Go Back  FlyerTalk Forums > Destinations > Europe > U.K. and Ireland
Reload this Page >

American English/British English question

American English/British English question

Old Sep 25, 18, 7:12 pm
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2018
Location: NC
Programs: AA, Marriott/SPG, AMEX
Posts: 272
American English/British English question

This may come across as a very silly question but...
When DH and I travel to a foreign country we try to, at least, know a few phrases of the local language but this will be my first time in London soooo... should I use the terms that Brits use versus my normal American English? I think most Brits know when I say "line" it equates to queue (and the reverse for Brits visiting the US), for instance. I know we will be able to understand one another but I want to be respectful and not pretentious.
hipquest is offline  
Old Sep 25, 18, 7:32 pm
  #2  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: RSE
Programs: AA Exp|VA Platinum
Posts: 12,860
Originally Posted by hipquest View Post
This may come across as a very silly question but...
When DH and I travel to a foreign country we try to, at least, know a few phrases of the local language but this will be my first time in London soooo... should I use the terms that Brits use versus my normal American English?
No.

Unless the word is so regional that it's unlikely to be understood. No one will think you're rude for speaking in American English.

The ubiquity of American TV and cinema means most of the Anglophone world understands American English far better than the average American understands non-American English.
enviroian, aztimm and Smrtmom1 like this.

Last edited by bensyd; Sep 25, 18 at 7:44 pm
bensyd is online now  
Old Sep 25, 18, 8:08 pm
  #3  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2018
Location: NC
Programs: AA, Marriott/SPG, AMEX
Posts: 272
@bensyd Thank you! I'll keep my knowledge of Brit speak to myself
hipquest is offline  
Old Sep 25, 18, 11:02 pm
  #4  
:D!
Hilton Contributor BadgeIHG Contributor Badge
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Location: Sheen, London
Programs: BA Spire, Hilton *G, A3 Diamond, IHG Silver
Posts: 4,944
You can say queue instead of line if you want.

You say you don't want to be pretentious, but actually Americans sometimes come off as pretentious when they try too hard to sound "British", it happens on other internet forums that I spend far too much time on...
:D! is offline  
Old Sep 26, 18, 1:07 am
  #5  
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: London
Posts: 1,429
We could happily be here for weeks with the differences in language.
Not quite the question you asked, but to avoid major confusion when traveling about, do not abbreviate the names of places or streets. That's a recipe for confusion and possibly inadvertent misdirection.
User Name likes this.
rcspeirs is offline  
Old Sep 26, 18, 1:44 am
  #6  
 
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 7,773
Originally Posted by rcspeirs View Post
We could happily be here for weeks with the differences in language.
Not quite the question you asked, but to avoid major confusion when traveling about, do not abbreviate the names of places or streets. That's a recipe for confusion and possibly inadvertent misdirection.
Indeed, asking how to get to Oxford is very different to asking how to get to Oxford Street.

Broadly agree with the other responses above, although I would say do use the term Underground or Tube rather than Subway.

Probably the most common difference heard from foreigners is asking for the bathroom rather than the toilet or loo, but that is so common it won't generally cause any confusion, and in fact (shock horror) some British English speakers have migrated to using the bathroom term in restaurants etc.
Smrtmom1 likes this.
Ldnn1 is offline  
Old Sep 26, 18, 8:29 am
  #7  
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: London & Sonoma CA
Programs: UA 1K(until 2022), MM *G for life, Hertz PC, BAEC Silver
Posts: 8,834
Obama infamously used the word queue when he was here and I am certain that, were the OP to use it, the consequences would be much less severe!
lhrsfo is offline  
Old Sep 26, 18, 9:27 am
  #8  
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Programs: BA Exec Club
Posts: 328
Just be aware that some words in English English have a subtly different meaning - 'fanny'being one of them!

Also if you are a smoker, dont be offended if someone asks to 'bum a fag of you'- you are not being propositioned!
Goaguy likes this.
jimlad48 is offline  
Old Sep 26, 18, 9:44 am
  #9  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: South of London.
Programs: Delta SE, Marriott Silver, Omni Select Plat
Posts: 14,955
As long as you don't say you flew with British Air, you'll get along with American English just fine.
User Name likes this.
USA_flyer is online now  
Old Sep 26, 18, 10:46 am
  #10  
Suspended
 
Join Date: Dec 2013
Posts: 1,271
I really don't think it is as simple as some seem to think. Effective communication is not about saying what you 'mean', it is about the person you are talking to 'understanding' what you said as meaning what you meant to communicate. Jimlad48 has given a very clear example of how that can go horribly wrong sometimes. It can also happen even with relatively simple things like confusing what the words 'first floor' mean. In N. America it of course refers to the 'ground floor' which is the 'first' floor in a building. In the UK it refers to the 'first' floor above the 'ground floor' which in N. America would be called the 'second' floor since it is the 'second' floor in a building. There are many such differences that can indeed cause a 'failure to communicate'.

