10 American English Words and Phrases British Expats Eventually Adopt

Parking lot or car park? (Photo: Fotolia)

Parking lot or car park? (Photo: Fotolia)

As a British expat who has lived and worked in the U.S. for over five years, I remain very much in favor of embracing the various wonderful nuances this country has to offer. However, there was one aspect of my move that—during the initial settling-in period—I secretly feared: the gradual Americanization of my vocabulary.

Now don’t get me wrong; this fear was not borne out of any kind of aversion to American English (AmE) or resistance to the local way of life. Rather, it was the result of my own stubbornness—a refusal to relinquish the one thing (aside from my passport) that set me apart as British. It all seems so silly now, but eventually I came to realize that not only was it okay to speak the vernacular of my new neighbors, but that such a notion was inevitable.

In time—whether to avoid confusion or just out of sheer necessity—there are certain AmE words that most British expats eventually adopt. Here are 10 of them:

While the British word “rubbish” has no shortage of admirers this side of the Pond, its American counterpart, “trash”, is one of those words that—if you are cohabiting with an American—will quickly enter your personal lexicon. Whether one of you has to take out the trash or there is simply trash lying about, a conversation about the trash will happen fairly frequently, as will your employment of the word.

Cell phone
If, like me, your first job in the U.S. is working for a cell phone company, you’ll have no choice but to rid your mouth of the word “mobile” (or at least the British pronunciation of it). But even if your career takes you nowhere near the tech industry, there’s still a good chance you’ll have to interact with a phone provider from time-to-time. In order to avoid confusion, you’ll soon refrain from saying “MO-by-ul,” and instead opt for “cell phone.”

Actually, any number of synonyms could be added here, but for the sake of simplicity we’ll stick with “Highway”. While Americans will likely understand what you mean if you call it a “motorway,” they are far more likely to giggle at you nonetheless. Experience has taught me to do as the Americans do with this one. Of course, your vehicle won’t be driving on anywhere if it isn’t filled up with the next entry.

Whether it comes up in a rant about price hikes or a conversation about needing to fill up your tank, gas is frequently a part of America’s national dialogue. This is probably why we Brits are quick to acquire the word, especially when no one in earshot will understand the word “petrol.” Ironically, I discovered this the hard way during an exchange with a cashier at British Petroleum.

Parking lot
Once again, Americans will likely understand the phrase “car park,” but it does nonetheless sound out of place in the U.S. Furthermore—and the same can probably be said of “highway”—the use of American driving terminology is no doubt preferable during your driving test. Either way, this one tends to stick. 

Because Americans do not use the phrase “you lot,” it is much easier for Brits to refer to a group of people—men, women, or any other combination—as “you guys.” Indeed, the word “guys” can be used more specifically to refer to more than one member of the male sex, a usage that is also quickly adopted by expatriates.

This one is perhaps especially true for expat parents, not to mention their children. Even though you have said “maths” your whole life, meetings with teachers and interactions with other students will force you to subconsciously drop the ‘s’. But even I, as neither a parent nor a student (nor a teacher, for that matter) find myself saying it the American way.

If you tell an American pedestrian to “stay on the pavement,” he or she might misinterpret that to mean “stay on the pavement slab” (technically speaking, a “pavement” is the physical tile, not the walkway). To avoid this confusion, Brits eventually come around to using “sidewalk.”

Even though football fans back home often decry the American use of “soccer” (often unaware that “soccer” was itself coined by the British), the word is nonetheless an unavoidable addition to a British expat’s lexicon—especially that of the football fan. After all, imagine having to explain which version of football you are referring to every single time you begin a dialogue about the sport. It is just as well to call it “soccer” and move on as if nothing happened.

If you ask an American for a “fizzy drink”, he or she might, depending on the region, assume you mean a sparkling wine, such as champagne. This is why adopting the words “pop,” “soda,” or “coke” (depending on who you speak to) is not just recommended for an expatriate, but a necessity.

Have any of these words popped up in your vocabulary? Do you have any additions? 

