Brit-Speak for American Travelers – Olympic Edition
Planning on visiting England for the Olympics? Prepare for a culture shock. As we’ve mentioned before we may speak the same language in theory, but in practice it’s very, very different. Here are a few expressions to help you navigate the rapids.
The Beautiful Game
One thing Brits and Americans will never agree on is the meaning of the word football. For Brits, it’s a game where you kick the ball around a pitch (not a field, please). For Americans, it’s a game where you run across the field (definitely not the pitch) like an unstoppable force while holding the ball. You may not agree, but when in London or any part of Britain, using the word soccer will get you a long speech about calling the game by its proper name and using the word football will work until they realize you are talking about American football. Ironically, the word derives from a British expression, but most people have forgotten that. While on the subject of soccer/football, it’s useful to know that instead of using a uniform and cleats, British players have kit and boots.
Track and Field
Planning on watching the athletics? Of course you are. For Americans, this could be any track sport so be prepared for some confusion when talking to a Brit. For Brits, athletics are the running events and not much else. It’s completely unrelated, but just so you know, horses for courses has nothing to do with a day at the races. It means each to their own. And if someone is going to the dogs, they might not necessarily be on a downward spiral, but might just be heading to the greyhound racetrack.
Where we play pool, Brits have snooker, billiards and even bar billiards. I’m not a sporting type so don’t ask me to explain the difference. And a fruit machine is a slot machine, so named for the rolling fruit, I presume. If you’re looking for a diversion and head to the bowling alley, you will still be using a bowling ball, but those things that you knock over aren’t bowling pins in Britain, but skittles.
Need to make use of the sanitary facilities at the Olympics? Ladies will be OK, but guys, be prepared to ask for the gents rather than the men’s room. And just so you know, a bathroom is a room with a bath in it. Brits are much less squeamish about the world toilet than we are.
Finally, if you’re planning on picking up a snack at the Olympic stadium, remember this. If you want French fries you need to ask for chips, while if you want potato chips, you must ask for crisps – don’t say I didn’t warn you.
More on Brit-speak in 20 British Expressions You Will Never Hear in the US and Do You Speak Brit? And if you’re planning a trip across the pond (another British expression), don’t forget to check out our latest off airport parking deal.
Image: Patrick Hoesly