right. I have converted many of my family and friends to hot tea drinkers by preparing and serving it in a proper British fashion.

GrendelsMum Tue 08-Apr-14 14:28:20

A black British friend, of Jamaican heritage, was a bit surprised when a visiting young American student politely referred to her as 'African-American'.

SmashleyHop Tue 08-Apr-14 14:31:34

I have to admit I miss my iced tea (however- I take mine with no sugar and a squeeze of lemon. The southern sweet tea is just too sweet for me)
Proper English tea is amazing and would be something I missed if I moved back.

One thing that caught me off guard here was the phrase full fat coke. I think it took three go's till I really got what people were trying to say to me. I was appalled by the thought of fat being in my coke. Sugar yes, fat no. ;) I can't wait for my parents to visit to watch the look of confusion and horror on their faces when they order a drink. Plus they will have to pay for refills!!! shock ;)

SconeRhymesWithGone Tue 08-Apr-14 14:36:43

In the South, you have to specify "sweet or unsweet" when ordering iced tea. I also like mine unsweetened with lemon.

Beastofburden Tue 08-Apr-14 14:38:04

I think "full fat coke" is kind of a joke- its a very recent phrase and sort of takes the piss out of coke as a health food IYSWIM.

I always have to think twice about "soda". To me, it's soda water, which in the 1970s you had with lime juice in it, or by itself if the lime juice was all gone.

Beastofburden Tue 08-Apr-14 14:39:38

So, real iced tea fans- I sometimes drink Liptons iced tea in a bottle when on holiday. Is it as crap, compared with real iced tea, as Liptons yellow label is, compared with hot tea?

KeatsiePie Tue 08-Apr-14 14:43:46

What is semi-skimmed milk? Like 2% milk?

I have been puzzled by many British expressions on here, but can't remember any right now …

Oh! Question. So, if "it's quite nice" means "it's okay," then if you said "I have quite a lot to do," would you actually mean "I have a reasonable, not-large amount to do"?

Beastofburden Tue 08-Apr-14 14:47:31

semiskimmed is 1.7% fat; skimmed is 0.1%, normal (not regular!) is 3.5% fat.

Quite can mean two exactly opposite things.

if I say "quite right!" I mean "Absolutely right".
Mostly if I say "Quite" I mean "moderately".

However, if I say I have "quite a lot to do" I am being passive-aggressive. What I really mean is "I have far too much to do and am being terribly brave by not making a fuss about this. However you are supposed to notice, marvel at my stiff upper lip and competence, and offer to help me".

It almost never means "I have a reasonable workload, dont worry, all is fine".

Sorry to introduce British passive-aggressive irony and understatement into this..

FairPhyllis Tue 08-Apr-14 14:47:59

Yes you do graduate high school. You get a diploma if you pass high school. Historically it was often the highest qualification people had and it was a huge deal to get your diploma because it opened up loads of jobs to you - most Americans didn't go to college.

Have never had problems with using 'black' for African-American - all the black Americans I know use it too. "African American" is what a white person trying to be ultra PC would say.

Beastofburden Tue 08-Apr-14 14:49:20

but ppl used to get "school certificate" here- thats the same thing.

British English only uses "graduate" to mean university-level qualifications.

KeatsiePie Tue 08-Apr-14 14:55:32

Ha! I wonder how many threads are loaded with passive-aggressive irony and understatement that I just don't see …

Where does the "quite = not really" thing come from? I mean, was there just an enormous pressing national need for a way to say something that would sound nice but would actually be a little mean?

Actually I don't know why I'm asking, I'm from the South, home of the veiled insult grin

Izabelblue Tue 08-Apr-14 14:56:57

Fascinating topic! I was born in the USA, American mother, English father, grew up in Canada and have lived here in the UK for the past 13 years and I'm obsessed with the small differences between American/British/Canadian English...

I'd say in general Americans (and Canadians) understand most of what Brits say or at least pretend to! We've still got a bit of an inferiority complex so we assume that you all are Lord and Lady Lahdedah and that your use of the language is the correct one!

That being said my southern English DH who has as close to RP as you get these days is always being misunderstood when we're in North America. I still get to hear about the time he asked for an English breakfast tea in a coffee shop and wound up with a cherry green concoction...when we're across the pond I tend to do the ordering now..

SconeRhymesWithGone Tue 08-Apr-14 14:58:06

My granddaughter just went through her graduation ceremony, with diploma, cap and gown, for nursery school. smile

FairPhyllis Tue 08-Apr-14 14:58:06

It's totally possible to not get your high school diploma though. Quite a lot of Americans don't. 'Graduate high school' doesn't just mean 'leave school'. It's an achievement in itself.

Just like you used to be able to leave school but that didn't mean you passed School Cert.

RunnerFive Tue 08-Apr-14 15:03:06

"Quite" isn't mean in itself. It just means roughly the same as "moderately". So the weather might be "quite cold" or someone a bit over average height would be "quite tall".

Sometimes, though, it can can be used to mean"very" in situations where it would not be polite to actually state the truth openly. So if someone mentions that the restaurant you are all meeting at is "quite expensive" it is a warning that the prices are eye-wateringly high.

FairPhyllis Tue 08-Apr-14 15:03:44

OK fake graduation ceremonies for nursery or anything below 12th grade is a bit silly though ...

SconeRhymesWithGone Tue 08-Apr-14 15:04:46

Actually I don't know why I'm asking, I'm from the South, home of the veiled insult

Indeed, be wary of a Southerner who uses the phrase "bless your heart"
anywhere in a sentence addressed to you. That is not actually what they mean. grin

KeatsiePie Tue 08-Apr-14 15:18:52

Scone I knew you would pick that up! smile

I miss the South. People where I live now, they think I'm a lot nicer than I am.

Hmm, is American whole milk the equivalent of British normal milk, 3.75% fat? We buy whole and I still don't know. Wait, what's the difference between regular and normal milk?

PigletJohn Tue 08-Apr-14 15:36:25

surely "normal" would be silver-top?

Izabelblue we are quite similar then, English mum, Canadian dad, grew up in Canada, here for 11 years. smile

For those of you North American parents or families living in the UK, how do your DC sound? Did it change when they started school?

My two are language sponges. When we go back to Canada in the summer it takes them all of a couple of hours to sound completely, 100% Canadian again (they were both born in London). Takes them a day or two to switch back once we come back to England, but it is much faster if they see a friend. The teasing, oh my!

Very occasionally I have to help with vocabulary. A mobile phone here is a "cell" there. Not even a "cell phone", just a "cell".

In (my part of) Canada we call whole milk "homo milk" as in "homogonized". No idea if that has changed in the last 2 decades though grin

We call it blue milk (to match the cap)

Blue milk is homogenised but in British English it would be pronounced hommo (phew)

Silver top is not homogenised, PJ.

Surely 'regular' & 'normal' would be the same thing?

I thought UK milk was 4%, 2% & 1%

Broen Tue 08-Apr-14 16:16:06

It irked me too mardybra, when jane leaves character in frasiee used the americanism in place of what an english person would say.

Im irish but was complimented on my beautiful british accent in the states. My xmil was puce when somebody said that (of the group) i had the nicest british accent. true tho as xmil a bit estuary

zipzap Tue 08-Apr-14 16:26:15

Scone

There is no such phrase as "a quarter of" in English pertaining to time

This expression is common in the US South.

I think the thing is that there is no such phrase in English English. However it is common in American English, IYSWIM...

Broen Tue 08-Apr-14 16:27:28

Lol at homo milk

BertieBotts Tue 08-Apr-14 16:33:36

Full fat comes from milk as well though, because milk used to be "half fat" and "full fat", then they changed the labels some time in the 90s to say "semi skimmed" and "whole". Hence "full fat coke".

NotCitrus Tue 08-Apr-14 16:49:45

In UK English, regular isn't used to mean normal. It describes only polygons having equal sides, or frequency of bowel movements...

MaryMotherOfCheeses Tue 08-Apr-14 16:51:14

I recently heard Jack White proudly singing "Oh I think I smell alright".

Took me a while to work out the song was I Smell A Rat . But was a bit surprised, it sounded hilarious!

But would "I smell alright" make sense in US English? Having looked at this thread, it's an explanation.

"Homo milk" <wheeze> grin

Whole milk = full fat (approx 3.8%)
Homogenised just means it's been whizzed around v fast to make the fat and water content blend and not separate - which is why you only rarely see a layer of cream on top of your milk.
Fresh milk = not pasteurised, but not UHT

Nought to do with Englishes, just ways of treating milk.

I SO want some homo milk in my vair English tea now… <lifts brew with pinkie extended>

Beastofburden Tue 08-Apr-14 17:12:19

exactly. not. We dont use regular to mean normal.

On Quite: well, if the post is quite ironic then it's quite likely that you will get the meaning quite wrong.

Means: in order

Fairly ironic; more likely than not; completely wrong.

HTH (I know it doesn't)

Twit Tue 08-Apr-14 17:58:35

Quite can also mean exactly. Usually slightly PA.

'Well, quite.'
Also, well quite right too means absolutely spot on.

PacificD thank you for that!

Am blush at misspelling homogenised so badly. I was concentrating on the odd "z" spelling you see. Quite.

Ludways Tue 08-Apr-14 19:41:13

Yes, sorry I was unclear, the durex comment was his mates daring him to say it to the American girls at the bar to see their confusion, I ruined it by being British and knowing what one was, lol

I have British GCSE's and I also gave an American high school diploma, it is not something you simply get on leaving school, it is for achieving a certain level of grades both throughout your time at school and in your final exams. I also have a college diploma, which means I went to university and got a degree, lol.
Freshman - first year
Sophomore - second year
Junior - third year
Senior - forth year
Degrees generally take 4 years as opposed to three over here.
Here a first is the highest grade, over there it's a 4.0 GOA (grade point average).

