10 More British-American Language Differences
Do you put hundreds and thousands on your fairy cake? Or do you put sprinkles on your cupcake? Do you eat candy floss or cotton candy? If you said “Yes”‘ to the first choices, you are probably from the U.K. (or perhaps from Australia,) and if you said, “Yes,” to the second, you are likely from the U.S.
It is fun and sometimes practical to study the differences. If English is not your first language, and you plan to travel to either the U.K. or the U.S., it might be helpful to be aware of these language differences. Here is an American and British English words list with some explanation.
1. Arugula vs. Rocket
I didn’t know about this difference until somewhat recently when I saw the British term “rocket” on an Australian food blogger’s site. I also had assumed until recently that arugula was an Italian term and that Americans borrowed it from the Italians. It’s not. The Italian term for arugula is “rucola.” Experts believe the word arugula comes from a mispronunciation of an Italian dialect for the word. The Calabrian dialect for the word is “aruculu.”
2. Bacon vs. Rashers
Rashers is really more of a term for the slice of bacon, although I have read the term “rashers,” used alone, referring to bacon, rather than “rashers of bacon.” The best explanation I found online for the term is that “rasher” may come from a Middle English word, “rash,” meaning to cut. Sound-wise, rashers makes me think of “rations,” which, by association, makes me think of a stricter diet instead of feasting.
3. Like vs. Fancy
As an American, I had to watch quite a bit of British TV before I picked up on this little language nuance. It seems British use this term for when someone has romantic interest in someone else. “He fancies her” or “She fancies him.” Americans don’t seem to have such a specific expression. Aside from wording it as, “He is interested in her,” we tend to say, “He likes her.” “Like,” of course, has more than one meaning and can be used to mean liking in friendship or liking as in romantic interest. This can lead to somewhat silly and awkward junior high expressions as in, “He doesn’t just like her. He like likes her.” Maybe, we Americans should borrow the British expression?
4. Nice vs. Lovely
Both Americans and British use both terms, “lovely” and “nice.” The difference I’ve noticed is more relating to the frequency in which we use the words. I’ve noticed Brits use the word “lovely” in a lot of the contexts where Americans are more likely to use the word nice: a lovely day, lovely weather, a lovely person, etc. American men, I think, find the word “lovely” to be less than perfectly macho and rarely use it except to occasionally describe a special woman. American women say “lovely” a bit more but are still more likely to use the word “nice.”
5. Pants vs. Trousers
Trousers is not an unfamiliar word for Americans, but we don’t use it much. We can buy pants at the store that are labelled by American clothing companies as trousers, but, in ordinary conversation, we usually call them pants. The British seem to prefer the term, “trousers.”
6. Checkers vs. Draughts
Even some games go by different names in the U.S. and in the U.K., like checkers and draughts (pronounced like drafts.) American linguist, Lynne Murphy, says in her blog Separated by a Common Language, “The Online Etymology Dictionary tells us that draughts is related to dragon and goes back to 1400.” Well, that is interesting, but that raises other questions for me. Maybe, if you combine the draughts/dragons with the queens, kings and knights of chess, you have the makings of some sort of fairy tale. The term “checkers” is related to chess, from the Middle English exchequer. From chessboard came “chequered,” meaning marked like a chessboard.
7. Attorney-at-law vs. Solicitor
In the U.K., lawyers are barristers or solicitors. Barristers can plead a case in open court and appear at the bar. Solicitors may conduct litigation in court but are not permitted to plead cases in open court. Barristers deal with clients indirectly through a solicitor. The attorney-at-law is the U.S. equivalent for solicitor.
8. Pharmacist vs. Chemist
I’m an American fan of British Golden Age mysteries, and the word chemist has come up a lot in that context. It took me a while to realize chemist was the British term for pharmacist. A pharmacist certainly is a kind of chemist, but there are other sorts of chemists in different fields of chemistry. This makes me wonder if this term causes any confusion for the Brits. Would a Brit in some other field of chemistry have to use some extra labels or terms to explain his profession so that he is not confused with a pharmacist? If you live in an area where British English is spoken, please, share your comment.
9. Cotton candy vs. Candyfloss
Cotton candy and candy floss both seem like sensible terms for this interestingly textured sweet. The fluffy shape and texture of the candy, as a whole, is like cotton, but the fibrous threads of sugar which make up the candy are like floss. Take the word “candy” out of either name, and neither name seems appealing to the palate, does it?
10. Cupcake vs. Fairy cake
American cupcakes and British fairy cakes are practically synonymous but there are a few differences. The two cultures have language differences and also some different food preferences and traditions. Fairy cakes are a bit smaller than cupcakes. They are lighter, spongier cakes and topped with a thin glace icing rather than buttercream or cream cheese frosting. The Brits call them fairy cakes, because, traditionally, the top was cut off and split, and the center was filled. The split top was placed on either side of the center, resembling fairy wings.
11. Sprinkles vs. Hundreds-and-Thousands
Hundreds-and-thousands seems to refer to how uncountable these colored bits of sugar are. Sprinkles, are, well, sprinkled. As an American, I think hundreds-and-thousands seems like a lot of extra syllable-bles. I also wonder what sort of reaction I would get if I went to an ice cream parlor near me and asked for hundreds-and-thousands on my ice cream. The server might ask “Of what?” and think I’m very greedy. Actually, the owner of one ice cream parlor near me is from the U.K. I think that man would be charmed if I did this.
I hope you enjoyed this American and British English words list. Would you like to see more like this?