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"England and America are two countries separated by a common language."
— Attributed to George Bernard Shaw, the Trope Namer

Differences between the American and British versions of English (abbreviated by scholars as AmE and BrE) have been cropping up since the first British colonists began settling the east coast of North America in the early 17th century. The colonists, faced by a "new world" filled with new things that the mother tongue lacked vocabulary words for, began coining their own. The political upheaval and separation caused by The American Revolution, French influenced British's words, Spanish, indigenous American, and African influences in North America, the fact that most stages of the Industrial Revolution (with all the new technologies it created) happened in the 19th and early twentieth centuries and the fact that the two countries are separated by several thousand miles of water led to further diversion between the two dialects.

Many observers, including some academics, once believed that British and American English would diverge to the point of incomprehensibility; later academics theorized that the influence of television and movies might cause the dialects to become identical. Neither has happened, but the differences in vocabulary and slang between the two dialects remain, with new words and slang expressions cropping up even as others become universal on both sides of the Atlantic.

In some quarters of Britain – and most of the rest of the Anglosphere, in fact – the American dialects are looked upon unfavorably as a decayed version of the language, with American usages derisively called "Americanisms". The first documented observation of the distinction between the two dialects was a sneering comment from 1735 by an English visitor to Savannah, Georgia who referred to the American word "bluff" (meaning a raised riverbank) as "barbarous".

There are, of course, no intrinsic qualities that make any one dialect of a language superior to any other, and in any case, some now remark that rather than taking "pure, British English" and debasing it, American English has in fact preserved many older features of British English that have been lost in many/most/all modern British dialects.

It has, among other things, retained the flat "a" in words like "bath" and "grass" (which has been lost in Southern England but survives in Northern and Midlands England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland), retained the past participle "gotten" (dates back to Middle English at least), retained the figurative use of "I guess" for "think, suppose" (used by Geoffrey Chaucer), rhotic Rs (which survive in Scotland, Northern Ireland and much of South West England but have been lost in the rest of the UK), and some older vocabulary such as "fall" to describe the season that comes after summer (replaced in British English by the newer "autumn"). American English also uses the subjunctive mood (which dates back at least to Indo European) more often; for instance, the BBC sometimes says “demands it is” (though some Brits would consider this incorrect), whereas an American would always say “demands it be”. Perhaps one of the famous examples, the term "Soccer" as opposed to "Football", also originated in Britain.

However, to claim that American English is an older form of British English would be just as false as to claim that modern British English is the ancestor of American English, as American English has also undergone many changes.

Features that survive in most modern British dialects but have been lost in most modern American dialects include the three way distinction between the vowels of "cot", "caught" and "father", many distinctions between vowels preceding the letter "r" (the three-way distinction between words like "marry", "merry" and "Mary"; the distinction between the vowels in "hurry" and "furry", "mirror" and "nearer", "moral" and "oral"), yods (y-sounds before the letter U) in words like "new" and "enthusiasm"note , and spellings like "colour" and "centre" which were altered in American English by Noah Webster's spelling reforms.

The North and Midlands of England, and some parts of Wales, also preserve the traditional pronunciation of words like "cut", "luck" and "fun" with the same vowel as words like "put", "bush" and "full", which had already been lost in Southern England by the time of the colonization of the Americas and consequently does not appear in American English.

In fact, the reality is that both supra-dialects descend from the various dialects of English found in the British Isles of the early 17th century. Think “chimps and humans both have an ape ancestor,” not “humans descend from chimps” or vice versa, to get a sense of what happened.

This phenomenon obviously is not limited to English, but applies to any language that is spoken over wide geographical areas by people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. One language that probably has even more peculiarities of this type is Spanish, which is spoken in Spain as well as the vast reaches of the former Spanish Empire in North and South America. Examples from many different languages are listed below.

For instances where this is used in fiction as a trope, see the trope page, Separated by a Common Language. When this happens to puns, you've got a case of Accent Depundent.

This page is only for explanation on how this occurs; in-universe examples go on the main page.

