funny experiences due to the differences between Commonwealth and American
Getting knocked up
There are those phrases that are the same but have totally different
meanings resulting in severe misunderstandings. Take for instance the
phrase "knock up". In the USA this means get a girl pregnant
while in the UK it means knock on someone's door! Imagine someone from the
UK in America at a conference. On meeting in a hotel lobby for breakfast,
an American asks the Englishman if a fellow female delegate had come down
for breakfast yet. It would be quite natural for the Englishman to reply:
"No, but I did knock her up this morning!" HEHEHE!!!
example is the slang word "fag". In the Commonwealth, a fag is
slang for a cigarette, while in the USA the same word is slang for a gay
The word "rubber" means an
eraser in the Commonwealth but refers to a condom in the USA... so an
English student in an American college would quite naturally lean over to
an American student and ask to borrow their rubber! HAH!
For Australians, they find it
amusing when Americans say they are rooting for them - root in Australian
means to have sex!
And when you get pissed...
the same applies to the word "pissed". In America this means
angry while in the Commonwealth pissed means drunk. I recall the occasion
when my boss at that time (who was from Britain) and I (then still from
South Africa) were in the US on business and
were taken out one evening by a junior associate from the local US office.
Having way too much to drink, in the cab returning to our hotel, my boss
repeatedly announced that he was "Soooo pissed". This elicited
much alarm from our American associate who kept on asking, "Why,
what's wrong"? To which my boss equally misunderstood and responded,
"There's nothing wrong with being pissed." And the response to
that, of course: "Oh, I agree there's nothing wrong with it, but why
are you so pissed?" And so it went on, and on, until finally, having
gotten over my fits of laughter, I explained to them that they had been
talking cross purposes for the entire cab ride!
What of course makes this even
more complicated is the English saying: "Taking the piss out of someone".
This bears no resemblance at all to getting drunk, nor getting angry, nor
even urinating!. This simply means making fun of someone!
there was the time another boss (a Texan this time) was coming to visit me
in San Francisco, recently after I moved to the USA. On asking for
directions from the airport I told him to take highway 80. Of course, I
pronounced this the English way: Eigh-TEE, instead of the American way:
Eigh-DEE (see my section on Pronunciation).
Being American, he misunderstood my "eighty" to be
"AT" and spent 2 hours totally lost looking for some non-existent
road called Highway AT. Well, he was expecting 80 to sound like Eigh-DEE
not Eigh-TEE, so who could blame him?
remote areas in the USA have never heard an English accent before,
rendering British English into what seems to them like a foreign language.
Can I ever forget the morning I was traveling through Mena, Arkansas, and
stopped to order lunch from a convenience store. After repeating that
I wanted a simple hamburger THREE times without success (bringing the the
words "blank look" a whole new meaning), my wife finally came to
my rescue and "translated" my order into American English! How
different really does the word "hamburger" sound between an American and
an English accent? Apparently, a lot!
Ever wondered why Wendy's
Hamburgers never took off in Britain? Well, who would want to order
"Biggie Fries" when a biggie is what a child calls his poo! Another
meaning for Biggie in Britain is of course an erection! - just gets better
from visitors to this website
From Nikki Canales: I do have a funny story from a friend of
mine who traveled from the US to the UK. When she got off the plane, she
stepped in some mud and got her jeans dirty. When she met the people she
was staying with, she said "I apologize.. my pants are dirty."
They gave her a funny look. Later, she found out "pants" is
actually "trousers" in the UK and they mistakenly thought she
was talking about her underpants or "knickers."
Phil Andrews: Suspenders in the UK are for holding up ladies
stockings, careful how you use the word. A guy who said "I am wearing
red suspenders" would get an odd look...
Sarah: I am British living with my US fiancé and my two British
children in America. It was funny when messing around one day my US fiancé
told my 5yr old daughter he was going to spank her fanny! My daughter and
I looked in shock and said: "WHAT?!!" He then quickly explained
that a fanny is a bum - we all sighed and giggled.
