Archive | Global Words

American vs. British English

With all of its interlingual influences, English has always been full of diversity. But once English split into two major bodies–American and British–it made things even more challenging to keep track of. So below are sets of everyday words to help you sort through the mess. Keep in mind that some words may crossover in regions of the other country.

American

British

Everyday Words

apartment flat
argument row
baby carriage pram
band-aid plaster
bathroom loo, water closet
can tin
diaper nappy
elevator lift
eraser rubber
flashlight torch
guy bloke, chap
lawyer solicitor, barrister
pacifier dummy
period (punctuation) full stop
pharmacist dispensing chemist
rent hire
sidewalk pavement
soccer football
trash can rubbish bin
zip code postal code

Clothing

pants trousers
underwear pants
sweater jumper, sweater
jumper pinafore
vest waistcoat
undershirt vest
raincoat Mac
suspenders braces
garter belt suspenders, suspender belt
turtle neck Polo neck
coveralls boiler suit
overalls dungarees
fanny pack bum bag
tuxedo dinner jacket
swimming suit swimming costume

Food

a slice of bacon a rasher of bacon
baked potato jacket potato, baked potato
biscuit scone
candy sweets
cookie biscuit
cotton candy candyfloss
cupcake fairy cake
dessert afters, dessert, puddings, sweets
French toast eggy bread
fries chips
green beans French beans, runner beans
popsicle ice lolly
potato chips crisps
sandwich butty, sandwich, sarny
sausage banger, sausage
take out take-away

Automobile Related

license plate number plate
driver’s license driving license
defogger, defroster demister
muffler silencer
overpass flyover
motor home caravan
hood bonnet
highway motorway
gas petrol
fill up top up
windshield windscreen
trunk boot
truck lorry
parking lot car park
median central reservation

Expressions

not touch something with a ten-foot pole not touch something with a bargepole
knock on wood touch wood
see the forest for the trees see the wood for the trees
throw a monkey wrench in the works throw a spanner in the works
skeleton in the closet skeleton in the cupboard
a home away from home a home from home
toot your own horn blow your own trumpet
a new lease on life a new lease of life
if the shoe fits, wear it if the cap fits, wear it
lay of the land lie of the land
off your rocker off your bin or off the bin
fork over fork out
rained out rained off
to go under (failed business venture) to go tits up

Global Words

English is the mother tongue of nearly 400 million people globally. Millions more speak it in other capacities, but of those countries that use it as a first language, you’ll find great diversity. Most words generally fall between British or American English, but in addition to those, each English speaking country has its own vernacular that would leave native speakers from other nations confused.

But never fear! Whether you want to become a fair dinkum offsider in the Outback, try a lekker braai, or drink some skookum homo milk with a Mountie, as true as Bob we’ll have you prepped and ready!

South Africa

South Africa is a rich language environment with a unique blend of cultural influence. With its fusion of colonial English, American media influences, and tribal dialects, the idiosyncratic terms can fill more space than we can allot. Consequently, many exotic slang words used by specific tribes or derived from other nations have been excluded.

All known offensive or derogatory terms have been omitted. Learning South African words will help you better understand the culture while expanding your global vocabulary.

as true as Bob

adverb, idiom, truthfully, honestly. ‘As true as Bob, I’m going to catch that little thief.’

biltong

noun, strips of lean meat, salted and dried; jerky.

boerewors

noun, traditional farmer’s sausage made with minced beef, lamb, or pork. A boerewors roll is boerewors wrapped in a bun and topped with tomato sauce and onions, akin to a hotdog.

braai

noun, barbecue. ‘I bought an indoor braai for roasting boerewors’ or ‘That was a great braai.’

braaivleis

noun, roasted meat. ‘Braaivleis is getting too expensive. I’ll have to flog my braai.’

café, corner café

noun, convenience store, corner store. ‘Stop off at the café on your way and get some cigarettes.’

china

noun, friend. ‘Don’t worry, he’s my china.’ Note: China was derived from Cockney, but its use has since died in England.

cookie

noun, cupcake or tart. ‘With coconut flour, those Hertzog cookies are amazing.’ Note: American cookies are called biscuits.

donga

noun, a dry, eroded channel or ditch. ‘If there’s a war, these dongas will be used for shelter.’

fixed up

adjective, good or agreed.

