It's all English to me

Missouri / April 9, 2012 / by Amy
It's all English to me

The English language is used across the world and is one of many thing that connects the UK and the US. However, having been here for four months now, I can attest to the fact that the countries can sometimes be speaking completely different languages. Of course, I noticed it the first time I ever visited the US, but living on a bus with four Americans means that my language is constantly under the microscope.

As soon as I arrived on the bus, I'd get odd looks from the rest of the team whenever I said anything. For Gelb, having studied in Scotland, my British vocabulary is entirely unremarkable but for the others, it's a different story. Not only is my accent slightly different to theirs - quite different, really - but the words I use are somewhat alien to them.

I had the advantage of having watched a lot of American tv so the majority of the quirky American language that they use is already familiar to me, though do occasionally, as the Americans say, 'throw me a curve ball'. They, however, were not prepared for me.

So, here is a very short list of examples of the 'foreign' words and miscommunications we use daily on the bus. 

The first and most important of all was when I said I wanted a biscuit with my tea. In the UK, a biscuit is not the savory bread-like entity it is in the US. No, it is more the equivalent of a cookie. We do have cookies in the UK but they aren't biscuits. Long discussions can be had, I'm sure, about the differences between the two, but the main point is, that a biscuit in the UK is not the same as a biscuit here. Much to my delight though, after we'd cleared up the small element of confusion, the others now sometimes say they would like a biscuit rather than a cookies.

American pants are what we Brits call 'trousers' - our pants are the equivalent of under-pants. So I still feel disconcerted when someone says something like 'I've spilled pizza on my pants'. I immediately think that the person should not be eating pizza in their underwear… 

I don't ask for a sweatshirt, I call it a jumper. This was, naturally, thoroughly mocked. Why I call it a jumper as so many Brits do, I don't know, but I do. 

Driving along the road, I'm annoyed whenever anyone doesn't use their indicators. "Their what?!" Apparently, they aren't called indicators here, they're turn signals...

And to stay on the car theme, the boot of the car isn't the boot over here. It's the trunk! Why, I don't know but then again, I don't know why Brits call it the boot. 

Also, the glottal stops so omnipresent in American English make it difficult for me to be understood. Even ordering a bottle of water from a hot dog vendor became a back and forth conversation of "water please", "huh?", "war-ter", "what?". After a rather extended version of this, Gelb cut in, explaining in his dulcet tones that "she'd like a boddle of wah-der". Recognition flooded the man's face as he pulled a bottle out from under the table.

It hasn't just gone the one way. Being around the rest of the team has meant that I also say things differently. I occasionally say things like 'can you pop the trunk?' or 'where are the trash bags?' Usually, however, it's because I'm doing an extremely bad imitation of an American accent and it's just funnier that way, or so I like to think… Amy Chin has also taken to speaking in her own version of a British accent. Mostly though, it's just so she can make fun of me. 


Photo Credit: Flickr: Photo Plod