Pacific, was 'not pasteurised' a typo?

Fresh milk sold commercially in the UK is all pasteurised I think? Whole milk is also homogenised - dunno about semi-skim & skim. (Well, skim doesn't have enough fat to need it).

Milkmen used to sell raw unpasteurised milk (green tops). I don't know if they still do

Ludways Tue 08-Apr-14 19:43:02

Typing on z phone is a pain.

* have a high school diploma, not gave*
* GPA, not GOA*

High school students are also freshman (= Y10) through to senior (= Y13)

SconeRhymesWithGone Tue 08-Apr-14 20:05:11

US university and college degrees for high academic success are often:

Summa cum laude: with highest honors
Magna cum laude: with high honors
Cum laude: with honors

You will sometimes hear that someone "graduated Phi Beta Kappa."
This refers to a honor society for top achievers.

Izabelblue Tue 08-Apr-14 20:08:32

@HeartsTrumpDiamonds I'm from the Homo milk side of Canada as well..tee hee...however, weirdly I don't actually have a Canadian accent - even though I left the US when I was 4ish, I've picked up more of my mother's midwestern US accent than canuck. Though my little sister sounds Canadian through and through...

DD is quite young (18mo) but so far her early words are coming out very southern English indeed - a big surprise to me who though she'd have some sort of North American twang!

I thought Phi Beta Kappa was just a fraternity!

that US university stuff is so alien grin

That's quite something izabelblue My mum moved to Canada in 1967 and still sounds Vair English. She is RP all the way and yet her brother, my uncle, could not be more cockney grin He was over for tea at the weekend* and I really noticed. He even said "innit".

They didn't grow up together.

*Canadian translation, he came for a visit on the weekend grin

NiceSmile, oh crap, yes, that was a typo blush

To clarify, ALL milk sold in the UK (and most of the Western world, I presume?) is pasteurised, but 'fresh' milk is UHT.

There's also the use of the word 'right' to mean 'yes'.
"Did you just arrive here?" "Right." - meaning "yes, I did".
My brother does this all the time, drives me batty grin

HolidayCriminal Tue 08-Apr-14 21:26:08

I am from USA & I have said many things over the yrs that baffled British friends. I'm sure I could easily rustle up a few but must get kids to bed, now.

annoys me when British think they already know all things American.

PigletJohn Tue 08-Apr-14 21:34:43

Fresh milk is NOT UHT.

I get my milk delivered from a local dairy farm, not homo. They do silver top, and have Guernsey cows so gold-top as well, It is about 5-5.5 fat. They might possibly sell green top at the gate. The gold is very yellow and has a thick top.

Homo semi and skim they deliver, but bought-in.

The delivery van comes round about 4am, I presume he goes back to the farm afterwards and does the morning milking.

Our milkman used to sell homo milk but it had to be ordered specially - had a red & silver striped top iirc

(We had it on order & sometimes it was mis-delivered before it got to us so we were left with red-top semi-skim. Used to make me v cross)

(Stopped getting doorstep milk because a) it took up far too much room in the fridge & b) the kids kept opening newer bottles first)

Ok.
I give up.
Of course fresh milk is NOT UHT.
<sigh>
I know what I mean in my head but it just does not come out right.

Disclaimer: I am not a farmer.

<goes for a wee lie-down in a darkened room>

AuntieBrenda Tue 08-Apr-14 21:46:50

I worked in New Jersey for a while with teenagers. I taught some quite hardcore, urban kids (I'm welsh and definitely not very urban) some fab phrases, including "you chopsy bugger". They loved it. I loved the mangled noo joisey welsh valley pronunciation of it. So funny!
They all loved to hear me say towel and twelve

UHT was called sterilised in the very old days (50 years ago) & was delivered to the doorstep in bottles with metal tops like beer. My mum used to get 1 bottle on a Saturday to make rice pudding with

Most milk in France & Spain is UHT.

Milk float.

Not to be confused with ice cream float.

grin

I know, pacific - there there smile

I have days like that on MN too!

lessonsintightropes Tue 08-Apr-14 21:54:10

Holiday I think the assumption that British people are more familiar with Americanisms rather than the other way around is because our telly and cinema is probably 2/3 homegrown and 1/3 US in origin - ditto literature both high and low brow. The average Brit will have a reasonable understanding of mainstream US language. The snobbier more broadviewing Brit might also have watched stuff set in different parts of the States such as The Wire.

From the extensive period of time I've spent both in the States and with Americans I think they would struggle with some of the more dialect parts of British English - particularly from the north and Wales and Scotland. I know Londoners who struggle to recognise what people from Norn Iron Northern Ireland are saying.

You're right and it is a misnomer but it does have some basis in truth.

AuntieBrenda Tue 08-Apr-14 21:57:06

And when I was living in America, everyone thought I was Polish (welsh valleys) and asked sometimes when I was speaking quickly if I could please speak English blush

I had a conference call with a Texan who we had been emailing. She asked about my colleague "Now, Alastair, is that a boy or a girl?" Alastair was in the room with me and I couldn't bear to introduce him after that. Is Alastair not used in the US?

Beastofburden Tue 08-Apr-14 22:17:27

Alastair Crowley? Famous American satanist, maybe it's just her?

SconeRhymesWithGone Tue 08-Apr-14 22:24:05

Alastair is not a common name in the US.

Ludways Tue 08-Apr-14 22:27:18

I don't know all the Brit colloquialisms, I certainly don't know all the Americans ones either.

I'm from the NE and there's still lots from up here, Geordie, Mackem, Boro etc. I don't know, lol

Aleister Crowley 73 greatest Britain in a BBC poll. I'd not heard of him before. I'm a bit puzzled as to how he got to 73rd.

Greenandcabbagelooking Tue 08-Apr-14 23:03:52

I said to an American girl I was directing in a play "I'll grab you some kirby grips for your fringe". Blank look.

American translation "I'll get you some bobby pins for your bangs".

To the same girl "I like your jumper". She was again, confused A jumper in AmEng is what I would called a dress or possibly a pinafore.

Mind you, I went to International schools for 18 months where we mostly used AmEng, even though we were mostly Brits, or children of Brits. It took me years after I moved back to the UK to stop calling them sneakers and sidewalks . I think it was because the majority of kids TV was American rather than British. I watched Barney and Sesame Street, rather than Playdays or Tellytubbies.

KeatsiePie Wed 09-Apr-14 00:57:59

It did take me a while on here to realize what people were wearing when they said jumpers. I thought you were all very into short girlish dresses.

SconeRhymesWithGone Wed 09-Apr-14 01:23:04

In spite of spending time in UK and Mr. Google, I still don't fully understand the expression "taking the piss." It seems to mean either making a joke, taking advantage of someone or both. Can someone clarify?

OldLadyKnowsNothing Wed 09-Apr-14 01:36:12

Both, depending on circumstances. If you're close, and making a joke, you can be "taking the piss". This is a mutual thing, which both parties percieve as funny. If it's a fairly new relationship and one partner is taking advantage of the other, it's not mutual, so it's not funny.

God, it is difficult, isn't it?

lessonsintightropes Wed 09-Apr-14 01:36:39

Scone, that's because we're back in the territory of good old British double speak, which is well nigh impossible for a non-British speaker to truly understand. It's almost always derogatory but occasionally not:

My workload is crazy - I think my boss is taking the piss = I'm being asked to do too much and it's not possible; my boss is asking the impossible.

My Mum has asked me to make nice with horrible person X when she knows that X has already done something which is awful = i.e. Mum is taking the piss by asking me to do this.

Occasionally = X said at work to Y (Y looks like Megan Fox) that she's a total heifer (i.e. really overweight, when Y is far from it). Observer would say - no, she's taking the piss, makes you want to feel uncomfortable. [This one doesn't happen much]

Rarely = X said to me that I can do [some impossible and mostly jokey thing] - my reaction would be 'you're taking the piss'.

Can be used to describe a situation where someone is humorously ragging you - i.e. he's only taking the piss, don't take it so seriously

But most of the time is negative towards the person towards whom the piss is being taken iyswim.

Sorry a bit pissed (i.e. drunk, haha) but does this make sense?

lessonsintightropes Wed 09-Apr-14 01:38:23

It's not nearly as nuanced as quite or very. Both modifiers, along with fuck/fucking, that can mean completely contradictory things depending on context, which is hard for someone from another culture to 'get' without discussion/coaching.

SconeRhymesWithGone Wed 09-Apr-14 01:44:44

Thanks, y'all. I do think I understand it better though I would never be confident enough to use it. grin

lessonsintightropes Wed 09-Apr-14 01:47:15

Scone if yuo can explain 'Bless your heart' you'd do a lot for intercontinental understanding!

SconeRhymesWithGone Wed 09-Apr-14 02:10:39

That's hard. Let me start with an example.

A Southerner says about a co-worker: "Tom does try hard, bless his heart."

What this probably really means is "Tom is the most incompetent person I have ever met in my entire life."

MooseBeTimeForSpring Wed 09-Apr-14 02:13:30

I'm in Canada. A lot of Canadians, particularly those in the Eastern Provinces are huge Coronation Street fans. As a result they have quite a good understanding of English sayings.

DH did once ask someone at work if he was, " going outside to smoke a fag". He got quite a strange look. It refers to something completely different!

SconeRhymesWithGone Wed 09-Apr-14 02:17:18
AveryJessup Wed 09-Apr-14 03:02:16

The 'half-10' thing is what bothers me the most. Americans would say 10:30. If you say 'half-**' for any time they won't know what you mean. I have to keep reminding myself to say '**:30' instead.

