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Americanisms for Dummies!

Updated on June 14, 2012

After writing two Hubs titled, 'Britishisms for Dummies', it seemed only appropriate for me, a Brit living in America, to write one about Americanisms! To quote the words of George Bernard Shaw; "Two countries separated by a common language." - never has this been more evident since I moved to Texas, discovering that certain words and terms here, most certainly do not mean the same thing across the pond in Britain, and other parts of the world! So, to avoid crossed wires, misinterpretations, and possible jail time (!), here's some of the most common Americanisms for anyone visiting, or moving to, the USA.

411 ~ The US equivalent of Britain's 192/directory enquiries (used generally to describe getting information on something; "Give me the 411 on him")
Acetaminophen ~ Paracetamol
Arugula ~ Rocket (salad leaves)
Baking soda ~ Bicarbonate of soda
Band Aid ~ Brand name of plasters/bandages which is used to refer to all types of sticky plasters.
Bangs ~ A fringe (hair)
Barrette ~ Hair clip
Baseboard ~ Skirting board
Basket (supermarket) ~ Trolley
Biscuit(s) ~ A type of unsweetened scone which is served as a side dish
Bodega ~ (Pronounced bo-day-ga); a regional term used to describe a corner shop/convenience store. Typically used in New York, Boston, etc.
Broil ~ Grill
Canadian bacon ~ Back bacon
Candy apple ~ Toffee apple
Catercorner ~ (pronounced catter-corner); used to describe something that is diagonally opposite to you.
Catsup ~ Ketchup
Checkers ~ Draughts
Chips ~ Crisps
Cilantro ~ Coriander
Co-ed ~ Meaning both men and women (co-ed college/party/gathering)
Comforter ~ Duvet/quilt
Condo(condominium) ~ A flat/apartment that is owned as opposed to rented
Cornstarch ~ Cornflour
Cotton candy ~ Candy floss
Counterclockwise ~ Anticlockwise
Crock pot ~ Slow cooker
Diaper ~ Nappy
Dime ~ A 10 cent coin
Drapes ~ Curtains
Drugstore ~ Pharmacy/chemist
Duplex ~ Semi-detached house
Eggplant ~ Aubergine
Egg roll ~ Spring roll
Fanny ~ Bottom/backside
Fanny pack ~ Bum bag
Faucet ~ Tap
Flatware ~ Cutlery
Frosting ~ Icing
Gas/gasoline ~ Petrol
"Going postal" ~ Refers to someone going crazy and becoming violent (see USPS incident)
Green thumb ~ Green fingers
Grits ~ Small, broken grains of corn which resembles wet couscous. Very bland unless sweetened with sugar, honey, etc.
Gyro ~ Similar to a doner kebab
Homicide ~ Murder
Hood (car) ~ Bonnet
Ice house ~ Old fashioned term for a corner shop/convenience store
Jock ~ Athlete (usually male)
John Hancock ~ Signature
Jonesing ~ Craving
Lemonade ~ Non-carbonated, lemon cordial
Lunch meat ~ Sliced sandwich meat; ham, roast beef, turkey, pastrami, etc.
Median ~ Central reservation
Molasses ~ Treacle
Napkin ~ Serviette
Night stand ~ Bedside table/cabinet
Optometrist ~ Optician
Pacifier ~ Dummy/soother
Pancakes ~ Scotch pancakes (the smaller, thick variety, as opposed to the thin crepes eaten with sugar/lemon in the UK)
Pants ~ Trousers
Pie ~ Usually pertaining to a fruit pie (apple pie, etc). Meat-filled pies are called 'pot pies'.
Plastic wrap ~ Clingfilm
Plush toy ~ Cuddly toy
Pocketbook ~ A handbag
Podiatry ~ Chiropody
Pop quiz ~ A test/exam that is not announced in advance. (Not a quiz about music!)
Popsicle ~ Ice lolly
Pound sign ~ Hash (#)
Pudding ~ A custard-type dessert. Britain's equivalent would be 'Angel Delight' or similar
Purse ~ Handbag/shoulder bag
Realtor ~ Estate agent
Restroom ~ Toilet
Resume ~ Curriculum vitae (CV)
RV ~ (recreational vehicle); a large camper van
Rutabaga ~ Swede
Saran wrap ~ Cling film
Scallions ~ Spring onions
Script ~ Prescription
Scotch tape ~ Cellotape
Semester ~ Term
Sherbet ~ Sorbet
"Shoot the breeze" ~ Chat
Sneakers ~ Trainers
Sophomore ~ 2nd year student
Sour cream ~ Creme fraiche
Stoop ~ The steps that lead up to the front door of a house
Stroller ~ Pushchair
Suspenders ~ Braces (on trousers)
Taffy ~ A type of chewy sweet that comes in lots of flavors
Tailpipe ~ Exhaust pipe
Thumbtack ~ Drawing pin
Trunk (car) ~ Boot
Waffles ~ Sweet batter cooked in a waffle iron. Same shape as a British potato waffle, but a completely different thing! Usually served with maple/blueberry/strawberry syrup.
Wife beater ~ A sleeveless t-shirt/vest/tank top
Zucchini ~ Courgette



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    • BritInTexas profile image

      BritInTexas 5 years ago from San Antonio, Texas

      Some do! LOL I've lived here just long enough now to have stopped noticing the differences as much anymore. I use a combination of Americanisms and Britishisms myself, not to be pretentious, but more to avoid having to explain every other word's meaning to my in laws and friends, hahaha. Thanks so much for the comment, (and the fan mail!).

    • zionsphere profile image

      zionsphere 5 years ago from Oregon

      Do Americanisms sound cute to you? because britishisms sound cute to me. Especially the nappy. That just sounds so much cuter than diaper!

    • BritInTexas profile image

      BritInTexas 5 years ago from San Antonio, Texas

      Thanks so much, @hisandhers! I only wish I knew the differences between general Americanisms, and the Texanisms that I've become accustomed to! The Texans have a language all of their own, it seems, LOL

    • hisandhers profile image

      hisandhers 5 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

      This is great! As a Canadian, I actually realized that we some of these terms interchangeably.

      I also didn't know the difference between garbage and trash! In the city where I live we have a color-coded bin system so we often refer to our waste by the color bin in which it goes.

      It's interesting how the region we live in affects our language so much.

    • BritInTexas profile image

      BritInTexas 5 years ago from San Antonio, Texas

      @Mazzy, hehhee, I agree, it's downright confusing, and I must admit, I didn't know there was a difference between 'garbage' and 'trash'!

      @talfonso ~ I have actually written two different Hubs titled, 'Britishisms for Dummies (Part 1 & 2), so you might be better off printing them ALL out - at least that way you can't get it wrong if you end up holidaying in the UK!

      So pleased you found the lists useful!

    • talfonso profile image

      talfonso 5 years ago from Tampa Bay, FL

      I'm American, thank you. I'm going to print that Hub and use it as a guide to British equivalents should I take a vacation (or for Brits, "go on holiday") in the UK so I'll see the difference between American and British vocabulary!

    • Mazzy Bolero profile image

      Mazzy Bolero 5 years ago from the U.K.

      I enjoyed reading this. This list would have been very useful when I went to live in the US long ago! I went to Massachusetts, though, so some words would be a bit different. We need one of these lists for every state, to be issued to Brits on landing in the US! When we arrived, we didn't even know the difference between 'garbage' and 'trash' i.e. the words not the thing itself. In the US, garbage is food waste and trash is non-perishable waste. To us it's all just rubbish.