PRESTON: English vs. English


One of the places at my uni where I study Language, Literature, and International Studies. I still have to remind myself to put the letter “u” into words such as “colour” and “behaviour”

As an English major, who has had to study the English language in depth, I find the difference between American English and British English to be one of the most interesting and amusing discoveries I have made over here.  

Most locals can tell from the first moment I speak (if not from the first moment they see me) that I’m an American. I was surprised at how many identified my Texan accent specifically. One thing that my new British friends love to do is imitate me saying the word “y’all.” It sounds absolutely ridiculous to say it with a British accent and most of the time their Texan accents are atrocious, but I don’t mind a bit because it gives me an excuse to discuss language with them.

Yes, of course, they use all of the words Hollywood portrays them using: bloody, rubbish, cheeky, mate, etc. but there are so many other differences I’m still adjusting to. Luckily, prior to departing for England, one of the British children I babysat for in the States was kind enough to explain the difference between “pants” and “trousers” to me so I wouldn’t make that mistake over here. Trousers are pants. Pants are underpants. Therefore, it can be very uncomfortable if you start discussing your pants in public. Dodged a bullet there.

Obviously, they refer to soccer as football, as most the world does, and fish and chips really means fish and fries. Most of the differences I was either prepared for or I can sort out the meaning, but they still never fail to make me smile. 

“Do you go to the uni?” (university)

“Have you seen my trainers?” (tennis/running shoes)

“Tea and biscuits?” (cookies)

“Cheers” or “Ta” (thanks)

“Grab your torch” (flashlight)

“Let me check her diary” (schedule/agenda)

My personal favorite is all of the nicknames or pet names they use for little casual terms of endearment. “Love” is common enough and is clearly endearing, but some of them like “petal” or “chuck” are slightly more surprising. On the flip side, casual insults often make me smile more than anything else. For example, to call someone stupid, the British might call them a “muppet.” Fascinating. 

Every now and again, I’ll be thrown off by something, like when I ask for lemonade and they bring me a Sprite, but mostly I’m just waiting for the day I can say one of these thoroughly British phrases without sounding like a complete poser.