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NOTE: This trope is a common occurrence in Arabic, what with being spoken in about 20 countries, some of which have multiple dialects, and whose dialects are often mutually unintelligible (much as in German, Chinese, and Italian). In general there are two broad dialect groups in Arabic, Western (Maghrebi in Arabic) and Eastern (Mashriqi in Arabic). The line between them falls somewhere in the big desert that separates Libya and Egypt. Within the Eastern group, there is further variation: there is Nile Valley Arabic (Egyptian and Sudanese), Levantine (Lebanese, Syrian, Jordanian, and Palestinian), Gulf (Saudi Arabia, Oman, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait), Iraqi (also spoken in southwest Iran), and Yemeni. Each country typically has a unique dialect nevertheless mutually intelligible with the others within its group, and there is often some cross-group intelligibility as well: Egyptians – particularly those from Cairo and northward – can typically understand western Levantine (everything but the far eastern reaches of Syria, eastern Jordan being a desert wasteland), while eastern Syrians can understand at least some Iraqis, and many Iraqis can understand Kuwaiti and northeastern Saudi. Some examples:
  • The Modern Standard Arabic term for a woman is imra'ā or mar'ā, plural nisā' (don't ask why). This becomes mara and niswān in dialect. However, while these are perfectly acceptable in some countries (like Lebanon), niswān is highly derogatory in Egypt, and mara is downright offensive. (It's rather analogous to the non-anatomical usage of "cunt" in British and American English, except that in Lebanon it's not even remotely offensive).note 
  • The word نسونجى, usually transliterated as niswanji/niswangi, "womanizer":note  In Lebanon it means, roughly, a player or The Casanova: a guy who's good with the ladies, and is vaguely positive, or at least cool. In Egypt, it has historically meant a habitual customer of prostitutes, or at least a guy who consorts with other kinds of low women, and is vaguely negative, although Lebanese influence has toned town the negative connotations somewhat.
  • In Moroccan Arabic, the word `ayyaṭ means "to call" someone (on the phone) or "to call on" someone (at a place). In Egypt and several other Eastern Arabic dialects, it means "to cry."
  • The word ḥūt specifically means "whale" in Standard and Eastern Arabic. In Western Arabic, it can refer to most fish. Imagine a Saudi Arab's surprise at being offered a tagine of ḥūt in Tangier...

