Vocab lesson

You know the jokes about torch vs. flashlight and lift vs. elevator? That’s only the tip of the iceberg people. Speaking of which, here a tip means a garbage dump. Seriously! Here is a short and by no means comprehensive list of vocabulary I have had to learn since moving to London – and if I’m honest, it started in Sudan because Kenyan English is more similar to British English than American. Don’t even get me started on the spelling… Anyway, just in case anyone wants to come visit this lovely isle, what follows are some British English words and phrases and their American English counterparts (at least the ones I encounter on a regular basis) i.e. torch/flashlight:


motorway/highway, diversion/detour, drink driving/drunk driving, boot/trunk, bonnet/hood, petrol/gas, flyover/overpass, number plate/license plate, lorry/truck, spanner/wrench, hire/rent, removal/moving, holiday/vacation, booking/reservation, brown/tan (as in “you look so brown, have you been on holiday?”


skimmed milk/skim milk, biscuit/cookie, courgette/zucchini, corriander/cilantro, jacket potato/baked potato, rasher/bacon, flat/apartment, bap/hamburger bun, treacle/molasses, sultana/raisin, broad bean/lima bean, pudding/desert, chips/fries, crisps/chips, cooker or hob/stove, rocket/arugula, porridge/oatmeal


trousers/pants, waistcoat/vest, vest/tank top, jumper or pullover/sweater, nappy/diaper, love bite/hickey, fanny/vagina (we do not call them fanny packs here!), bum/butt


maths/math, public school/private school, private school/public school, read/studied, sit for an exam/take an exam, hockey/field hockey, charity/not-for-profit organization, full stop/period (punctuation), school/primary school, college/high school


torch/flashlight, lift/elevator, tip/garbage dump, bin/garbage can, bin liner/trash bag, washing-up liquid/detergent, chemist/pharmacy, loo/bathroom, loo roll/toilet paper, hoover/vacuum cleaner, queue/line, plaster/band-aid, cinema/movies or movie theater, to post/to mail, solicitor/lawyer, fag/cigarette

Figures of speech

row/argument, engaged/busy, touch wood/knock on wood, gutted/really upset, knackered/feeling worn out, mate/friend, nicked/stolen, what are you on about/what are you talking about, that’s pants/that’s total crap, leg it/run, gobsmacked/amazed, dogs bollocks/really fantastic, nice one/good job, on the piss/out getting drunk, taking the piss/making fun of, snog/making out, ta/thanks, wanker or tosser/jerk, showing the peace sign backwards/the middle finger

And, last but not least, pants/underwear. This one has been known to cause much confusion! You wouldn’t want to shout “My pants are falling off” too loudly in public.


About Petunia

She wore rings on her fingers and bells on her shoes And I knew without asking she was into the blues She wore scarlet begonias tucked into her curls I knew right away she was not like other girls ~The Grateful Dead
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2 Responses to Vocab lesson

  1. Sunny Smiles says:

    don’t forget these:

    return/round trip and brolly/umbrella 🙂

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