In general the understanding of non-American English varies widely in the US. Urban hipsters take pride in their ability to get non-American turns of phrase. Less educated Americans or people in more rural areas just look at me in wonderment with a faint smile of amusement when I talk. Sometimes I get asked 'So where are you guys from?' or even sometimes a very good guess 'are you guys from Ireland / Scotland?' (which we are).

KeatsiePie Wed 09-Apr-14 07:08:04

Scone that was a great example, and totally accurate. Made me laugh out loud.

I really like the nuances of "taking the piss." Not sure there's an American equivalent.

Inertia Wed 09-Apr-14 07:51:59

I had to explain the word 'quagmire' to an American relative ; she had never come across it.

Twit Wed 09-Apr-14 10:14:14

When I say 'aww, bless' what I really mean is 'what a shit' and I am english grin. I always got the PA -ness of 'bless your/their/whatevs heart' I like it.
This thread has made me want to visit the US even if it's just to ask for water. grin

bluebayou Wed 09-Apr-14 10:29:56

I am not only wishing to go, I AM, 5weeks today ,for 5 glorious weeks .
Can"t wait, S.F plus the rest of California , here we come .

blueshoes Wed 09-Apr-14 10:37:28

Lessons, on a non-British speaker picking up the nuances, I think it is possible. Although I grew up in Singapore, I have worked in London for UK companies for 10 years and married to a Brit for as long. Immersion helps! Being on mn also helps to get a wider exposure to the way English is used in Britain. But it took a little getting used to at first.

Loved your permutations of "taking the piss".

I think BritEng is more nuanced because it is also contextual. It feels like what is left unsaid as much as what is said.

Scones, really interesting to read about Southerners saying the opposite of what they mean. Some of my US colleagues (not Southern) can also be quite subtle and give the Brits a run for their money!

JuanFernandezTitTyrant Wed 09-Apr-14 12:26:43

*There's also the use of the word 'right' to mean 'yes'.
"Did you just arrive here?" "Right." - meaning "yes, I did".
My brother does this all the time, drives me batty*

I use it a lot when I'm negotiating on the phone or in person and I want to acknowledge what someone is saying without for a moment giving any indication that I agree with or accept what they are saying. It's also useful in shops to express your total exasperation with whatever you are being told about why they haven't got your order or whatever. Very PA! grin

Mignonette Wed 09-Apr-14 14:36:45

Can somebody tell me what a Cornish Hen is?

SconeRhymesWithGone Wed 09-Apr-14 14:49:57

A Cornish hen is a small immature chicken (does not actually have to be a hen) that weighs about 2 lbs. They are broiled or roasted. I am not much of a cook, but I do make these several times a year, with a stuffing made of apples, bread, and onions. Each hen serves one. DH and I sometimes have them for Thanksgiving when it is just the two of us. I believe they are some type of hybrid.

SconeRhymesWithGone Wed 09-Apr-14 14:59:05

This is close to the way I prepare them, except that I use yellow or white onions instead of green.

www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/cornish-hens-with-apple-raisin-stuffing/9baa70ee-5bae-4a15-b8a1-494076dfe6d5

Mignonette Wed 09-Apr-14 15:20:40

Thank you Scone for the answer and recipe <yum>.

They sound so exotic. I imagine them running around squawking in a West Country accent or something! I wonder where the name comes from?

They sound like our Poussins.

Mignonette Wed 09-Apr-14 15:21:22

That dressing looks amazing <tummy rumble>

AntsMarching Wed 09-Apr-14 15:38:47

Scone Great explanation of "bless your heart". I'm from the deep South myself and I thought it was spot on.

See what I did there, I'm learning to speak Brit (after eight years of living here) smile

Mignonette Wed 09-Apr-14 15:41:03

There's a great book called 'Bless Your Heart, Tramp!' by Celia Rivenbark that contains all you need to know about the phenomenon of the Southern woman. Love it.

sisterofmercy Wed 09-Apr-14 16:48:13

It took me decades of reading detective novels set in the US before I understood that a 'row house' is a terraced house. And a 'walk up' is a multi-story house without a lift. And a 'brownstone' is just a townhouse (often but not always multi-occupancy) made of a particular coloured brick which evokes a particular place for the author. So I wouldn't say I understand all AmEnglish, myself.

SconeRhymesWithGone Wed 09-Apr-14 16:58:24

Mignonette I have to say I am impressed that you said "dressing." smile In the linked recipe the mixture is cooked outside the bird so definitely a dressing not a stuffing. I sometimes stick it in the whole bird (rather than splitting the bird) and that would make it a stuffing.

Mignonette Wed 09-Apr-14 17:05:33

I am an American food pendant Scone! If you saw my bookshelves you'd see- packed with USA themed cook and food books. Obsessed I am. I make a cornbread studded dressing in the colder months- pour over some chicken stock then add apples, cranberries, onions etc. Lovely.

I am very particular about not muddling dressing and stuffing. I am glad to have met a fellow stickler for the right culinary term Scone! smile

Love the term 'walk up'.

PigletJohn Wed 09-Apr-14 17:09:44

but I think not a grammar pendant!

Mignonette Wed 09-Apr-14 17:11:36

No I am not a grammar pedant. I am open to improvement though.

Mignonette Wed 09-Apr-14 17:12:30

Posted too soon -

That is what copy editors are for Piglet IRL.

SconeRhymesWithGone Wed 09-Apr-14 17:42:01

I'll have to have a look at Celia Rivenbark's book. I have heard of her but never read anything by her. I have read Marilyn's Schwartz's A Southern Belle Primer or Why Princess Margaret Will Never Be a Kappa Kappa Gamma, which is a hoot. (Kappa Kappa Gamma is a US college sorority known for attracting the most socially elite.)

sisterofmercy I am addicted to British detective fiction, especially "tartan noir." Some of these are "translated" for the US edition so I go to the trouble to order them from the UK so that I get the full British linguistic flavor flavour.

Redcoats Wed 09-Apr-14 17:50:07

Marking my place to read later - I love these sorts of differences.
I'm always a bit hmm when people say American's dont get sarcasm/irony. I used to work for a UK company with American office and the staff there were worse than us, for 'banter' taking the piss Mind you, they were in New York.

SconeRhymesWithGone Wed 09-Apr-14 17:53:37

Anytime someone says we don't understand sarcasm/irony (and sometimes satire), I just point to the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, which is hugely popular. (I am not sure it is shown in the UK but have seen it referenced on here.)

Mignonette Wed 09-Apr-14 17:56:09

I have to look for those Scone. I also like Nan Graham and Scott R Brunner for light Southern comment.

mummytime Wed 09-Apr-14 18:31:24

Brownstones are just New York city aren't they?

I didn't know what a stoop was for ages.

Actually I find the way pronunciation and humour/manners change across the US very interesting. I'd generally be wary of humour with a mid-westerner I didn't know well for instance.

Thing is with eg Jon Stewart, people know they're supposed to find him witty so they do.

Off-the-cuff comments from eg a neighbour/other acquaintance/stranger, not so much

(He's not shown here, Scone, but often linked in eg YouTube clips)

SconeRhymesWithGone Wed 09-Apr-14 19:06:51

There are brownstones in Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston, and other places, as well as New York.

Mignonette Wed 09-Apr-14 19:08:34

What do they mean when they describe somebody as 'Main Line' (RE Philadelphia).

SconeRhymesWithGone Wed 09-Apr-14 19:19:05

Jon Stewart on being censored in the UK.

thedailyshow.cc.com/videos/6mibvz/parliament-slight

Is Main Line like the Boston Brahmins?

SconeRhymesWithGone Wed 09-Apr-14 19:22:58

Philadelphia Main Line connotes high social standing and old money. The name comes from the old railroad line that ran from Philadelphia into a series of affluent suburbs.

It won't play here, Scone :-(

We can only see officially authorised ones (& how those are decided, god knows)

SconeRhymesWithGone Wed 09-Apr-14 19:24:43

Yes, Main Line is an expression similar in connotation to Boston Brahmins.

Was Tracy Lord a Main Liner?

SconeRhymesWithGone Wed 09-Apr-14 19:26:04

Well, that is irony. The one about censorship is not authorized. shock

SconeRhymesWithGone Wed 09-Apr-14 19:27:14

Philadelphia Story, right? Yes, she is the very definition of Main Line.

Mignonette Wed 09-Apr-14 19:30:45

Thanks Scone. Isn't Gwyneth Paltrow's Mother Main Line? I seem to remember GP describing her as such.

The censorship is from your end I'm afraid - BBC is the same in the US. It's copyright or something

Oh, wait - it says there is a UK site at comedycentral.co.uk

here

I'll see if I can find the censorship one smile

SconeRhymesWithGone Wed 09-Apr-14 19:40:01

Yes, we can't play BBC videos. That is a real bummer.

There are ways round the BBC thing I believe - you can get an ISP makes it think you are in the UK?

Twit Wed 09-Apr-14 22:19:45

I think the daily show is shown on 4OD here. Last time I watched it a lot was around obama's first win, so a while ago! Must get back into it, it's very funny.

Beastofburden Wed 09-Apr-14 22:42:45

See, Jon Stewart, I just don't get. He shouts. He makes the same point three times, once in the build up, once in the punch line and once again. He laughs at his own jokes in case we didn't notice it was funny.

