This year’s summer Olympics will be held in London so the British capital is sure to be flooded with tourists from all over the world who want to get a first hand look at the event.
One of the things that many visitors to London may notice, especially those coming from America, is that although English is spoken in the city, it may not necessarily sound familiar to other people. Other than the thick British accent that takes some time getting accustomed to, there are actually some words and phrases used in Britain that mean something entirely different in America.
British English and American English
In forms of writing, the two versions of English are quite similar. George Bernard Shaw once commented that Britain and America are “two countries divided by a common language”.
The formal English that we often see in newspapers is referred to as Standard English. Although both British and Americans speak English, there are many differences between the two languages, that sometimes, it may seem like an entirely different language is spoken.
British English refers to the form of English that is spoken in the United Kingdom, including all the English dialects in the country. It is also called “the Queen’s English,” as well as “Oxford English” or “BBC English”.
On the other hand, American English is the form of English that is spoken in the US. It was the British that introduced the English language to America, but the language has evolved into its own version in the United States.
Talking about money
If someone asks you for two quid while in London, you may start wondering that the person wants from you. Quid is the slang for the British pound, much like Americans use “buck” or “bucks” to refer to the US dollar.
Talking about sports
In America, football is American football, the type that culminates in the Superbowl. For the British, football is another name for the sport soccer.
Another difference is in the word hockey. When Americans hear the word hockey, it will connote ice hockey, which is a winter sport. For the British, it refers to field hockey.
If you need to use the restroom, ask for the loo. Also, don’t get confused by the different floors in a building. The British refer to the first floor as the ground floor, and when someone says foyer, it refers to the lobby of a building. When you have trash to throw, you need to dispose of your garbage or rubbish in a litter bin. Also, don’t cut in line and instead, form a queue.
If you get hungry while watching the games, you may want to stop by a local pub and order something off the menu. First of all, if you go to some places, you may see someone being referred to as a chucker-out. That’s the term for a bouncer or doorman at a bar or restaurant. If you get too pissed, the chucker-out may ask you to leave. For Americans, to get pissed means to get really angry or very upset. In British English, it means that the person is drunk.
However, some things may seem unfamiliar. Even food terms may not necessarily refer to food items. When you’re watching a game and you hear the word “duck,” it simply means that the score is zero for the corresponding sports match. It’s the equivalent of answering “goose egg” when asked about the scores in America.
Bangers and mash is a traditional English dish comprising sausage and mashed potatoes. This dish is a meal all unto itself, and is often served with a nice, rich onion gravy. You may be wondering why anyone would call a sausage a banger. It is believed to originate from World War II. Back then, sausages were stuffed with water since meat was scarce due to rationing. As a result, the sausages would often explode when cooked under high heat. Although modern day sausage makers no longer have this problem, the name has stuck.
When in Britain, a pie refers specifically to a meat pie, eaten as a main dish. On the other hand, in America, a pie will refer to something that has fruit in it, such as cherry, apple or peach pie, eaten for dessert. For Americans, it has to be specified that the dish is a meat pie. A fruit pie for the British is instead called a flan.
You may want to enjoy your pie with some crisps of what Americans refer to as potato chips. On the other hand, chips refer to America’s favorite French fries.
How about desserts?
At the same time, if you order a sherbet in London, you may be surprised if something other than an icy sweet dessert is what you get. For the British, a sherbet refers to a powdered and fruit-flavored candy. If you want something to beat the heat, ask for an ice lolly when you want a popsicle.
If you hear that a cookie has polka dots, that just means that it has chocolate chips. Incidentally, a biscuit is what the Brits call a cookie, while fairy cakes actually refer to cupcakes. Little children will probably want their fairy cakes with hundreds and thousands. This doesn’t mean they want money on their cupcakes, but rather to have sprinkles on it. Finally, you can make a stop at a sweet shop to buy some sweets or candy.
Be careful of quite
The British are notoriously polite and well-mannered. If you hear the word “quite” used in statements such as “I’m quite hungry” or “I’m quite mad,” it really means “very”, as in, “I’m very hungry” or “I’m very mad”. Don’t take the downplaying literally.
In the same token, when someone says, “That’s wicked!” it’s not an insult but rather a high compliment meaning “That’s great!”.
If you take the time to learn a bit about the nuances of both British and American English, you’ll have things spot on and figured out in no time it all. So go ahead and give it a go!
The people at Day Translations World Interpreting, Inc., and Your Spanish Translation LLC eagerly look forward to the 2012 London Olympics, ready to cheer everyone on. In the field of language translation, they have trained incessantly to produce spot on dependable work, so you can use your time to watch the Olympic Games instead.