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By: Clair Cook, author of
Posted on: Mar 12, 2021

Popular Phrases: US vs UK

After meeting each other (virtually), our US and UK bloggers, Clair & John, discovered quite a few differences in the way they talk! Read on for Clair's thoughts on their conversation and what she learned about popular phrases.

Have any of y’all ever traveled outside of your residing country? I know whenever I travel, I wonder if there will be a language barrier in the country that I am visiting. This month, I had the opportunity to speak with the The Cleaner Home UK Blogger, John, about some of the popular phrases and words that are used over in the UK, as well as those used over here in the United States. I had no clue about some of these differences when it came to popular phrases and basic terminology. See for yourself the differences I learned about the UK versus the US after my chat with John.

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Popular phrase 1: “Hello!”

The first difference I noted when chatting with John was how he greeted me. “Are you alright?” was how John started our conversation. Now being American, I assumed he thought I had been ill or was not feeling well. Boy was I wrong. This popular phrase in the UK is like the phrase that we use here, “How are you doing?”

Popular Phrases Biscuit and Tea

I am all for a good biscuit in the morning.

It is no wonder that I am from the south. I am all about a warm biscuit and gravy whenever I have the chance. They are even good left over and taken out of a food storage container the next day. Americans use the term biscuit to refer to a small, flour-based leavened baked food product. In the UK, biscuits are not what you would want to dip into a bowl of gravy. Biscuits in the UK are better served with a hot cup of tea. These biscuits in the UK are unleavened baked food products, like cookies.

The next time you are in the UK, make sure to know the difference. It will be a totally different take on cookies all together if not.

A fashion statement worth noting.

I had no clue how different the fashion terminology was between the UK and America. One of the first differences I learned about was wooly jumper vs sweater. In the UK, any type of thick sweatshirt, sweater type of top is called a wooly jumper. Here in the United States, we call this type of top a sweater.

We have already gone over the difference between underwear and pants. Make a point not to forget that one. Here is one that has more to do with hairstyles. My oldest has been begging for bangs. When I brought this up to John during our chat, he had no clue what I was referring to. You know why? Well, in the UK, they call what we call bangs ‘fringe’.

Popular phrases that are all about cars.

John and I eventually got onto the topic of cars. Cars are an important part of the American way, from transportation to detailing them. I could not believe all the differences we had on this topic. A parking lot in the UK is referred to as a carpark. A freeway is not called a freeway in the UK. It is referred to as motorway. So, if you are driving around in the UK, remember that you are more than likely driving on a motorway.

This next term really confused me. John asked me about bonnets. I at first thought he was talking about the hat-like bonnets that we think of around Easter. Nope. A bonnet in the UK is what we call the hood of a car here in the US.

All about the kids.

John and I both are parents. It was no surprise that we eventually got onto the subject of kids. My youngest will be going to kindergarten next year. In the UK, they do not call this grade level kindergarten. They use the popular phrase, reception class, instead.

Here's a few more terms I learned during our chat.

  • Dummy (UK) = Pacifier (US)
  • Nappie (UK) = Diaper (US)
  • Footpath (UK) = Sidewalk (US)
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I cannot wait to visit the UK and use my new knowledge of these popular phrases.

After my chat with John, I feel more than ready to travel to the UK. I am hoping these popular phrases will help me mesh in with the locals, as well as keep me from publicly embarrassing myself. I will safely make my way to the motorways and will know to pop the bonnet if anything were to go wrong with the car while I am there. If so, I will just take the footpath instead. Biscuits and hot tea are on the menu for late afternoon snacks, and I will make a point to greet everyone with ‘Are you alright?’

Much ‘ta’ to John for our little chat and discovering the differences between the UK and the United States when it comes to popular phrases and basic terms. Do you all have any popular phrases that are different from what Americans use? Did you all know these UK popular phrases?

Do not forget to check out mine and John’s chat from the other day!