It’s the same language, but it isn’t.

Sometimes, the Brit and I joke that we speak different languages. Yes, we both speak English, but the differences between American English and Anglo-English can be quite interesting.

One of my family’s favorite examples of the language barrier happened during the Brit’s first trip to Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving in 2010. We were at a local bar with my brother and his fiancee. While they were speaking to some of their friends, the Brit and I found a table for two and sat to enjoy our drinks. It was getting later, so I suggested we head home. The Brit went to my brother and said, “Becky’s pissed and would like to go home.”

Let me break it down…’pissed’ in much of the UK means ‘drunk’ while ‘pissed’ in the US refers to someone being angry. My brother could not understand why I was angry! (And for the record, I was not drunk either!) But, those slight nuances can completely change the meaning of a sentence.

Last week, we met some friends at a pub and were discussing the differences in word meanings, specifically because I had said someone seemed to be ‘pissed’ about something in the angry sense and not the drunk sense. This led to the discussion that if someone in the UK is angry then they are ‘pissed off’ and I actually think that in the US the phrase started that way, but us Americans like to shorten things, so ‘pissed’ it is!

During this same night out, (and I have no idea why this came up) I said, “I once had my purse stolen from the shopping cart at the grocery store.” It’s pretty amazing to think of all the differences in this short and fairly simple sentence. Let’s take a look….

1. purse in the UK = wallet in the US; handbag in the UK = purse in the US

2. shopping cart in the US = shopping trolley in the UK

3. grocery store in the US = supermarket in the UK (I realize in the US that we also use supermarket, but the British do not say grocery store.)

I hear a new word nearly every day and I either figure it out based on its context in the sentence or ask the Brit what it means. My word today is ‘ta’ (pronounced ‘tar’ in Yorkshire, but without the strong ‘r’) to substitute ‘thank you.’ The funny thing is I’ve never heard it before and today I heard it twice on two separate occasions.

The language difference keeps life in Yorkshire interesting and allows the Brit and I plenty of laughs as I learn the quirks of their way of speaking!


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