From Adam: When I first
arrived in the US from Britain I was sitting in a bar with some new
American friends; I choked on my drink when I heard one of the girls
announce that she had been riding her bicycle too much that day and now
her "fanny really hurt"!
From Nate: The eating
section reminded me of a date I went on in London with an British girl. We
went to a nice restaurant where I think I had a steak and chips. Never in
my life had I seen someone eat fries with a knife and fork, so as I was
eating, I noticed my date doing this, I stopped and asked what she was
doing. Needless to say, I ate my fries with a knife and fork that day and
for the rest of my stay in Britain.
So I (an American) was
playing Frisbee with a British girl. I threw it to her and while trying
to catch it she broke a nail. She was whining about it so I told her,
"Suck it up!" To us this means just deal with the pain and continue. To
them it has a bad sexual meaning. Embarrassing!
From Claire: My friend
visited England from Florida and we went to a theme park. We went on the
Water Chute ride. When we got off, my American friend announced at the top
of her voice "ewww...my fanny is all wet". Imagine my embarrassment when
100 people looked at us in disgust and shoo'd their children away!
From Helly: I visited
England with my mom (she was born and raised in England) and my cousins
took me out shopping. We went into a purse/bag shop and one of my cousins
(male) held up a 'fanny bag' and said I should get one to hold my change
from Car Boots. Well, we weren't standing close, so I said sorta loudly "I
already brought a 'fanny bag'. He looked totally shocked and his eyes
scanned the store because I was being glared at. He said "What!" and
quickly came to me telling me never to say that. We left the store (fanny bagless) and he explained. Oh boy! The rest of my stay was a constant
fanny/bum bag joke.
From Katrina: While my
family and I (Americans) were vacationing in the UK, we definately ran
into some language barriers. It was pretty comical when my Dad asked for
directions to the "Restrooms" in a London Department store, and the man
kept telling us where there were lounges and seating "places we could
rest". I think that went on for about five minutes, until I finally cut in
and asked for directions to the W.C. Then I ran into a little bit of
trouble myself, when I entered into a discussion with the bell hop. He
asked me "How did you find Warwick Castle", I thought the question a
little odd, but, none the less, I answered "We used a map in combination
with the signs." He gave me a strange look and I continued to give him a
strange look, and then it sunk in, "Oh, that meant what did I think of
Warwick castle." My Mother and Sister still haven't let me live down that
bit of foolishness.
From Amber: A friend
from England came to visit me in Los Angeles. On our way to the car we got
in an elevator. There were two rough looking guys in there already and one
was smoking. My British friend gasped in amazment and said "Are you
allowed to smoke a fag in there?" the two rough guys looked really
confused and I burst into laughter. (To smoke someone means to kill them
with a gun) Anyway we took the next elevator.
From David: While at
University in England I made friends with an American girl. She had
spent the day horse riding and that evening we met in the student bar.
As typical reserved English folk, everyone would often go quiet as the
'American Girl' came into the bar. I immediately asked how she was, her
loud reply was "Well, I've got a sore fanny as I've been riding a horse
all day!" I need not tell you the reaction this had on the already
silent group sitting in the bar.
I went to Australia last
year. I was travelling with a Canadian friend. In Australia they call
sandals "thongs". We came to a pub where it said on the door: No thongs
allowed. My Canadian friend was very surprised, she didn't understand
how they could know what underwear the people are wearing :-).
From Wendy: My other
American friend Renee was driving from the airport to her boyfriend's
house in a hired car. A guy was driving really close behind her, and
when she got to her boyfriend's house she said the guy was 'totally
riding my fanny!' Riding means having sex, and fanny is female sex
From Mike: I (a Yank)
was working in England. I took frequent business trips to the US with
British colleagues. Once one of them said he had never driven on the
"wrong" side of the road and asked if he could try it. All was well
until we were driving about 30 MPH down a suburban road and passed a
sign that said "Pavement ends 100 feet". Before I had time to explain
that this had nothing to do with the sidewalk and maybe he should slow
down, we were on the dirt and skidding all over the road. Fortunately we
came to rest safely and had a great story to share with our coworkers.
