Did you know that there are some minor differences between terminology in British English and American English? As a translator, you may sometimes have to translate a document into one of these particular English variants, and there are a few words that are sure to elude you if you let them!
This post will highlight five of those troublesome variants, hopefully allowing you to remember them if you’re asked to translate a document into a different English variant than that of which you are familiar using.
UK English: ‘trousers’/US English: ‘pants’
This first example serves as a good reminder of why it’s important to pay attention to UK/US English localization: muddling up the two variants can produce embarrassing results! In the United Kingdom, ‘trousers’ are used to describe the same item of clothing as Americans refer to as ‘pants’. However, in the UK, the word ‘pants’ refers to underpants. As you can imagine, if you’re not aware of this variance in word usage, this has the potential to produce an embarrassing translation!
UK English: ‘petrol’/US English: ‘gas’
Americans often speak of putting ‘gas’ (a shortened form of ‘gasoline’) in their car, but the British will use the term ‘petrol’ (a shortened form of ‘petroleum’) instead. In the UK, ‘gas’ is used to power older types of cooking or heating appliances, but certainly not cars!
UK English: ‘chemist’/US English: ‘drug store’
If you need to collect some medication, you’d seek out a drug store in the US. But in the UK, you’d need to ask for a chemist instead. Generally, the term ‘drug’ in Britain is used to describe illegal substances alone.
UK English: ‘boot’/US English: ‘trunk’
Another car-related example here: in the UK, a ‘boot’ is where you store luggage in a car, whereas in America, you’d refer to this as a ‘trunk’. Storing a suitcase in a ‘boot’ would likely cause an American to ask you how you’d expect a suitcase to fit in their footwear, and asking someone from the UK to put your coat in a ‘trunk’ would send them looking for the nearest zoo.
UK English: ‘public school’/US English: ‘private school’
In America, the distinction between a public and private school is as follows: a ‘public school’ is the term attached to schools made available to the general public (regardless of their financial means) by the state, whereas a ‘private school’ is a independently-funded school for paying parents. However, in the UK, a ‘public school’ actually means the same as the US ‘private school’, and the British use the term ‘state school’ to refer to what Americans call ‘public schools’. Talk about confusing!
Hopefully this blog post has been both informative and humorous! Perhaps it’ll help you avoid some of these often-overlooked variations? What other differences in UK/US terminology have you found funny or easy to miss?