Rather than focusing on words that most people in both countries understand as being synonymous, it is the words that are spelled and pronounced the same but have entirely different meanings in the two countries that you should be concerned with getting right.

The UK is a 'foreign' country to someone from N. America and should be treated the same as Italy or France or wherever. You strive to be understood in whatever way you can, using whatever knowledge you have. In other words, 'when in Rome, do as the Romans do.' Do not do as you do at home and expect the other person to figure out what you were trying to communicate to them.

I try when travelling to other 'English speaking' countries, to speak in as simple but specific English as possible as this is most likely to cause the least misunderstandings. I always remember asking a young (early teens) waitress in a hotel in Scotland for 'brown toast'. In Canada we generally say 'brown' toast while in the USA, 'wheat' toast is more common. When I asked for 'brown toast' meaning whole wheat bread toasted, the young waitress in Scotland looked at me like I was an idiot and replied in all seriousness, 'all toast is brown.' She was of course correct and I had failed to communicate clearly to her what it was I wanted her to understand what I said meant.

Colloquialisms are the most common area of language where this can occur, like the toast example but the problem is we often don't know that the word we use every day is in fact a colloquialism. Again, Jimlad48's example is a case of a colloquialism and in that example, a colloquialism in both American English and British English which has an entirely different meaning in both. Whichever meaning you wished to convey could be made clear by using the more formal or literary words rather than a word that may be misunderstood. You cannot mistake what I want if I ask for 'whole wheat bread, toasted.'

Here is a list of common word differences that can help. https://www.adducation.info/lifestyl...merican-words/

Take another simple example like 'chips' vs. 'crisps'. Asking for some 'chips' with a sandwich will get a N. American 'french fries'. Knowing to ask for 'crisps' will get them what they actually meant the person they asked, to understand them as wanting.

Some can be very amusing. I like garter belt vs. suspenders. If someone from N. America says, 'he wears suspenders' the reaction from a Brit could be quite laughable. Or how about, 'knock you up'. The first time a Brit said that to me (I'm a guy which made it even more confusing), I didn't know what to think. There is a big difference between 'get you pregnant' (N. American) and 'knock at your door' (UK meaning). LOL

So, I would say overall that there is absolutely nothing wrong with trying to get it right in terms that a local will understand and there is certainly nothing 'pretentious' in trying to do so. Just know, you will probably get some wrong and hopefully that will be cause for both parties to have a laugh together.
ajGoes likes this.
dulciusexasperis is offline  
Old Sep 26, 18, 11:27 am
  #11  
 
Join Date: Aug 2016
Posts: 70
I suggest wearing one of those bright red Make America Great Again hats or t-shirts. That way, if someone doesn't recognize your accent, they can more easily attribute any peculiarities regarding your choice of words to where you are from.

Have fun!!
jspira, ajGoes and Smrtmom1 like this.
ToddSpam is offline  
Old Sep 26, 18, 11:32 am
  #12  
 
Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: YEG
Programs: Table scraps from Aeroplan and AmEx Plat
Posts: 277
Also, I am not sure how exposed you are to various local British accents/dialects. My first native English (as a second language) teacher had a rather strong regional accent, and I remember him saying he'd had a very hard time communicating with some Americans. I suspect the Americans could not understand half the words coming out of his mouth. There's a reason why Trainspotting was subtitled when it came out on in the States.
bambinomartino is offline  
Old Sep 26, 18, 11:34 am
  #13  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Her Majesty's Prison UK
Programs: 1K, *G for "life", Global Entry, Hertz PC, and my wallet
Posts: 17,179
And of course, in the UK what you need to know is that "Trump" is another word for "fart".
Redhead and User Name like this.
Silver Fox is offline  
Old Sep 26, 18, 11:51 am
  #14  
Senior Moderator, Moderator: Coronavirus, Community Buzz, and Ambassador: Miles & More (Lufthansa, Austrian, Swiss, and other partners)
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: 150km from MAN
Programs: LH SEN** HH Diamond
Posts: 27,960
Be aware most British won't understand what DH stands for.
aztimm, TWA884 and Ldnn1 like this.
NewbieRunner is offline  
Old Sep 26, 18, 11:59 am
  #15  
 
Join Date: Dec 2014
Location: HPN
Posts: 344
Originally Posted by NewbieRunner View Post
Be aware most British won't understand what DH stands for.
Are you joking? I thought it originated on Mumsnet in the UK.
rpjs is online now  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search Engine: