Exchanging English Over the Pond: U.S. and U.K. Part II

Posted on Tuesday, May 26, 2020, at 11:00 pm

Part I of our discussion of U.S. and Commonwealth English focused on word spellings between the dialects. In Part II, we’ll review variances in vocabulary.

Understanding how the U.S. and the U.K. approach the naming of words is a great opportunity to embrace the richness of our shared language. Stateside, we enjoy and appreciate how Commonwealth writers and speakers refer to some of the thoughts that are common to us all.

Soccer vs. Football
Many conversations about U.S. and U.K. vocabulary might often start here. In America, watching local, college, and professional football teams is immensely popular. Playing tackle with pads and a pigskin is also the pursuit of millions of fans nationwide.

That being said, the word football has its colossal cultural use in the U.S. However, particularly in America, one may still wonder why we use soccer for a game called football in many parts of the world.

Some might be enlightened to learn that soccer has its origin in the U.K. During the 1800s, British universities started playing variants of a medieval game known as “football.” One such version was referred to as “association football,” which the English called “soccer” for short.

When the modern game reached America in the mid-1800s, the name “soccer” followed from the U.K. Back in Britain, soccer and football remained interchangeable for a time. Although steadily decreasing, references to soccer might still be heard until the 1980s, when football became more fortified as the singular term.

Dual Ways with Words

The following partial list offers a look at how U.S. and Commonwealth writers and speakers express several of the same things differently.

U.S. U.K.   U.S. U.K.
apartment flat cookie biscuit
adhesive bandage plaster diaper nappy
bathroom toilet, WC, loo drugstore chemist’s
bike cycle drunk pissed
candy sweets elementary school primary school
cart trolley, trolly elevator lift
cash register till eraser rubber
cell (phone) mobile flashlight torch
chips crisps fries chips
college university garbage can dustbin
U.S. U.K.   U.S. U.K.
gas petrol stroller pram
high school secondary school (to) study revise
(car) hood bonnet subway tube
mail post sweater jumper
(the) movies cinema trash rubbish
pants trousers truck lorry
parking lot car park (car) trunk boot
period (.) full stop vacation holiday
purse handbag vacuum Hoover
sidewalk pavement wallet purse
sneakers (tennis shoes) trainers zit/pimple spot

What are some of your favorite words over the pond? Stay tuned when our series continues by exploring variations in grammar between the U.S. and the U.K.

(Special thanks to Anglophiles Megan C., Emma C., and Rachel M. of Illinois, USA, for their contributions to this discussion.)

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