Whether you are a British expat or tourist in America or are yourself an American expat or tourist in Britain, you'll come to find that there are a number of everyday British phrases - ones that British people probably take for granted - that will ultimately confuse most Americans. Here are five to get you started.
1. Give me a bell
Similar in meaning to ring me, the phrase give me a bell is one that confuses a lot of Americans, who evidently have no idea why you would need a bell in the first place. Little do they know, of course, that you are not being literal, and that you would, in fact, just like them to call you. Give me a bell = give me a call.
2. Fancy a pint?
This one causes confusion among Americans for two very glaring reasons. Firstly, Americans don't typically use the word fancy, at least not in reference to a fondness or liking of something. Secondly, a pint is not the only measurement for tap-based alcoholic beverages in the USA, so unlike the British, Americans do not refer to drink in this way. Fancy a pint? = Would you like to go for a drink?
3. Alright, mate!
This affectionate phrase can leave some Americans feeling slightly paranoid, as they might perceive alright, mate! to be a question, rather than a casual greeting. In other words, saying alright, mate! to an American tourist might lead them to think you're asking them if they're feeling okay. Oddly enough, the American equivalent of this phrase is what's up, dude!, which conversely leaves us Brits feeling paranoid for much the same reason. Alright, mate! = what's up, dude!
4. Don't Get Your Knickers In A Twist
Admittedly, this one ranks as one of Britain's silliest idioms, but saying don't get your knickers in a twist to an American, especially in the context for which it is intended, usually results in a look of confused delight from the recipient. Nobody likes to be told to calm down when they are blowing off steam, but when that person has no idea what you are talking about, all bets are off. Don't get your knickers in a twist = don't get upset.
5. What can I do you for?
This is one of those grammatically playful phrases that we British are so fond of, but that leave many Americans desperately mystified as to what was just asked of them. What can I do you for? probably sounds, on paper, as if the speaker might be asking "how much can I pay you for sex?" or "for what reason can I beat you up?". In reality, the speaker is just switching the words you and for around for comical affect. What can I do you for? = what can I do for you?
Complete Compendium of Word Differences