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Florida Guide > Miscellaneous

A light hearted look at language differences on either side of the pond!

The first time we arrived in Florida from the UK, we were pleased we were going somewhere where we would be able to speak the language. However, we were surprised at the differences between British English and American English. Although the same language is spoken in both countries we found many differences in the words used.

When in Florida, we drive on a divided highway instead of a dual carriageway and a motorway can be a freeway, an expressway or an interstate depending on where we are in the States. The central reservation is the median. We refuel with gas rather than petrol. The bonnet becomes the hood and our shopping is stored in the trunk rather than the boot. We park in a parking lot rather than a car park and a flat battery is a dead battery (! ). Thankfully we haven’t experienced this one. Crossroads are known as a fourway. A coach is called a bus but a railway coach is called a railroad car.

Shopping for food is not without its differences too. Chips are French fries in the US whilst crisps are potato chips. Jam is jelly but jelly is jello. Jacket potatoes are baked potatoes and biscuits are cookies. When we wish to avoid doing the dishes (washing up) and decide to go to a restaurant, we try and remember to ask for the check instead of the bill at the end of the meal.

We came across examples in everything we did. We took the elevator rather than the lift. We were on vacation for two weeks and not on holiday for a fortnight. The pavement is the sidewalk. Trash is rubbish - so to speak! Taps are faucets. Toilets are restrooms.

Soccer is played on a field instead of football played on a pitch. We have a cell number rather than a mobile number. We mailed postcards home instead of posting them to our friends and family telling them what a fantastic time we were having.

In the UK we might make a reverse charge call whereas in the States it is a collect call. A busy line is an engaged line. If you dial a toll-free number in US it is a freephone number. Instead of purchasing a return ticket we ask for a round trip ticket.

Even some items of clothing have different names. Trainers are sneakers, trousers are pants, and suspenders are braces!

Your baby will sleep in a crib (cot), may have a pacifier (dummy) and will need to have his or her diaper (nappy) changed which you can buy from a drugstore (chemist).

Finally don’t forget when you are waiting for your favourite Disney ride, you are not queuing but standing in line!

As soon as we arrive in Florida we switch into using American English as it adds to the experience. There may be confusion at times but the fact that we are attempting to speak American English goes a long way and, with a little laughter and a smile, most things can be explained.

We aim to provide accurate and useful information, but if you feel anything provided here is not accurate or out of date, please email us with the address of the page concerned and any comments so we can amend as necessary.

Page added on: 10 May 2008
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