Wednesday 16 September 2009

Surviving In Britain #3: The Language Barrier

George Bernard Shaw said that the US and UK are "two nations divided by a common language". Here's a brief guide to avoid embarrassment.

When you say "pants" you are referring to attire for the bottom half of your body. We call them "trousers". What we call "pants" are underpants. Be careful with this, especially if clothes shopping.

It should go without saying that you will be laughed at in the streets if you wear a "fanny pack". Over here, they're called "bum bags". However, you should also note that "fanny" is a word describing the female genitals and not the backside.

If someone asks if they can bum a fag off you, this is not an invitation to a homosexual act. They are merely asking if they can have a cigarette. While "fag" is a term for a gay man, even over here, it is also more commonly used to mean "cigarette".

The word "bugger" has a stronger meaning here than it seems to in the US. The verb "to bugger" means "to have anal sex with". Calling someone a "bugger" or telling someone to "bugger off" is a friendlier, softer insult than many you might come across, but be careful if you don't know the person very well.

Here, when we have "chips" we're having "fries" - they may be thick or thin cut. It is the British way to have thicker cut chips than other Europeans or Americans do. If you want what you would refer to as a "packet of chips" you want a "packet of crisps", or perhaps a "packet of tortilla chips".

Soda and pop is referred to as a "soft drink". We only use "candy" to describe boiled sweets - any other confectionery is a "sweet" or a "chocolate".

If we're in a restaurant and wanting to pay for our meal, we ask the waitress for the "bill" and not the "check". Here, a "cheque" (note the different spelling) is something you write from a "chequebook" to pay for an item. You will not be able to use your "chequebook" (or even "checkbook"!) over here.

The paved area of the road allocated for pedestrians to walk on is called the "pavement" here and not the "sidewalk". We usually refer to the "asphalt" as being "tarmac".

Oh yes, and our pints have 20oz in them...

If you have any language queries stick them in the comments and I'll try to answer them!

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