He is to subtle irony what miss piggy is to marriage guidance.

well that's weird

when I tried to open Scone's Jon Stewart link on my iphone it wouldn't play because it's restricted to the US (& pointed me to the comedycentral thing, which did open)

now I'm on the PC - using Firefox - the US thing does play & the UK one doesn't (my PC isn't in the UK, apparently!)

beastofburden, you are quite right. But he is actually very very subtle & smart by the normal standards of US TV grin

MooseBeTimeForSpring Wed 09-Apr-14 23:17:54

We use Expat Shield to watch BBC etc.

RunnerFive Thu 10-Apr-14 08:10:17

I've been reading up on silver patterns and sorority rushing on the Internet as a result of this thread and it all sounds terrifying.

AntsMarching Thu 10-Apr-14 08:39:58

Runner. Don't believe everything you read about rushing. I was in a sorority and there was nothing dangerous or harmful about it. Best experience of my life.

RunnerFive Thu 10-Apr-14 09:25:26

I want reading about dangerous stuff. Just the advice on what to wear, and personal grooming tips, and letters of recommendation, and advice to borrow pearls and a designer handbag if you don't have them already.

AntsMarching Thu 10-Apr-14 18:59:37

Oh I see. I just assumed since most things about rushing centre around hazing.

BertieBotts Thu 10-Apr-14 19:06:50

Watch out with Expat Shield. DH made me take it off after he discovered that even when I totally disabled the program through the icon in the start menu, it was still showing our IP address as UK.

Hola works well, that's a free Chrome extension and when it's off, it's off. 4od seems to have blocked it currently though but it will probably come back.

SconeRhymesWithGone Thu 10-Apr-14 22:13:28

Hazing is forbidden by almost all colleges and universities in the US now. In addition, many hazing type activities are illegal under state law.

KeatsiePie Fri 11-Apr-14 00:03:49

Pledged is an interesting book, probably 10-12 years old by now, about the sorority experience -- the author went undercover at a couple of sororities.

I was in a coed fraternity in college and we had very mild hazing -- led blindfolded through the woods, etc., meant to be spooky -- but weren't endangered or asked to do anything alarming. And I'm a total wuss, so it really was mild grin

KeatsiePie Sat 12-Apr-14 00:27:13

I'm watching the first episode of Gavin and Stacey, and people keep saying "aww, fair play." Is it sort of like saying "you've got a point"? Everyone seems to be saying it very affectionately so "you've got a point" doesn't seem like the right equivalent.

hellymelly Sat 12-Apr-14 00:49:31

Fair play is only a Welsh thing, in that context. It sort of means "all credit to him/her/you" it has a sympathy element, so is expressing empathy and suggests that you think the other person has tried hard or is decent.

KeatsiePie Sat 12-Apr-14 02:17:39

Oh, thanks! That's exactly what the situations in the episode were like, someone had just done something nice for someone else, that's so cool. I realize now that it was only the Welsh characters saying it.

Is it also said in the rest of the UK, but with different connotations?

lessonsintightropes Sat 12-Apr-14 02:26:54

Hellymelly that's wrong- fair play means the same to English people too, not just Welsh.

KeatsiePie Sat 12-Apr-14 02:38:15

Stacey just told Gavin he should move to her town. She said "it's well lush." ??

gertiegusset Sat 12-Apr-14 02:46:26

Oh dear, I'm well lush, best off to bed! grin

KeatsiePie Sat 12-Apr-14 02:49:33

Also, is it ordinary that they both live with their parents although they have professional jobs? That's gotten a lot more common here (economy), but in 2008, when this aired, to have young professionals all living with their parents on a tv show would have been meant to indicate something unusual about them. Has it been a common thing in the UK?

KeatsiePie Sat 12-Apr-14 02:51:46

gertie grin

Btw. beast I can't stand Jon Stewart either. Insanely irritating to watch. But I don't like any of those shows.

gertiegusset Sat 12-Apr-14 02:54:25

DD is 25 and living at home although she did live way for about four years previously.
But it is sadly imminent that she will be moving on very soon. sad
DS2 is home at the moment, uni hols, he is 19.
Ds1 lives with his partner and child, he is 23.

Hairytoekerr01 Sat 12-Apr-14 03:02:30

Strangley whereas I have what could be considered a posh Berkshire accent my xdh came from a small town outside Glasgow known as 'Little Ireland' due to all the irish immigration there. People there speak hyper fast using glaswegian and north of ireland vocabulary which if you're not accustomed to it is hard to understand at first. He has problems getting people to understand him in london sometimes so when we went to the US I expected the same, but it was actually me who has issues and not him . Apparently the NYC and Massachusetts accents developed in a similar way to his and as long as he slowed down he was able to use the same slang words and in-jokes they had. It was a really amazing thing to see/hear, of course then we went to the west coast and my "Praw-per ahhr-pee" won the competition over there, although there was this distance that didn't exist with him in Boston.

gertiegusset Sat 12-Apr-14 03:11:52

Erm, it is late but what is 'praw-per-ahhr-pee'?

I'm from the South of England too btw. smile

Hairytoekerr01 Sat 12-Apr-14 03:14:12

My lame attempt at a phonetic 'Proper RP'

gertiegusset Sat 12-Apr-14 03:30:22

Sorry, didn't mean to be rude, just didn't 'get it' grin
Must be American!!

gertiegusset Sat 12-Apr-14 03:33:18

And as soon as I saw you write it I got it.

Night.

hellymelly Sat 12-Apr-14 12:03:13

Well I lived in England for a couple of decades, and never heard "fair play" used the way we use it in Wales, in Wales it is a really common phrase but in England I didn't hear it used.

GoodnessIsThatTheTime Sat 12-Apr-14 12:06:33

It's common around here (south england) but lower incomearea and in my experience is men I know that say it.

hellymelly Sat 12-Apr-14 12:08:47

Lush means gorgeous. Welsh again, Well lush is really gorgeous.

hellymelly Sat 12-Apr-14 12:09:18

As in "he's lush" "this cake is lush" etc.

Beastofburden Sat 12-Apr-14 12:12:20

All I know about welsh idiom I get from watching "Stella". I loves it, it is so warm and cuddly. Sme of the idiom I can kind of hear Welsh structures poking through, like when they say, "that'll be fine, is it?" Which is guess is like n'est-ce pas? In French.

hellymelly Sat 12-Apr-14 13:40:02

Welsh sentence structure is completely different to English, so in Wales you will often hear people essentially speaking Welsh but using English words. Older people will sometimes ask to "rise" their money from the bank/PO, because in Welsh the word (codi) to rise up is the same as the word to take out . The

Beastofburden Sat 12-Apr-14 13:58:17

I heard it was a bit like French. But I always find it by interesting to hear someone speak their native language but using English words. It makes the inferences between the two languages very clear.

hellymelly Sat 12-Apr-14 14:42:44

It isn't like French particularly, but it is like Breton. We have a different alphabet, with different vowels, and letter sounds that don't occur in English. (Several villages near me have no English vowels at all).

Beastofburden Sat 12-Apr-14 15:20:23

grin at the no-go vowel villages!

hellymelly Sat 12-Apr-14 16:14:55

English tourists do blanche at names like Eglwyswrw!

Beastofburden Sat 12-Apr-14 17:18:42

grin

Beastofburden Sat 12-Apr-14 17:20:10

Is w always a oo sound in welsh, as in cwym, or does it need the y?

Cwm = coombe, doesn't it? (Same word, same thing - a valley)

hellymelly Sat 12-Apr-14 23:23:11

It is similar to an 00 sound, yes. It doesn't need the y. Cwm is pronounced like more like the 00 in soot, than in broom.

KeatsiePie Sun 13-Apr-14 07:01:55

Thanks for the explanation of lush!

New ones … "tidy"?? Seems to not be like "this room is tidy" but more like "good plan"?

Also "cracking." Seems to describe every positive thing imaginable. Cracking bloke, cracking house, or just as a way to say "that's a good idea," like "Want to do this?" "Cracking."

It's really interesting to me that sometimes I can't tell whether some things are exaggerations or intended to be funny. People in this show say "All right" constantly. When people in real life see each other, do they really say "All right?"/"All right. All right?"
instead of something like "Hi, how are you?"/"Good, how are you?"?

Also have found that lot of the time I have to turn on the captions to understand what Ness is saying grin

GrendelsMum Sun 13-Apr-14 08:40:50

A'right for a greeting is a regional thing. (It's kind of all run together, not like saying 'all right' at two separate words)

In the North-West we'd definitely say 'a'right KeatsiePie?' and you'd say 'a'right, Grendels?'

KeatsiePie Sun 13-Apr-14 09:02:07

Ha, it's funny to picture doing it! I like it, it's very efficient.

HolidayCriminal Sun 13-Apr-14 09:18:45

Americans have completely different words for lots of baby things. So much so that even though I was raised over there, I learnt the British words only, and I get confused by the American terms & visa versa (e.g., snaps for poppers, I still don't know what a bassinet is, etc.). How many of you know what a nukky is?

Here's a subtle one. I worked on shop floors a lot in my youth. When the shop is empty in Britain, staff say that it's "quiet". But when the store is empty, Americans say that it's "slow". Took me ages to get my head around "quiet", sounded so wrong.

I have to seriously edit my words when talking to American relatives. And my kids can't understand Captain Underpants at all, which yet again shows that British people don't understand lots about American culture. DC get Calvin & Hobbes ok, at least, but still ask the odd question.

mummytime Sun 13-Apr-14 09:30:53

Nukky is a pacifier/dummy isn't it, and I think it comes from a band name?

Are you saying British kids don't get Captain Underpants - because it was very very popular with a lot of my son's friends, but my son didn't like it (and I would say he was more bi-lingual American/British than most), he just didn't like it.

Denis/Dennis the Menace is the biggest area for cross Ocean incomprehension as they refer to quite different characters on each side of the pond, and probably say a lot about underlying values/attitudes.