See More: 
Brits in America: 5 Small Signs You’re Going Native
5 Ways for Brits to Accidentally Offend Americans
10 Common British Expressions That Baffle Americans

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Laurence Brown

Laurence Brown is a British freelance writer living in Indianapolis, Indiana. Having graduated from Lancaster University with a degree in English Language and Creative Writing, Laurence runs a blog called Lost In The Pond, which charts the many cultural and linguistic differences between Britain and The United States.
View all posts by Laurence Brown.
  • expatmum

    I have tried to stop saying “fizzy” and instead ask for “sparkling”. Unfortunately, because of my accent, it’s often just as hard to be understood, especially if it’s sparkling water I’m after. LOL

  • Tara

    In the south, we don’t say “you guys”. We, of course, say y’all. I seriously doubt my British fiance will adopt that one any time soon! Although, I did hear him utter “fixin’ to” in a sentence not long ago. I wonder if this will be one of the American (albeit southern) colloquialisms he adopts? haha

    • Béla Fekete

      I’m a Brit in the south for 4 years now I’m definitely trying my utmost to avoid the term Y’all but to my dismay I have uttered it once or twice I will not use Fixin to it just doesn’t roll off my tongue. 😛

      • David

        Because “y’all” is a contraction for “you all” it is a more forward thinking, progressive version of the northern “you guys.” I am a Southerner and will often use “you all” when in a more formal, yet personal, setting.

        • S_C_Webteam

          Except, it the South, “y’all” is treated as singular which is why one hears “all y’all” (which just makes my skin crawl).

          • Douglas E. Berry

            “Y’all” can be singular or used for a small group. “All y’all” is used to show that everyone in a larger group is being addressed.

            Blame English for not having a good plural second-person pronoun.

            As an example, I might ask a small group of leaders if a task has been completed by addressing them as “Y’all.” If I need to addresses the larger group to tell them that they all need to get to work, “All y’all” is a better usage.

          • http://barryvevans.wordpress.com Barry V. Evans

            Actually “you” is second person plural (specifically second person plural objective). Originally, “thee” and “thou” were singular nominative and objective cases, respectively, and “ye” and “you” were the plurals. All the other forms fell out of fashion, so now we just have “you” (and those of us in the South have popularized “y’all” to make up the deficiency).

          • Aajaxx

            I think ‘you’ used to be the plural. ‘thee’ was the familiar singular, though ‘you’ was the formal singular as well.

          • hotgeek88

            I agree. I live in TN, and personally rarely use “y’all”. I just simply hate the word. I typically would say “All of you…” when addressing a crowd in a formal setting. When in an informal setting, I most often default to the Northern, “You guys…” My style of speech in general is strange though. Southerners always tell me I sound like a Yankee, and Northerners always laugh at the few words that almost always come out Southern (i.e. “warsh”=”wash”, “kebnet”=”cabinet”, etc.). I was born and raised here in TN, and my relatives are all as country talking as can be. It freaks people out sometimes to hear me talk compared to them, because our accents are so dissimilar. I always blame the television. lol. I used to watch a LOT of television as a child, and I’m pretty sure that the result was an electronically acquired mess of an accent.

          • Charla

            Don’t be so pretentious.

          • hotgeek88

            Exactly how was I being pretentious? You are very rude!

          • http://barryvevans.wordpress.com Barry V. Evans

            I’ve lived in the South my whole life (minus a summer in Maine) and have never used (or heard used, except on TV or in movies) “y’all” as a singular. It is always plural.

          • klynnd

            Obviously, you cannot use an absolute like ALWAYS, when people above you are saying different. Unless you’re the god of Southern vernacular, please accept the fact that people use things differently depending on where they’re from and the culture they were raised in.

          • http://barryvevans.wordpress.com Barry V. Evans

            And whether or not they use words properly. 😉

      • jay

        “Ya’ll” is a wonderful word! And unlike the Northern counterpart (what we would call Yankee, which is of course another huge difference in language) “youse guys”, ya’ll is at least a contraction that makes sense and doesn’t sound so weird and flat.

        • JewelEyed

          As a New Yorker, I can attest to the fact that almost nobody in the north actually says “youse guys”. I suppose that’s what happens when you believe everything you see in mob movies.

          • m828

            As someone who lives in Philadelphia and regularly interacts with people from Philly and Jersey, “youse guys” is extremely common.

          • Douglas E. Berry

            Last time I was in NYC (for a wedding) the limo driver asked if “all youse guys” were being dropped off at the same place.

          • Charla

            Youse is extemely common in Baltimore and parts of PA.

          • Aajaxx

            Southeast PA is ‘youse guys’ country. I’m from there, but my lazy tongue rather likes y’all better.

        • WickedW0lf

          I live right about on the Mason Dixon Line, so it is not at all unusual to hear y’all and youse or “yun’s” in the same sentence lol

          • Michelle Hollow

            I’m with you on that Badw0lf. Where I’m from theirs allot of Pennsylvania Dutch Slang. a few I speak and hear are “Outen The Light” and “It’s Spritzing out.” Most of my family says churry instead of cherry. I have yet to hear anyone say “you guys”. Is it a bigger city thing?

          • http://beautifulsynthesis.com Andrea

            Whoa… I use “spritzing”, but I’m from Nebraska. Must have picked it up from my PA Dutch mother.

