Pages in topic:   [1 2 3] >
25 English words that mean very different things in Britain and America

This discussion belongs to Translation news » "25 English words that mean very different things in Britain and America ".
You can see the translation news page and participate in this discussion from there.


Matt Bibby
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:12
Swedish to English
+ ...
Moot and through Sep 3, 2016

This was great! I never knew that 'a moot point' and 'through lunch' meant different things. Thanks for posting it!

 

Catherine Howard
United States
Local time: 18:12
Portuguese to English
+ ...
disagree Sep 5, 2016

I don't know where the blogger got the idea that "open through lunch" in the U.S. means "open until lunch" -- NOT. Just like in the U.K., it means "continues to be open during lunch hours." Cf. "He kept on driving through the night" = he continued driving during the entire night.

I also think the slick definition of "moot point" in the U.S. as "irrelevant" leaves out all of the richness of its meaning. Whenever I've heard it used here (U.S.), it has referred to a point that used to be controversial and was never settled, but which, due to changing circumstances, no longer makes a difference how it might have been decided. I be it's not even that far from the British sense.

Just goes to show once again that you can't believe everything you read on the internet....


 

Kelly Neudorfer  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 00:12
German to English
through Sep 6, 2016

Catherine V. Howard wrote:

I don't know where the blogger got the idea that "open through lunch" in the U.S. means "open until lunch" -- NOT. Just like in the U.K., it means "continues to be open during lunch hours." Cf. "He kept on driving through the night" = he continued driving during the entire night.

I also think the slick definition of "moot point" in the U.S. as "irrelevant" leaves out all of the richness of its meaning. Whenever I've heard it used here (U.S.), it has referred to a point that used to be controversial and was never settled, but which, due to changing circumstances, no longer makes a difference how it might have been decided. I be it's not even that far from the British sense.

Just goes to show once again that you can't believe everything you read on the internet....


But if a sale in the US runs "through Labor Day" then it means "until Labor Day." Your example of "through the night" I would agree with, and if I saw / heard that a store was open "through lunch," I honestly wouldn't know if that meant what is listed in the article as the UK or US definition. I'd probably have to ask to clarify whether that meant they were open in the afternoon or not.

I agree with your "moot point" logic. A moot point is one that is controversial but now irrelevant, e.g. if the Republicans had stood up against Donald Trump during the primaries, he wouldn't have become the candidate. Maybe it's true, maybe it's not, and we could debate it, but it is irrelevant because he is the candidate. It is a moot point. I would be interested to hear a Brit chime in as to whether they would also consider a moot point to be one that is (now) irrelevant even though it might still be controversial.


 

Jennifer Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:12
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Moot point Sep 6, 2016

As a Brit, my understanding of a "moot point" is a point which is debatable and as yet undecided but not one which is now irrelevant.

So many more vocabulary differences whose interpretation could lead to misunderstandings could have been included in this list. One that occurs to me is "momentarily".
In the UK, momentarily means "for a very short time", e.g. I was momentarily distracted by the barking of a dog.
In the US, I believe, momentarily means "very soon, almost immediately", e.g. Your goods will be ready momentarily, Sir.
A Brit might understand that to mean that his goods will be available only for a very short time.


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 00:12
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
for shag, run-in, trainers, bird and bog Sep 6, 2016

both definitions work for me. Have I become over-Americanised???

 

Kelly Neudorfer  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 00:12
German to English
both Sep 6, 2016

Jenny Forbes wrote:

As a Brit, my understanding of a "moot point" is a point which is debatable and as yet undecided but not one which is now irrelevant.

So many more vocabulary differences whose interpretation could lead to misunderstandings could have been included in this list. One that occurs to me is "momentarily".
In the UK, momentarily means "for a very short time", e.g. I was momentarily distracted by the barking of a dog.
In the US, I believe, momentarily means "very soon, almost immediately", e.g. Your goods will be ready momentarily, Sir.
A Brit might understand that to mean that his goods will be available only for a very short time.


In the US it can have both meanings. I would have no difficulty understanding your example sentence with the dog. In the second example I would infer the meaning from the context. If the person really meant that the good would only be available for a few minutes, then they would probably say it differently in the US. Something like "Your goods will only be available for a few moments, after which you will have to pay an additional *** to continue to use them."


 

Jennifer Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:12
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Yes, of course ... Sep 6, 2016

... Kelly, my "momentarily" sentence was just an "off-the-cuff" example. In a face-to-face exchange in the real world, the customer and the salesperson would doubtless go on to clarify what was meant by "momentarily".
Do Americans do things "off the cuff"??
I have lived in the USA and am fascinated by the many differences in vocabulary between our two varieties of English. To me, particularly mysterious is the vocabulary concerning clothes, food and, of course, vehicles.


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:12
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Likely Sep 6, 2016

Recently (in the past year) Americans suddenly started saying "likely" instead of "probably". Some Brits have begun to copy them. Presumably they don't talk or write much, because there are significant syntactical differences between these two words.

It is likely they don't know the difference. They probably don't know the difference.


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:12
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Deprecated Sep 6, 2016

This one is for IT nerds.

In the IT world, it is very common to see that a piece of code has been "deprecated".

In my world, that means that large numbers of people have disapproved of it, and have said so.