HolidayCriminal Sun 13-Apr-14 09:44:15

I'll come up with more challenging vocab tests after my trip next month, lol.

Yeah, my kids totally can't get CU. Maybe it's because I didn't used to let them watch enough crud TV.

mummytime Sun 13-Apr-14 10:04:46

My son at 7 was floored when asked by an American what his favourite cartoon was; he hardly watched any cartoons. But then at 17 he complains that he is deprived because: we didn't have an X box or a playstation, he didn't even have a Wii until he was 13/14, he never played Zelda or certain other games.

US bassinet = UK crib (ie small bed for new baby - they're often on wheels)

Otoh, US crib = UK cot (ie large bed for baby)

& US cot = UK camp bed!

Confusing or what?

Lush, cracking & 'all right?' are not Welsh, they're British - tidy is Welsh though - it's a term of approval (for almost anything grin)

GoodnessIsThatTheTime Sun 13-Apr-14 10:40:28

The us cot confused me on a number of occasions, it just didn't make sense to have an adult in a baby bed! I didn't know there were two Denis the menace either. I didn't like the British one.

Actually 'all right?' (for 'hi' or 'hello') - is a NW England thing. I used to live in the SE & it wasn't a thing there. I can't speak for other parts of the UK!

The US Dennis was in a cartoon strip - nothing like Dennis the Menace - just the same name. Cute annoying kid with grumpy elderly neighbour, Mr Wilson (played by Walter Matthau when they made the movie)

GoodnessIsThatTheTime Sun 13-Apr-14 10:49:11

UK one is a long standing (longest?) Comic strip too. Was in the beano so incredibly well known in days gone by. Expanded to tv and mechandise etc.

Just read both wikipedia entries. It's extraordinary that they were both started at the same time with the then same name.

the US one was a strip in the daily papers, like Andy Capp or a The Perishers - not a character in a kids' comic

HolidayCriminal Sun 13-Apr-14 15:32:36

where would my mother find her tennies?
Why would you be unhappy to be upside down in your house?
Correct way to say Los Angeles?

SconeRhymesWithGone Sun 13-Apr-14 15:53:11

On her feet
House is worth less than mortgage
AN-je-less, not an-je-LEES

HolidayCriminal Sun 13-Apr-14 16:01:11

(if only the BBC could get the pronunciation right)
What's a towhead?
Where do you find dust bunnies?
What's a Bertos?

Blonde kid
Under bed
Dunno grin

HolidayCriminal Sun 13-Apr-14 16:07:23

ha! got one. But I'll confess you guys are doing well so far. I want to see at least one other poster trying, too. Not just the class Swots.

What do American school kids do on Valentine's day?
What must American kids remember to do on St. Patrick's day (& why)?
On a shopping list, what does TP mean?

HolidayCriminal Sun 13-Apr-14 16:08:35

ps: a towhead is technically a very blonde small child. Over about 4-5yo they are just blonde, not towheads any more. The point about towheads is they usually change to another hair colour.

You got me with all 3 of those!

I feel I should know TP but no idea about the others - never had a school-kid in America, only a baby

Oh I know how that works, all my kids were towheads grin

HagLady Sun 13-Apr-14 16:12:43

Fair play is Dublin taxi driver speak (I thought). A fair play to you! I couldn't say it, I'd get a slagging (ribbing)

HolidayCriminal Sun 13-Apr-14 16:13:00

Berto's with apostrophe might have fairer, and it might just be a particularly southern california thing.

PigletJohn Sun 13-Apr-14 16:33:57

TP is bogroll.

SconeRhymesWithGone Sun 13-Apr-14 16:57:45

St. Patrick's Day: Wear green or get pinched. But I'm American Holiday grin

HolidayCriminal Sun 13-Apr-14 17:32:13

See, that's cheating. And TOWTNS lived in theUSA for a spell. I want British folk who never lived there, and who "can't think that there is any American phrase, word or accent that" they wouldn't understand, to try to answer.

I've lived in Britain 20+ yrs & only recenly discovered that Brits have wheel trims rather than hubcaps.

"Can you find your way to the john?"

We used to have hubcaps though so must of us know what they are, even if we don't say it any more

Have you Americans on here read Notes from a Big Country - Bill Bryson's book of columns written when his family moved back to the US? There's a bit on DIY - because he left quite young he'd never had a house over there so the jargon was a foreign language.

Things like 'my wife's people call it polyfilla' (spackle) or 'I know them as Rawlplugs' (anchors) grin

lessonsintightropes Sun 13-Apr-14 17:57:51

Your john is our loo.

helzapoppin2 Sun 13-Apr-14 18:23:03

Sorry if it's been said, but I bought DS2 a copy of "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies", which, included chipmunks scampering around a forest in England. Now, we had a pair that careered round our patio in Virginia, but never seen them in England!

No chipmunks in the UK grin

SconeRhymesWithGone Sun 13-Apr-14 18:28:00

I love Bill Bryson.

Ah - it's an alternative UK! That's ok then

'The story follows the plot of Pride and Prejudice, but places the novel in an alternative universe version of Regency era England where zombies (and indeed skunks and chipmunks) roam the English countryside.'

lessonsintightropes Sun 13-Apr-14 18:33:58

We have squirrels which aren't quite as cute!

SconeRhymesWithGone Sun 13-Apr-14 18:35:32

So what's the answer to the Valentine's Day one? Exchange Valentine's cards? Is that not done in the UK?

BertieBotts Sun 13-Apr-14 18:40:35

In the UK you only send valentine's cards to someone you fancy before you're dating them, as a secret thing. It's traditional to sign it with a ?

However hallmark have muscled in and now it's supposed to be the case that you send one to your significant other even if you've been married 20 years. But still, not to anyone else, not to your kids or parents or friends.

I love Bill Bryson, though his books are a little dated now.

BertieBotts Sun 13-Apr-14 18:42:13

I was quite mortified when one of my (sweet little old lady) students was reading it and asked me to translate certain words which she couldn't find in the dictionary blush

"Smegma" and "buggered" (in the original sense of the word!)

hellymelly Sun 13-Apr-14 18:47:15

Keatsie- "tidy" means good, there was a guitar shop in Haverfordwest that had "tidy like" in lights in the window every Christmas. Made me laugh a lot. Cracking means really good, lovely etc.

SconeRhymesWithGone Sun 13-Apr-14 18:52:31

From another thread, what British people call hair straighteners, we in the US call a flat iron. It seems funny to think of it as a plural thing, but there are two surfaces like scissors, so it makes sense.

BertieBotts Sun 13-Apr-14 19:01:19

Oh, that's weird. I always wondered what a flat iron was.

NotCitrus Sun 13-Apr-14 19:03:36

American kids also take heart-shaped cookies in for the class - my mum made me do this in England leading to intense embarrassment all through primary school.

Plenty of US phrases that Brits don't get, or think they do but don't quite. Ballpark figure - colleagues had no idea what a ballpark was. Funnel cake. Rain check. Will-call desk. (i don't want to call later, I want to collect my theater tickets now!) Homecoming.

BertieBotts Sun 13-Apr-14 19:15:26

Definitely. I know the meaning of rain check but I didn't know what it meant until I read it in one of those articles online. Again ballpark figure I know the meaning of but not sure of the origin of the phrase - baseball related? The other three, I have no idea.

PigletJohn Sun 13-Apr-14 19:28:44

A flat iron is what people use to press clothes, after laundering, to get the creases and wrinkles out.

Now almost universally superseded by the steam iron.

It is made of iron, and flat, hence the name, with a handle on the top.

PigletJohn Sun 13-Apr-14 19:31:20
OldLadyKnowsSomething Sun 13-Apr-14 19:31:23

Scone, that's interesting re flat irons. My granny (born 1902, Scotland) used to "straighten" her hair with the iron! Not an electric one, obv, one heated on the stove, but it was also called a flatiron, same shapeish as a modern one.

OldLadyKnowsSomething Sun 13-Apr-14 19:32:54

Xpost with PigletJohn. smile

SconeRhymesWithGone Sun 13-Apr-14 20:00:19

DD1 (my American daughter) lives in Manhattan now & that Flatiron Building is her absolute favourite smile

(Any other Brits on this thread having to resist the urge to start putting eg favorite? wink)

helzapoppin2 Sun 13-Apr-14 20:57:22

"Bangs", I educated my hairdresser to say fringe!
"Hot" seemed to be the descriptive word for an attractive person.
"Good to go"= ready.
"All set" = ready.
The things I really missed were a really good swear, but DS could be relied on for that, and the pleasures of pointless speculative conversation, although I did watch Fox News sometimes!
I did read an article in the Washington Post about how fed up some people were with the term "African American" since they'd never been near Africa and they just wanted to be called American.

After all, are black Africans called African-Africans? Or white Africans called European-Africans?

I think not...

SconeRhymesWithGone Sun 13-Apr-14 22:23:08

The context is important. By long usage, Americans of European extraction often used (and still use) a hyphenated or double-barreled designation, Irish-American, Italian-American, etc., but the terms used for black people did not reference origin and they were the terms adopted primarily by white people. The development of the term was part of the changing language of the Civil Rights Movement; it was to denote with pride an African origin. Many black people prefer to be called black rather than African American when a designation is used, but polls have shown that most are fine with either.

Scone, I did think that about eg Italian-American after I'd posted!

But otoh, Italy & Ireland are countries. Africa is a continent with thousands of different tribal allegiances. It's a bit of a minefield, isn't it?

ErrolTheDragon Sun 13-Apr-14 22:38:45

>I've lived in Britain 20+ yrs & only recenly discovered that Brits have wheel trims rather than hubcaps

eh? we have hubcaps - I've never heard the term 'wheel trim' confused ... though most nice cars have 'alloys' now I suppose.

