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LANGUAGE DIFFERENCES

I have recently received some more interesting differences in the language we use, this time between Australia, USA and U.K. and even India and beyond.

Ann, June and Pat Isaacs have confirmed that Christmas Crackers are called "bon-bons" in Australia, although the term "crackers" is sometimes used.


I live in the West of Sydney and came out here 4 years ago from the UK

Out here people call apartments or Flats - a Unit.

There is a tradition out here called Kitchen Tea - a sort of a bottom draw party that a woman holds before they get married. It seems to be instead of an engagement party.

Fathers day - falls at a different time of year here than in the UK - causes all kinds of issues.

We get a day off for the Queen's Birthday here, but the UK citizen's don't - go figure.

Coon is a brand of cheese - it shocked the hell out of us when we first saw it.

Sunnies are sunglasses.

If someone is soppy, they are a sook

Someone a bit cheeky and full of daft fun is a Larrikin

Out here, Trainers are Joggers and we never use the word Sneakers

Tania Lewis


I'm Australian and I think Australians, Americans and sometimes the UK think alike.

I watch TV (television) and most of them are American programs and I understand what they mean and stuff like that.

Kirsten D'Cruz


Mary writes -

I was reading your page with amusement. I am a 'Pommie' Australian or simply a 'pom' (ie British born) from New South Wales. I lived in Sheffield until my family emigrated to Australia when I was in primary school. In Aus. 'wog' mainly refers to Eastern Europeans e.g. French, Italian, Spanish, German.

Mum's Aussie colleagues used to laugh at her when she would say she was 'rooting around' for something (ie looking around/searching) as root/rooting refers to having sex in Australia (as well as a plant root).

My brother and I quickly adjusted to Australian speech and lost our Yorkshire accents. 'Ice lollies' became 'ice blocks', 'sweets' became 'lollies', 'crisps' were more commonly referred to as 'chips' while 'chips' became 'hot chips', 'cling film' became 'glad wrap' or 'cling wrap', 'lorries' became 'trucks', 'flip flops' became 'thongs', 'bathing suits' or 'bathers' became 'swimmers', 'cool boxes' became 'Eskys', 'bobbies' became 'police' or 'pigs', often 'turnips' are referred to as 'swedes' and many more that are not coming to mind...

I returned to UK in my 20s and found it odd when people were saying they were going out to 'pull' i.e pick up. Apart from the obvious pull/push use, in Australia to 'pull' a man has a much more literal meaning.

My Australian sister in law visited our relatives in Sheffield recently and was asked 'are them your britches?' which she understood since the underpants were held up in front of the Aunt who asked. As the birth of my sister in law's baby approached she was baffled when mum asked " 'as tha gor a pushchair?" and 'buggy' did not help her either.

After years of being told by our Yorkshire mother that "tha'll be up fo' eyejump" (or so that is what we thought she said), we finally learnt as teenagers in Australia what she was really saying when a friend of the family from Bolton told her kids "there'll be highjump".

Here in the South of England our Mums used to say "you're for the high jump" (meaning would we  be punished or severely criticised for something we have done wrong )


Niklas from Mozambique

I'm a Swede living in Mozambique. Every eight weeks we travel the 90 km's to South Africa to "chill out" for a couple of days. Things are different there; even the English language differs a lot from the one we Europeans know.

A barbeque, for example, is a "Braai", wherever you go!

Another word you always encounter as a tourist is the "Robot", meaning a traffic light.

They say: turn to the "right at the robot" (and not: turn to the "lite at the lite", as in Hong-Kong ;-)


Renny J. Thomas has sent in two new phrases with differing meanings -

1.     Here in India, we use the word 'Freak Out' (its kind of slang) when we want to say that we are going to have a party or a bash. In the US, I believe 'Freak Out' means doing drugs, losing your control and kind of things. They just use the term 'Party' as in 'We plan to party tonight'. In India, people would say - 'We are going to freak out to night'. Not sure what it would mean in UK. I got to know this during one of my conversations with our client (from the US).

In the U.K. "freak out" means to go slightly crazy, wild or to have a strong emotional experience.

2.     The second one - 'Madam'. In India, this is used to address a lady with respect. But in the US, I believe it has a very different meaning. In the US, I believe a Madam is someone who runs a business of ............ (ill repute) They use ma'am if I am right. Addressing a lady as 'Madam' in the US can get you into deep trouble if I am correct.

In the U.K. we may use the term "Madam" when addressing a letter to an unknown lady and, occasionally sales staff in a shop may say "madam" but this is becoming more unusual in today's disrespectful society. The term "a madam" is used for a woman in charge of prostitutes.


While it's true that Americans use the noun "madam" to refer to a female keeper of a house of ill repute, the word still has currency in other situations.  As a term of direct address, "Madam" is still sometimes used as a polite, but firm, means of commanding attention in a difficult encounter, as in:  "Madam, would you please remove your hands from my throat!"  In correspondence, the term is still used salutations, though sometimes spelled with a final "e":  "Dear Sir or Madame".

