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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Comparing English and American

Published: October 24, 2008
Section: Arts, Etc.

Besides its obvious ties to England, American English is most definitely not the same language as the English spoken in the United Kingdom. I’ve heard that before, but it wasn’t until I came here that I realized that it’s totally true.

For any of you who plan on going abroad to England, you will most certainly find that the English use completely different words for many of the mundane items that we use everyday.

Take burners for example. In the UK, burners are referred to as “hobs.” When I said the word “burner,” my flatmates stared at me in utter confusion.

Other unfortunate differences center on the names given to clothing. They would never call pants by that name; they’re “trousers” here. In fact, “pants” is often used to refer to underwear. Also, for anyone who’s a fencer, “knickers” (the pants a fencer wears) are referred to as “breeches,” because “knickers” is another synonym for underwear here.

The distinction between types of cookies here was another language difference that killed me. Chocolate chip cookies are the only things referred to as such; all other types of cookies are called “biscuits.”

Another one that really threw me was “trolley.” In England, a trolley is a shopping cart. In fact, you must pay a pound to use a trolley as well (you get it back upon return).

When I did laundry and asked my roommates where I could buy some detergent, they clarified that in England detergent is called “washing up liquid.”

Typically, I can pick upon what they’re referring to when using these phrases, but one time, a request from my flatmate left me with absolutely no idea what she was talking about.

She was asking to borrow some “kitchen roll.” Now I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. My mind went to many things.

I wondered if she wanted a rolling pin or maybe tin foil or something.

Luckily for me, she’s an American Studies major and thus knows a lot of the American equivalents and when she realized that I seriously had no idea what she was talking about, she clarified, “paper towel?”

Other than that, these new phrases haven’t been so hard to grasp, and I’ve definitely found myself using them a lot.

Some of these phrases I know I might try and bring back to the States, but I’m positive I’ll go back to American soon after arrival.