British English versus American English translation guide

French fries aren’t french fries they’re chips. Chips aren’t chips they’re crisps. Crisps may or may not be crisps because sometimes crisps are chips and sometimes chips are fries. Depends on the waiter. 
There. Get it?


Moving on… 
When you are walking for four or five hours and you subtly ask your British friend how much farther it is to wherever you’re headed, and they say, “It’s just there” – just there is 8 miles.
If they say it’s “just here,” that’s 2 miles.


A stroller is allowed on escalators because a stroller is not a stroller; a stroller is a person out walking around and a baby carriage is not.


Nobody knows what the pram is. It might be a baby carriage; it might be a really big shrimp. No one is sure. 
Shrimps are prawns by the way. Not massive shrimp like everywhere else. 


Great Britain says they are on the metric system but about 80% of the road signs say miles on them, like 8 miles until the next turn. So I have a feeling once they get to Brexiting, that metric shit’s going away. 


Friends are mates but I don’t think that means they’re mating with their friends. But I didn’t ask. 



British bacon is ham. Doesn’t matter what they say, that’s what it is. And American bacon is better than ham OR British bacon (or – ugh – Canadian bacon). Brits will argue about this. Ignore them. American bacon is a gift from the pork gods. Love it. Miss it. Eat your body weight in it when you get back. 
Dollars are pounds, more or less, but sometimes pounds are Quids and sometimes they’re Bobs. And btw if you use the blue pass to get on the train to Cambridge (which requires the orange pass), it will let you on but it won’t let you off. That’s when you get a very stern warning from a man in a uniform at the Cambridge station who warns you he could charge you 50 Quid but you don’t care because you think that the price of a Coke. (It was actually about $23 for the ticket. I did not get fined by the way.) 
Most people here are very polite. Overly so. But ones who aren’t, really aren’t a lot. You’ll meet them while driving. 
They misspell a lot of English words. Colour. Practice. Stuff like that. Nothing major. 
A free house is a pub. A pub is a bar. Anybody who advertizes a free house would do a lot more business if they just said they were a pub. We thought it was a hotel and kept driving. Maybe it’s a truck to avoid Americans. Let’s see if the Canadians adopt it.  
Beers are pints, which is good because pints are larger than regular beers. 
You don’t want a beer, you want a lager. A lager is cold and carbonated, not warm and flat like beers and ales – although I recommend trying them, they’re not like American stuff. Just… know that one before you go.
Their money is see through. It has a plastic window in it with Big Ben. 
Everything is King’s this or Queen’s that. I think the royal family kind of has an inferiority complex. They’re freaking kings and queens for Pete’s sake. They don’t need everything named after themselves. That’s a bit much. 
Heard a hotel maid utter “blimey.” It was awesome. Oh, and apparently if you are an entry-level construction worker or a hotel maid, speaking Cockney is a job requirement.
There are dotted lines on the road and straight lines on the road and squiggly lines on the road. Nobody knows what the squiggly lines mean and nobody pays attention to any of the lines anyway.
Speaking of Americans, most British people love Americans. Not all of them, but most. And even though they’re very polite and they have a lot of rules – and I mean a lot – if you speak with an American accent they are too afraid of offending you to tell you you’re breaking the rules, which means you could basically get away with anything over here. Five drunk Texans could probably take over the whole country. Yeehaw!
There are more, but that’s a good start. 

What are YOUR faves?

Published by Dan Alatorre AUTHOR

International bestselling author Dan Alatorre has 17 titles published in over a dozen languages. From Romance in Poggibonsi to action and adventure in the sci-fi thriller The Navigators, to comedies like Night Of The Colonoscopy: A Horror Story (Sort Of) and the heartwarming and humorous anecdotes about parenting in the popular Savvy Stories series, his knack for surprising audiences and making you laugh or cry - or hang onto the edge of your seat - has been enjoyed by audiences around the world. And you are guaranteed to get a page turner every time. “That’s my style,” Dan says. “Grab you on page one and then send you on a roller coaster ride, regardless of the story or genre.” Readers agree, making his string of #1 bestsellers popular across the globe. He will make you chuckle or shed tears, sometimes on the same page. His novels always contain twists and turns, and his nonfiction will stay in your heart forever. Dan resides in the Tampa area with his wife and daughter. You can find him blogging away almost every day on www.DanAlatorre or watch his hilarious YouTube show every week Writers Off Task With Friends. Dan’s marketing book 25 eBook Marketing Tips You Wish You Knew has been a valuable tool for new authors (it’s free if you subscribe to his newsletter) and his dedication to helping other authors is evident in his helpful blog.

57 thoughts on “British English versus American English translation guide

          A nigga that you be chillin’ with on the regular, in da cut.
          Me and my padnuh, Johnny, be in the cut smokin a bleezy!
          #podnoh #podnah #podnuh #padnuh #padnah

  1. Dan, do you know of a book on British –> American English? I’ve been curious if someone set all the differences down, including things such as different spellings (humour me) to alternate words for things (trunk = boot, bus = lorry, trashcan = bin, and so on). Your post is an awesome start.

    I was considering that for when you want a character to sound completely native to UK, for instance. Or you could just hand it to a Brit to do the translations directly. “Make this native, would you?”

      1. There’d be a lot of expertise involved.

        WAIT! There’s something already.
        The UK to USA Dictionary British English vs. American English
        by Claudine Dervaes (Author, Editor), John Hunter (Author)
        Only 6 quid, new.