Richard A. Swanson


As Renny J. Thomas wrote.. he and his mates use "Freak out" to have a party... I think it is confined to them only... Nowhere in India, I have heard such slangs to have party... Everywhere people use we'll go to party or somewhat like that.. even when they speak in their own languages, they say, the word "PARTY"... Moreover, we hardly use slangs in India, we use very formal, "correct" but not "good" english, we are more concerned about the "formal" shape and grammar of the language which is same as that of "Queens English".

However, because of the influence of our mother tongue, we use some words differently, as we directly translate our thoughts to english, so it may sound strange to english ears, like we use "X Uncle" in place of "Uncle X", "Village" in place of "Countryside", "backside of the house" in place of "Back of the House"

In some Hi-tech places like Bangalore or Hyderabad people use American English nowadays. Still, they call, the stranger or shopkeepers as "Boss", like english "Guv'nor".. The word "Cab" is used as in USA, however most people still say it taxi.... 

Funny thing, although its officially wrong to say, Most people in India use "Title" as "Last name", almost everybody thinks married women use "Mrs", they can't use "Ms"; Its your gender that makes the title like "Shri or Mr" for lads, "Mrs or Ms/ Kumari" for ladies..... no question for Dr, or "Sir"(Are there any "Sir" in India)...

Very few people call a doctor as doctor when s/he talks with the doctor. We always use "Sir" or "Madam" ("Ma'am is considered casual, so not preferred").. Not only doctors, but every officers.

In Machinery we use more American names, like Truck (Lorry is the old kinds of trucks running since British days), use trailer, Sedan, Omni, etc.

Shantanu Gogoi (ASSAM)


  • Australians call the soda 7up "lemonade" and they don't use the term "soda".

I think I am right in saying that in the U.K. 7up is called just that.   Lemonade is mainly used for a colourless, sweet carbonated drink although it is also sometimes used for a fizzy lemon flavoured drink (like bitter lemon).  Soda is a colourless, carbonated drink originally made from Bicarbonate of Soda, which is used to mix with spirits such as "whisky & soda".  This is the drink used in "soda syphons" - which I suppose is fairly obvious.

The above were sent in by Laura Blackwell who is an American living in Australia.


Gavin Smith has kindly elaborated on the above -

Lemonade in the UK is always fizzy lemon drink, just like orangeade is always orange flavour, cherryade is cherry, limeade is lime etc (none of these drinks usually contain fruit though)! It can either be colourless or cloudy yellow (called ‘traditional lemonade’, which does usually have some real lemon in it). 7Up is just a lemonade brand, like Schweppes. Similar to Fanta and Tango both making Orangeade. So to UK ears, Americans would be right to call it 7Up and Australians would be right to call it Lemonade. In the UK we use either.

We also don’t buy coke brands; if I asked for coke I could get a Coca-Cola, a Pepsi, a Virgin Cola or anything else - unless I specified. I guess Americans refer to brands instead of products, just like ‘a Xerox’ instead of a photocopier and ‘a Hoover’ instead of a vacuum cleaner.

Soda water in the UK is just the carbonated tap water that I use as a mixer in bars. It’d be confusing if someone asked me for a glass of Soda in the UK; it just means ‘fizzy’, it doesn’t state which type of fizzy drink you want. You can ask me for a ‘vodka, lime and soda’ though, and you’d be fine.

Carbonated mineral water isn’t ever Soda though; it’s called ‘sparkling’ mineral water. Non-carbonated is called ‘still’ mineral water.


Noah Duncan has kindly contributed the following on the above subject -

I am an American living in Michigan. I wanted to clarify that in the American Mid-West and West, Lemonade only applies to the drink made from lemon juice, sugar, and water. Any thing carbonated is referred to as Pop or Soda-Pop. On the East coast carbonated beverages are referred to as a soda. In the American South all carbonated beverages are referred to as a Coke, when in a restaurant the waitress would ask you what kind of Coke you wanted.

The only exception I know of to this in America is the carbonated juices which are referred to as sparkling juices, at least in the Mid-West. "Soda water" is called just that where I come from, and it is only used in making drinks (usually ones involving alcohol). Brands in America are used to distinguish what specific type one is talking about, with the exception (of course) of the south and Coke.


I'm on the east coast of America, more specifically Boston. I've never heard a Coke-A-Cola be referred to as a soda-pop, we call them soda or, more commonly in Boston, tonic, just to clarify. 

Also, we call the place we buy shampoo, lotion, and medicines either a pharmacy, or more commonly, a drug store. 

And the sugar spun treat called Fairy Floss in Australia and Candy Floss in the UK, is known as both names and Cotton Candy in the US, or at least in Boston. 

Although we would address a woman of power as Madam in a letter we, especially children, say ma'am for addressing a woman and miss for a young lady whose name you don't know. If you know their name, you would say Mrs., Ms., or Miss. (last name). Same rule with men, only using sir or Mr. (last name).

