Different Words in the UK and US

The United States and United Kingdom have been described as two countries divided by a common language, and it’s true.  While both speak English, there are tons of regional variations and dialects that can occasionally make communication dicey — a word in one country might mean something entirely different in the other!

We’re not just talking extra “u”s in words like colour — we’re talking about common, everyday words that change meaning depending on which country you’re in.  Unless you’re prepared for these differences, you might be in for a surprise!


In the US, a subway is an underground railway — like in New York, a train that goes underground.  If you’re looking for that in London, however, you’re looking for the underground or the tube— a subway in the UK is just an underground walkway you can use to cross a busy street.  No trains required!


In the US, a toilet it the piece of porcelain you’ll find in the bathroom.  In the UK, however, it can also mean the entire room itself — so “getting stuck in the toilet” has a very different meaning in the UK than it would in the US.


I’ll admit that this one is one I’ve messed up, to everyone’s great amusement.  What Americans call pants is usually called trousers in the UK.  The word pants, there, is reserved for the underpants.  It took me a long while to understand why people were snickering when I complimented them on their nice pants!  This seems like the sort of thing you should tell the poor American, but no.  That’s a story for another day, however.


If you ask for some chips in either country, you’re going to get a salty, potato-based snack food of some kind, so you can’t be too far off your goal.  In the US, though, you’re going to get what the British call crisps — thin pieces of fried potato.  In the UK, you’re going to get what the Americans call French fries — deep-fried strips of potato.  Both are good to me, but one goes better with sandwiches than the other.

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