Friday, September 19, 2008

Fun Friday: Embarrassing Differences between UK and US English

Yes, the UK and the US are two countries divided by a common language. Although most of the differences are cosmetic - like spelling color as colour or center as centre, there are also vocabulary differences that can get you in a bit of trouble.

I was watching Ellen Degeneres the other day and she was interviewing Victoria Beckham. Victoria told the story of her son's first day of school in LA. His teacher asked him, "Do you like to collect anything?" and when he replied, "Yes, rubbers!" she almost fell off her chair. Of course, "rubbers" are "erasers" in the UK, not condoms.

For anyone planning trips over the Atlantic any time soon, these translations might be useful. A quick warning: This list is rated PG-13 for sexual content, so if you're easily offended, you may want to skip this post. These aren't translations you'll learn in English class, and I feel I have an obligation to tell you their meanings across cultures in order to save you future embarrassment.

UK fag = US derogatory term for a homosexual
UK no naked lights = US no showing your nipples (use "no open flame" instead)
UK keep your pecker up = US keep your male organ in an upright position (use "keep your chin up" or "keep smiling")
UK mate = US marriage partner, someone you have or plan to have children with (use "friend" instead)
UK pot plant = US marijuana plant (use "potted plant" or "house plant")
UK sleeping partner = US someone you're having sexual relations with (use "silent partner")
UK tramp = US "loose" woman (use "homeless person" instead)

This list could go on and on and on...

Have you ever been in an embarrassing situation because you said the wrong thing? Share your story!

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