Liz Smiles


I've wondered for years if Brits call them soda, pop or something else, and the issue of what they're called properly in the United States is a debate that rages on! People in some states use soda, some use pop, some use both ("soda pop"), and it can become quite contentious.

A fun bit of trivia here is that in some south eastern states- Georgia in particular- they're all called "Coke," whether that's the brand/flavor you're getting or not. This is due to the fact that Coca-Cola is canned/bottled and distributed from a plant in Atlanta, Georgia, and it has something of a monopoly in Georgia restaurants and vending machines- so that when you say "I'm getting a Coke," it's understood that you mean "I'm getting a drink out of the vending machine with the Coca-Cola logo." A disconcerting experience I'll never forget: being in the bus station in Atlanta with a pocket full of change, looking at a Pepsi in a Coke machine.

Another thing is the issue of fire hydrants- the metal pump located on a street corner attached to a municipal water source for putting out large fires in an emergency. While they're called fire hydrants in most places in the U.S, they're colloquially called "fire plugs" in some north eastern states, such as Massachusetts or Maine.

Heather


  • Australians label food "beautiful" whereas in America this word is only used to describe an object like a person or a place.
     

  • "Arvo" is used in Australia meaning "Afternoon", American's just say "Afternoon".
     

  • "Homely" means ugly to Americans whereas it means cosy, unpretentious, unsophisticated, or unassuming in the U.K. Contributed by Frances.

"Homely" in America does not mean ugly, simply very plain, like a woman who is not pretty, but not necessarily ugly, she would be called homely.  Anon

The following have all been contributed by Anne who, I am sure you will agree, has a way with words:-    

  • In Australia, "pissed" means drunk. In America, it means very angry.

    This is an interesting one as in the U.K. "pissed" means drunk and "pissed off" means angry.

  • "Aubergine" is the word everyone but America uses for a type of large vegetable with purple skin. Americans call it "eggplant". I have no idea why.

Both "aubergine" and "eggplant" are used in New Zealand and Australia. In my experience, eggplant is more common.     Amanda

  • In Australia, a "napkin" is a women's sanitary product. In America, it's a piece of paper or cloth you use to wipe your face and hands when you eat. Ask for a "napkin" at an Australian restaurant... heheheheh.


  • In Australia, a "nappie" is what you put on your baby's bottom to catch the poo. In America,  it's called a "diaper".


  • In Australia, "barbie" is what you put beef, shrimp and chicken on to grill it outside. In America, it's an anatomically incorrect female doll that comes in a pink box.


  • In England and Australia, a "flat" is a place people live with one or two bedrooms. In America, this is called an apartment.


  • In Australia, the roads are called "bitumen". Americans have no idea what this is. It confuses them. The American term is "asphalt". This confuses Australians.

Yet again I have been brought to task over the above entries.  Aymie from Australia disagrees with some of the above definitions as follows:-

Firstly, Australians both say 'pissed' to mean angry or drunk, depending on context, we also say 'pissed off' for angry.

We say 'eggplant' not Aubergeine, I've never met someone to call it that.

A napkin is a piece of paper used to clean hands or face, not some woman's sanitary product, we call those 'pads' or 'tampons', so dancing around the words there. :) Very, very rarely it may be called a 'sanitary napkin,' but so rarely its never said but the meaning would be understood, if that makes sense.

We do know the difference between a barbie and a Barbie doll. It is called a barbie or BBQ, and the doll is called a Barbie. It all comes down to context.

We use the word 'apartments' more often than flats, although you might say 'a block of flats.

We use both the words asphalt and bitumen, depending on which ever you like to say more I suppose. We do NOT get confused when Americans say asphalt.

I hope that has cleared a little up, I do love to look at your website, it is very interesting, but I do not like to see these lies.


In Australia we refer to ourselves as ozzy's to the Brits as pom or pommie and Americans are just americans.

Uor soda is called soft drink, cool drink or fizzy drink we don't chuck shrimp on the barbie they are called prawns (shrimp are tiny like almost microscopic)

G'day mate is not that common we just say hi or hey:  yestedi - yesterday: fridi -friday, thursdi - thursday and so on. Ranga - ginger hair comes from orangutan: thongs are flip flops: Fanny is the vagina: pants are trousers: underpants are jocks(male), knickers(female) or undies(unisex): sneakers, runners or joggers never trainers or just shoes: petrol station - garage: garage - car port a place to store cars boats and tools: back pack - rucksack: speedos - budgie smugglers. We refer to soft drinks by the name of the brand so Coke is Cocacola, Sprite is lemonade but lemonade can also be used, Fanta not orangeaid or whatever but most of our drinks are owned by coca cola: zebra crossing - crosswalk.

Cal O'Mara-Goss


Cerys from Wales points out -

In Britain we have napkins and serviettes, we use both terms. Also a garage is where you park your car and it will be attached to your house or by your house and it is also where you can take your car when it is broken but it does not sell petrol, not where I live anyway in Wales. The place where they sell petrol will be called a petrol station and it will have a little shop. Most of the time people will call the petrol station but the name of the suppliers of petrol, e.g. Murco, Total, BP(British Petroleum).

