... by a common language, as they say. On top of that, we have quite a few Canadians here, which complicates the matter, since they are sort of straddling the fence.
I thought it might be interesting if we could discuss cases where the British and the Americans use radically different words for the same thing, to the point where there is sometimes confusion.
Therefore this isn't about words like 'holiday' vs. 'vacation' which both groups understand (I think) but more along the lines of:
sidewalk vs. pavement
In this particular case, I must vote with the Americans, because it seems to me that both the walkway and the roadway are both "pavements" since theoretically they are both paved.
"Sidewalk" also has the advantage of being specific since such things are along the side of the road or street.
If a British person tells an American "please walk on the pavement!" there is a risk that the American will walk in the middle of the street due to the misunderstanding. (I doubt that the reverse is true, because I assume that the British learned long ago what the word "sidewalk" means to Americans.)
What about other confusing variations of vocabulary? (Such as serviette vs. napkin, for example)
Every other time I post on fodor's, practically, I unwittingly include a double entendre that British persons helpfully point out. When you factor in Cockney rhyming slang, practically no word is safe.
Oh yeah ~~ davenport. I forgot about that one, which is odd because I remember the first time I heard that word. I was around nine or ten and a little friend said her grandfather "died right there on the davenport".
The word "fanny" can certainly cause problems. In American it means the backside or butt, and it is a very inoffensive word -- like what you would use if you were talking to a child or your grandma. In British it is a completely different part of the anatomy!
"Fag" is never used in American to mean cigarette, so it would cause confusion in the US. I think the other meaning, though, is known to Brits.
Also I think the use of "Public School" in the UK to mean, well, a private school, is confusing. I never did get that.
I have a certification of pregnancy from the UK which lists the date of conception at 5/10/91 and the expected date of birth at 12/7/92. Which is very confusing for anyone who would try to read those dates as US ones...
I'll never forget sitting in the lobby of the Intercontinental in Athens when a young British girl strolls in and says to her apparently newly found American boyfriend "Are you ready then cock?". He turned beet red, quickly looked around to see who else might have heard and then said with astonishment "WHAT did you call me?", she pauses for a second and says "It's a term of endearment", he says "It certainly is!". ;D
I can remember a few times reading British books when I was a child and totally thinking that people in the story were going around with sticks of wood that were on fire when they were camping, or even in their homes during a power outage (!). It wasn't until much later that I figured out "torch" meant "flashlight".
I was always perturbed by that word, too, although I quickly figured it out. "Flashlight" isn't any better. You'd think that both sides of the ocean could have come up with a slightly more appropriate name like 'handlight' or 'pocket lamp' or some such.
Post by patricklondon on Oct 27, 2009 16:41:53 GMT
And of course, there is much hilarity in the UK about the fact that what we call by the brand name Sellotape (and the US calls Scotch tape), is known in Australia by the brand name Durex - which in the UK is what the US calls a rubber.