Tag Archives: American English

Divided By A Common Language, Part One

1 Feb

It’s time.

Despite being an internationally respected woman and writer, I still get some grief about “speaking American.” Guess what? I’m American so, to those people I say, duh. But I’m British, too, so I also say fuck off, you twat.

However, in the spirit of being more welcoming, I’ve decided to supply a British-American dictionary for my less worldly readers. Here’s the first section.

But I’m telling you right now: I don’t want any quibbles. I don’t speak for all Americans. I don’t speak for all Brits. I only speak for myself: Agatha Whitt-Wellington. Got it?


Abattoir:  Slaughterhouse
Abseiling:  Rappeling
Abroad:  Overseas
Accelerator:  Gas pedal
Action Man:  G.I. Joe
Accumulator (bet): Parlay
Advert:  Commercial
A&E, casualty:  ER (emergency room)
Aerial:  Antenna
Aeroplane: Airplane
Alight: Get off
Aluminium: Aluminum
Alsatian:  German Shepherd
Angry: Mad, pissed off
Anti-clockwise: Counter-clockwise
Articulated lorry, juggernaut: Semi, tractor trailer, big rig, 18-wheeler
Arse:  Ass
Athletics: Track and field
Aubergine:  Eggplant
Automatic (car): Standard
Autumn:  Fall


Backhander: Kickback
Bagsie: Dibs
Balaclava:  Ski mask
Bang to rights: Dead to rights
Bank holiday: National holiday
Bap, cob: Hamburger bun
Barrister:  Trial lawyer
Bath: Bathtub
Bedsit: Studio apartment
Beefburger:  Hamburger
Beermat: Coaster
Behind: In back of
Benefits:  Welfare
Bespoke:  Tailor made, custom made
Bill: Check
Bin: Wastebasket, garbage can, trash can
Bin liner: Garbage bag, trash bag
Biro: Pen
Biscuits: Cookies
Bloke, chap, lad: Man, guy
Bogie, bogey: Booger
Boiled sweets: Hard candy
Bonnet: Hood
Booking: Reservation
Boot:  Trunk
Bottle: Moxie
Braces:  Suspenders
Break (school): Recess
Boiler (central heating): Furnace
Box (men’s athletic protection): Cup
Bum bag: Fanny pack
Bungalow: Single-storey house
Bum: Butt, booty, fanny
Burgle: Burglarize


Call box: Phone booth
Candy floss: Cotton candy
Car park: Parking lot
Canteen: Cafeteria
Caravan: Trailer, camper, RV
Caretaker: Janitor
Car boot sale: Yard/garage sale
Car side lights: Parking lights
Car wing: Fender
Catapult:  Sling-shot
Cellar: Basement
Cheeky: Ornery (cheeky monkey=ornery critter)
Chemist: Pharmacy, drugstore
Cheque: Check
Chips: French fries
Chuffed: Happy
City centre: Downtown
Cladding: Siding
Clean your teeth:  Brush your teeth
Cling film: plastic wrap, Saran wrap™
Coach: Bus, Greyhound™
Condom: Rubber
Consultant doctor:  Specialist
Cooker: Oven, stove
Coriander: Cilantro
Cotton: Thread
Cotton bud: Q-Tip™
Cotton wool: Cotton balls
Courgette:  Zucchini
Crash (a car): Wreck (used as a verb and noun)
Crisps: Potato chips
Crumpet: English muffin
Current account:  Checking account  


Daddy long legs: Crane fly
Daft, thick:  Stupid, dumb
Diagonal: Catacorner
Digger: Backhoe
Dinner jacket:  Tuxedo
Diversion: Detour
Doctor’s surgery: Doctor’s office
Dodgems: Bumper cars
Draughts:  Checkers
Drawing pin: Tack
Dressing gown: Robe
Dual-carriageway: Divided highway
Dummy: Pacifier, binky
Dustbin: Trash can
Dustcart: Garbage truck
Dustman: Garbage man
Duvet:  Comforter


Engaged (phone): Busy
Estate (inner city):  The projects
Estate (area of new houses): Sub-division
Estate (car): Station wagon
Estate agent: Real estate agent
Ex-directory: Unlisted