Woolworths in Britain was known as Woolie’s and sold a mixture of stuff from clothes, pick 'n' mixes to games for the PlayStation or X-box.

We use both chemist and pharmacy. Cough Syrup is known as just plain cough medicine and shampoo is just bought at any shops, in pharmacies/chemists, I don't know if they sell shampoo. The medicine on the shelves is the cough medicine and headache tablets (paracetamol) and behind the counter is everything that you need to have a prescription.

A BBQ is pronounced BarbieQ and a Barbie is a doll.

English say nappies.

We say Aubergine although it is not very common.

English say Afternoon.

Beautiful could be used for anything that a person thinks is nice, e.g. that picture is beautiful.

We have beetroot and we use it in burgers and salad or just on its own

 


 

 


  • Jenny Bone points out that in the UK this is called Tarmac or Tarmacadam - she also goes on to say that this term comes from the man who invented it (Mr. Mac Adam) who is now the owner of the Tarmac Company.


  • The place you buy shampoo, cough syrup and lotion is called a "pharmacy" in America and a "chemist" in Australia. In America, a chemist is someone who mixes chemicals in a laboratory.

In America while a 'pharmacy' may be used to describe your chemists, we usually just refer to it as a drug store.                    Anon

  • In Australia, the drugs you buy off the shelf  at the chemist's for a sniffle are likely to contain codeine, while the isopropyl alcohol is kept behind the counter in tiny, tiny brown glass bottles. In America, codeine is kept in locked controlled areas and dispensed by prescription only, while the isopropyl alcohol is sold off the shelf in big plastic bottles for 99 cents.


  • Americans chew cinnamon gum, eat red-hots and fireballs (cinnamon candies) and have cinnamon-scented candles. Australians only sell cinnamon in bottles in the grocery store.


  • Australians put beetroot on burgers, in salads and as a decoration in fancy meals. Americans barely know what it is.

  • In America, Woolworth's is a clothing store. In Australia, it is affectionately known as "Woolie's" and sells food.


  • The spun sugar "treat" is Candy Floss in Britain, Cotton Candy in America and Fairy Floss in Australia.


Vaughan McCarthy writes - and Shugues Devantier has sent in various comments to the points made by Vaughan McCarthy which are given in red.

I’m an Australian who has also travelled to New Zealand and the United States and I’d like to make a few corrections, as well as a few additions with regard to differences between Australian, British and North American terminology.

Yes the terminology in mixed company would be "sanitary napkin" referring to tampon or pad would only be something your wife might say to the husband to get while he is at the shop much to his dismay, also a sanitary napkin refers to the plethora of choices i.e. tampon a small cylinder shape for insertion, a pad for external use and ( I Refer to below about panties, we Australians use to describe brief female underwear) a panty liner. Shugues Devantier

I have never heard anyone refer to a woman’s sanitary product as a ‘napkin.’ As another Australian said, we refer to them as ‘tampons’ or ‘pads.’ In a supermarket aisle, the signage would say ‘feminine hygiene,’ or something similarly euphemistic.

‘Pants’ in Australia has the same meaning as in North America. Though ‘trousers’ is also common.

‘Panties’ is not a common term in Australia. No offense, but those I’ve spoken to perceive it as a bit silly and cutesy... in a slightly nauseating way!

We may refer to briefs (usually mens) as ‘jocks.’ But we commonly use ‘undies’ to refer to either male or female underpants, whether briefs, boxers, whatever.

Mens swimming briefs are referred to as ‘speedos,’ not ‘a speedo’ as in the US. In the UK these can be referred to as ‘trunks,’ but the same term in Australia applies to swimming shorts.

A ‘sook’ is someone who is easily upset, often to the point where it can irritate others. An example of its use would be, “pull yourself together and stop being such a sook!”

What is referred to as ‘Saran wrap’ in the US and ‘cling film’ in the UK is universally known as ‘Glad wrap’ throughout Australia – ‘Glad’ being a long-time popular brand of plastic food wrap. It doesn't matter what brand it is we use, we will still refer to it as Glad wrap.

A cloth or paper towel for wiping the hands and face after eating is called a ‘serviette,’ as in the UK, though any Australian will know what you mean if you say ‘napkin.’

Woolworths is a supermarket chain, usually referred to as ‘Woolies.’ They also own a chain of discount department stores selling clothes, electronics, etc. called Big W.

Originally it was the 3 W Woolworths food and such like, Big W clothes, gardening, electrical and such , Walton's (no longer in existence as Big W sells those products.  Shugues Devantier

The claim that "Australians only sell cinnamon in bottles in the grocery store" is completely incorrect. It’s not common to find gum or lollies (candy) with cinnamon, but it’s in plenty of baked goods, such as donuts, cakes, etc. and in many sweet hot drink mixes and flavoured coffees. Though you can also buy it separately in small bottles or sachets for use in cooking/baking.