          • WickedW0lf

            Yes, I use those words, but I’m very PA Dutch lol

      • http://tonisummershargis.com/ Toni Hargis

        I love “all of y’all” and “y’all’s” (in place of the possessive, plural “your”).

    • http://blog.scifilover.com/ Hiram Lester, Jr.

      Someone beat me to it. :) This one, like soda/pop/Coke, is a regional thing. It’s “you guys” or “youse guys” in the North and “you all” or more commonly “y’all” in the South. There may be other regional variations, but these are the principle ones. :)

    • Timboy

      My grandma always says “Yins”.. I grew up in Ohio and I have always thought that was a weird way to refer to all of us 😛

      • WickedW0lf

        That’s a Pittsburgh thing ‘Yins” or more to the central and NePa regions of PA it’s “yuns” or “you-ins”

    • Katrina Horn

      I fought y’all for years and then one day it happened

      • BlueCanaryInTheOutlet

        You fought the ‘ya’ll’ and the ‘ya’ll’ won…

        LOL… 😉

  • http://www.thebeeskneesbritishimports.com Lucinda Gray Sears

    I’ve lived in the States for 18 years and you have this spot on! It’s just impossible not too. And the word ‘awesome’ too :)

  • ukhousewifeusa

    Gas and parking lot, for sure. And ‘for sure’! Hahahaha!

  • Jennie B

    I think I say “garbage” instead of “trash”, but yeah, it’s still not “rubbish”.

    All the baby related ones I Americanized: diapers, stroller, pacifier. There was just no point trying to stick to nappies, push chairs and dummies.

    I say zebra like an American and use the word ladybug. I accidentally said zebra like a British person the other week and my 2 year old strangely picked it up and will randomly use the British pronunciation now.

    I try to keep “car park”, and “trolley” instead of “cart”. My American kids and husband say “garage” like I do. :)

    Oh and you have to say “yard” instead of “garden” otherwise people get all impressed that you have a vegetable garden when you don’t!

    I kind of hate that I call it “math” now. 😛

    And I call my three kids “guys” even though one of them is a girl. I caught myself calling them “all y’all” once too.

    • blue

      Is there a diff British word for “ladybug?”

      • Béla Fekete


        • http://blog.scifilover.com/ Hiram Lester, Jr.

          The creature’s actual name is a Ladybird Beetle. :)

        • J Carvell

          Ladybird is quite common in the American south as well. The most famous American Ladybird is the late First Lady, native of Louisiana and wife of LBJ. She was given the nickname by her southern nurse who marveled that she was “as purity as a ladybird.” As to that horrid Americanism “trash,” I offer Shakespeare: “Who steals my purse steals trash.” It was used over a thousand years ago in England the same way it’s used in America today. Rubbish appears in English during the Late Middle ages and only finds common use supremacy in the UK during the 19th Century.

          • hotgeek88

            Wow! Thanks for this. I’ve heard the phrase “as purty as a ladybird” before, but I never associated it with a ladybug. It’s funny, because I’ve never thought about a literal translation for that phrase before. I just grew up knowing that if you were “as purty as a ladybird”, you were being complemented.

  • Alan Richardson

    Pavement caused me confusion when I read in the California rules of the road that one should park well off the pavement. Cell phones came along after I was here so I’ve always called them that.
    I’ve succumbed to all with narry a qualm EXCEPT “math” can’t abide the word; whoever heard of a ‘mathematic’? The science is “mathematics”. Whilst I’m at it: I hate the way ‘kudos’ is often pronounced ‘kudoes’ is if it were plural . . .
    EDIT: Er … well there is a word ‘mathematic’ but we more usually add ‘-al’ now.

    • Ann

      Sorry but mathematics is a singular noun (just like physics and linguistics) and the shortened variation is indeed math.

      • Alan Richardson

        Oh, just like kudos then? But
        ‘math’ still sounds unfinished to me.

        • Aajaxx

          Guess you wouldn’t like home ec, either, if there still is such a thing.

    • therealguyfaux

      Or it might just be the American way of generally pronouncing words and names ending in “-os” as if “oace,” rather than “oss,” as Britons do. Be mindful of the fact, British gappers, that calling the town in Southern California “Cerrit-oss,” rather than the more-authentically-Hispanic local pronunciation of “Cerrit-oace,” is a bit jarring to the locals. (Not that English-language-speaking American SoCalians haven’t mangled Spanish names in other ways.)

      • Alan Richardson

        Ha,ha I remember the mess I made of ‘Sepulveda’.

        • therealguyfaux

          It’s a PULL va-duh, rather than a PUSH va-duh.

  • DianeR

    My British husband finds it confusing that in Britain the Royal Mail delivers the post, but in the US the US Postal Service delivers the mail. He also notes that a new year of a television show is a new *season* in the US, rather than a new *series* (which would be thought of in the US as an entirely new show).

