Language Smanguage. Volume 2.

Language Smanguage.
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:

1. Pavement/Sidewalk
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!’

2. Trolley/Cart
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!

3. Petrol/Gas
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?

4. Tomato/Tomato
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.

5. Holiday/Vacation
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.


11 thoughts on “Language Smanguage. Volume 2.

  1. My fiance is American and I am English – when we started dating we came across so many little differences. I would say I’m pretty confident that I know the words that are different, but occasionally they still crop up!
    I usually try to adopt the ‘it’s not wrong just different’ mentality…..expect for when it comes to how Americans say ‘herbs’ and ‘leisure’….they just make me cringe!!! x

    • I know exactly what you mean with ‘herbs’ and ‘leisure!’ I definitely cannot bring myself to pronounce them the American way, ever! Just plain wrong! I like to keep my British words for when I’m speaking to Brits and adopt the American ones for Americans!

  2. Petrol is short for Petroleum and this is a mixture of compounds that occurs naturally on Earth. Gas is short for Gasoline and it is a product drawn from petroleum through a refining process.

  3. Great examples – I guess you could say we’re multilingual in our house, Joe doesn’t pass a second glance when I say petrol still. I kinda want to hold onto those words, the British way of saying things i’m stubbornly attached too.

    • I’m the same – I give myself a look of horror when I use gas instead of petrol or something. The Brit in me wants to keep the British words too. I think you kind of have to have 2 languages that you can switch on and off – British English and American English. It’s tough being an expat!

  4. I’m an American who was raised in Malaysia, where they speak English with a decidedly Malaysian accent but they use British terms, so I understand all British English easily, but I still stick to my Americans words–they’re just what automatically come out!

  5. I’m an American living in the U.K. As long as I can be understood, I’d just as soon leave my vocabulary intact, but a couple of friends did fall apart when I told them I was going to fill the car with gas. They thought I was talking about a digestive problem….

    • Ha – that’s a great one! I’m learning to turn on my American English when I need to but I’m sure if it dripped into my British English my friends back home would have something to say about it! Thanks for stopping by x

  6. Your post reminded me of my first trip to Germany when my German host brother kept asking me about going on “Holiday?” I was like, what do you mean, Christmas? We go on vacation, I kept telling him, a Holiday was a special day, not paid time off. 🙂

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