Lost in Translation

Several times I’ve heard the expression that the USA and UK are two countries separated by a common language, and on a few occasions I have found it to be true.

Even after living here almost a year, and remembering conscientiously to add the superfluous ‘U’ to color and favor, I still made a large faux pas.  I asked my male coworker where he thought I could buy a pair of cheap suspenders.  To wear at the weekend.  And also a pair for my partner.  He politely responded M&S, and everyone else just stared.  Fair enough.  I realized about 30 seconds later that the word I should have used was BRACES, and that suspenders are apparently a type of lingere.


We also can’t forget the time I learned that double fisting does NOT mean holding a drink in each hand in England, the way that it does in America. And that a growler is not just a large container of beer. (I’m not explaining either here. The Internet and urban dictionary can help you). 

I am, however, savvy enough to know NOT to use the term fanny pack as it also has a different meaning. Use bum bag.  Or don’t say it at all.  Are fanny packs even a thing anymore?

I still cringe a bit internally when I hear the word ‘fag’ on a regular basis, even though here it refers innocuously to a cigarette and I still get aubergines and courgettes mixed up.  I know one is an egg plant and the other a zucchini, but which is which?

I know now that two fingers here is like the middle one in America, and though I can’t use them with a straight face, I definitely enjoy British curses. (You bloody knob, pillock, etc). 

So here’s to more vocabulary words and less social mishaps. As the Brits would say, cheers!

What’s been lost in translation for you?

10 Comments Add yours

  1. Expatorama says:

    This post made me giggle Amanda. I had no idea that Americans had such an name for a large beer container. If somebody is holding two drinks, we say double parking rather than the fisting thing, that’s as you say has an entirely different meaning in the UK! I went to an American school for a while and still remember the horror when I asked a classmate whether they had a rubber I could use. I think I was about 14 and had no idea that it meant something completely different in the States. In Turkey I also once tried to say “I am working”, but in actual fact said “I am peeing”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is really funny about the rubbers! I can’t imagine the horror of it happening as a teenager. Glad the post gave you a laugh!


  2. Never knew about the suspenders/braces!! Still giggling about wanting them for your partner too, the looks on their faces must have been priceless.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had no idea either! But yes, it was a little awkward, very funny and luckily quickly resolved.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post, and amusing too. Just a small point to note with “growler”. In parts of Lancashire and Yorkshire it is also an innocuous (and long standing) slang term for a meat pie, the type you would possibly get from a chip shop. See http://www.foodsofengland.co.uk/beefgrowler.htm
    It use as slang for a meat pie possibly pre-dates the more common slang term for, er, ahem… Just Google it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have not heard the meat pie usage, but thanks for clarifying, I would have been very confused!


  4. Kally says:

    I’m new here and I just to drop a comment to say I like this post a lot and it is very well written and interesting. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Kally says:

        You’re most welcome. Don’t be shy, come by MiddleMe to say hi!


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