    • Aajaxx

      That post/mail inversion is pretty funny. Never noticed it before.

    • KatieC

      As an American fan of Top Gear who nearly had a heart attack when Jeremy said “This is the end of the series”…yes.

    • Tiffany Davis-Smith

      I was surprised that the Royal Mail doesn’t pick up outgoing mail. My husband, Nigel, has picked up many of these terms. Whenever we go to England, his Mum tells him “speak English, Nigel!”

  • Miles Quatermass

    I will never accept that the plural of ‘Lego’ is ‘Legos’.

    • Robin D

      So, you would say, “There were Lego all over the floor when I got home.” Just sounds wrong to me.

      • Matthew H

        “There was Lego all over the floor”. Lego is a singular as well as plural, like fish or sheep.

        • Jon Haile

          That is the wrong conjugation of the verb “to be.” There were fish in the sea. There were sheep on the hill.

          I’m also not convinced that Lego can’t be pluralized. It is a brand name after all. Multiple BMW products are BMWs, multiple Marlboro products are Marlboros.

          • expatmum

            Or we could go all Latin and say “Legi”.

          • Kaitain

            Marmite is also a brand name. If you had seven jars of it in your cupboard, you wouldn’t have Marmites in that cupboard. You’d have Marmite in your cupboard, or jars of Marmite. If you spilled them all from the cupboard onto the floor, you’d have Marmite all over the floor, not Marmites.

            You can say “Lego bricks”. It is never “Legos”.

          • Denise

            The whole thing is lego when refering to one piece you say lego brick, its a lego piece. When you ask your child if they are playing with their lego you dont suspect they are playing with one piece..lol

          • Aajaxx

            Leggo my Lego. Oh, wait, that’s Eggo.

          • gn


            You can say “there was garbage all over the floor” in US English.

            In British usage, Lego is a mass noun.

          • Aajaxx

            Collective noun.

          • MontanaRed

            Oh, geez, you guys! 😉

          • Aajaxx

            Well, there’s a difference!

    • mrv

      LEGO is the brand name. It is one LEGO brick, two LEGO bricks, a thousand LEGO bricks.

      • Aajaxx

        It are what people say it are, so they are Legos.

    • Adam

      The LEGO company also will never accept it.

    • Béla Fekete

      What do you suggest “Legii ?”

    • rob

      Lego Bricks

  • Treebeard

    Actually, I would never interpret pavement as meaning “pavement slab.” To me, “pavement” refers to any surface made of concrete or tar, etc. It could refer to the surface of a road or a sidewalk or a parking lot.

    (And honestly, if someone around me used the word “petrol,” I would understand what they were talking about immediately.)

    • http://beautifulsynthesis.com Andrea

      Yeah, “pavement” is any surface covered in concrete or asphalt.

      The one that always sounds weird to me is “tarmac”. That’s where airplanes park!

  • Béla Fekete

    So much of this true, I am trying to stay true to the Queens English and often joke with my American family and colleagues on how I’m here to “Edumicatify them ” By offering them an “Edumification” I usually get a comment about those saying that those are not real words lol to which my reply is always well neither are the ones you use 😛 Seriously though I have found that to be clearly understood, I have to slow down my speech to an absolute crawl as the fast spoken English language cannot be understood in the South unless it’s spoken at a snails pace.

  • Ann Brennan

    This list cracks me up because it is the same when moving to England. We adopted rubbish, garden, biscuit, loo, and football very quickly

  • Tracy

    Add “the” in front of university (as in, I’m going to the university) or just say college. Surgery is an act where you get cut open, and not a location which is most likely called a clinic here. So if you say you’re going to the surgery, we’ll think that you’re having your appendix removed or something. And we use Y’all in the south instead of you guys.

    I might be unusual, but I knew all of these terms, save for “maths.” Never heard that one.

  • ABIM

    I have been here 8 year and I still call a shopping cart – trolley, I refuse to call it a cart – everything below I have succumbed to, including truck and yard instead of garden

    • Count The Shadows

      Fun fact: In Georgia, at very least in the southwestern portion of the state, and maybe as well in the Northern (Atlanta area), the word “Buggie” is used in stead of cart. Until I moved here from New Jersey, I had never in my life heard it referred to as a “buggie.” And I haven’t just lived in Jersey, I’ve lived in three other states. It actually annoys me something terrible, because for some reason, I hate the term buggie. It sounds odd. Trolley however, I can understand and adjust to.