Interesting comment as if you wanted to buy a bar of chocolate you would go to the confectionery store or confectionery aisle in the supermarket.  Shuges Devantier

Candy is collectively called ‘confectionery,’ or ‘lollies’ if referring to non-chocolate based confectionery.

Australians refer to sweet, carbonated drinks collectively as ‘soft drinks,’ though they may also say ‘lemonade’ when referring to drinks like 7up or Mountain Dew. Unlike the UK (apparently) ‘Coke’ always refers to the brand ‘Coca-cola.’

A sidewalk (US), or pavement (UK) is called a ‘footpath.’ A crosswalk is a ‘pedestrian crossing.’ A verge is called a ‘nature strip.’ A central reservation (UK) is called a ‘median.’

In Australia the surface of a road can be referred to interchangeably as ‘bitumen’ or ‘asphalt’ – though I’ve heard many of my fellow Australians mis-pronounce it as ‘ashfelt’! In New Zealand they refer to such a surface as ‘tar-seal.’ Australians may also refer to a road with a bitumen/asphalt/tar-seal surface as a ‘sealed’ road. Similarly, gravel roads are often referred to as ‘unsealed’ roads.

Bitumen and Asphalt are to different items, Bitumen is the ingredient that binds the gravel which then becomes asphalt.

We refer to ‘roundabouts,’ never ‘traffic circles’ or ‘rotaries’ and seriously, you can’t drive for more than a few blocks off a major highway without coming across one. I would say they are almost as common as ‘all-way’ stops are in California. Incidentally, there is no such thing as an ‘all-way’ stop in Australia - we use roundabouts instead! We also have a ridiculous parking manoeuvre in some states where you reverse into an angle (45 degree) park. It’s completely daft.

Again interesting as the word DAFT is an old English throw back and most Australians under the age of 30 would never use or possibly even know its meaning.   Shuges Devantier
 

A ‘lorry’ is called a ‘truck,’ or a ‘semi,’ as in ‘semi-trailer.’ However in the outback it is common to see these with three or four full-sized trailers attached, in which case they are called ‘road trains.’ A ‘B-double’ or ‘B-triple’ is a semi that has one full-sized trailer and one or two smaller trailers.

A Truck with more than one tralier in the outback is a prime-mover(the engine and driver part) with all the trailers attached it is then called a ROAD Train.  Shuges Devantier

A ‘ute’ (short for ‘utility vehicle’) is what Americans refer to as a ‘pick-up (truck).’ For example, the Toyota Tacoma (which incidentally is called the Toyota HiLux in Australia).

In the UK a ‘saloon’ car is what Americans and Australians call a ‘sedan.’ The UK ‘estate’ car is called a ‘station wagon,’ or simply ‘wagon’ in the US and Australia.

The terms ‘freeway,’ ‘expressway’ and ‘motorway’ are all used in Australia and all mean the same thing, i.e. a dual carriageway, limited access highway. ‘Tollway’ is also used in Melbourne, whereas a toll road in Sydney is always called a ‘motorway.’ The term ‘outlet’ is used in Tasmania in place of all of the above. We don’t refer to ‘parkways’ or ‘turnpikes.’

The above is always called a ‘motorway’ in New Zealand.

The USA and UK refer to highways by number, but although there is an extensive route number system in Australia, we overwhelmingly refer to our highways by name. The only exceptions being the motorways in Sydney and Brisbane, which are referred to as, for example, ‘the M7’ or ‘the M4,’ as in the UK.

Gasoline is called ‘petrol.’ ‘Gas’ in reference to what fuels a car in Australia and New Zealand refers to ‘LPG’ (Liquid Petroleum Gas), which is more or less the same thing as Propane.

As far as I am aware LPG is exactly the same in both Australia and the US one using the word propane the other petroleum

‘Gas’ may also refer to natural gas that fuels an oven or a heater/furnace.

An American ‘cooktop’ installed into a counter (bench) separately from an oven is usually referred to as ‘hotplates,’ though cooktop is also (less commonly) used.

A kitchen counter (US) or surface (UK) is known as a ‘bench’ in Australia.

A ‘wardrobe’ can refer to either a piece of furniture, or a built in closet used to store clothes. On house plans this is usually shortened to ‘Robe,’ or ‘WIR’ for a walk-in wardrobe. ‘Wardrobe’ can also refer simply to a collection of clothes, as in the US. A closet used to store items other than clothes is called a ‘cupboard,’ though sometimes a linen cupboard may be referred to as a ‘linen press.’ Kitchen ‘cabinets’ (US) are referred to as kitchen ‘cupboards,’ though the main food cupboard is still called a ‘pantry.’

A ‘master bathroom’ (i.e. a bathroom attached to a bedroom which is usually the master bedroom) in Australia (and UK) is called an ‘en suite’ (pronounced: ‘on sweet’).