    Chinese, Japanese, and Korean (if related) 
  • In Japan and Taiwan, what is referred to as "pudding" (プリン/布丁) is closer in composition to flan as the Japanese first came into contact with the dessert via the Portuguese, who called it "pudim".
  • In China, 搞 (gǎo) means "to do". In Hong Kong, it can mean "fuck". (Hey, just like American English!)
    • In other varieties 幹 (another synonym for "do") is avoided because of the secondary rude meaning.
  • The Cantonese word for "fuck", 屌, is borrowed by Mandarin in Taiwan and China to mean "awesome"; literally speaking the word is a crude way to refer to male genitalia.
  • This can happen with Chinese characters across different languages, as well. In Japanese, 手紙 (tegami) means "letter" (as in, one sent in the mail). In Chinese, 手紙 (shǒuzhǐ) is "toilet paper". The compound noun here is literally "hand-paper".
    • Another example is the phrase 大丈夫. In Japanese (daijoubu), it's what you say when you ask if someone's alright or injured. In Chinese (dàzhàngfū), it's an expression meaning "a real man," as in 男人大丈夫,做得出就不怕認 (A real man isn't afraid to take responsibility for his actions).
  • This happens in all of China's spoken varieties, including even the official one of Mandarin (Putonghua); for example, in mainland China 土豆 (tǔdòu) means "potato(es)", but in Taiwan the same phrase is used to mean "peanut(s)".
  • Another example is between Taiwanese/Fujian Hokkien and Hong Kong Cantonese. In Cantonese, chai yan means police. In Hokkien, it means jelly. Cue Fujian viewers watching the original Jackie Chan Police Story dubs questioning themselves why did Jackie Chan just call himself a jelly?. Also, in Hainanese, chia pui means to eat rice. Unfortunately, in Hokkien, it means to eat fat.
  • 班房 means "classroom" in Cantonese and "prison cell" in Mandarin. Given the education system in Hong Kong, we're not so sure it was unintentional.
  • While not codified, what sounds like "Missy" in Hong Kong English is used to refer to a female teacher. It's likely a corruption of "Ms" as Cantonese normally does not have sounds that end with "s".
  • Macau and Hong Kong both speak Cantonese but with some terms having different meanings. 飲咖啡 (literally "drink coffee") can mean "afternoon tea" in Macau, and can be a euphemism for "being investigated by the ICAC" in Hong Kong. 黑的 ("black cab") is a legal taxi in Macau, but an illegal taxi in Hong Kong.
    • There are also differences between Hong Kong and Malaysian Cantonese. For example, in terms of restaurant culture, 滾水 refers to "boiling water" in Hong Kong, but in Malaysia, it refers to "warm water".
  • Mandarin Chinese: When China and Taiwan were establishing relations in the 1980s, Taiwanese found the language in China to be very ornate and old-fashioned, while Chinese people thought Taiwanese Chinese was slangy, low-class and thuggish.
  • Using 小姐 (xiǎo jiě) when addressing a young woman will have very different connotations depending on whether you're in Taiwan or on the Mainland. In Taiwan, it's the proper way to address a young lady you don't know on the street like the shopkeeper of a store you're buying stuff from; on the Mainland, the term is reserved for prostitutes. In Hong Kong, it can mean either, or often a sarcastic version of the former.
  • Another similar minefield is 姑娘, which by default means a young lady in Mandarin, but can also refer to servants, prostitutes, or even sister-in-law depending on variety and/or time period. In Cantonese, it is usually used to refer to a variety of female workers, most commonly nurses.
  • A strange case for the word "Celtic", particularly in the Boston Celtics basketball team. In Taiwan, it is 塞爾提克; loosely based on the American English pronunciation. In mainland China, it is 凯尔特人, based on the original Celtic pronunciation (with a hard C). In Hong Kong, it is 塞爾特人 which is somehow in between (with a "Ch-" sound in Cantonese).
  • Japanese regional dialects can cause a lot of confusion. For example, "horu" in standard Japanese means "to dig". In Kansai and some other parts of Japan, it means "to throw away rubbish".
  • "Baka" is a much stronger insult in the Kansai dialect than it is elsewhere in Japan, where it can be used in a playful manner ("you're so silly!"). It pretty much always means "stupid" or "dumb" matter of fact, and definitely not meant to be used if you want to be friendly. Instead, people from Kansai will use "ahou", which does have the same playful connotation.
  • Korean has split into several distinct forms due to geopolitical isolation.
    • South Koreans will have a hard time understanding North Koreans because of decades of limited communication between their countries. Many South Koreans find the North Korean accent to be bizarre and nigh-incomprehensible. North Korean, in general, is regarded as archaicnote  by South Koreans because it's developed with little foreign influence— further reinforced by their main exposure to North Korean being from intentaionlly dramatic propoganda broadcasts. A good comparison is to the modern American English dialect with Flowery Elizabethan English. In fact, all the text translated from the North Korean dialect into English is usually translated in this way by both English-speaking news agencies and the North Korean government itself when they decide to translate their speeches into English.
    • The two countries have subtle differences in spelling, which can lead to confusion and mis-pronunciation when reading text. Also, North Korea refuses to use foreign loan words so it has to come up with workarounds while South Koreans simply Koreanize the spelling and pronunciation of foreign words that have no local equivalent. For example, there's the case of the Korean spelling of Egypt's capital, Cairo: In the North Korean dialect, it's spelled with the Arabic spelling al-Qāhirah or its equivalent in the Korean spelling (까히라, kkahila). On the the other hand, in the South Korean dialect, the same city is spelled using the English name (Cairo) as proxy (카이로, kailo).
    • Within South Korea, there are numerous regional accents and dialects that can be mutually incomprehensible, especially when colloquialisms get involvednote . This gets especially pronounced in southern dialects which retain some of the tonality of Middle and Old Korean, so meanings can shift depending on how certain syllables are stressed. Jeju Island, meanwhile, has its own regionalisms that people on the mainland are unfamiliar with.
    • There is also a distinct Korean dialect spoken by ethnic Koreans living in Northeast China. Due to their own relative isolation from other Korean speakers, they have their own accent and utilize many Chinese words so people from South Korea and North Korea both have trouble understanding them.