      • Angie Poole

        That’s used in other Southern states, too :)

  • Kris

    I think saying trunk vs boo is a necessity too. I will never forget the time my British Mother in law asked me if she could put her purse in my boot. She has lived here for nearly thirty years and still refuses to use most American vocabulary. Fortunately, I learn quickly!

    • Jennie B

      I still say boot and so my American kids use that word too. :)

      • therealguyfaux

        And if you ask Americans what “a boot” is, besides the meaning of “footwear,” they will jokingly tell you it’s how Canadians say “about.” (And it’s true– reflecting their mostly-Scottish ancestry.)

  • Simone

    All so true! What about bangs instead of fringe? My hairdresser looked at me like I had a third eye when I asked her to trim my fringe. And pacifier instead of dummy; stroller instead of pushchair; diaper instead of nappy!

    • Jennie B

      Oh I hate using the word bangs at the hairdressers. I trim my daughter’s fringe at home and we call it a fringe then, but I have to say bangs at the hairdressers.

      • Barbara

        You don’t have to say Bangs , Jennie !

    • Barbara

      Awesome never comes out of my mouth ! Rubbish is Rubbish !
      Dustbin is still a Dustbin , Handbag is not a Purse , Drawing Pin is not a Thumb Tack ! The list is endless – I’m in the Hair Industry , have been for 44 yrs – a Fringe is a Fringe – have never understood where the word Bang comes from – hilarious to hear that coming from a male’s mouth !
      Not a case for ‘ when in Rome .. ‘ for this girl :)

      • Barbara

        Australian / British background keeps me grounded in my Vocabulary !!

    • therealguyfaux

      Ermm- umm– “fringe,” when applied to “hair” in America, has (though perhaps not all THAT widely) come to mean a thick growth of hair in quite a different part of the female anatomy.

  • Vivaldian67

    After living in the Deepest South for almost 15 years I take great pride in the fact that the phrase “y’all” has yet to pass my lips. I do use a lot of others though, especially car related ones like trunk for boot and hood for bonnet.

  • booksleuth

    What about “hood” in place of “bonnet” and “trunk” in place of “boot”?

  • Rachel Donnelle Christensen

    As an Australian we use mostly English references, except for highway, soccer and mail etc. but we also have prams and footpaths…

  • Jean Beaton Leavitt

    Going to hospital…or going to the hospital?

    • annabelthegreat

      Going to hospital –> being admitted
      Going to the hospital —> I use it as ‘visiting’
      But if you are going to see your GP or local ‘Health Centre’ you are generally ‘going to the doctors’

  • Argon

    My husband and I have been on both sides of this. Over 35 years of marriage we code switch easily when we go from one country to another, although in the beginning it narked me no end when some Brits would giggle at American words they understood perfectly well, and my husband was driven nuts by being deliberately misunderstood by Americans.

  • Jeanette318

    I’ve lived in The US for 43 years and use the word garbage but not trash and am mimicked to this day in the US at my pronounciation of ‘garage’.
    And you’d never hear the word gotten in Britain, but I have heard my fellow countrymen use ‘guys’!
    Over the years I’ve seen an Americanization of Britain, sadly!

  • Paul_in_NJ

    I beg to differ: I long ago adopted “you lot,” as it works better (and is a little more formal) in written correspondence – like comments – than “you guys,” which is better used verbally.

    • expatmum

      Where I’m from in the north of England, while “you lot” is used a lot, it usually comes across as slightly dismissive or insulting and would never be used in written correspondence unless you meant it that way.

      • Angie Poole

        As an American I would also take “you lot” as condescending at best. “You all” is a safe bet (or just “you” works, too). I’m fairly cognizant, however, of “A” and “B” language forms when I use them.

  • JosiahS

    As an American moving to the UK in five years time, to attend university, is there any American words or phrases I should avoid using? I have all the basics such as boot, bonet, petrol, torch, and so on. But I’m trying to teach myself to use British English now so it won’t be a problem when I arrive over there.

    • expatmum

      FANNY – unless you’re actually talking about female genitalia.
      And really – it won’t be a problem. Don’t worry.

  • LoriM

    Here’s an American who hates “you guys”, esp when a young person uses it in speaking to a group of older persons (like waitress to a table of older FOLKS). I prefer “you folks” or “you two”. Or just “you”. And then there are some who would say it should be “you folk” (singular). So fun, language!

  • Joe’s Mom

    I nearly died when we first took our pup to the groomers, who suggested a “face, feet and fanny” service! I have no clue what that would have been called in the UK, but it would definitely not have been that!

  • Frank

    It depends on which state you are in. But in CA. We don’t say highways. We call them freeways.

    • Gail

      I live in northern va and we have highways as well as freeways haha

      • BlueCanaryInTheOutlet

        We have no freeways in Northern Virginia. Only highways. A few parkways.
        Source: Grew up there, live there.