A: How about a movie this Saturday?
B: Fixed up, doll.

hang

noun, substantial, akin to ‘heck of a’ (usually used in the phrase hang of a)  ‘That’s a hang of a donga.’

How’s it?

interrogative, How’s it going? ‘How’s it, china?’

indaba

noun, a conference between indigenous peoples. ‘The indaba seemed promising, but nothing was settled.’

is it?

interrogative, Is that so? ‘So, you were lying then, is it?’

just now

adverb, sometime soon, shortly, not immediately. ‘Calm down mum, I’ll clean my room just now.’

kef, kif

adjective, slang, cool, great. ‘That was a kif braai.’

lekker

adjective, good, cool. ‘Those cookies were lekker. What did you put in them?’

robot

Noun, traffic light. ‘Stop when the robot’s red.’

skinner

noun, gossip ‘There’s a lot of skinner about the celebrity’s death.’

slap chip

noun, French fry,  ‘I like slap chips with malt vinegar or hot chili sauce’

tackies

noun, shoes for running; sneakers. ‘My new tackies are lekker.’

In addition to these regional terms, South Africa has contributed several words that are used around the world today. These include aardvark, apartheid, Boer, commando, impala, mamba, and trek.

Australia

This is an abridged list of Australian words and how they are used. All known offensive or derogatory terms have been omitted. Learning Australian words will help you better understand the culture while expanding your global vocabulary.

arvo

noun, slang, afternoon. “Drop by this arvo if you’ve got time.’

barbie

noun, barbecue. ‘Throw some prawns on the barbie. I’m hungry!’

barrack

verb, to cheer or jeer a player or opponent. ‘Australians barrack for their athletes passionately.’

billabong

noun, a body of water left behind after a river changes course. ‘While we’re there, we should go fishing in a billabong.’

billy, billycan

noun, a container (esp. a metal can) used for boiling water on a campfire. ‘Considering the luxuries I was afforded in the city, cooking instant noodles in my billycan wasn’t my idea of a good time.’

bowser

noun, a fuel dispenser at a gasoline service station. ‘We were advised to leave our car at the bowser until we had paid for the petrol.’

damper

noun, flat, round bread baked in hot coals of a campfire. It contains no yeast or baking powder, thus it remains comparatively flat. ‘Few things are tastier than hot damper with butter and jam.’

dinkum, fair dinkum

1.  adjective, genuine. ‘With a can of Bundy rum, she’s a dinkum Aussie.’

2.  adverb, truly. ‘I fair dinkum love it’

offsider

noun, an assistant, supporter, or lacky. ‘He worked as a driller offsider for years and earned a handsome living, but it was never his calling.’

outback

noun, rural Australia. ‘Avoid colorful snakes in the outback. It’s home to some of the most lethal snakes on Earth.’

Oz

noun, slang, Australia. ‘Visiting the outback in Oz was an amazing experience.’

rort

noun, a deceitful act. ‘I can’t believe he’s still in office after taking tax payers money. What a rort!’

roo

noun, informal kangaroo. ‘Get away from that roo. He’s more vicious than he looks.’

servo

noun, service station, a gas station. ‘After hours of driving, we were low on petrol and had to stop at the servo.’

sheila

noun, slang, a girl or woman. ‘She’s a pretty little sheila.’

shout

1. verb, to treat someone by paying for the bill. ‘He wouldn’t shout if a shark bit him!’

2.  noun, one’s turn to pay. ‘Put your wallet away. It’s my shout.’

In addition to these regional terms, Australia has contributed several words that are used around the world today. These include boomerang, dingo, kangaroo, koala, kookaburra, and wombat.