It used to amuse me a lot living in London when I’d meet American visitors, who’d assume that we all speak American-English in UK. “Where’s the Elevator ?”
Well, we don’t actually speak American-English, we speak the real original Queen’s English !
The different words and phrases used on either side of the ocean can be very funny. Americans find the differences amusing too, and no I’m not talking about Cockney Rhyming Slang, just ordinary words and phrases.
So I started to learn them when speaking to Americans, and also when I’ve visited the states. Helps me communicate better. There’s some funny faux pas’ that Americans make when in UK, and maybe vice versa … Fanny and Pants for instance 😀
Here’s some examples :
I say Tomah-toe, you say Tomay-toe
I say Lift you say Elevator …
I say Rubbish Bin you say Trash Can …
I say Pavement you say Sidewalk …
I say Rubbish you say Garbage …
I say Petrol you say Gas …
I say Trousers you say Pants … (pants are underwear in UK)
I say Mobile Phone you say Cell Phone …
I say Bum Bag you say Fanny-Pack … (Fanny is a vulgar word in UK – look it up yourself!)
and so on …
My nickname for the whole thing is – “You Say Tomay-toe, I Say Tomah-toe”. Which was brought to mind by the Fred and Ginger tune “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off” from their movie “Shall We Dance” (1937) :
SO TODAY … Your mission, should you choose to accept it … tell me some more words or phrases that differ between UK and USA … bonus points will be given for the use of humour/humor, especially potentially embarrassing faux pas’ that may arise 😀
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79 thoughts on “You Say Tomay-toe, I Say Tomah-toe”
I love it, the difference in English between countries. And the song “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off” .
LOL … very much 🙂
Haha, tram and buggy didn’t make the list. It’s good to know these things. (I for one intentionally use ‘neether’ instead of ‘niyther’.) 😀
Hadn’t though of neither and niyther, thanks 😀
Wellies – rain boots
Rubbish – trash
Queue – line
Trainers – tennies/tennis shoes / sneakers
Jacket potato – baked potato
Buggy – cart (in a supermarket)
Dummy – pacifier
Nappy – diaper
Wee – pee
Buggy – stroller
Tip – dump
Plus we pronounce aluminum quite differently!
And then there are lots of fun British words and phrases that we just dont have such as mingin’
Reminds me of a favorite quote from George Bernard Shaw about us being separated by one language!
LOL … totally ! … and wasn’t bovered added into the dictionary ?
Having originally lerned English in Britain (Cambridge of all places) I still can’t quite shed some of the British English expressions like rubbish bin, purse for wallet and what else there is.
But lately I told my husband about a story I read in one of Bill Bryson’s books where he’s visiting New England and passes by a guy by the side of the road selling pasties… My husband pleaded with me to never use that expression in public unless I really wanted to embarrass him – I haden’t realized (see there, at least I managed to change to American writing…) that apart from being the plural of a “pasty”, the Cornish pie, it also stands for the glue-on nipple patches!! Oopsie…
PMSL … glue-on nipple patches … LOL
The only time we call French fries “chips” is when we say “fish and chips”, normally we use the word chips for what you call crisps.
LOL … very true … did the French invent deep friend potatoes ?
Somehow I doubt it 🙂
LOL … same 😀
Colour(B) = Color(A)
Dialogue(B) = Dialog(A)
Centre(B) = Center(A)
Favourite(B) = Favorite(A)
But Mummy, Mammy, Mommy; I’m a bit confused. Which one do the British use and which one do Americans use as well?
Gets a bit blurred … American movies get everywhere, so could be either … UK we use “s” in place of “z” often in words … and Mummy is probably Mum …
Alright, got it. Thanks a lot.
“off of” and “gotten” . . . painful.
I like “dove” for “dived” 😀
Fred and Ginger!!!
“Fanny” in the U.S. is another word for butt, that’s why they’re called “fanny packs” here…and yes I know what “fanny” means in the U.K.! I’ve also heard in the U.K. “pissed” is drunk (here it’s angry) and a “rubber” is an eraser (here it’s a condom). Are these right?
Spot on … pussy is the US term for the same 😀
I believe we say sprinkles, you say hundreds and thousands lol
Thanks … was wondering about that one 😀
I was armed with the list of differences but you pretty much covered them haha. You made me miss London with this post! The only one i can think of now is, we spell Colour and they spell it Color (i think)
Microsoft Word has been trying to correct me and get me to spell it Color for years, I’ll keep refusing! Haha
LOL … I mix and match to suit to purpose … defence and defense 😀
I used to wonder why the Brits were always covering themselves with rugs–then one day realized they were using afghans. And eating all those biscuits while we ate cookies? I noticed the sweaters and jumper issue was already covered, and not by a rug, but how about the car park? We park our cars in parking lots, and our kids play in the parks. I’ve heard it said that you pack away your “bits and pieces” while we pack away our “clutter”. And we have” lawyers” instead of “solicitors”. You just don’t want to be pinned down by a solicitor here, because they are trying to sell you something you don’t want or need, and they are next to impossible to get rid of. I really should know so many other words because I’m a fan of British mysteries, but no more come to mind just now.
Oh, yes, you do go to the “cinema” while we go to the movies. I’m not sure very many young Americans would know what a cinema is. Plus, you probably still don’t realize it, but you drive on the wrong side of the road. That is extremely dangerous, and could get you arrested Don.
LOL … I have to correct you on that Angie, we drive on the “RIGHT” side of the road !
