You Say Tomayto, I Say Tomahto.
George Bernard Shaw is quoted as writing that “The United States and Great Britain are two countries separated by a common language.” When it comes to modern slang and cheeky wordplay, he couldn’t be more right.
An official language of nearly 70 countries, the third most common native language in the world, the second most-learned language, and the lingua franca of major international organizations such as the United Nations, English is a pretty handy tool to have under your belt. That is, if you know how to use it correctly.
Those of us who speak English natively may never know the luxury of being fluent in such a powerful language, regardless of where we’re from, what kind of accent we have, the slang we use, or the grammar we abuse. But at the end of the day, English is English, right?
Although English dialects are considered mutually intelligible, anyone who has traveled through the English-speaking world or interacted with English speakers from other countries (heck, even with people from other parts of their own country) will know that there are some big differences out there that can lead to pretty embarrassing mixups.
When it comes to British, Australian, and American English, these are some of the words and terms you should be most careful with before you end up saying something suggestive you don’t mean…
Have you ever gone outside a bar and asked if you could bum a fag off someone?
While you’d probably get punched for that sentence in the United States, in the UK, you’d simply be asking for a cigarette. Using “fag” to mean cigarette is archaic in American English.
Do yourself a favor and never ask your British friend to borrow a pair of pants, because you’d just be talking about underwear. Though I love how the English et al. use “trousers,” explain to me how “pants” can mean underwear if underpants also means underwear! Take that, Queenie.