The United States and the United Kingdom share a common language, but some British phrases can trip up travelers.
Claudine Dervaes has always lived in Florida, where she has long operated her own publishing company. But one day, she met John Hunter, a British tourist born in Scotland who lived in Blackpool, England. What began as a long-distance relationship jelled into a 23-year marriage.
But there was always head-scratching, she says.
“He’d say something like, ‘Do you want to stop at a lay-by?’ Huh? I found out it means a rest area.’ He’d say, ‘Are you going to wear a jumper?’ — and that’s when I found out he meant a pullover sweater, not a type of dress.”
Dervaes kept track of her husband’s un-American expressions — and those of her in-laws and others. Like the time in a restaurant when her sister-in-law said, “I’m going to spend a penny.” Translation: “I’m going to the restroom.”
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The linguistic differences grew into a book, “The UK to USA Dictionary: British English vs. American English,” first published in 1992. The third edition came out recently ($6.95, Solitaire Publishing) with more revisions and additions — like a pronunciation guide and sections on spelling differences and Cockney rhyming slang.
Samples from the book
(U.K. to U.S. phrases)
Banger: Sausage or firecracker
Bridge roll: Hog dog bun
Buns: Muffins or cupcakes
Call box: Phone booth
Candy floss: Cotton candy
Cash point or hole-in-the-wall: ATM
Crumpet: English muffin
Drawing pin: Thumbtack
Dustcart: Garbage truck
Face flannel: washcloth
Hair grip: Bobby pin
Hire car: Rental car
Kitchen roll: Paper towel
The local: Neighborhood tavern
Off license: Liquor store
Sleeping policemen: Speed bumps
Tomato sauce: Ketchup