    • Kaitain

      All freeways are highways. Freeways are a subtype of highway. It could be that every highway in CA is a freeway, but I guess you’re saying that Californians call non-freeway highways freeways regardless.

      • Angie Poole

        Since this is about how language is used, Californians, at least those where I grew up, only use “highway” in a titular sense. PCH is Pacific Coast Highway by title, not because people think of it as a highway. The roads on which people want to drive quickly and without stoplights are called freeways. Since living in upstate NY, though, I refer to the interstates as “highway”, with the exception of the Thruway, which is specifically referring to the toll road. When in Rome…

  • Theresa Marie Bright

    Tennis shoes. … And trainers that one had me when I went over the pond. I was like what are you training for or was thinking like a personal trainer?

  • Sharon

    I still call a sweater a jumper which is more like a smock in the US. Then there is the trunk/boot and hood/bonnet with the windshield/windscreen.

  • Raibean

    Yeah I had no idea what “car park” meant until this article explained it. But don’t start with the jelly/Jell-o debate. The generic term for Jell-o is gelatin in the US!

    • BlueCanaryInTheOutlet

      Jelly comes in a glass jar–grape jelly, for example. It is different from jam. Jam has more fruity bits in it. Preserves, on the other hand, contains the fruit AND the jelly.

      If Jell-O/gelatin is jelly, than what do you call what we call jelly? Jam? Then how do you distinguish from the kind with the fruity bits and the kind without?

  • USian

    Garbage is related to food, as in put that apple core in the garbage disposal. Trash is everything else. You can recycle trash, you compost garbage.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GreedLin?feature=mhum Stephen Bove

    I know what Fizzy Drank is (Willy Wonka)
    I use Motorway, Petrol, and Football all the time. I use the word rubbish but not to describe things to toss away (like empty cans) but for bad movies or out right lies

  • Barbara Dignan

    How long did it take you to drop “boot” and use “trunk” when referring to storage area of your automob…car.

    • Denise

      I have lived here for going on 13 years now and still say boot and bonnet and have my husband using those words when home too and hes american though my English kids use the american trunk and hood. :)

  • Michelle Hollow

    I would rather say “Fizzy Drink” then soda or coke. It just sounds cute and lets me indulge in on my English Heritage. Someday I’ll figure out if i still have family across the pond.

  • Adam

    Aussies use some of the British terms, but have our own for others (ie footpath instead of pavement, soft drink instead of fizzy), but thanks to the fact that 80% of our TV is American, the American words (and spelling – it should be an ‘s’ not a ‘z’ in -isation) has been slowly creeping in.

  • DianeR

    Another one just came to mind: we Americans don’t know what a ‘hob’ is, best to get used to calling it a burner (if you mean where one pot goes) or a stove (if you mean the whole cooktop).

  • Traveler

    In Michigan we also say freeway or expressway for highway. And let’s not forget you call a car trunk, a boot, an elevator, a lift and an apartment or loft, a flat.

    • Chelsea

      Ohioans use expressway as well.

  • Dollytwo

    My change over words were aluminum/aluminium, wash cloth/flannel, all of the above and the total inability to say Pathmark properly. Never had a language problem Stateside but did when i returned to Blighty to live as every one thought I was showing off!

  • Lorene

    And I picked up petrol and lorry when my husband was stationed in England. I use rubbish when I mean balderdash. (My gps is set to a British woman’s voice- we call her Lady Jane. She’s always telling us to take the motorway.)

  • Michael Brain

    back in mid 60’s working in Canada I got used to the phrases ‘snow job’, ‘is it ever’ and ‘yellow’ when answering the phone, ‘mailman’ instead of postman, ‘lookit’.

  • Paul Greenhow

    I have been here 14 years and am married to a southern belle, so y’all, fixin’ to, yonder are all part of my vocabulary now. The phrase that will never pass my lips is “exact same” it sets my teeth on edge.

  • Mel

    I grew up in NC but was raised by Northerners and Midwesterners. I did have a southern accent at one time but I grew out of it when I moved out of farm area. That being said, get me talking to someone with a heavy southern accent and it comes back really quick. Same with my grandmother from Long Island. I have never, in my life, used “ya’ll.” I also haven’t used “you guys.” I tend to just say “hey guys” or “guys” even when addressing a group of women (btw I am a woman.) American English is definitely seperated by regions. I have often heard people from other countries can’t differentiate between the different dialects.

  • Marsha Smith

    I have watched British TV ever since we finally got Cable TV and if you just stop for a second and think about the sentence content you can usually figure them out. I absolutely love British expressions. But there is one that threw me for the longest time – the term plus fours. Then I FINALLY remembered I could Google it.

