England, Travel Tips

We’re supposed to speak the same language

While I was in London last semester, I accidentally said something hilarious several times because the word I used meant something different in England.

On one particularly embarrassing occasion, I was walking to the bar in a short skirt and was cold. So I announced to my friends loudly: “I really should have worn pants tonight.” Everyone in the vicinity turned to look at me and then burst out laughing. I had forgotten that in England pants are called trousers and I had just inadvertently told everyone that I wasn’t wearing underwear.

So, I have prepared a rough translation tool from Canadian to English. This list only includes words that actually mean something different in each country.

  1. apartment (CA) = flat (EN), (An apartment would be used to describe a condo)
  2. bill (CA) (paper money) = note (EN) (The other meanings for bill are the same)
  3. biscuit (CA) = scone (EN)
  4. bun (CA) = roll (EN)
  5. bus (as in voyageur) (CA) = coach (EN)
  6. chips (CA) = crisps (EN)
  7. cookie (CA) = biscuit (EN)
  8. drunk (CA) (super drunk as in hammered) = pissed (EN)
  9. eraser (CA) = rubber (EN) (The use of rubber to mean condom doesn’t exist.)
  10. fanny (CA) (means ass), kind of cutesy word = (EN) (means vagina) NOT cutesy
  11. football (CA) = American football (EN)
  12. fries (CA) = chips (EN)
  13. jello (CA) = jelly (EN)
  14. jelly (CA) = jam (EN)
  15. jumper (CA) = pinafore dress (EN)
  16. muffin (CA) = bun (EN)
  17. pants (CA) = trousers (EN)
  18. pharmacist (CA) = chemist (EN)
  19. pissed (CA) = angry (EN)
  20. soccer (CA) = football (EN)
  21. sweater (CA) = jumper (EN)
  22. subway (CA) = underground/tube (EN)
  23. tank top (CA) = vest (EN)
  24. underpass (CA) = subway (EN)
  25. underwear (CA) = pants (EN)
  26. vest (CA) = waistcoat (EN)

Pronunciation guide

  • Leicester = Lester
  • Gloucester = Gloster
  • Leinster = Lenster
  • Clerkenwell = Clarkenwell
  • Shire = sure
  • Ham =’am (eg. Tottenham) = (Tottenam)
  • Featherstonehaw = Fanshaw

Other Oddities

In Canada, the first floor and the ground floor are the same thing, so floors go G,2,3,4,5, or 1,2,3,4,5. In England, the first floor is one floor up from the ground floor, so floors go G,1,2,3,4 or 0,1,2,3,4.

If you want to order a coffee with milk or cream in it, make sure to order a flat white coffee, otherwise it will be black. Also water comes in flat or fizzy.

In Canada, I would never, ever say the c-word, but in England it gets tossed around all the time. Also remember that fag in the UK means a cigarette.

A last note

I found it was best to always ask for the toilet when I was in London. While they might understand you if you say bathroom, you’ll get a confused look if you ask for the washroom or worse, the restroom. I felt weird saying loo or lav, especially because they are typically used in different settings. Loo is considered lower class, while lav is considered upper class. Using the wrong word in the wrong place might either make you look uneducated or a snob…. toilet is safest.


4 thoughts on “We’re supposed to speak the same language”

  1. This is actually really interesting and I loved your little anecdote :)

    I can’t believe a fag means a cigarette. “Can you light my fag?”…weird. And if they call bills, notes, what do they call notes?

    I think I’d have a hard time adjusting to the English language. I would definitely confuse a lot of people by the way I talk. The people there would think that I’m drunk pretty often.

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