Tuesday 29 September 2015


Was it George Bernard Shaw who said that England and America are two countries divided by a common language?

Some words have very different meanings on either side of the pond. So while an Englishman puts his trunks in the boot of his car before driving off on holiday, an American would put his boots in the trunk.

Similarly, an Englishman puts his pants on before his shorts.

But my all-time favourite [or should that be favorite?] only really works when spoken aloud:
In England, we pay our bills with a cheque. In America, they pay their checks with a bill.


  1. My favourite subtlety between British & American English is use of the word "quite". In American, something that is "quite good" is "better than good" whereas in British, something that is "quite good" is "just less than good", or thereabouts. Lots of enjoyable opportunities for misunderstanding in the Anglo-American office. :)


  2. Indeed. "Distinctly average" is a curious variation on that theme. I knew a translator whose hobby was collecting contradictory English idioms such as "Many hands make light work" but "Too many cooks spoil the broth". Or "Absence makes the heart grow fonder" but "Out of sight, out of mind". I suspect that these aren't limited to the English language though.