Do You Speak Brit?
If you’re traveling to the UK, whether for business or pleasure, you might sometimes wonder if you’ve accidentally landed on another planet. We may all speak English, but it’s true that we’re divided by a common language. The trouble is, Brits just don’t speak American – and why should they? But if we want to make communication easier, there are some key differences you ought to know about.
Let’s start at the beginning. Who do you call in case of emergency? Calling 911 won’t help you at all; if you’re in the UK, it’s 999 and don’t you forget it. Got a headache after your flight and need some Tylenol (officially acetaminophen)? Try asking for paracetamol – you can get it in any corner shop or chemist (which Americans know as a drugstore). That’s also a good place to get lip balm, which we’d call ChapStick. And when you stick your purchases in that case around your waist, don’t call it a fanny pack (fanny is UK slang for female genitals) but a bum bag.
When it comes to food, don’t bother asking for arugula unless you want puzzled stares. Try the more widely used rocket instead. And if you want cilantro, ask for coriander, which in the UK refers to the leaf and not just the seed. Replace that zucchini with a courgette and that eggplant with an aubergine, too. If you want your food to go, it won’t be wrapped in plastic wrap, but in cling film. Those with a sweet tooth can trade candy for sweets, candy apple for toffee apple and cotton candy for candy floss. And at the supermarket, you won’t find any carts – take a shopping trolley instead.
Your Rental Car
Want a stick shift as a rental? Then ask for a manual car and don’t forget to fill up with petrol (not gas). When you hit the road, Jack, you’ll be driving on the tarmac and not the blacktop and if you’re on foot, forget the boardwalk and take the promenade or leave the sidewalk behind in favor of the pavement. If you want to check out the big game, asking about football will get you news of the latest soccer scores. In England, you’ll have to swallow your pride and ask about American football.
Let’s talk money – in notes rather than bills, please. You can swap your dollars for pounds at the bureau de change (and not the currency exchange). Most people in Britain use the word cashpoint for ATM. Turning to the courts, where Americans have lawyers, the Brits have barristers and solicitors, which might come in handy when it’s time for business. Want to send out some business information? You will need the right postcode (not zipcode) and may have to send your packages by recorded delivery instead of certified mail. And don’t forget, if you’re going upstairs to your meeting room, you will be taking the lift and not the elevator.
There are dozens more examples of how Americans differ from the Brits. More on this here or for a quick ready reference check out this British-American translation tool on About.com. (Image: michal818)
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