From Misty: In 1972 I
moved from Florida to Hong Kong. As Thanksgiving was approaching I
decided to invite my new friends for a traditional Thanksgiving meal. I
was in the Provisioner's looking for mince meat for pies. Every time I
asked where this was located in the store I was directed to the meat
counter. Finally, in frustration, I called a British friend. She told me
to ask for "fruit chutney". Walla! I was able to bake my Mince Meat
From Elizabeth: When I
was 19 (I'm a American female), I worked as a secretary in London for a
summer. One day I was typing away, and a fellow waiting for my boss came
up and asked "Excuse me, do you have a rubber." Needless to say, my jaw
dropped a foot, but I choked out "Sorry, I'm not carrying one today." A
couple minutes later, it dawned on me what he wanted. As I handed it to
him, I said "a rubber means something slightly different in America".
I've never seen someone turn so red so fast.
From Bob: While serving
in the Canadian Army in Germany I wound up in the hospital beside a
young man from one of the British army units. One day he asked me how
are the birds in Canada With a big smile I told him that at hunting time
You couldn't see the sky for the ducks No No he said Birds and kept
repeating Bird Birds Looking at like some crazy man. It was explained to
me that birds in England are women.
From Christine: I am a
Californian teenager, and a couple years ago my family traveled to
London. We went out to lunch with some of our English friends, and after
the satisfying meal, my dad asked me how the meal was. I exclaimed "It
was delicious, I'm stuffed!". This elicited a laugh from our English
friend, and I was told not to say this again. In American, "I'm stuffed"
means I'm very full (of food). Apparently in English it is a nasty term
for being pregnant.
From Radan: An American
mother and her baby were on a visit in Britain. In a nursery mother
asked another one "Where can I have my nipples boiled?". Stunning
silence while they realised her "nipples" are for "teat" in British
From Stephanie - When I
was little, my family and I travelled to London...I probably was about
10 years old. While visiting, we went out to dinner with a friend of
ours from England. I recall that I ordered some sort of pasta, but that
pasta didn't come with any sauce on it. And so, I had asked for marinara
sauce. The waiter had no idea what I said. So I tried again,
reluctantly. Tomato sauce? I guess I literally got what I wanted. A few
minutes later he brought back a little cup--of ketchup. Needless to say,
I was ten and I didn't object to the use of ketchup on my pasta.....but
nothing can make me forget that vocabulary lesson.
From Brian: I am an
American. Last year a friend of mine from England came over to visit for
a few weeks. We were in a Wal-Mart shopping center and he had to use the
bathroom. He went up to one of the employees and asked "Where's the loo?".
The man said "If you're looking for someone, I can page them for you on
the intercom. What's Lou's last name?" I thought that was hilarious!
From David: I'm an
American living in England. In the first week or two after I arrived, I
told some friends that I was going outside for a quick puff or two
(meaning to smoke at least part of a cigarette)...they responded by
uncomfortably giggling and saying "well mate, whatever suits your
fancy!"... In British slang, a "puff" is a homosexual.
From Rowan: The funny
story is that when I mentioned to an American friend that my form tutor
at school wore horrible jumpers, he asked whilst laughing if he was a
cross dresser! Turns out a jumper can mean a dress in the US whilst in
Britain it means a long sleeved top similar to a pullover in America.
From Tom: I was
visiting my future wife in London and going to meet her family a few
days later. I read the newspapers to try to be conversational with her
family. While waiting in line outside the Tower of London, someone had
spray painted “Arsenal Wankers” on the wall.
I said (a bit too loudly)
“Honey, the “Wankers” ! They are playing in the FA Cup Final this
She was not happy but her mum
loved it and made me an “Arsenal Wanker” t-shirt.
From James: My brother,
an American and avid motorcyclist was studying in London and needed a
new pair of protective leather clothing. So he walked into a motorcycle
shop and asked the workers what kind of leather pants they sold. He said
they both burst out laughing, and said they didn't carry leather pants.
How could a bike shop not carry protective leather pants? Probably
because pants are underwear in England. He was pretty embarrassed.
you know of any other funny stories, please e-mail
me and I will add them!