    I am from the American South and I say y’all, use too many other contractions and drop too many g’s.

    But I love different ways of speaking from just about everyone. In America, you can ride 5 miles from where you live and find people who pronounce words differently. For instance: In this area, pecan trees are very prolific. However, arguments have started about how you pronounce the word *pecan.* *Pe – can or Pe – Kahn.*

    • Angie Poole

      This reminds me of the popular tests you can take that are supposed to tell you where in the US you’re from. They always put me in the wrong place. I grew up in California, but my dad’s family is from Arkansas and my mom is from Wisconsin. Then I start using alternate pronunciations just for fun :D.

  • expatmum

    I understand saying British English words accidentally in the US, and I’m sure I do it a lot even after 24 years. What I don’t get is the dogged “refusal” to ditch English words, especially when they’re nothing like the American version. It’s almost as if it’s an ethical issue…?

    • Andi

      I fully agree. If you want to be understood then use words the locals can understand. It won’t make you any less British. I grew up in the US so I use the term ‘cell phone’. I lived in the Middle East for a bit in an area where neither the term cell phone nor mobile phone were used. It was called what sounded like a ‘moe-bye’ phone (no L sound at the end). I used that term in order to be understood even though it sounded odd to me. None of this silly “it grates on my nerves” and “why can’t they use the proper term” nonsense some people on this site comment about.

  • Chelsea

    As long as they don’t pick up twerk, I’m happy. I’m American and have always called my “cell phone” a mobile. Is that odd?

  • http://beautifulsynthesis.com Andrea

    I don’t blame you in the slightest for wanting to hold onto your Britishisms. Language is part of identity. I’d do the same thing.

    I’ve got several friends via Internet who live in other English-speaking countries, and I try to make the effort to “translate” stuff I write online. There are still so many words I don’t know. What’s the British term for “spackle”?

    • annabelthegreat

      Whats a ‘spackle’

      • http://beautifulsynthesis.com Andrea

        It’s what we call the kind of plaster used for repairing/smoothing walls. For instance, if you want to fill in some nail holes.

  • Chris

    After watching Topgear for years I find myself calling the trunk, the boot, and my engine is under the bonnet. I call myself a petrol-head, and I am constantly saying that I need more POOOOOWWWWWEEEERRRR!!!

  • Kaitain

    Why would a Brit ever say “motorway” in the US, except as an accident, from habit? Freeway and highway are both official terminology words (and specify different kinds of roads, or, at least, only some highways are freeways).

    • expatmum

      For the same reason, whatever that is, that they’d say any other British word that wasn’t understood here.

      • Kaitain

        I disagree. It’s a difference between proper names rather than merely a mapping difference. “Highway” is not merely a descriptive word for an object, like “tap” or “pavement”. Rather, it is used in the official designation of road names, e.g. Route 66 is the Will Rogers Highway. In a similar way, you drive north from London on the M1, M standing for “motorway”, so an American ought not to call this a highway. By contrast, it is perfectly legitimate for an American to call a London pavement a “sidewalk” because it is not a proper name.

  • Kaitain

    I will never call a waistcoat a “vest”. It just seems ridiculous to me. But I’ve made the switch on quite a few other words.

    • TheronC

      Why ridiculous? It’s a regionalism. And if I told anyone here I had a collection of 50 waistcoats, they’d not only think I was odd, they wouldn’t know what I was talking about.

      • Kaitain

        Sure, but to me the claim that I am wearing a vest means I’m wearing a sleeveless undershirt. A wife-beater.

  • B

    lift vs elevator
    herb vs erb

  • Denise

    I have lived here for going on 13 years and I use the English words more than i do the American and my American husband has begun using the English words, at least when he’s at home. I live in the south but rarely say y’all, everyone rolls off my tongue instead. Math was always Maths to me though I have to admit it doesn’t just roll off my tongue anymore, it is starting to sound wrong to add the s and I dont like it. I used to cringe when i heard my children refer to it as Math. Car park is still car park and if I say parking lot I feel silly like I’m trying to be American, in fact if I say most American words I feel like that, makes me very conscious about it. Very strange.

  • Lois Cook Roberts

    do you say torch or flashlight, and jumper or sweater?

    • annabelthegreat

      Torch and Jumper.. again from the UK

  • Lois Cook Roberts

    trainers or sneakers?

    • annabelthegreat

      Trainers because I am an English person

    • i woz ere

      Trainers is short for training shoes, as in athletic training etc.
      Where does the word sneakers come from?

  • George Armstrong Bluster

    US citizen here. Never been to the UK (though I’d love to visit). A minor point not mentioned above: In the UK the definite article is sometimes dropped (“I’m going to hospital, university”) while in the US “the” is always used.

