It's said that England and America are two countries separated by the same language. It's true! Contributor Faith Salie on British English vs. American English:
Ha-llo! Why am I talking like this, on the telly, in what my 4-year-old calls my "English accident"?
Well, because today we're going to have a bit of a primer – or primer – about British English vs. American English.
American "pants" are British underwear – unless you're a girl, in which case pants are knickers.
Pants is also an insult, as in, "That bloke's pants at football" (in which case football is soccer).
Eggplant is aubergine, dessert is pudding (even if it's not pudding), and a cookie is a biscuit.
And if you're pissed, you're drunk.
A truck is a lorry; a trunk is a boot; an elevator's a lift; a sweater's a jumper.
Do you fancy some fries? Well, they're chips – and chips are crisps.
Foil is aluminum; a mummy (not the dead Egyptian kind) is a mom.
Private school is public school, where they do maths and learn the alphabet from A to Zed.
There's also an inNOvative emPHAsis on syllables. So, your steak is a filet and Saturday is the weekend.
There's something lovely about how the Brits end their sentences with tag questions, isn't there? A study shows that they do this nine times more often than Yanks, don't they?
This ginger would be gobsmacked if you don't agree that everything British just sounds brilliant.
The English are even aces at insults – as when David Cameron, speaking before a meeting of Parliament, talked about his party's "innovative ways of using our hard-won credibility, which we wouldn't have if we listened to the muttering idiot sitting opposite me."
- Create Shakespearean insults with MIT's Shakespearean Insult Kit
- 88 very British phrases that will confuse anybody who didn't grow up in the U.K. (The Independent)
But if you're using Britishisms to sound smart, just remember: Smart doesn't mean clever, it means stylish.
You may think I sound like a toff, but it's more fun to say loo instead of bathroom!
Still, this is not an advert for the superiority of the English. Because in the U.K., the very words you use can cement you in a social class. Yes, in America you might say "pop" instead of soda and announce you're from the Midwest. But in England – a country where they actually use the descriptors "upper class" and "working class" – your social hierarchy is decided, in part, by whether you say "dinner" or "supper;" "napkin" or "serviette;" "pardon" or "sorry."
When Kate Middleton's mother reportedly said "pardon" in front of the Queen, it made news. Negatively.
The English aren't crazy about words that make you sound like you're striving.
In America, we fancy ourselves a nation of strivers with a melting pot of speech, which makes us richer, doesn't it?
So, cheers! Or, cheers.
Keep calm and yammer on.
Also by Faith Salie:
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Story produced by Robbyn McFadden.
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