Re-learning the English Language: Tales of a Fluent *American* English Speaker: Part 1

Have you ever spoken the same language as somebody else but still felt lost in translation? Before I studied abroad in 2014, I thought the only difference between the UK and US would be the accents, but how wrong I was! A few days into my semester, I had my first experience hanging out with my friend’s British flatmates and almost right away, I was berated for calling ‘crisps’, ‘chips’.

From this moment on, I tried to fall into a pattern of calling everything by its British name so that I wouldn’t get yelled at but while some things came easily, others never quite stuck. Here is a list of words and their UK-US translations (Note: Some US translations are strictly New England/Massachusetts-based and may not apply to all 50 states).

  • Fries= Chips
  • Bubbler=Water fountain
  • Rotary=Roundabout
  • Jimmies= Sprinkles
  • Cookout=Barbeque
  • Sidewalk=Pavement
  • Crosswalk=Zebra crossing
  • Sweater=Jumper
  • Shopping cart=Trolley
  • Cookie= Biscuit
  • Elevator=Lift
  • Soccer=Football
  • Football=American football
  • First floor=Ground floor
  • Pants=Trousers
    • Fun fact: I told a class full of Brits that I had just bought a new pair of pants and did not realise my error until somebody was intuitive enough to understand that I meant jeans, not underwear…

 BONUS: Words that look similar or the same but manage to get me in trouble every time.

  • Aluminum=Aluminium
  • Mocha (Moe-ka)=Mocha (Mawcka)

Confused? You’re not alone!

I hope you’ve enjoyed Part 1 of my “New England vs. England” series. Comment below with other pairings you may have heard of or any mishaps caused by same-language mistranslation!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *