The fourth of July is Independence Day in the United States. On that day, they celebrate the decision by early American leaders to declare independence from Britain. While people in both England and the U.S. speak English, the two types of English can be very different.
First, there are differences in spelling. The British like the letter “u” and have kept it in many words. Americans have dropped it. Somewhere in their language history, they decided that “labor,” “color” and “favorite” were just fine without the “u” next to the “o.” But their differences go beyond spelling.
Sometimes, Americans use different words entirely. New yorkers live in apartments with elevators, and go on vacation. Londoners live in flats with lifts, and go on holidays. Americans put diapers on their babies and push them in strollers. The British love their babies just as much, but they use nappies and prams instead. Americans power their cars with gas. The British use petrol. And, if Americans need to look in their car’s dark trunk for something, they use a flashlight. The British would use a torch to search their dark boot.
Then there are idioms. Some British and American idioms have the same meaning, but use different words. For example, in the U.S. if you are keeping secrets, you have skeletons in the closet. In Great Britain, your skeletons would be hiding in a cupboard. Sometimes over a fresh pot of coffee, you may want to have a long talk with a friend. You might even throw in a little gossip. American call that a chat, or if it’s a short conversation, chit-chat. The British would call it a “chin-wag.” Now, when Americans are really surprised by something, they can say we “are at a loss for words.” Or more informally, they simply say we are “shocked” or “blown away.” Across the Atlantic in the U.K., they are “gobsmacked.” In the U.S., they don’t get smacked by gobs. Ever.
Finally, a familiar word used by both countries but in different ways is “cheers.” We use the word over drinks when we are wishing someone good health or congratulating an accomplishment. The British use “cheers” to mean…well, pretty much everything from “hello, goodbye”, to “thank you”, to toats at the bar. For “thank you”, Americans say…well, “Thank you!”
As you can see, English can change quite a bit when going from Big Ben to the Big Apple. We merely scratched the surface, and there are tons more differences to be found. Now, I don’t expect you to pick sides. Both American and British English have their strong points.
Cheers! I mean, thanks.
apartment – n. a usually rented room or set of rooms that is part of a building and is used as a place to live (British = flat)
elevator – n. a machine used for carrying people and things to different levels in a building (British = lift)
vacation – n. personal time off from work or school – usually an extended time, not just one day – and vacations often involve traveling (British = holidays)
diaper – n. a piece of cloth or other material that is placed between a baby’s legs and fastened around the waist to hold body waste (British = nappies)
stroller – n. a small carriage with four wheels that a baby or small child can ride in while someone pushes it (British = prams)
trunk – n. the enclosed space in the rear of an automobile for carrying articles (British = boot)
flashlight – n. a small electric light that can be carried in your hand and that runs on batteries (British = torch)
flog – v. to beat or whip (someone) severely
smack – v. to strike so as to produce a smack
gob – n. lump : a large amount
skeleton – n. the structure of bones that supports the body of a person or animal
closet – n. a usually small room that is used for storing things (such as clothing, towels, or dishes) (British = cupboard)
gossip – n. information about the behavior and personal lives of other people
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