The United States and the United Kingdom share a common language, but some British phrases can trip up travelers.

Share story

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.”

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

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)

Afters: Dessert

Anorak: Parka

Aubergine: Eggplant

Banger: Sausage or firecracker

Bog: Toilet

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

Chemist: Pharmacist

Coach: Bus

Codswallop: Nonsense

Conjurer: Magician

Courgette: Zucchini

Crumpet: English muffin

Drawing pin: Thumbtack

Dustcart: Garbage truck

Face flannel: washcloth

Flyover: Overpass

Hair grip: Bobby pin

Hire car: Rental car

Hoarding: Billboard

Kitchen roll: Paper towel

The local: Neighborhood tavern

Motorway: Freeway

Nappy: Diaper

Off license: Liquor store

Plaster: Band-Aid

Rubber: Eraser

Sleeping policemen: Speed bumps

Skip: Dumpster

Tomato sauce: Ketchup