Fag: Cigarette
Fag end: Cigarette butt
Fairy cake:  Cupcake
Fairy lights:  Christmas lights
Fancy: Like
Fancy dress party: Costume party
Fanny: Pussy (sounds somewhat cruder, doesn’t it?)
Father Christmas: Santa Claus
Fire brigade: Fire department
First, second, third, fourth year (at university & high school): Freshman, sophomore, junior, senior
Fishfingers:  Fishsticks
Flannel: Washcloth
Flask: Thermos
Flat:  Apartment
Flyover:  Overpass
Football:  Soccer
Football boots:  Cleats
Footpath: Trail
Freephone: Toll-free
Fringe: Bangs
Frying pan: Skillet
Full stop:  Period


Gammon: Ham steak
Gangway: Aisle
Garden: Yard
Gear stick (car): Stick shift
Gherkin:  Pickle
Give way:  Yield
Gear lever:  Gear shift
Glove box: Glove compartment
Gobsmacked: Surprised
Goose pimples: Goose bumps
Grease-proof paper:  Waxed paper
Green fingers: Green thumb
Grill: Broil
Ground floor: First floor


Hair slide: Barrette
Hand bag: Purse
Hand brake: Parking brake
Hash (#): Pound sign
Headmaster / mistress:  Principal
Hen night:  Bachelorette party    
High Street:  Main Street
Hire: Rent
Hob: Stovetop
Holiday: Vacation
Homely: Homey (homely actually means ugly, so watch yourself)
Hosepipe: Hose
Hundreds and thousands: Sprinkles


Iced lolly:  Popsicle™
Icing sugar: Powdered sugar
Identity parade: Police line-up
Indicators (car):  Turn signals
Inverted commas: Quotemarks


Jacket potato:  Baked potato
Jam:  Jelly (as in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches)
Jelly:  Jell-O™
Joiner:  Carpenter
Jumper:  Sweater
Jump leads: Jumper cables
Junction (motorway): Exit


Kit (sports, camera, etc.):  Gear
Kitchen roll: Paper towels
Knickers:  Panties, underwear
Knuckle dusters:  Brass knuckles


Ladder (tights): Run
Ladybird:  Ladybug
Lager:  Beer
Launderette:  Laundromat
Lay-by:  Rest area
Lead (dog):  Leash
Leads (electrical): Cords
Lemonade: 7-Up™, Sprite™
Let: Rent
Letter box: Mail box
Level crossing: Railroad crossing
Lie-in: Sleep-in
Lift: Elevator
Lift (give someone a lift): Ride
Lodger: Boarder
Loo, Toilet: Bathroom, restroom
Loogie: Goober, hocker (goobers are also chocolate covered peanuts)
Loft: Attic
Lollipop: Lollipop, sucker
Lollipop lady:  Crossing guard
Lorry: Truck
Lorry driver: Truck driver, trucker
Lot (material items): Bunch
Lounge, sitting room: Living room.
Love bite: Hickey


Manager (sports): Coach
Managing director:  CEO (Chief Executive Officer)
Mange tout: Snow peas
Mannequin: Dummy
Manual (car): Stick, stick shift
Mate: Friend, buddy, pal, chum
Maths: Math
Megaphone: Bullhorn
Mileometer:  Odometer
Mince (meat): Ground meat
Mobile library: Bookmobile
Mobile phone:  Cell phone, cellular phone
Motorway: Highway, expressway
Mum:  Mom

To be continued….

Divided By A Common Language, Part Two

31 Jan


Nappy: Diaper
National: Federal
National Insurance number: Social Security number
Newsagent: Newsstand
Newsreader:  Anchorman, anchorwoman
Nick (verb): Steal, rob
Nick (noun): Prison, state pen, slammer, big house
Nil: Nothing, zero
Nought: Zero
Noughts and Crosses: Tic-Tac-Toe
Note (money): Bill
Number plates: License plates


OAP: Senior citizen
Off-licence: Liquor store (also available as a drive-thru)
Off-roader: SUV (sport utility vehicle)
Off-the-peg: Off-the-rack
Operating theatre: Operating room
Overtake: Pass


