Saturday, April 28, 2012

"Y" is for Yankee English

One of the reasons we're so happy to be living in the U.K. is that they speak the same language we do.  But that's not entirely true.  And this isn't even counting the extra "u"s in words, like "favourite." But an extra "u" here and there never hurt anyone, and only makes my spell-check go crazy.

Since we've been here, we've definitely noticed a language barrier...though at least it's small enough so that we can explain what we really mean in case of any misunderstandings.

Some differences are slight, and some are major.  Some can cause embarrassment, and others are no big deal.  

Here are a bunch that I've noticed, and because I had trouble remembering more, I had a little help from my Facebook friends.  I'll list the Britishisms first, then the Yankee ones.

Brits will often say, "Can I help?" instead of, "Can I help you?" 

"Cheers!" is often used as a "thank you" or "goodbye," though sometimes it's said with those words.  It's confusing.  Americans usually just say this when making a toast with drinks.

"Way out" is "exit."

"Mind" is their way of saying "watch out," as in, "Mind the gap."

"Fags" are cigarettes.  We'll often warn Brits who are interested in traveling to the states of this one.

Brits say "toilet" instead of "bathroom" or "restroom."  To Americans, this often sounds strange or almost crude, but I've learned to just ask where the toilet is.

On the other hand, "restroom" to Brits can mean "lounge," like a teacher's lounge or similar.  A friend of ours, who brought a cake to her children's school, was told to put it in the restroom.  

"Fanny" is a semi-crude way to refer to lady-bits.  This gives a WHOLE new reason to be weirded out by fanny packs, which are offensive on their own.

Brits have asked us about "cook-outs" and "meatloaf," wanting to know what they are.  They were familiar with BBQs though, and meatloaf was easy enough to clarify.

Of course there are easy ones that most of us have heard before, like "torch" for "flashlight," "jumper" for "sweater," "petrol" for "gas," "biscuit" for "cookie," "crisps" for "potato chips," and "chips" for "French fries."

One more to go!  Get ready for "Z" on Monday!


xoxo Sarah


  1. Loved this post.

  2. May I just say, I will never think of Austen heroine Fanny Price the same way again. Lol! It's funny, I knew about "jumpers" and "Fags." Now I know how to ask for "biscuits." ;0) And I've edited a few stories from Australia and that's where I learned about the extra Us and Ls; We say "Traveling" here, while "travelling" is the normative English form there. Great post, Sarah!

    1. Thanks, sweets! I love learning the little weirdnesses between British and American English. One I forgot to add was rubbers! That's what the British call an eraser. A bit different in the States...

  3. The first time I was in London I was in high school and this kid asked me if I was a Yankee. I said no, I am from Texas. Didn't really know where he was going with that questions at the time. Now, I get it. I miss London.

    1. London is one of my very favorite places! My "L" was actually for London in the challenge.

  4. Hah, when I first started reading this post I immediately thought of "fanny" as one of those words a Yank has to be *really cautious* using in the UK. A less dangerous difference I remember from my time there in 1998/early '99 was "take-away" vs the American "take-out." OH! Another thing, and this really confused me - there are no liquor stores in England (which stunned me until I learned they're called the "Off-license" or, affectionately, "Offie.")

    Some Dark Romantic

    1. Hahaha, yes! Thank fully the take-away thing was easy to get used to. And being from the Northeast, where we refer to liquor stores as "package stores" or a "packie", the Offie thing didn't surprise me. There's always something new to learn! Thankfully they usually just chalk up our weirdness to us being American, lol.