Australians never refer to a ‘restroom,’ except out of politeness when visiting North America! Public toilet facilities are always formally referred to, particularly on signage and maps, as ‘toilets.’ This is also the case in New Zealand. As a guest in someone’s home you would simply ask to use the ‘toilet,’ never the ‘bathroom.’ We simply don’t feel uncomfortable with the terminology. After all, if you ask where the ‘bathroom’ or ‘restroom’ is in North America, it’s pretty obvious what you’re going to use it for, so you may as well just call it what it is. Toilets may be informally referred to as ‘dunnies,’ ‘bogs’ or ‘loos.’ Toilet paper may be informally referred to as ‘bog wrap,’ amongst other colourful terms.

What is the world coming to? of course we use the word RESTROOM it is the term you use in mixed company, maybe at a restaurant or at someones house who you are not so familiar with other than that yes LOO is used which is actually a shortened version of a very English word LAVATORY. Yes I agree signage for Toilets is come place as well as REST AREAS i.e restrooms. I can not believe for the life of me someone typed the word bog paper" even "date roll" is better than that. Has politeness totally gone from the English language we use in Australia? You will have the world thinking we are all illiterate half breads grrrrrrrrrr  Shuges Devantier

Electrical sockets/outlets in Australia and NZ are called ‘power points. ‘

Poles that carry electricity cables are often called ‘telegraph poles,’ even though they stopped being used for communication purposes decades ago. In South Australia they are called ‘Stobbie poles,’ after the local manufacturer of their unique concrete and iron poles.

We in Sydney refer to them as Electricity poles.  Shuges Devantier

I want to clear up the flat/apartment/unit confusion. In Australia, ‘flat’ is the generic term for a one or two bedroom dwelling that is part of a larger building of similar dwellings – which would be referred to as a ‘block of flats.’

An ‘apartment’ usually refers to an upscale flat, usually in a tall building (‘skyscraper’). I’m pretty sure what we refer to as an apartment is referred to as a ‘condominium’ in the USA.

A villa can be attached to another villa or not but a Villa means more than 1 property on the average size building block in Australia, the reason they are not apartments or units is because there is no other separate dwelling on top of them, yes they can be 2 storey' s high but all part of the same household.  Shuges Devantier

A flat may also be called a ‘unit’ and a ‘villa unit’ refers to a flat that is physically detached (usually separated by a garage or carport) from other similar dwellings in the ‘block.’

No doubt someone will come along and say something isn’t right, but I stand by my corrections and additions!

I am 48 years old born here to 4th generation Australians on my fathers side and very English lineage on my mothers side, I am quiet familiar with the difference in terminology as this is one of my passions, Just one more thing serviette is actually a French word and napkin is not just American as when my grandmother (English) taught us to sett the table she asked us to put the Napkins out.  Shuges Devantier.
 


In reply to the above comments:

Loo doesn't come from lavatory, it's from "garde l'eu" - pronounced "gardy loo" in english, and french for "watch out for the water" - and people used to shout it as they emptied their chamber pots out the windows, so the people below could try and dodge it. I learned that on a good old school trip (or field trip if I were in America?).

I'm from Scotland, and one thing that's often confused English people here is that we call all types of beverage, "juice" - if you're asked what kind of juice you want, you could be offered fruit juice, fizzy juice (pop/soda) or diluting juice (squash). And coke can refer to any type of cola.

Another Scottish-ism - tatties are potatoes, neeps are turnips (swedes), and we have square sausages. It's basically sausage meat in a square patty, and it's AMAZING. Most of the time though, we tend to use English terms unless they're part of something Scottish; eg a tattie scone is a kind of flat cake thing, made with potato and flour and we have it with a fried breakfast, and and we have haggis with neeps and tatties.

We get really upset when people call us "Scotch" ... we're Scottish, Scotch is whisky, or a brand of tape! And Jack Daniels is not whisky! Whisky is specifically Scottish or Irish, JD is bourbon (there's a Canadian one too - again, bourbon!).

We call candy "sweeties" or "sweets", and a lolly is specifically a sweetie on a stick.

Another one along the lines of pissed/pissed off, if something is bollocks, it's bad/rubbish, but if it's the dog's bollocks, it's great. A bit like the bees knees! Although it's more of an "adult" term ...

It would be interesting to hear more about American biscuits, the word for coriander (isn't it something mental?) and other lesser known differences. In Britain a biscuit is a cookie, and a cookie refers to a specific type of biscuit.

Oh, we also don't use fanny in the same way Americans do ... here it's a rude word for a lady's bits, and we find great humour in the term "fanny pack" (we call them bum bags). We call our butts our bums, but often use "bottom" or "arse" (although that's mild swearing), and an ass is a donkey.

A purse is a lady's wallet, and we carry our purse and lippie etc in a handbag. We call a "back pack" a "rucksack", but I don't know if I've spelled that right.

Another - corn starch (US) and corn flour (UK).

Oh, and we call underpants "pants", and gents pants are also called boxers or y-fronts, and the tighter boxers are called "briefs" on the packet. I, as a lady, call mine knickers. "Panties" is a somewhat pornographic term to me, but I'm not sure how UK-wide that sentiment is!