Pants (y fronts): Underwear, briefs, shorts
Paraffin: Kerosene
Parking brake: Emergency brake
Patience (card game): Solitaire
Pavement:  Sidewalk
Pay in: Deposit
Pay packet: Pay check
Pay rise: Pay raise
P.C. (Police Constable): Police Officer
P.E. class: Gym class
Pelican, zebra crossings: Pedestrian crossing
Petrol:  Gas
Piles: Hemorrhoids
Pitch (sports):  Field
Plait (hair): Braid
Plaster (bandage):  Band-Aid™
Plaster (walls): Drywall
P.M.T.: P.M.S. (it’s a proper syndrome in America, not just a bit of tension)
Pocket money (child’s):  Allowance
Poorly:  Sick
Pop socks: Knee-high’s
Post: Mail
Post box: Mailbox  (flag up to indicate you have something to be picked up)       
Post code: Zip code
Post-Mortem: Autopsy
Potholing, caving:  Spelunking
Powercut: Power outage
Pram:  baby carriage, buggy
Prawn: Shrimp
Press-up:  Push-Up
Pressurise: Pressure
Propstand (push bike): Kickstand
Pub: Bar
Public school: Private school
Pudding, sweets, afters:  Dessert
Pull: Pick up, score
Puncture (tyre): Flat
Pushchair:  Stroller
Push bike: Bike, bicycle


Queue: Line
Quid: Buck (slang for a dollar)


Randy: Horny
Rasher (bacon):  Slice
Redundant: Laid-off
Register: Roster
Return (journey): Round-trip
Reverse (a car, etc.):  Back up
Reverse charges: Collect call
Revision: Study, cram
Ring (on phone):  Call
Roadworks: Construction
Rocket (vegetable): Arugula
Roundabout: Traffic island
Row: Argue, fight, quarrel
Rubber:  Eraser
Rubbish (refuse): Garbage, trash
Rude: Risqué


Sack (get the sack): Fired
S.A.E:  S.A.S.E (self addressed stamped envelope)
Saloon (car):  Sedan
Sand pit (children’s):  Sand box
Sello™ tape: Scotch™ tape
Semi-detached: Duplex
Semi-skimmed milk:  Lowfat, 2% milk
Serviette: Napkin
Settee:  Sofa, couch
Shaving foam:  Shaving cream
Shop:  Store
Shopping trolley:  Shopping cart
Silencer (car):  Muffler
Single ticket:  One-way
Solicitor: Lawyer, attorney
Sorbet:  Sherbert
Skint: Broke
Skip: Dumpster
Skive: Play hooky
Sledge:  Sled
Sleeper (rail):  Railway tie
Slip road: On-ramp, off-ramp
Slowcoach:  Slowpoke
Smock (dress): Jumper
Snog: Make out
Spanner: Wrench
Spirits: Liquor
Stabilisers (child’s bike): Training wheels
Stag night: Bachelor party
Starter: Appetizer
Static caravan: Mobile home
Strop, wobbly: Hissy fit   
Study: Den
Sub-contract: Outsource
Supply teacher: Substitute teacher
Surname: Last name
Suspenders:  Garter belt
Swear: Cuss
Swede:  Rutabaga
Sweets:  Candy
Swimming costume: Swim suit, swimming trunks, bathing suit


Takeaway:  Takeout
Tannoy: Loudspeaker
Tap: Faucet, spigot
Tarmac: Pavement, asphalt, blacktop
Teat (baby bottle): Nipple
Tea towel: Dish towel
Telly: TV
Tetchy: Touchy
Thousand million: Billion
Tick: Check, checkmark
Ten-pin bowling: Bowling
Till: Cash register
Tin (of food):  Can
Tip:  Dump
Tipp-X™: Wite-out™ 
Toilet, loo: Bathroom, restroom, john
Toilet roll: Toilet paper
Torch: Flashlight
Touch wood: knock on wood
Tout (tickets): Scalp
Towbar: Trailer hitch
Trainers: Sneakers, tennis shoes
Tramp: Bum, hobo
Treacle: Molasses
Trousers: Pants, trousers
Tumble dryer: Dryer 


VAT:  Sales tax
Verucca: Plantar wart
Vest: Tank top
Video: VCR


Waistcoat:  Vest
Walking (country): Hiking
Wardrobe:  Closet
Washing up: Dishwashing
Wellies: Rubber boots, galoshes
Whinge: Whine
Windcheater: Windbreaker
Windscreen: Windshield
Whatsit: Doohickey, thingamabob
Write-off (car): Total


Zebra crossing, pelican crossing: Crosswalk
Zimmerframe: Walker
Zip: Zipper

Some of these words are familiar to my readers, whether they are British or American or Other. I don’t doubt you’ve heard many of them on television or in films. So why, may I ask, is it so difficult for you to understand them when they come out of my mouth? Well, you can plead ignorance no more. Thanks to the time and effort I’ve taken to enlighten both my countries’ citizens, I’m certain that US/UK relations will improve.

And as we say in all types of English, you’re welcome.