Transatlantic Dictionary

In which I translate from English to English.

Samuel Johnson reading

Today is 08/11/2015 for me but for for Mrs G it’s 11/08/2015. I understand that there are many differences between the UK and US. We drive on the wrong sides, and have differing measurement systems. There is a logic and history to these, but date formats…nope.

In the UK we are going dd/mm/yyyy and Year>Month>Day, so you can also go yyyy/mm/dd. Both of these ways make sense, what doesn’t make sense is mm/dd/yyyy. Time works on both sides of the Atlantic correctly and saying it is now 45:22 would just look crazy. Sorting out the mess of dates is beyond my capability, so instead I can offer the following help for those stuck with Transatlantic lingual issues.

British – American A to Z

Arugula – after my initial confusion upon being asked if we had any arugula I now know that what I’m being asked for is rocket. I’ve yet to pick up the zucchini/courgette or any other food related confusion, but as this mostly applies to vegetables I’m not sure this is ever anything I’m going to struggle with.

Bacon – Both are tasty, but one is 40% fat while the other is 90% fat. Only one makes a decent bacon sarnie and that is proper bacon and not the streaky kind.

Cup – Only used in the UK for tea, we’ve had to go out and buy a special US measuring cup after relying for a while on conversion tables.

Definitely – In American this means “This will be done”, in British “I’m fobbing you off and hoping you forget about this as I’m never going to do it”.

Elevator – I’ve started replacing lift for this Americanism.

F*** – Actually means the same thing, and similar usage on both sides, even if the British have a wider usage of swearing then just using it as an aggressive taunt.

Garbage – A rubbish word.

Happy – as in “Happy to Help”, when said by an American you believe that they generally are pleased to be of assistance. From the mouth of a Brit it is a passive-aggressive threat.

I – as in the missing one from Aluminium

Jalapeño – Said with the correct Spanish flourish in America, over here it’s pronounced Jal-a-pea-no. (See The English Abroad)

Knob – a word that sounds strange in an American accent, like all good playground swear words (i.e. Tosser) can only be said in a British voice.

Later – In American “at a point in the near future”, In British “This is never ever going to happen”

Mum – Mrs G is wondering whether she will be a Mom or Mum, as it will be me going to Baby-G go speak to “your Mum” I think we’ll be swinging towards the Britishism

Nice – In American “This is Pleasant”, In British it’s either “This is the worst thing in the world” or “OMG LOLZ AMAZING”

Obstetrician – here they’re called Doctors. In fact every medical profession is either a doctor or nurse, from Anaesthetists to Urologists (if anyone has a z-based job please let me know).

Pushchair – I keep saying stroller to friends and family and get strange looks as to what I’m on about.

Queue – In British a national pastime, in American an imaginary group of people

Route – I now can only think in the American form “rowt” and not “root”. First noticed this while using a GPS in America and now it’s stuck.

Sorry – In American “I apologise for what has just happened”, in British “That was your fault”

Trousers – he he, Pants.

UK – what the UK is, who is Great Britain, why is England a separate but not separate country. If the natives don’t know then how can anyone else.

Vacation – well I’m off on holiday

Wicket – and any cricket related term is like a foreign language, but Mrs G has a good understanding of overs, runs and innings. Now to teach her googlies and nurdles.

Xerox – I had a scan through the OED and couldn’t find a copy of what this meant.

Yard – What my back garden is gradually becoming.

Zebra – You say Zebra and I say Zebra.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Your Days are Numbered.”

What’s the date today? Write it down, remove all dashes and slashes, and write a post that mentions that number.

Author: geekergosum

Ah, so you worked out the riddle. You just needed to use dwarfish and the doors to Geek Ergo Sum opened. Or perhaps you just used Google. Either way you are here, on my little corner of the Internet.

11 thoughts on “Transatlantic Dictionary”

  1. Ha!! This is delightful. “Happy – as in “Happy to Help”, when said by an American you believe that they generally are pleased to be of assistance. From the mouth of a Brit it is a passive-aggressive threat.” is my favorite, but most of the others crowd each other for second favorite. I think you had a good time compiling this alphabet of confusion and we had a better time reading it!


  2. We have queues here in the USA, but these days if people stand in line for more than 15 minutes, the whole world is going to hear about how inconvenient it is, so businesses are going out of their way to make queues shorter and faster. Wouldn’t want a bad review on Yelp, right?


  3. It’s enjoyable to read the differences, especially from one who knows the British part. I teach British usage sometimes, especially with regard to business communication or when I have a blend of native and international students. I like “Mum” for Mom, even though it’s not likely to take on in a universal way, here. Here, “Mum” can mean mom (for those who know), a flower, or keep quiet. A pushcart I never hear over here. I think stroller pretty well covers it for Americans (pardon the pun–strollers are covered). We’ll say xerox, kleenex, or fridge rather than use the common nouns (these nouns are all based on brands). I always find the English use of “Hoover” interesting, since it is based on the American inventor (I’ve visited the factory in Ohio, at least, so I think he was American), while we use vacuum (or “vac'”–Americans and British tend to use quotation marks in opposite forms and function, I’ve noticed). As for a z (zed?) in the professions, how about zenobist, one who studies strangers? Thanks for the alphabetic response to the prompt.


    1. The Mum/Mom comparison is interesting as it is the one word that feels foreign for either Me or Mrs G to use the opposite term. It’s such a different sounding word for me to say Mom. We would say to ‘keep mum’ as well, and I think we accept a lot more Americanisms. Mrs G struggles with a lot of the colloquialisms and local sayings. It is interesting just how many generic terms the Brits have picked up, we used to hoover and use sellotape and tipex, I think it is because as a language we are more susceptible to loan words


Think inside the box, feel free to leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s