Another one! The cinema is the pictures. I think that ones specifically Scottish, I'm not sure, and we usually go to see a film, "movie" sounds very American.

Also, we say "wee" a lot in Scotland. It means small, but some people use it all the time ... "Can I get you a wee drink" doesn't always mean a small one! "When I was wee" is a good one too. But a wee (or wee wee) is also a pee, and now we have Nintendo Wiis, it's all getting a wee bit confusing ...!

A good song for bus journeys is "stop the bus, I need a wee wee! ... A wee wee cup of tea!"

In Glasgow our underground is called the Subway, and in London it's the tube or underground. Londoner think we're dead American.

Stacy Nelson


Napkin here in Japan also refers to sanitary pads as well. Few, if any, know that it also means wipes.

You'll often see foreigners honestly asking for napkins at restaurants and get a weird response from the waiters and waitresses.

Sen Heng


 

Malcolm has written to say -

"Arriving in Australia some 30 years ago, we were casually informed by a neighbour that his wife was 'in bed with a wog'.

Coming from the UK, we wondered why he treated this affair so lightly. Only later did we learn that she just had a touch of 'flu.

'Wog' in Strine is an infection (ie, a UK 'bug') - to us it was a highly abusive and politically incorrect term for a foreigner (usually of Arab or Asian origin).

[Incidentally, Durex tape was very much still in use in 1980 and sometimes caused me amusement or embarrassment in the office.]"


Amber Budden (Australia) has the following observations on the subject:-

A clarification on the "Napkin" thing - we call them "serviettes". Not sure what they are called in the UK. Some people will call them a napkin, it's another American phrase that is seeping into the culture.

I loved when I was in the UK that they called the petrol station a "Garage". Garage is used for a couple things, but mostly for a place where the car is repaired (eg - the car's in the garage this weekend, can I borrow yours?)

Beer mat - in Australia a beer mat is a mat that lays across the top of the counter of the bar/pub. I believe in the UK a beer mat is a "coaster" (round bit of cardboard that you put under your drink).

Steven Hourihan writes -

"In the UK, a beer mat is also a mat that lays across the top of the counter or on tables in the pub to put your drink on. It is thin and made from cardboard and often has the logo of a brewery or type of beer on it. A coaster is the same type of thing but it's more solid and usually used on tables in the house or at a restaurant to protect the table form stains or damage."

As someone of the older generation who rarely visits a pub, I have always regarded a 'beer mat' as one of the small cardboard disks put under glasses in bars and pubs to prevent drinks damaging the table surface (as a coaster) These are the things that are collected by some peopleWhat a collector of beer mats is called?


Jocelyn writes:-

In Australia, 'sanitary napkins' is the polite form for pads and tampons. It would generally only be used for example in a toilet in a shop, like, 'please place your sanitary napkin here' on the pad bin. Australians tend not to use polite forms of speaking if we can help it. I don't think I've ever said it out loud.

I do know what a napkin means, but usually, I'd just call it a serviette, or tissue.

A unit generally refers to land that has been subdivided and 2 or more single storey small houses fit, self-contained. A flat is where you have other flats all piled together. An apartment is a fancy block of flats.

I've never heard the word restroom used. Toilet, dunny, loo, outhouse, all fine. In mixed company I would use the polite version, i.e. toilet. A rest area is for trucks and long distance drivers to stop and rest. And use the toilet if necessary.

Fanny here has the same meaning as in Scotland - I always get a kick out of watching The Nanny and her crude opening song.

Underground refers to alternative subculture.

We use sausage here and the only time we would say 'bangers' is in 'bangers and mash' and really we mean a plain meal.

A buggy is like the kind of car you drive around golf courses.

We, in this part at least, call 'trainers' runners.

Underpants are undies or knickers and 'panties' is kind of rude, it is a word only a sleazy guy would use, it has sexual overtones.

We don't use dustbin or trashcan, we use rubbish bin mostly or sometimes garbage bin.

Porridge is made out of oatmeal, it refers to the hot meal only, and oatmeal is the form it is in before it is made into porridge.

Flagpoles are flagpoles but we do have a train station called 'Flagstaff'.

Subway is a brand of fastfood restaurant.

A period is when you menstruate, or one session of a subject at school. At the end of a sentence is a Full Stop.

I don't really like getting called either Madam or Ma'am only foreigners say that, it makes me feel old and distant.

We also use Fresh-off-the-boat, and Chinese call themselves ABCs meaning Australian born Chinese.

Scene means the gay scene.

If you bum something, it means you 'begged' it from a friend. 'Can I bum a light?' or 'I'm a dollar short. Can I bum a dollar from you?'

Once an English person told me they were 'shattered'. All they meant was really tired. To us it means, totally broken down emotionally.

Dick is not a name. At least, not anymore. It is a penis.

Funky is kind of trendy and cool but not mainstream. I asked my American friend to go to this 'funky' bar, she seemed reluctant.
 


