So, one would think that English is what it is, right? Wrong-o! This is one language that does not translate perfectly across borders, with misinterpretations that can lead to embarrassing moments, at best. I’ve had to learn the hard way how to “translate” American to British to Canadian. Read on to see how to prevent such blunders to save your pride.
Suspenders / Braces / Suspenders
Braces is a new British word I learned firsthand. I was out to dinner with my then boyfriend and his family, including his one-year-old nephew. The seat he was sitting in had two straps to secure him that went over his shoulders. When I said, “Nice suspenders!” I was greeted with an unexpected amount of laughter. Apparently, suspenders translates to…
Garter Belt / Suspender Belt / Garter Belt
Yup. Women’s unmentionables. Thank goodness my future in-laws have a sense of humor!
Pants / Trousers / Pants
In America and Canada, complimenting someone on their pants is appropriate. If you mention someone’s pants in England, prepare to get blushed at. Trousers are a clothing item that you can wear in public. The British “pants” refers to underpants and is extremely inappropriate to openly discuss!
Underpants / Pants / Underpants
This cannot be clarified enough. :-S
Bathroom / Loo / Wash Room
I think it is absolutely ridiculous that a grown woman such as me gets flustered when I have to admit that I need to use the facilities. It’s not because I’m modest about being human; I simply get confused on which word to use. The American version only makes sense when there’s a shower or a tub in the room, as I certainly wouldn’t consider a toilet to be a jacuzzi. The British loo is fun to say, but doesn’t stick in my mind. Also, I’m not completely sold on the Canadian wash room, as I’ve yet to see a washing machine in ANY room that shares a toilet. So…there it is. I’ve considered sounding like a five year old and telling people that I have to “go potty” for simplicities’ sake.
What’s up? / You alright? / How are you?
These are common greetings in America, Britain, and Canada, respectfully.
You alright? / What’s up? / What’s wrong?
Switch up the order of the prior words and add in a few new ones for fun, and you get what turns into a concerned checking in comment. I assumed that I looked all sorts of jet-lagged my first week in England, though I eventually learned that people were just saying hello.
Sneakers / Trainers / Running Shoes
Athletic footwear is not only complicated when you’re shopping for the perfect pair at the shoe store, but it is also complex when it comes to describing them in different countries. One seems to be meant for creepy people, another references the person who directs novice exercisers at the gym, and the last is a very specific type of shoe, although it applies to tennis shoes, walking shoes, and soccer shoes. Silly English speakers…
Good luck, although hopefully, you won’t need it with the above insight!