Friday, October 12, 2012

Separated by a Common Language: Part 1

"England and America are two countries separated by a common language."
- George Bernard Shaw
One of the fascinating things about living and studying abroad, particularly in an Anglophone location, is the ability to compare and contrast seemingly arbitrary differences in dialects of the English language. Put simply, this new feature on the Operation Highlander blog will showcase some of the words I encounter that are different in the dialects of the United Kingdom than they are in the American dialect. Here's the first batch.

  • "body polisher" - In some American usage, this might actually sound kind of sordid. In fact, a "body polisher" is what Americans would probably call a "shower sponge".
  • "chemist" - I'm sure "chemist" means "chemist" in some UK usage, but in the most frequent context, it means "pharmacy" or "drug store". I can't help but be reminded of the apothecary in Romeo and Juliet.
  • "digs" - Lodgings. I'd be fascinated to learn what the origin of this term is. Everyone is also fairly fond of using the word "accommodation" to refer to where you live - "Where's your accommodation?" and such.
  • "hire" - To rent. For example, I'll likely be dealing with Orkney Car Hire in a few weeks.
  • "mobile" - "Mobile", which is actually picking up usage in the States, is our equivalent to "cell", as in a telephone you carry with you wherever you go. Oddly enough, it was my time in the United Kingdom in 2004 that acquainted me with the phenomenon of texting, which hadn't really caught on in general American society at that point.
  • "pavement" - Sidewalk.
  • "shop/store" - In the States, most people would say "store", but here they say "shop". One of the examples of this that I found quite amusing was the difference on my American and British Android phones, one of which has the Google "Play Store", and the other of which has the Google "Play Shop".
  • "surgical spirit" - I'm assuming that this is the UK equivalent of rubbing alcohol. I went into Boots last week and asked a lovely young blonde for rubbing alcohol, and this is what we came up with. I have yet to use it, so I have yet to find out.
  • "takeaway" - A takeaway is basically any restaurant whose primary purpose is providing food for patrons to collect and take home with them. Some of these establishments have seating so that patrons can eat there, but not much. One would get their food "from a takeaway", while one might put on weight from "eating too many takeaways".
  • "toilet" - This one has always been a challenge for me, because in American English, "toilet" tends to have sort of a dirty connotation. Meanwhile, in UK English, the word refers to what we in the States would call the "rest room" or "bathroom". I prefer to use an alternative British word and phrase - "I need the loo" - when letting people know why I'll be absent for the next couple of minutes.

    That's it for now!
  • 1 comment:

    1. Ha ha. I still use bathroom and restroom. I can't bring myself to use "toilet!"