    By the way, I love to curse using UK naughty words. Why is that?

    • http://www.andrew-wigglesworth.co.uk ecadre

      Actually, and I’ve not really thought about this before, it’s a little more nuanced than that.

      If you said to someone that you are “going to hospital”, or “he went to hospital”, that will always mean that they are going to a hospital as a patient, as an inpatient.

      If you go to “the hospital”, you are visiting or maybe going as an outpatient.

      Ask a child in the morning on a school day, and they’ll be “going to school”. An adult travelling to visit a school will not describe themselves as “going to school”.

      Someone who is a student may say that they “go to University”, but if someone asked them where they are travelling to, they would say “the University”.

  • gn

    “Pavement” would probably be interpreted by most Americans as the road surface on which cars drive — i.e. the OPPOSITE of the intended meaning!

  • Amanda Grace Knapper

    My husband spent a few years in Scotland as a child. We have a to-may-to / to-mah-to thing going on.

  • Londoner

    The drinks issue written about is rubbish – we do not call drinks ‘fizzy drinks’ and haven’t since forever. It’s pretty much by brand name or what type of drink. We’d ask for a coke or a lemonade etc, never a fizzy drink.

    • expatmum

      Perhaps in London, Londoner, but not all over the country – when referring to water or lemonade for example.

      • Londoner

        I’ve lived all over the UK, from Edinburgh all the way down to Cornwall & a lot of places inbetween (parents and then my own job) and no, it’s not just a London thing.

        I’d ask for fizzy water otherwise I’d expect normal because normal is.. well, the norm in the UK. If I asked for Lemonade, I certainly would expect fizzy – flat lemonade was a USA thing I think, most certainly portrayed as that in 70’s TV & pop culture – home made and yummy. Brits just had RWights.. always fizzy and the thing behind the bar or in a eatery. So really, I think your points aren’t really an issue here. Chin chin!

    • annabelthegreat

      I use fizzy as a general term.. if I then order one or buy one I use the brand name.. otherwise who knows what you would get

  • Elaine Golding


  • Tiffany Souza

    I remember when I first got into Doctor Who I naturally began binge-watching it. Which was great until I began actually thinking in an English accent 24-7 and would occasionally speak like that without meaning to. Once, I was at my sister’s apartment with her husband and our brother and we were talking about something I thought was stupid and I just blurted out “oh that’s just rubbish!” and they all laughed at me and my sister goes “don’t say that again.” It has actually become a bit of a problem. I’ve been watching entirely too much BBCA/British actors, and I’m starting to use British slang! Thank god I belong to the Harry Potter Generation, and thank god Harry Potter is so huge here (and now Doctor Who and Sherlock), or people would probably make fun of me worse than they do! Most of my friends think all things British are awesome though, so among my friends saying things like “you lot”, “rubbish”, and “mobile” are considered cool, like bow ties and fezzes. 😉

    • http://about.me/karthic.durai Kart Durai

      Bow ties are indeed cool. Petrol is common as it is actually petroleum which is filtered but someway along the way Americans used to Gasoline.

  • Ricky R

    Guilty as charged except for :highway: and until i read your article i couldnt tell any longer which is US or UK.

  • http://about.me/karthic.durai Kart Durai

    Yep, i say guys and cellphone so much. my parents say dont say guys when i talk to them. I do it just wind them up

  • Alan Cartlidge

    I’ve lived in the US for 24 years and still use all the English words such as boot, bonnet, motorway, petrol etc. Perhaps it’s because I’m a stubborn Yorkshire bloke, or perhaps because Americans get a kick out of it and think it’s cute – or a little of both.

  • Boogers

    We have snacks and munchies here in the US. My Brit friends all have “nibbles”.

  • frank

    Some of YOU GUYS are taking this conversation far to seriously.

  • Brandon Weaver

    The term “you guys” is only used for a group of men. For a group of people that includes members of both sexes it’s always “you all”.

    • i woz ere

      Or y’all.

  • CrittersbyBritty

    I have to admit that crisp sandwiches are a thing, whenever I pack a lunch for a long trip I always include a bag of crisps so I can smash them down onto my ham or cheese sandwich before I eat it (you can’t do it beforehand because the crisps go soggy). Anyway, I have just ordered a metric ton of Walkers crisps (Tomato Ketchup, Cheese and Onion, Salt and Vinegar as well as some Quavers) from British Delights. As an ex-pat Brit living in the US they are an absolute godsend.

  • feijigirl

    In Boston, we don’t say y’all or “youse guys” but “yizz”– which is really a regional variant of “youse”. So you’d say “I’m talking to all of yizz” “This goes for all of yizz” etc.