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:12
Member (2008)
Italian to English
You Murcans Sep 6, 2016

The thing about American English is that it began some time around 1600 as the British English spoken at that time (very different from how it is spoken now) and then went off on its own merry way, mixing with German, Italian, French, and all the other languages that were brought from Europe. It's amazing they still speak English in America at all. Why didn't a completely autochthonous American language come about?

[Edited at 2016-09-06 10:32 GMT]


 

Oliver Walter  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:12
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
Adverbs and adjectives Sep 6, 2016

Tom in London wrote:
Recently (in the past year) Americans suddenly started saying "likely" instead of "probably". Some Brits have begun to copy them. Presumably they don't talk or write much, because there are significant syntactical differences between these two words.

It is likely they don't know the difference. They probably don't know the difference.

I have the impression that many Americans think that grammar rules apply consistently and they don't understand exceptions. For example, they seem to think that every word ending with "ly" is an adverb (& the English also don't always use words correctly) although in fact "likely" is an adjective. So they would say of a possible event "It has likely happened".
In Tom's example: "It is likely..." contains "likely" as an adjective that describes "it", and "They probably don't know" has "probably" as an adverb that qualifies "don't know".
I sometimes ask myself whether what I consider to be correct English is simply what I was taught at school (in the 1950s & '60s) and today's most common 'mistakes' will be considered to be correct in 20 years.


 

Richard Bartholomew  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 00:12
Member (2007)
German to English
Confusing through and thru Sep 6, 2016

Kelly Neudorfer wrote:

. . . if I saw / heard that a store was open "through lunch," I honestly wouldn't know if that meant what is listed in the article as the UK or US definition. . . .


As a speaker of US English, I'd interpret that prima facie to mean that the store is open only until lunch is over after which the store would immediately close. On thinking about it a little more though, I suppose it could also mean that the store doesn't close during lunch and continues to be open until, say, close of business at 5:00 PM local time (or whenever management decides to close for the day—except during lunch, of course). An extreme interpretation might be that the store definitely is not closed during lunch but that it might or might not be closed at any other time of the day. The statement is probably intended to be understood in conjunction with the published (possible by being written on a sign glued to the front door) start of and end times of daily business.


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:12
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Puritanism Sep 6, 2016

Restroom = toilet (nobody is resting)
Sleeping together = bonking (nobody is sleeping)


[Edited at 2016-09-06 11:26 GMT]


 

Angela Rimmer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:12
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
Ugh Sep 6, 2016

I hate these lists -- and for some reason the ones that I, at least, end up seeing floating around are always put together by a British speaker. (Full disclosure: I'm based in the UK, have spent 12 years here, but grew up American, went to American schools, have American parents -- in fact my entire family is American)

I take issue with this article's American definition for "nappy". That is definitely the "white" definition of the word. And it very much ignores the racial and cultural connotations that come with it, and the history behind it. I can't speak for the US as a whole, but my understanding of it, having grown up in the South, is that it is very much a "black" word meaning "natural Afro hair" (as opposed to permed, straight hair or weaves). After it was used as an insult by slave owners and white supremacists to describe Afro hair, it was sort of "reclaimed" by the African American community. When I was growing up, "nappy" was derogatory because natural Afro hair was looked down on in professional and educational environments, and every black girl I knew would get their hair fried into straight, smoothed and sculpted "white" styles or braided into cornrows with colourful beads worked into them. And if their hair was getting a bit wild because they were due for another hair cut or perm, you'd hear their aunties or mothers complaining about how "nappy" their hair was getting and scolding them for letting their hair get wet in the rain or whatever (undoing some of the effects of the perm).

Nowadays natural hair is more acceptable (even though it's still considered a "statement" of sorts). But that derogatory meaning is still important because when white girls suddenly started appropriating it, they used it to describe their own hair when it was frizzy and unwashed, and it was ALWAYS a negative thing (and still is). A lot of black people find it offensive when white people use that word, and sometimes I've seen strong negative reactions even when blacks use the word.

My reaction might seem like an over-analysis, but I just found the definition in the article really simplistic and kind of dismissive of all the strong connotations behind the word. It's certainly a word to be used with caution if you decide to visit the US!

On another note, re: "peckish" -- I've never heard that word in the US at all in any context, and when I've used it myself, Americans ask me what I mean. So my understanding is that that word just doesn't exist in the US.


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:12
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Who knew? Sep 6, 2016

That isn't a good look.

Those are two examples of expressions that have suddenly become fashionable in London since about one week ago. Anyone using them later than two weeks from now will just be so yesterday like off the page.

[Edited at 2016-09-06 11:56 GMT]


 
Pages in topic:   [1 2 3] >


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:

Moderator(s) of this forum
Jared Tabor[Call to this topic]

You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

25 English words that mean very different things in Britain and America

Advanced search







WordFinder Unlimited
For clarity and excellence

WordFinder is the leading dictionary service that gives you the words you want anywhere, anytime. Access 260+ dictionaries from the world's leading dictionary publishers in virtually any device. Find the right word anywhere, anytime - online or offline.

More info »
SDL MultiTerm 2019
Guarantee a unified, consistent and high-quality translation with terminology software by the industry leaders.

SDL MultiTerm 2019 allows translators to create one central location to store and manage multilingual terminology, and with SDL MultiTerm Extract 2019 you can automatically create term lists from your existing documentation to save time.

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search