In the early days of 'PC-speak' in the US, a colleague somehow managed to refer to my pet as a 'canine American'. er.... he was a british born and bred dachshund grin.

I haven't seen a car with actual hub caps for years

They do have wheel trims now, Errol. Honest. Different altogether grin

SconeRhymesWithGone Sun 13-Apr-14 22:42:59

grin at canine American.

TheOne That's a good point, but many African Americans did not and do not know where in Africa their ancestors came from. That is changing with more sources for genealogical research including genetic testing.

My first car was a 1962 Triumph Herald - it had hubcaps (small chrome saucer-type things that literally capped the hubs)

Nowadays cars have wide plastic things, designed to look a bit like alloys, which cover the whole wheel - those are wheel-trims

SconeRhymesWithGone Sun 13-Apr-14 22:52:24

While I am on the subject, many first nations Americans (to use the Canadian term) prefer to be called American Indian rather than Native American partly because it is the only double barreled designation that puts American first.

People's origins must be harder & harder to define anyway as individuals of different heritage intermarry - if an Italian-American marries an Irish-American, what do their kids call themselves? Italian-Irish-American?

& if those kids then marry eg a Chinese-American or Japanese-American or Hispanic-American or a completely non-American immigrant...?

Where does it all end?

ErrolTheDragon Sun 13-Apr-14 22:56:38

I don't tend to examine cars in great detail so I didn't realise that there were 'fake alloys' now... but I do still quite regularly see fallen-off hubcaps by the side of the road. grin

PigletJohn Sun 13-Apr-14 23:05:47

they're not hubcaps, they're wheel trims.

(and what you used to call hub caps on, say, a Morris Minor, are technically nave plates. You probably have hub caps which you can see when you take the front wheels off, they are fixed to the car, not the wheel, about 50mm dia. The seal the grease in the wheel bearings).

SconeRhymesWithGone Sun 13-Apr-14 23:05:58

I think we just use separate hyphenated designations, TheOne. I am Scottish-American, Anglo-American, and Irish-American. smile

I'm a quarter Irish but just say British (or English, if pressed grin) - what would you say, Scone? All of that, or just 'American'?

ErrolTheDragon Sun 13-Apr-14 23:15:11

This thread is about language and all my life (I'm 53) the round things which periodically fall off car wheels I've never heard called anything other than 'hub caps'. grin I had a whole set stolen off a car in about 1990 and I'm pretty sure all discussions re their replacement used this term. Thereafter 'alloy wheels' ... honestly never heard 'wheel trim' before this.

SconeRhymesWithGone Sun 13-Apr-14 23:16:12

I think we cross-posted, but I am mostly of Scottish descent, and have a Scottish surname, so I usually say Scottish American.

PJ, I have never heard of nave plates in my life!!! You can take precision too far, you know!

My dad had Ford Prefects (2 different ones), a Mk 1 Ford Cortina & an Austin 1300. They all had 'hubcaps' - the thing you removed in order to access the wheel nuts if you had a flat tyre (or tire, for the Americans wink)

SconeRhymesWithGone Sun 13-Apr-14 23:18:52

Yes, whatever they are, we call them hubcaps in the US. I had some stolen once too, from a beat-up wreck of a car. Not sure why they bothered.

I'm 63, Errol. They are definitely called wheel trims now.

Maybe it's because I'm a pedant....grin

ErrolTheDragon Sun 13-Apr-14 23:26:53

So we used to have hubcaps but now we don't... (I'm sure the fallen-off ones are old though, so still hubcaps wink). Other car nomenclature of course also varies - front end headwear 'hood/bonnet' - back end 'trunk/boot' ...think there's other differences too. What's the equivalent of a 'car boot sale' I wonder?

PigletJohn Sun 13-Apr-14 23:28:30

where you see the little cat's face, that's where real hub cap (the cap on the wheel hub where the grease for the wheel bearing) is, although the cat's face is an ornamental cover, it is the right size.

Almost nobody knows about wheel bearings, so they think the hub cap is the chrome saucer-like thing on a Ford Cortina

Possibly in the days of artillery wheels the true hub cap was an ornamental item and the name stuck.

This wheel does not have trims, so you can see through it.

SconeRhymesWithGone Sun 13-Apr-14 23:30:12

Car boot sale is a flea market.

I don't think they have them - people have their own 'garage sales' or 'yard sales' (like in Toy Story 2)

Re cars/parts - I posted a few earlier. Hood & trunk were in there grin

PJ, I think if 99% of the driving population call a 'nave plate' a 'hubcap', then however ignorant a specialist thinks that 99% is, hubcap is the term to use so that we all know where we are

SconeRhymesWithGone Sun 13-Apr-14 23:36:08

Community garage sales are popular. You sell your junk to your neighbors, and then go house to house and buy your neighbors' junk.

PigletJohn Sun 13-Apr-14 23:36:47

yes sad

PolkadotsAndMoonbeams Mon 14-Apr-14 00:13:28

Poussins aren't quite the same as Cornish hens - Cornish hens are about twice the size (and the age), closer to our spring chickens.

Also, odd question I know, one American friend didn't understand what we meant when we said we were going to the Coach and Four. Do you not have stereotypical 'pub names' the same?

They don't have pubs, as such, at all (remember many of ours are 100s of years old - most of America is barely 100!) & certainly not with traditional names like British pubs (I think they tend to be known by eg the owner's name)

PolkadotsAndMoonbeams Mon 14-Apr-14 00:42:52

Oh, of course. I remember finding it strange, because if I went somewhere and people said "We're going to The Feathers/Green Dragon/Cross Keys" I'd probably recognise it as a 'pub-type' name, even if it wasn't one I was familiar with.

What would be the equivalent? "We're off to Joe's"?

SconeRhymesWithGone Mon 14-Apr-14 01:02:18

Yes, off to Joe's, as in Joe's Bar and Grill. Most cities (and some towns)of any size have at least one Irish or Scottish themed pub-like establishment, often named after the owner, eg O'Brien's or MacKenzie's.

RandomInternetStranger Mon 14-Apr-14 01:37:49

I do wonder sometimes if some Americans like being purposefully obtuse pretending not to understand simple words and phrases. I can understand them not getting regional words like bevvie or reem (not that I like to imagine anyone using stupid words like those in the UK or abroad!) or slang like 2 and 8, rosie or descriptions like chav, wide boy or whatever and even to an extent when we do have different words like crisps/chips, jello/jam/jelly, football/soccer, though again I think that confusion should be limited as I know what they mean when they say football but when it's the same word pronounced differently or a saying that is fairly explanatory I think so of them just like playing dumb so they can pretend to get it then say "Oh you mean vitamins/aluminium!" hmm

What annoys me more is when they think I'm Australian or South African. I have a very, very English accent!! It's not even regional, it's public school London well spoken English, seriously it's not like I have a broad Geordie or Cornish accent FFS! They understand Kate Winslet and old pouty lips from Pirates and Duchess (forget her name!) so they should understand me! hmm

RandomInternetStranger Mon 14-Apr-14 01:51:37

Reading through this thread there's not an American phrase I've not understood and I really find it difficult to believe that Americans can't understand us. Like fag, I knew 20 years ago what Americans call a fag, and when I lived there I still called cigarettes fags and they knew what I meant, probably because I had one in my hand or was reaching for my packet. But seriously they've seen the Guy Richie films, they've seen Jason Statham and Jude Law and Ray Winston, they've heard them say fag and knew what it meant surely!

BertieBotts Mon 14-Apr-14 08:29:56

Car Boot Sales are a very British phenomenon. They don't have anything quite the same anywhere else.

In most of Europe there are flea markets which are the most similar thing, but you don't sell directly out of your car boot, you set up your table/tent and sell from there almost like a normal market, except everything is second hand (and in some cases stolen!) Smaller flea markets are more like a jumble sale. In Germany where I live the kindergartens will very often hold flea markets so the parents donate old clothes/toys etc and then other parents and people from the community come and buy them, a bit like an NCT sale since the items are usually child-related, not always though.

In the US people hold their own garage sales or yard sales but I don't know beyond that.

Claudiecat Mon 14-Apr-14 09:17:11

When I stayed with Canadian friends they found the term car boot hilarious.
While at a theme park in Florida my DH went on a ride and said to a young girl "Is this the front of the queue?" She looked him up and down in disgust and said "I'm sorry I don't speak your language!" grin

Mignonette Mon 14-Apr-14 09:21:26

To be honest I have had people misunderstand my accent as Australian- and they were Londoners and my colleagues. So it isn't an 'American' thing, more a stupid thing wink.

I was absolutely appalled grin.

The US is such a huge place that they aren't exposed to the regional variations in dialect that we are. We can travel forty miles and hear speech patterns totally different to our own. There is also an assumption that everybody spends their time watching films with British actors in. The problem is that a lot of British actors working in the US use RP or similar so they really aren't exposed to regional accents.

HagLady Mon 14-Apr-14 09:43:39

I can't believe that people wouldn't understand queue! that is very hard to believe! 'I don't speak your language'. How did he keep a straight face!!

When I was in America nobody knew I was Irish. Odd. I think if you don't 'ham it up' they just don't recognise it.

We have car boot sales here. I've got some good bric a brac there. We not only have car boot sales here but they are fortnightly to boot grin

Mignonette Mon 14-Apr-14 09:57:36

Americans stand in line. They don't queue. Or that is what I have been told.

Claudiecat Mon 14-Apr-14 10:32:41

I think he was a bit bemused Haglady.
Until I went to Canada I didn't realise how much I said "right then" and "sorted". They picked up on it straight away.
They loved the phrase "bottled it" though!

