Saturday, February 5, 2011

Mind the Gap and Other Phrases

You can't travel in England without hearing, "Mind the gap." On the regional trains, underground, wherever, there is always this little reminder as you get on and off the train.

It's also a reminder that British English is not the same as American English. We really don't speak the same language, even though it's called "english" from both countries. We would say "watch your step" instead of "mind the gap" in this case. Since we are surrounded by British English - between Brandon's school, our satellite TV, my online friends and our travelling - we've become accustomed to the differences. I find myself saying "fabulous" and "lovely" all of the time now.

Here are a few other words I'll translate from British English into American English:
Way Out = Exit
Pavement = Sidewalk
Carriageway = Road
Queue = Line
Right = OK then
Sorted = Sorted out, finished
Brilliant = Awesome, cool
Blimey = Oh my goodness
Maths = Math
Climbing Frame = Play structure, jungle gym
Play time = Recess
Torch = Flashlight

It's actually hard for me to come up with this list at the moment, I've gotten so used to some of the differences. Can you help me out? What additional words and phrases can you think up?


  1. Oh Kat, I love this post, we are really closing the gap here! I will have to put my 'thinking cap' on. I'm just about to have my first cuppa, that will do the job!

    Love Sue x

  2. The cuppa did the trick:-)

    Nappy - Diaper
    Rubbish - Trash
    Patio - Deck
    Motorway - Highway/Freeway
    Stream - Creek
    Junction - Intersection
    spanner - Wrench

    Just to be going on with ;-)

  3. I could go on forever!

    jumper = sweater
    pants/knickers = (mens/womens) underpants
    hob = stove
    lorry = truck
    cot = crib
    anticlockwise = counterclockwise
    humped zebra crossing = speedbump/crosswalk (note that zebra has a short e sound, like peg"
    boot = trunk (of a car)
    brass monkeys = (wicked) cold

    I really like some of the more descriptive words for feelings (gutted, shattered) & insults (wanker, tosser).

  4. bobbie or bobby(not sure how its spelled) = policeman

    wellies - rubber boots/rain boots

  5. i'm thinking food (crisps, spotted dick, custard tarts, take-away, elevenses) and naughty bits (shag, snog). i love britishisms. i think i was meant to live there someday -- now to find a job there and take the plunge!

  6. Never having traveled it is fun to see your list... I do know someone at work who isnfrom England but I cannot off the top of my head think of phrases he has told me before.

  7. I don't know that many. The only one that isn't listed so far that I know is "lift" for elevator. ;)

  8. Stroller/pushchair was our favourite one when we lived in America. Strolling sounds so much relaxing than pushing a chair....we continued to use the americanism for quite some time after our return.

  9. bumper = fender
    bonnet = hood
    both related to cars. You've got some pretty comprehensive lists up there. I talk to and email Americans quite a lot as my job is related to America so I know that American can be a totally different language to English. But it's such fun spotting the differences. Oh, and you forgot "Crikey!" which is similar to "Blimey" :-)

  10. My British friend always uses "over the moon" when she's expressing delight. So cute!

  11. With mostly British or Australian co-workers - this has become a big deal for me. In fact my family now makes fun of me. I use most of yours - here are a few more I've picked up:

    Rubbish bin - trash can
    Cheers - bye
    Loo or WC - bathroom
    Lift - elevator
    Boot - car trunk
    No worries - no problem

    I've also learned not to use pants when I mean slacks

  12. Hi Kat,
    This is a very fun post!
    How about chuffed=happy/pleased
    (I learned this one from some of my blogging friends :) )

  13. They also say "Stand clear off the doors" in that special English melody. And what about lorry (truck), petrol station (gas station), bloke (guy)? During my first few weeks in the States I told someone to "turn right at the petrol station" and he looked at me as if he was wondering whether I came from a different planet. Well, I'm certainly an alien!

  14. hundreds & thousands - (?) sprinkles
    heaps - a huge amount
    tick - check

    but here's my question for the day; What does "to line out something" mean? Is this american english for "to cross something out" ?

  15. Fun post indeed! As a non-native English speaker, I try to be consistently one thing or the other (I chose British), but it's very difficult to keep the two apart! And of course I've learnt to adapt to the context as well; I'll never forget when I attended a conference in Arizona and asked one of the locals if there were a shopping centre nearby. He looked slightly confused and asked, "ehm, so, you mean like a mall?" :))) Yeah, that's what I meant :)

  16. I think someone hit on my most important one - crisps = cookies! I so wish I could have gone on your photo walk in England! How dreamy...

  17. how about:
    "hover" - vacuum cleaner
    "ready meals" - microwave meals
    "wind-eaze" - laxative


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