Some other fun Aussie stuff, not sure how many of it is the same or well known over there but:

Stubby Holder - what you put your can of drink in to keep it cold and your hands warm. Made out of wetsuit material usually.

Stubbies - can be a bottle of beer (I'll have a stubby) or the short shorts that AFL players wear.

Tinny - can of beer

"It'll go ya" - it will attack you (as in, "don't stir up the dog or it'll go ya". Incidentally stir up = wind up/agitate. Not sure if that's a universal term)

She'll be right. - "I hit my arm, but she'll be right". Means "it'll be OK". Can be said about almost anything. The cars playing up, but she'll be right. I have a sore head but she'll be right. This report is due in 30 minutes, but she'll be right. Etc.

No worries - not a problem. I mention this one because it's so widely used here, but I'm not sure if it's used in other places.

"Esky" = "Cooler" (the thing you put your ice and drinks in when you are going out for the day)

Quilt = doona.

"Knock off" = "finish". Eg "I knock off in 5 minutes". "knock off time is almost here". "I knocked off an entire pizza last night".

"Beer-O-Clock" = Knock off time :D

Thongs = Flip Flops. A Thong as Americans see it (the underwear) is called a G-String here. Some people might call a G string a thong, but mostly thongs go on your feet and g strings on your butt. Puts a new spin on the "Thong Song" that was put out a few years back.  We never say Flip Flops. We know what it means but don't say it.

Dummy = Pacifier

Road Train = Lorry.

Ute = what an american might call a truck.

Capsicum = Bell Pepper or Pepper. A pepper here is a chilli pepper.

Aymie was pretty spot on about a few of her comments - we know what a barbie is and what a Barbie is, an eggplant is an eggplant (used to grow them in the backyard), etc, etc. My only bone of contention is that I disagree about apartment/flat. The majority of people I know say Flat not Apartment. Apartment is considered an American word by most of the people I know. this could be a state-wide difference. For example:

In South Aust. we have "Three Corner Jacks". In Queendsland I think they are called "Bindis" and in other states also called "prickers" or Prickles. SA also has Star droppers and we say off instead of awff (just kidding QLD ;))


 

In Australia the term 'Manchester' is used to refer to bed linen in department stores. Hence you'd find a 'Manchester' section.

The north English city used to be a centre of textile production in colonial times.

Timothy


My Aussie friends call me "Bluey". Which is Aussie slang for redheads. I absolutely love it myself.

Deane

In Australia, mostly among young people the term 'ranga' is used to refer to redheads. The term comes from a shortening of the word 'orangutan', which have gingery fur, hence the name. It can be seen as derogatory however Australians use many 'insulting' terms light-heartedly.

Emma Rainford

The term ranga does come from orangutan, but also comes from Red And Nearly Ginger Association.

Flat & apartment are both common, however an apartment is nicer, modern, more expensive, & in a desirable area, often the inner city, while a flat is cheaper, older & further out. Grannie flat is common too.

Yesty- yesterday
Arvo- afternoon
Shirk- put off/not doing something
Local- can mean local people but also refers local pub or regular place a person drinks
Pot & Parma- a glass of beer & a (usually veal or chicken) parmigana
Take aways/travellers- alcohol bought & consumed while going somewhere or leaving somewhere, often from a bottle-o
S***faced- exceptionally drunk
Missus- partner/girlfriend/wife
A smoko is a cigarette/coffee break.
A bottle-o is a liquor store.
Quite common for Australians to call Australia "straya".
Dead horse- tomato sauce. Pass the dead horse will ya? - pass the tomato sauce.

e.g.

Yesty arvo at smoko, I shirked work, went to me local for a pot & parma, grabbed some travellers from the bottle-o & got shitfaced with me missus.

Sam Shue


In the UK, LPG is known as LPG, and gas/gasoline is known as petrol/petroleum. Similarly, kerosene is called paraffin here.
Another fact is that diapers are called nappies (singular nappy) because they used to be made from the same cloth as napkins were. I've learned that this cloth had a pattern that was referred to as 'diapered,' and that's why they're called diapers in the U.S.

Sheogorath


 

I remember in New Zealand we referred to what's called white-out or correction fluid to the rest of the world, as twink (which is the brand name). I know that in places like America and the UK 'twink' is slang for a gay man who seem more feminine (the term can be seen as derogative, especially if used by those who are not gay). They are the slim looking, barely hairy type of gay men; the opposite of 'bear').
 

Also, in NZ we used to say rubber for eraser, but I've noticed that out of NZ 'rubber' seems to refer to a condom.

Rosey


 

This subject has created a great deal of interest and input from visitors.  For ease of use these have been split into several different pages including:-

Same words but different meaning

a chart listing some of the differences between the more commonly used British/American words and phrases

a second list of words and phrases which have different meanings.  

Then there are all the suggestions of language differences (2 , 3 and 4) which have been sent in by visitors which are shown on three more pages.

 

Know of any more examples - then please send them in - june@hintsandthings.co.uk

 

 


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