LOL sounds like some solicitors in the UK – “they are trying to sell you something you don’t want or need, and they are next to impossible to get rid of” 😀
Well, I was really impressed with the skating. I wonder if they had to learn for the film. Brilliant!
Cool movie … and I don’t know, perhaps Google does 😀
In america we say T.V or Television while in the U.K they say Tele or Telly. Correct me i’m wrong.
Awesome blog by the way!
That’s pretty much correct, although I think UK people would understand TV or Television 😀
We’re Aussie and when my sister first moved to the US she was pretty aghast at the use of,,,, hmmm, I hate even saying the word, one of my all time LEAST favourite words,,,, fanny. *shudder. And she also copped quite a bit of flack and disgusted looks when she asked if she could have a ‘nurse’ of a baby squirrel. Nurse here means to hold, seems in the US it is purely used to describe breastfeeding. Hehe, they must have thought she was all kinds of crazy!.
LOL Fanny … yup … more widely used “pussy”, obviously … and nurse I didn’t know, so useful in the toolbox 😀
Fag is surely up there in the misunderstood words department, isn’t it. Oh how much that word is misunderstood.
LOL for smokers 😀
An Englishman looking for fags in the US might get him into all kinds of trouble…In Australia I have to be careful not to say, “I do like a cockatoo.” (They are lovely birds, BTW.)
LOL … opportunities for faux pas’ !
LOL, I have enough trouble communicating with Americans myself. We’re very diverse, so diverse sometimes we can’t even understand each other.
LOL same in UK 😀
Don’t forget that even American English is not standard across the country. For instance in the Appalachian Mountains, you might hear: ‘mater, ‘tater, maw, paw, etc. Some would call this hillbilly, but we prefer the term Appalachian Americans.
Or thong – means flip flops on West coast and teeny tiny underwear on the east
Really? I was born on the east and ive lived on the west coast since like 2006, never heard flip flops called thongs or vice versa i just thought a thong was a thong lol
Are you Northern or Southern cali? I actually was embarrassed when I heard my friends’ getting their thongs on to go to the beach
Haha i actually live in oregon, must be a cali thing lol
Oh perhaps. I grew up bicoastal
As did i, your in cali? North or south?
No I live in dc/md now.
Oh back on the least coast, you kno west is best right? Lol just teasing yall got way better food
Yes it is! We do have better seafood in md lol
Ew i hate seafood lol i meant like everythi
Everything besides that* l
Ah yes the aussies use that one 😀
LOL … thanks for adding to … and yes UK has the same, Newcastle accent “Geordie” is the most difficult to make out for me, I can’t understand what they’re on about …
As a child, I recall a rainy Sunday; I was at a religious meeting with my parents and sisters. The speaker that day was from another country other than the US, (I had at that time, never been out of the US myself) he was visiting someone in our congregation. I remember my sisters and I having to throw coughing fits to avoid our hysterical laughter; when halfway into his dissertation, he looked down and suddenly announced to the entire audience: “Oh, I am sorry, it seems I have worn my rubbers in to the hall.” Hee, words can truly take on humor when used out of their normally used area. (He was referring to the rubber shoes he wore over his regular dress shoes.)
That’s a faux pas he probably won’t make again !
No, he won’t, but that is because he has passed on. However, he was quite the character. An older gentleman; he was known for saying all sorts of embarrassing things like that. 😉
They’re the best ones 😀
The most embarrassing one for me was when I realized that in the U.S., a rubber is most certainly NOT the little thing attached to the top of a pencil! I needed rubbers for school and you can’t imagine the horrified looks I was given when I went into a store looking for a large purple rubber and pencils with really good rubbers on them…you know, not the ones that left ugly marks when used. 🙂
I should add for those wondering, what I was looking for in the U.S is called an “eraser”!
LOL … nice one – rubbers, condoms, erasers !
Car boot… Trunk
I posted about pronunciation in general the other day… The English languagevis a weird one!
The whole “It’s a sweater! What do you mean jumper?” Conversation is one I had as a teenager with an Aussie who was hitchhiking across the US (as some Americans do with Europe).
I think it’s a shame that many Americans assume the whole world thinks and talks like them – or if not – they can go bugger themselves (hopefully I didn’t slay the use of that word too much).
The cure? We need to travel abroad and see how wide the non-American world really is. Just one short trip to Germany showed me how ignorant I am of the world at large – and that place is as 1st world as where I live (even if some of them don’t know English – the Queen’s or otherwise).
I wouldn’t worry too much the British do it too – expect others to speak English when they’re abroad 😀
We used to smirk at ‘pants’ when i was a kid (pants was underwear), but I’ve lived with American English for too long and I’ve just got used to it now. The other day I was talking to an English guy about getting some pants made at the tailors and the bastard smirked at me!
Not surprised I would have too !
One of the first mystery book I read was Shrelock Holmes, confused the heck out of me because of the different words. The one that drove me crazy, until I learned the difference, was torch. I could never understand why someone would hold a torch under a wooden cabinet.
In the UK a torch is any portable light. In the US a torch is a fire on the end of a stick, a battery operated light is a flashlight.
Haha! That is fantastic! Must have been wondering why there weren’t more crime scenes destroyed by carelessly started house fires!
It became even more confusing in one story where he lit a torch in a cave. I had to sit the book down and ponder over what kind of torch he lit in the cave. I could see either one working, but each with their own problems. This convinced me that the English had made a bad choice on using the same word for two, obviously, different items.
Torch = flashlight … thanks Sherlock 😀
But, as I learned from Dr. Who, not always.
There’s often an exception to every rule 😀