Americans find it very hard to understand me but funnily not my husband although we come from the same city. (Midlands - non Brummie) We've been mistaken for New Zealanders, Aussies and South Africans. I'm not surprised as they wouldn't have been exposed to our accent at all except for Clive Owen in Bourne film. That's the only time our city's accent has been portrayed in a film as far as I know.

BertieBotts Mon 14-Apr-14 10:35:39

Oh no, actually the queue thing is true. They use line instead of queue and some of them have literally never come across the word. One of my friends taught English in China for a few words and ended up having a really long argument with someone because she had written "queue up" and the other person (American) refused to believe that it was a real word or that it could be used as a verb confused

BertieBotts Mon 14-Apr-14 10:36:14

I didn't realise that Americans never say "Can't be arsed/can't be bothered". They think it's hilarious and British/Australians say it all the time.

DoctorTwo Mon 14-Apr-14 10:53:11

I'm a member of a Facebook group based in the bible belt, despite me being very British, and I've found they understand British English perfectly well. For instance, one of them posted an article about Eric Pickles (!) and I remarked that he's a 'talking bollock most famous for eating all the pies' and everybody got the meaning.

I asked once why there so few black atheists and got a reply "well, I'm a black atheist and mostly *keep it under my hat*" which I thought was very English, even though she's from North West Florida and has never been to Britain. Apparently she got less grief when she came out as gay than when she declared she was an atheist.

I think 'keep it under your hat' might actually be an American idiom which we nicked!

DoctorTwo Mon 14-Apr-14 11:32:52

Really? shock Blimey Charlie!

mythbustinggov Mon 14-Apr-14 11:36:36

Two things that haven't come up yet (and I think I've read the whole thread):
'momentarily' - UK meaning, FOR a moment, US meaning, IN a moment. 'The aircraft will be arriving at the gate momentarily' makes me want to scream...

And kitty-corner. I was given directions to somewhere - could not understand kitty-corner. Now I know what it means (diagonally opposite), but no idea why...

GoodnessIsThatTheTime Mon 14-Apr-14 11:39:15

I found it took a while before I realised I could care less for I couldn't cate less was not a spelling error!

Lookingforfocus Mon 14-Apr-14 12:36:50

My English DB and SIL found it quite hilarious when my tall, strapping American DH announced he was "going Downtown" i.e. walking to the humble high st of their Kent village.

Americans do not pronounce 't's in many words. DH wanted to call our second DD Verity (as it was such an English sounding name to him) but every American we knew pronounced it Verridee so that just didn't work for me!

Oh yes, I had forgotten momentarily!

Presently is another one: US = right now, UK = soon

ErrolTheDragon Mon 14-Apr-14 12:55:08

>I found it took a while before I realised I could care less for I couldn't cate less was not a spelling error!

That one is just plain illogical.

Claudiecat Mon 14-Apr-14 13:25:35

I remember the first time we went to Florida and my DS who was then 4 was adamant that it was Pludo not Pluto. He just wouldn't believe us!

SconeRhymesWithGone Mon 14-Apr-14 14:19:42

In the Southern US "presently" is used to mean soon as in the UK.

SconeRhymesWithGone Mon 14-Apr-14 14:24:36

I don't think it unreasonable that Americans sometimes mistake British accents for Australian or New Zealand. These accents are derived from British accents and the distinctions are hard to pick up if you are not used to hearing the accents on a regular basis.

Of course American accents are also ultimately derived from British speech, but much farther back in time. Which is why we still say "gotten." smile

HagLady Mon 14-Apr-14 16:11:24

I always think that if I'd ended up in America I'd still speak the same way but my old school friends (on fb) write traveled, realize, line up, they say sneakers, tomayto, baysil. It's no wonder some Americans never learn the British English way to say things.

HolidayCriminal Mon 14-Apr-14 17:09:03

Of course Americans have car boots. We call them Swap meets.

HolidayCriminal Mon 14-Apr-14 17:10:09

When we were in america we said gasoline, movies, tomayto, baysil, orEGGano, budder etc. Nobody would have known what we meant otherwise & anyway it was fun! grin

BertieBotts Mon 14-Apr-14 17:55:58

Ahhh cool, I didn't know about swap meets! Except that I go to an expat brunch every 2 weeks and my friend remarked that we should rename it "swap meet" because people are always buying/selling stuff.

I find I'm picking up more American words because I'm around US English speakers. I keep telling DS things are gross etc.

helzapoppin2 Mon 14-Apr-14 19:01:39

No snakes on a plane, but I had to get someone to "snake the drain" when it was blocked.

helzapoppin2 Mon 14-Apr-14 19:12:55

Gardening- yard work
Rubbish- debris
Wardrobe- closet
Cooker-range
Cutlery - flatware
What do you have in your yard? Sod!

SconeRhymesWithGone Mon 14-Apr-14 19:19:20

We say gardening in the South. And we call the cooker a stove, but know what people mean when they say range. Rubbish is more likely called garbage.

helzapoppin2 Mon 14-Apr-14 20:17:10

Good points, Scone. I was in Virginia. I forgot about garbage. Sometimes it was difficult to remember the appropriate word. I spoke English as a foreign language! Only kidding, but I often had to formulate what I said before it came out of my mouth.

Is there a difference between garbage & trash?

SconeRhymesWithGone Mon 14-Apr-14 20:45:01

helzapoppin I sympathize. I went from Georgia to Scotland in the days before there was a lot of familiarity in the UK with US English. I began to amend my vocabulary in a hurry. And after a year, I came home sounding a bit like a cross between Scarlett O'Hara and Miss Jean Brodie.

SconeRhymesWithGone Mon 14-Apr-14 20:48:24

No real difference between garbage and trash where I live, except that garbage would probably be used more where food waste is present.

Anotheronebitthedust Tue 15-Apr-14 09:35:43

I think it's interesting how 'fortnight' is seen as so quaint and archaic, but Americans quite happily use other English words that haven't been used in the UK for the last three hundred years, like 'Highway' and 'Fall' (as in Autumn).

Lookingforfocus Tue 15-Apr-14 09:38:26

Trash is originally a British word. Shakespeare uses it in Othello "Whoever steals my purse steals trash".

I just like trash as a word, we lived in the US for over 12 years and some Americanisms I just prefer for some reason, as an Anglo-American family we all have transatlantic vocabularies. Sometimes I can't remember British words for things.

For example I get confused about which pronounciation of garage is British and which is American. I also have no time for Brits who are very snobby about American vocabulary and accents - especially as every time I go back to the UK people are using what were considered "unattractive Americanisms" a few years previously!

I also remember working as an executive recruiter in Seattle and a co-worker (Americanism!) showed me a CV that she thought had atrocious spelling and vocabulary. It turned out of the course the candidate was British!

Lookingforfocus Tue 15-Apr-14 09:44:21

Opps CV should of course read resume (rez-zoo-may).

Mignonette Tue 15-Apr-14 09:49:28

Scone

There is a lot of Scottish ancestry in the South isn't there? What a wonderful combination- Scarlett and Jean!

Bill Bryson's 'Mother Tongue' does and excellent job of debunking some of the British snobbery over what they mis-perceive as 'Americanisms'. Most people are completely ignorant of the true origins of many Stateside terms.

Lookingforfocus Tue 15-Apr-14 10:05:24

Gotten is a great example. We're happy to say forgotten and understand forgot and forgotten. Yet some people get their knickers in a twist (AE: panties in a wad) if Americans use got and gotten.

One thing I noticed I changed is I don't say "you lot" as in "Are you lot coming, or what?" which is very BE. I say "you guys" - i.e. to my kids "are you guys done yet?".

Some British English terms just sound very unnecessarily formal to American ears and IMO American society has a strong emphasis on politeness=inclusiveness. Anything that seems linguistically to create a barrier or be hard for someone to understand is considered very bad manners. Body langauge too. Just like in many Asian societies it's very important to smile as is seen as good manners. While the Brits and Germans believe you need to have something to smile about and smiling "for no reason" is inane. Of course in the previously mentioned societies being with others is "a reason".

partialderivative Tue 15-Apr-14 14:04:21

I remember trying to explain "The dog's bollocks" to some American colleagues, I'd never really thought it an odd phrase until that moment.

SconeRhymesWithGone Tue 15-Apr-14 14:07:58

Mignonette Yes, Scotland is heavily represented in the South, especially in North Carolina. There are many place names in the South that show the connection, e.g. Scotland County, North Carolina; Culloden, Georgia; Dunedin, Florida; Scotia, South Carolina, and the list goes on.

I love the word "bollocks." We should definitely import that one.

PigletJohn Tue 15-Apr-14 14:35:28

I had some Korean Meatballs the other day. They really were the dog's bollocks.

ErrolTheDragon Tue 15-Apr-14 14:41:42

:- <--that's the 'dog's bollocks' in printers jargon.

partialderivative Tue 15-Apr-14 16:51:10

But, Scone, do you understand what "The dog's bollocks" means?

It has a quite separate meaning to 'bollocks'

"The dog's bollocks" is a more coarse way of saying "The bee's knees".

I hope that is clear.

SconeRhymesWithGone Tue 15-Apr-14 17:00:59

partiald It's clear now. So just plain "bollocks" means nonsense, etc., but "the dog's bollocks" is something altogether excellent. As a dog lover, I find this charming. grin

ErrolTheDragon Tue 15-Apr-14 17:02:40

I believe a US equivalent (understood here too, though) would be 'the cat's pyjamas'.

