Speaking British English can often lead to some mis-understandings when you’re living in the States. We may speak the same language but our slightly different words and pronunciations can leave people with blank faces.Let’s face it, we’re divided by a common language.
There are some words that, despite constantly trying, I just can’t get my head around. I often stumble over them and correct myself the second after the word has fallen out of my mouth. Want to know the latest words that are causing me some problems? Here goes:
Back in the UK, the part of the street you walk on next to the road is called a pavement, always has been, always will be. Now though, I have to switch to it being a sidewalk and I cannot get my head around it! It’s tough when you’ve been using the same word for 30 years! This one caused me a problem just the other night.We went to an event but got there before the road was closed and people were struggling to pass each other on the pavement. I described this to my friend who arrived a little later and she looked at me with a blank face and the words ‘what’s a pavement?’ I quickly answered with ‘oh, sidewalk, I mean sidewalk!’
We’ve all done it, we head to the supermarket and pick up a trolley to put our groceries in, or as they’re called in America, a cart. I actually think the American word is better in this situation, I mean, a cart seems to describe the aim of the device better than a trolley, right? But, my brain is so used to the word trolley that I can’t seem to change it. A shopping trolley will always be a shopping trolley to me!
In the UK, we fill our cars up with petrol, here in the US they fill their cars up with gas. It’s the same stuff, just with a different name and a word that I struggle with. 18 months in and I’m attempting to get the hang of going to the gas station instead of the petrol station and I do often use gas instead of petrol but I still struggle and the word doesn’t come out of my mouth as easily as petrol does. I also want to put on a dodgy American accent when I say it too which definitely does not work! There’s also the fact that I’m putting petroleum into my car so surely petrol is a more logical word to use?
This is more a pronunciation thing, you know the song, right? To-may-to, to-mar-to? Well, this is definitely a difficult one for my British brain and mouth to deal with. I often order a to-mar-to and basil soup and go on to correct myself and say to-may-to straight after! Most of the time I’m met with a ‘I understood you the first time’ answer or look, which kind of makes me feel like I shouldn’t try to fit in because I’m insulting people, others go on to ask me where I’m from and give me the ‘I love your accent!’ reply.
In the UK, we go on holiday. In the US, they go on vacation. I still go on holiday and have the German correcting me, saying we’re going on vacation. It’s hard when you’ve used the same words for so long! The ‘Where are you going on holiday?’ question in the hairdressers just doesn’t cut it in America.