Finding America

Me and Tarah

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In what is the fourth part in an ongoing series, here are 5 more British and American word differences you might not know. To start at the beginning of the series, click here.

1. "Keep your hair on!"
In part three of this series you learned that Brits and Americans employ different terminology when describing what the Brits call a fringe). But this is not where haircut-based differences end. Those metal clips that are often used to keep sections of hair in one placeknown in the U.S. as bobby pins (possibly because of their initial involvement in steadying bob-style haircuts)are known to the British as hair grips or Kirby grips, which is a brand name. Speaking of which...

2. "Some things can't just be swept under the carpet"

There are certain things in life that are universal truths: the Earth orbits the sun, Terminator 2 is better than its predecessor, and everyone in the English-speaking world refers to the above contraption as a Hoover. These are truths by which I once governed my very existence; until I moved to America. You see, in America, Hoover is not a catch-all term to describe all types of vacuum cleaner. That responsibility belongs to... drum roll... vacuum cleaner. It turns out that Hoover is in fact a brand name and we Brits have been using it incorrectly to describe Dysons and the like all along.

3. "You're as cold as ice!"

Picture this scene: it was my first summer in the U.S., the temperatures were rapidly approaching 95 degrees, and I wanted nothing more than the very thing pictured above. Problem was, my American friends probably thought I sounded like a complete berk when I asked: "who wants to go and get ice lollies?" Of course, when I heard the term they had lined up, my embarrassment subsided a little. Because the term they had lined up was Popsicle

4. "For crimes against fashion, you are under a vest."
As a pro-wrestling fan in my youth, the sight of Hulk Hogan ripping one of these off his sweaty chest was sadly the stuff dreams were made of. Now, 20 years later, when all of my dreams have been shattered and pulverized by an atomic leg drop of ultimate truths, I've also come to find that Americans don't call this a vest, but a tank top or A-shirt. And it gets even more convoluted; you see, America uses the word vest to describe what the British refer to as a waistcoat.

5. "Let's skip to the main course... "

Much has been made of the ongoing divide that is food terminology, but what about meal times? Well, this one threw me for a loop upon visiting my first American eatery. The small meal that comes immediately before the main course is not known in the it is in Britainas a starter or entree. Rather it is known as an appetizer. Somewhat bizarrely, Americans use the word entree to describe the main course, which is not only antithetical to the British usage, but that of the Frenchthe nation that gave us the word in the first place.

Sometimes, it's better hearing me in a British accent. Click the red button below.

Laurence Brown is a British man writing his way through the truly bizarre world of America - a place he sometimes accidentally calls home and a place he still hasn't quite figured out after seven years. Thankfully, his journey is made 12% easier by the fact that his accent makes him sound much smarter than he is. For evidence of this, subscribe to his popular Lost in the Pond web series over on YouTube.


  1. We also call a popsicle an "ice pop" (definitely more common in the northeast than popsicle, which is also a name brand), which is a but closer to the British, since it also uses a diminutive of lollipop in the name: Brits the front end, Americans the tail.

  2. I have subscribed to your YouTube series and have bookmarked this site. As soon as I think Laurence has forgot one thing, I just advance a page or two and .. well, err. I find I simply haven't progressed far enough on my first journey through your site. Question.. as a writer, do you still have trouble remembering or have auto correct on when spelling words with an "re" ending, a z vs s or an "ou" in common words? I don't so much being schooled here; though I do try to remember to change these when I'm commenting on UK websites.

  3. Two British words/phrases not mentioned. Phrase in British: To burke it up.
    Next word is Dickey. Brit guy says he has a dickey ticker (heart). Bet you could have some fun with those British phrases/words.


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