divided by the same language part 3

October 12, 2006

Here are some words we both use, but with different meanings (I’ll acknowledge the website when I can remember it). UK meanings first, then US.

vet veterinarian war veteran
purse small pouch used by women to carry money bag used by women to carry goodness only knows what
suspenders item to hold up stockings strap to hold up a man’s trousers
first floor floor above ground floor ground floor
bill amount to pay for a service a piece of paper currency
buns sticky cake human posterior
bum human posterior down and out
chips What Americans call “French fries” What the British call “crisps”
fag cigarette male homosexual
fanny external female sex organs human posterior
football soccer gridiron
hamnper picnic basket full of food basket for dirty clothes
homely pleasant ugly
knickers worn under trousers or dress by women trousers that end between the knee and ankle
mean stingy aggressive
momentarily for a short while soon
pants underwear worn under trousers trousers
pissed drunk angry
presently soon now
public school fee-paying school state school
rubber implement to erase pencil marks male contraceptive
semi semi-detached house tractor-trailer
tramp unemployed, down-and-out derogatory term for a female of “easy virtue”
vest a garment worn under a shirt waistcoat

6 Responses to “divided by the same language part 3”

  1. SilverTiger Says:

    Hm, I hate to think what Americans would make of the term “handbag”.

  2. SilverTiger Says:

    There was a time when I would have cited the adverb “hopefully” which in prop… erm, I mean, British English meant “in a hopeful state of mind” and in American, “so we hope”, as an example for your list, but these days I am continually distressed to hear it used here in the wro…, erm, I mean, American sense.

    Many “Americanisms” have already gone into British English become naturalized, as it were. Whether this enriches the tongue of Shakespeare or debases it is a matter of opinion.

  3. tomeemayeepa Says:

    SilverTiger- yes, I’ve gone the same way with ‘hopefully’. In fact a lot of the words on lists done just a year or two ago are now used on both sides of the Atlantic. I don’t think there’s much movement in the other direction….

  4. SilverTiger Says:

    Maybe we need CAMRE: Campaign for Real English?😀


  5. How can the first floor be the floor ABOVE the ground floor? The ground floor IS the first floor. It’s the first floor you’re on when you enter the building. If you go up a flight of stairs, you aren’t on the FIRST floor; you’ve already been on one floor, and now you’re on a SECOND floor. Why would we start counting floors at zero, when we count everything else starting at one?

    Do British buildings have a 13th floor? Many American buildings don’t, for reasons of superstition having to do with unlucky number 13 — they just skip from 12 to 14. Hmm, and today is Friday the 13th; maybe I’d just better stay indoors all day.

  6. SilverTiger Says:

    It seems peculiar to most British children too when they first encounter it. I can only suppose that building managers anticipated computer science by starting their floor count at zero. (Ground floor is often indicated as “0” on modern lift control panels.)

    The lift at the library where I worked had the following numbers: 0, -1, 1, 2.

    As you can imagine, “-1” confused a lot of people. The mathematically literate thought it might be the basement but it was in fact the “lower first floor” as opposed to the “upper first floor” (“1”).

    As for the 13th floor, I have no information. I don’t usually frequent such big buildings. We certainly do have a few that have more than 12 floors (remembering that you would have to rise to the 14th level before coming to the “13th floor”😉 ) so perhaps I will go into one and take a look.

    I have seen streets where the house that should have been number 13 was numbered 12a or something similar. But of course you have to remember that in Britain you usually have odd numbers on one side and even numbers on the other… though not always.

    If you find that strange, go to Canada. I think Canadian house numbering was invented by sadists.


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