Monday, February 28, 2011

The Queen's English

Whenever I travel to England I always giggle a little at the obvious differences between here and the States.  For starters, everything over here is small.  Very small.  Hotel rooms are at least half the size of a normal room in the States.  All of the cars are these tiny little smart cars on tiny little skinny roads.  Speaking of cars and roads…everything is the wrong way.  The driver’s side is on the wrong side and you drive the wrong way on the road. 

Did you know the country of England is really not a lot bigger than the state of Indiana?  Wales, Scotland, and England comprise the island of Great Britain.  Great Britain, Northern Ireland, and some surrounding islands comprise the sovereign state of "The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland".  If you separate out Wales and Scotland from England, you'll find that England is really not very big.  You can drive from the south border to the north border in about six hours.  And from the west border to the east border in three to four hours.  That's it - how this little country ever ruled the entire world I have no idea.
And the language…for two languages that carry the same title (English), there are quite a few very relevant differences.  The British speak in a language I like to refer to as “The Queen’s English”.  Americans speak in a language I refer to as simply “English” (we've “bastardized” the English language so I’ve been told).  Since I happen to work with a lot of British people on a daily basis, I consider myself as somewhat of a subject matter expert!  So here is a list of British words and phrases that I’ve compiled that either make me giggle or confuse the heck out of me.
  • Brilliant – This is a word that Americans typically reserve for something that goes beyond the ordinary.  But not the Brits.  When my boss’s admin assistant emails me for a task, if I tell her I’ll get it to her before her deadline she’ll respond back to me “That’s brilliant, Christi, thank you.”
  • Bloody – They use it as a descriptive word for just about everything…usually does not mean nice things.
  • Loo – They don’t go to the bathroom or the restroom.  They go to the loo.
  • Garage – Pronounced like carriage but with a “g”.  I don’t understand the pronunciation of this word at all.
  • Pub – They don’t go to bars.  I actually kind of like this one.
  • Flat – They don’t live in apartments.  I guess flat is an accurate description…I can’t think of any home that is not flat, can you?
  • Sweets – Candy…makes sense.
  • Biscuit – Cookie…makes no sense.  A biscuit is either a hot, soft breakfast pastry or a dog treat to me.
  • Mad – Crazy.
  • Lift – Elevator…makes sense.
  • Motorway – Highway…makes me giggle.
  • Chips – French fries.  You won’t find fries on a menu.
  • Rubbish – Trash…makes me giggle.
  • Petrol – Gas.  Obvious but funny to hear them say it.
  • Queue – In line.  Now this one is odd to me.  I agree with this for inanimate objects (i.e. the parts are queued at the machine).  But for people?  We don’t “queue up”.  We get in line.
  • Trousers – Pants.  Makes sense to me.
  • Schedule – Pronounced “shedule”.  Come again?
  • Lorry – Truck.  But not really like a pick-up truck (I’ve never seen any over here).  More like a delivery truck.  Being a big pick-up truck fan myself, I couldn’t understand at first how nobody had a pick-up truck.  How do they haul stuff?  Answer – they don’t.  Everything is small enough to fit in a car (a small one).
  • Boot – Trunk of a car.  This one makes me giggle.
  • Holiday – Vacation.  I can’t understand this one.  They have British holidays but then also go on holiday.  How do you differentiate between the two?
  • Fanny – Warning!  This is not the same translation as ours.  Suffice it to say, do not use this word around Brits unless you want to be vulgar (especially women!).
  • Fag – Cigarrette...this one both makes no sense to me and makes me giggle.

So there you have it…Christi’s version of English-to-English translation!


  1. Christi,

    I had one of my employee's read your blog yesterday. Today she comes in and says her sister knows someone traveling to England soon and can I print the Queen's English page?
    Cool huh?

  2. That is awesome - lol! I actually picked up a few new words and phrases while I was there this time. Trashmen are called "dust collectors"...cracks me up.