PigletJohn Tue 15-Apr-14 17:05:57

I might mean "outstanding"

SconeRhymesWithGone Tue 15-Apr-14 17:32:58

Or the cat's meow. smile

In the thread about expressions that might be dated in 50 years' time, one poster suggested that "fortnight" might be on its way out in the UK. Can this be true?

helzapoppin2 Tue 15-Apr-14 18:14:33

I was described as " the bomb!" I think it was a compliment!

RyvitaSesame Tue 15-Apr-14 18:31:25

ah yeh, jillian michaels says that. "this is the bomb" (= v. g)

RyvitaSesame Tue 15-Apr-14 18:32:59

Don't think fortnight is on its way out. But, I think all young people under say 22 speak with an American accent in my neck of the woods. (socodu). Who from Socudu is gonna liiiike disagreeeeeee widd thad, id iz so like, todally troooooo

RyvitaSesame Tue 15-Apr-14 18:34:08

my x used to abbreviate that, something or somebody "the dee beez"

ErrolTheDragon Tue 15-Apr-14 18:50:23

Oh, Jillian Michaels... now, I love what she's doing for me, but I really wish I could dub some of her phrases ..'sickest', 'crazy psycho' and so forth. I don't think they sit very comfortably this side of the pond.

partialderivative Tue 15-Apr-14 19:12:52

Blimey, I don't think I have heard of "the cats pyjamas"!

Is it used in an ironic way? The same way "Dog's bollocks" is?

e.g. "David Cameron thinks he is the dog's bollocks and that any fool will vote for him"

(Maybe that's not irony)

RyvitaSesame Tue 15-Apr-14 19:13:42

I love JM

"you're strongest where you were broken....... I think Ernest Hemmingway said that".

Classic quote from JM there.

My other favourite is

"this is not your mother's workout"

shock

ErrolTheDragon Tue 15-Apr-14 21:50:01

Oh yes, I'm doing that one at the moment Ryvita.grin

OldLadyKnowsSomething Wed 16-Apr-14 01:07:00

I think someone saying, "Oh, he thinks he's the cat's pyjamas" is slightly more snide than "He thinks he's the dog's bollocks", but then I also think "dog's bollocks" is a phrase more readily applied to objects than people. The first time I encountered "db" (as it were) it was applied to a rather lovely custom motorcycle, not a human.

"Cat's pyjamas" does relate better to humans than things.

I think.

confused

partialderivative Wed 16-Apr-14 10:29:36

I couldn't help but google "dog's bollocks".

Apparently there is a bar in Toronto that goes by this name!

I would agree with OldLady in that 'it is a phrase more readily applied to objects than people'

So my example may have been misleading.

Now, what about 'I should coco'?

BertieBotts Wed 16-Apr-14 10:38:21

Yes dogs bollocks is used more literally (well not literally literally) about something you think is very good. And it is usually things.

Cat's pyjamas is definitely more something somebody thinks they are, not something they/it are/is.

OldLadyKnowsSomething Wed 16-Apr-14 14:16:34

"I should coco!" is "Absolutely no way am I going to do that!"

Eg, "Will you be going back to that pub where you got food poisoning?"

"I should coco!"

partialderivative Wed 16-Apr-14 18:35:08

I think I have a lot to be grateful to the 'I should coco' phrase.

My DP was really amused by my use of it when we first met. And I think that was what made her 'take a shine' (another Brit phrase?) to me

partialderivative Wed 16-Apr-14 18:38:31

No! I got that wrong as well, apparently 'take a shine to' is a US colloquialism.

hellymelly Wed 16-Apr-14 21:38:47

I think the dog's bollocks evolved from from the cat's pyjamas. it is an amusing ruder version. Like the mutt's nuts has evolved from the dog's bollocks.

zipzap Thu 17-Apr-14 13:27:39

The American phrase 'as American as Apple Pie' used to get me angry.

back to my groups of american students, they often used to book to go to a traditional 'olde english' tourist rip-off evening with traditional food. Dessert was always apple pie.

Every time pretty much, the group leader would berate me that they didn't want american food, they were expecting something english. So I then had to explain how they were eating apple pie in England long before the Pilgrim Fathers set sail. As indeed were most European nations eating some sort of Apple pie (be it called a strudel or a tarte or whatever) - and who did they think had introduced apples to the US as they weren't a native species... THey'd then start saying about the phrase 'as american as apple pie', which I'd then point out didn't mean they had invented it just claimed it for their own like lots of other stuff but could also say that it showed the immigrant nature of the start of the country... For the most part they didn't like that - felt it rocked their faith in their american-ness or something, I'm not really sure.

It was quite fun to watch the kids have their first encounter with tepid insipid weak 'ye olde traditional cheapskate orange squash' though grin - particularly the looks of horror when they discovered they couldn't have ice or Coke/7 Up etc [wicked smiley]

ErrolTheDragonsEgg Thu 17-Apr-14 13:33:36

Yes, that's a very odd one, especially as surely most American kids have heard of Johnny Appleseed?

It should be something like 'as American as succotash'.

PrincessBabyCat Fri 25-Apr-14 22:39:23

I can understand some Brit phrases/slang, I just go off context and voice tone. But I still laugh when I hear them talking about food spoiling. "The milk's gone off" makes is sound like the milk wandered off and "The milk's gone wrong" makes it sound so dramatic. grin

partialderivative Tue 29-Apr-14 17:39:57

I had no idea that "The milk's gone off" was not a universal phrase.

Interesting.

I know that my US friends had no idea what 'thick' meant when assessing the intelligence of another person.

KeatsiePie Tue 29-Apr-14 18:23:12

Er, I think American kids might think that Johnny Appleseed is American. I thought he was American. He's not?

I usually hear/say the milk has gone bad.

"The bomb" is a compliment! But sort of outdated now.

When I moved to Boston I found that native Bostonians actually did say "wicked," as in "wicked smart."

ErrolTheDragon Fri 02-May-14 18:47:19

The point is that Johnny Appleseed went around America planting orchards because there weren't indigenous apples.

PigletJohn Fri 02-May-14 19:05:33

off topic, it's my considered opinion that the large amount of eating and cooking apple cultivars found along pioneer trails and settlements, need not be due to deliberate planting by a mythical character, it would naturally occur when the travellers were eating apples as they went, and throwing the cores aside where some of the seeds grew.

You find the same with tomatoes, even today, but these have the advantage of viable seeds even after they have passed through the human digestive tract.

KeatsiePie Tue 06-May-14 02:13:32

Ah! I honestly thought that he was bringing the seeds from their native part of the US to the rest of the country.

ErrolTheDragon Tue 06-May-14 08:17:39

Piglet - perhaps, but JA planted nurseries not just random wayside trees. And apparently a lot of the seed-grown fruits weren't much cop for eating or even pies but that was OK, they were good for making cider. By which of course I mean proper alcoholic cider not apple juice ... I've heard of innocent Americans getting thoroughly sozzled in Somerset on account of this linguistic difference, whereas Brits ordering cider in the US are liable to be merely disappointed grin

PigletJohn Tue 06-May-14 09:13:16

do you believe that there was one single person who did all that?

ErrolTheDragon Tue 06-May-14 11:15:58

No - in the wiki on JA it says: ' In some periods of the settlement of the Midwest, settlers were required by law to plant orchards of apples and pears in order to uphold the right to the claimed land'.

ShowMeYourTARDIS Tue 08-Jul-14 03:05:31

I get most of the slang, yes. Probably 90% or so. I've never left the US, but I do watch a lot of Who.

I knew two girls at my school named "Randy." Made me wince every time.

ShowMeYourTARDIS Tue 08-Jul-14 03:11:10

Oh, the one that really got me was "squash," the drink. Here, squash is a group of vegetables, including zucchini (courgette?) and pumpkin. It's a bit hard to drink that!

ColdCottage Sat 19-Jul-14 00:58:54

I was unable to order a cranberry juice whilst in New England. They just kept repeating "crown bridges?" With a very confused look on their face.
I have an RP accent so assumed due to my clear diction I would be understood - nope. At a dinner with a friends cousin from the south it was like we were both speaking a foreign language.
Also had long talks about how 'basil' and 'aluminum' should be pronounced. smile

ColdCottage Sat 19-Jul-14 21:32:03

And had a long discussion about the correct pronunciation of oregano - though I never use the word!

A long time ago, my friend group and I became close to a fellow from Glasgow named Martin, whose father worked for a British chemical company (sorry, the name has been lost in the mists of time) and had been seconded to our area. We all had a lovely time getting pished up on the regular and as the summer wore on we all (even me, and even Martin) got more and more confused that the drunker we got, the fewer of us could understand him...except for me. After about a half-bottle of whatever, I became the Designated Martin Translator. I'm still the go-to for accents; unfortunately, I pick them up really easily as well, unintentionally, which leads to some awkward situations when people think I'm trying to send them up.

As far as my own natural accent, I was born in very Southern Ohio, just across the river from Kentucky, and my parents on both sides were descended from Appalachians in VERY far southeastern Kentucky/Eastern Tennessee. When I'm drunk or seriously angry I sound like I should be standing in Wal-Mart smacking a small dirty child with a flipflop <rampant Appalachian-American stereotyping, sorry>.

Wadingthroughsoup Thu 02-Oct-14 14:43:37

Ah, this thread is great. I'm another one who has visited the States and found it difficult to order water. Also tea. I'm going on a 3 week trip next year to the US and am considering taking a stash of PG Tips.

I have an American friend who lives here in the UK with her British husband. She's been here about 10 years so has obviously absorbed many Britishisms and rarely gets confused. I love it when she declares something is 'rubbish', because it comes out in a really English accent- presumably because she had no use for the word when she was in America so has only started using it since she's been here.

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