        Divided by a Common Language: A Guide to British and American English Sep 26, 2007
        by Christopher Davies for 12 bucks

        English to English: The A to Z of British-American Translations May 3, 2012
        by Suzan St Maur
        That one is fourteen bucks.

        There’s more. Dan! WE MUST WRITE THE DEFINITIONAL ONE. We can call it, the Oxford English Dictionary of American and British English, or OEDABE. We totally wouldn’t get sued. Nah. Not at all.

  2. I don’t think you have all of that right – for example a pram is a baby carriage, but only a certain type (non-portable with the baby lying down and quite tall). I think the English equivalent of a stroller is a buggy, where the baby is in a seat that can adjust – it is lower to the ground than a pram. i don’t know where the big shriimp comes in! Pounds are never Bobs – a bob was the name for the old shilling (one twentieth of a pound). Some people use it generally (as in ‘He’s got a few bob’ meaning he has a lot of money – note no ‘s’), but it isn’t the equivalent of a pound.
    You might like this clip:

    1. Did anyone actually like the old pounds/shillings/pence system? I remember learning it for renaissance faire. 12 pence = 1 shilling, 20 shillings = 1 pound. I remember TEACHING it at renaissance faire. People had trouble wrapping their heads around a base 12/base 20 system. Oh, and throw in haypennies and farthings and KERPOW! Head explosion.

      I suppose this is a good argument for why the US should go metric system.

      1. BTW halfpennies are pronounced ‘haypennies’ but spelled ha’pennies! Just to add to the confusion. the word ‘ha’p’orth’ (short for halfpennyworth) is still sometimes used in the expression ‘daft ha’p’orth’ meaning a foolish person, but in a fond way. It’s pronounced ‘hayputh’ 🙂

        1. I’ve totally got to use this somewhere in a story. I’ll look totally English and stuff.

          ha’pennies? Hmmm. Guess I just learned how to pronounce ’em and never had to worry about the spelling.

          So, if I’m using ha’p’orth in a story, do I spell it that way, or just put hayputh and then the reader will say it right in their heads? (Except the ones who know. Then they’ll grit their teeth and send nasty letters.)

        1. Dan, it’s clear that the old inches/feet/miles thing has gone away, and metric has… wait. It hasn’t. Despite teaching it in schools, everyone still clings to the old ways. USA! USA! We’re number 1! Etc.

  3. Hi Dan! Another fun post from you, as always. If you think England is confusing for an American, then I can tell you from first hand experience that Ireland is more so! I lived in Connemara, and worked in Galway at the end of the 1990’s. It took me a solid year to acclimate myself to the language! On the western coast of Ireland, much of how they speak English is a translation from the Irish language, so to us, much of it is spoken upside down. As for the differences in speech and the written word between England and America,don’t forget that this was how it was in America for many generations, after our country was newly settled. Was a time when most Americans both spoke and wrote the King’s English. We simply evolved out of much of it over time. But you knew this!

  4. I love reading your travel posts. My daughter and I were there a couple of years ago and, being from Texas, even when we called something the ‘right’ name, it sounded funny.

  5. Also. Why do Americans ask for a cheque when finished eating. I wished someone paid me to eat a meal. Instead I get a f###ing bill.

    1. Pea meal, or back bacon. That’s what my mom always called it. It might be called Canadian bacon in States only. (And what they serve isn’t it.)

  6. If you think things are differnt in England Dan, wait till you get up to Scotland! Then you’ll be in for a bloody laugh. Scottish bacon is fandabbydosey by the way.
    I agree with jrlarner. Who started this language in the first place?
    Enjoy today.

  7. Recently, I had Colleen Chesebro, (who lives in America) helping me with my debut manuscript. She came across a lot of words in my MS that are spelled differently, or words that she just didn’t recognise. I found it quite useful having a person from a different country reading my manuscript pointing out things that other Americans might find odd. It’s definitely a good idea to have readers from different cultures/countries read your work.

  8. It wasn’t that long a walk! But seriously, this is a brilliant post and brought back some very happy memories. It was a pleasure and an honour to introduce you and your gorgeous family to Cambridge. Just a wonderful day. Come back one day, the punts and warm ale will be waiting!

  9. A posh English gentleman walks into a Texan farmyard. He wishes to buy some food for his hens.
    He says to the farmer .. “Excuse me my good man. Please could you tell me how much is your chicken seed”.
    The farmer replies … ” That chicken ain’t see’d nothing mister. That particular chicken is blind.”

  10. last time we were in the UK we stepped into a pub where several TV’s were blaring a soccer game. the little town had shut down for this and the place was crazy. every play was met with hearty boo’s or hoorahs and it was major party time. you couldn’t help but be caught up in the fun.

  11. Dear Dan, or whatever your name is, I am none other than Detective Tony Pastry of New Scotland Yard. My informant has told me that you are the Red Herring, the notorious art thief. And my informant is very reliable: He recently sold me the Moon for £500 and a pint of mild. He’s very big in NASA, you know. He has also informed me that the Pink Panther films are not fictitious but are in fact a series of documentaries about a real Inspector Clouseau. Since then I have modelled my entire career on Clouseau’s achievements and it has not been easy, I can tell you. If you do not immediately hand yourself in at the nearest police station, I will have to come and put you under arrest.

    1. Well detective, it’s an honor to make your acquaintance – but as I have recently skipped back across the pond to my homeland, I think you may have to dispatch a team to come get me. I look forward to returning to Great Britain soon but possibly not as soon as you hope. Good luck with your mysteries!

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