Two Countries Divided by the Same Language



ON BIG BLEND RADIO: From England and North America to South Africa, this episode focuses on how different the English language is spoken and written around the world. Featured guests are Glynn Burrows, owner of Norfolk Tours in England, and Lea Brovedani “The Trust Architect.” Watch here in the YouTube player or listen/download the podcast on PodBean, or SoundCloud.

Two countries divided by the same language.

What a very true statement and one which becomes even more true when explored in greater detail.

We all know the words of the old song:

“You like tomato and I like tomahto
Potato, potahto, Tomato, tomahto.
Let’s call the whole thing off”

but when I started to look at just how different our common language is, it is quite amazing.

During WWII, a small booklet was published, to help American Servicemen who were going to be living in England for a while and the suggestions useful then are still of use today.

One of my favourite bits in the book is this: “To say; “I look like a bum” is offensive to their ears, for the British, this means that you look like your own backside”.

So, how many confusing words and phrases are still there to throw you if you visit England? You will be amazed that, even though we have television and films going across the Atlantic regularly, there are still lots of differences and many pot-holes to fall into.

We have jelly and you have jello, we have tyres and you have tires, our chips are your French fries and your chips are our crisps, our town centres are your downtowns and, saying that, we spell it centres and you spell it centers. We have colour and you have color, our Spring onions are your scallions, we wear trainers and you wear sneakers, our children go to nursery and yours go to daycare, babies wear nappies in England but your babies wear diapers and some people use a dummy to keep them happy whereas you use a pacifier.

We walk on a pavement but you use the sidewalk, we use a lift and you use the elevator. When we are driving our cars, our engine is under the bonnet, not the hood and the spare wheel is in the boot not in the trunk. We put either petrol or diesel in our cars, not gas. When we eat out, we ask for the bill at the end of our meal in a restaurant but you ask for the check. We can pay by cheque but you pay the check with a check. We go out to the theatre and to the cinema or “pictures” and we usually have to queue to get in.

People who sell our houses are called estate agents but realtors sell yours, we call people on a mobile ‘phone but you use a cell, which is where we keep our prisoners. We eat courgettes, aubergines, sweets, and biscuits, and you eat zucchini, eggplant, candy, and cookies. We keep our clothes in a wardrobe, not a closet, and we wear trousers. (In England, pants are what I think you call briefs and they are worn under the trousers!)

Many Brits are obsessed with football, but our football is your soccer and your football is more like Rugby, although rugby players don’t wear padding.

Lorries carry goods along the roads and motorways but you have trucks that drive along the highways and freeways, (on the wrong side of the road), and when drivers need to stop for a comfort break or toilet stop, they have a potty stop, even though they are adults!

In school, the students have breaks, they do not have recess, a recess is a part of a room, usually beside a fireplace or under the stairs. We look forward to our holidays but you go on vacation.

When we have a bath or a shower, we turn on the tap, not a faucet, and the room is called the bathroom. If the room doesn’t have a bath or shower, if it just has a toilet and wash-basin, the room is called a toilet and, talking about the nether regions, a small pouch worn around the waist for money and valuables is called a bum bag, not what you call it……………..

Glynn Burrows is the owner of Norfolk Tours in England. For help or advice about tracing your family history, or if you are thinking about taking a vacation to England visit

Norfolk Tours in England


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Glynn Burrows is the owner of Norfolk Tours in England.

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