  • In European French, gosses and crosse mean "kids" and "stick" (as in "hockey stick") respectively. In Canadian French, they are also euphemisms for "testicles" and "masturbation". So when a Frenchman who's just moved to Quebec and wants to demonstrate his interest in the culture of his new country tells his new Canadian friends that he can't wait to handle the stick with his kids...
  • One cultural difference between France and Canada is the definition of turlutte. For the North Americans, it’s a folkloric dance. For the Europeans, it's a euphemism for fellatio.
  • French-Canadian seem prone to funny Anglicisms too : when a Québécois says "Je suis chaude" (literally from English "I'm hot", in the "too warm" meaning of the word), a French will understand "I'm horny" (they would use "J'ai chaud"). Confusion (and expectation) particularly arises when you take off some clothes since you're "hot". It gets funnier: The most common Québécois meaning of the phrase "Je suis chaud/chaude" (adjectives are gendered in French) is "I'm drunk".
  • According to most French speakers, "chauffer" means "to heat" as in over a fire (or "flirt" or "hit on"). In Quebec, it's a loanword from English, derived from "chauffeur" and means "to drive". Along a similar line, "char" in France means "tank" or "chariot", but in Quebec it means "car". So, if you're going to "chauffer mon char"...
  • There's also the minor problem of "sacre", the Quebecois system of swearing. Europe isn't nearly as strict about religion as Quebec was when the swears were established, so they don't translate. This leads to French speakers in Europe adopting them without understanding their severity. But saying "tabarnak" in Quebec is considered worse than any English or European French swear word (an American equivalent would be at somewhat over the "Jesus motherfucking Christ" level of profanity). In France, it's more of a Goshdang It To Heck replacement for France's swear words, which are related to sex, not religion. So when a Quebecois travels to Paris... That's something of a two-way street, with the Québécois thinking nothing of using French swears. Perhaps fortunately (for this trope anyway), Québécois tend to prefer using American swearwords for mild ones.
  • Occasionally pops up in French / Belgian conversations, such as a Belgian asking for a towel and getting scented wipes instead ("essuie" for Belgians, "serviette" for the French).
  • In Standard French, and most French dialects, numbering gets a bit strange between 70 and 100; instead of having unique base forms for "seventy," "eighty," and "ninety," French uses "soixante-dix" ("sixty-ten") for 70, "quatre-vingts" ("four twenties") for 80, and "quatre-vingt-dix" ("four-twenty-ten") for 90 (with the somewhat confusing French teens coming into play for the 70s and 90s: for instance, 75 is "soixante-quinze"—"sixty-fifteen"—92 is "quatre-vingt-douze"—"four-twenty-twelve"—and 99 is quatre-vingt-dix-neuf—practically "four-twenty-nineteen", but even more literally "four-twenty-ten-nine"). In some French dialects, particularly the ones spoken in Belgium and Switzerland, people have been known to use "septante", "huitante" (Switzerland only, in Belgium they instead use "quatre-vingts" as in France), and "nonante" respectively.
  • In Metropolitan French, breakfast translated as petit déjeuner, while lunch and dinner are known as "déjeuner" and "dîner" respectively. In Switzerland, Belgium and Québec, breakfast becomes simply as "déjeuner", while the words for lunch becomes "dîner" and dinner as "souper" (supper).
  • The term "dépanneur", mentioned above in the bit about English terms for places to buy alcoholic beverages (being what even an English-speaking Quebecker will call where he/she goes to buy beer), also causes problems in French: in Quebec French, it means "corner store/convenience store," but in France it means "repairman", "tow truck driver" or "troubleshooter."
  • In Quebec, "suçon" means a lollipop. In France, it means a hickey. Lollipops are referred to in France as "sucette".
  • "Savane" is universally understood in all French dialects to mean "savannah". However, not only Quebec uses the word as such, "savane" has also become synonymous to "swamp". In other cases, the word "marais" would be used.
  • There are also some differences between French as spoken in the north and the south of France. For instance, a "sac" (bag) in northern France is a "poche" in southern France, which for a northerner means "pocket".
  • One difference that has reached an almost memetic status among French speakers is the name given to this pastry: pain au chocolat (mostly in northern France) or chocolatine (southern France and non-Metropolitan French). Expect plenty of jokes on the topic that one of them is the "correct" name of the pastry, the other being a nonsensical word or designing something else entirely.
  • There is also the word blocus. In addition to its military sense (blockade), there is a different meaning in the school field in France and Belgium. In France, it is when students block high school or university ,(they block entrances, preventing students and teachers from entering) during social movements. In Belgium, it is a period without courses in higher education and university education that allows students to prepare for their exams.
  • A commercial quote in France will be referred to as a "devis", regardless of the subject of the quote. Quebecers will use "devis" only for medical quotes, using "soumission" (submission) used for everything else.
  • In France, a "circulaire" is an information bulletin or letter, usually law-related. In Quebec, it's ads and coupons sent by paper mail.

  • There are 53 officially recognized German variations. While some are related and thus understandable among each other, others are so vastly different that German shows subtitle them for the rest of the country. Bavarian dialects are often major offenders for this, to the point where even Bavarian channels sometimes use them as well.
  • There is a line somewhere between the South and North of Germany that marks the separation between Bavarian/Alpine and Central German dialectsnote . Which is not to say that the various countries and regions south of the line are not also Separated by a Common Language. For example, the phrase "Half ten" can shift in meaning by a full hour over a distance of a few hundred kilometers. In most of the world, this means 10:30 (half past ten), but in German, it means 9:30; as in "half to ten". People from North America use a different set of phrases for giving the time without reading the whole thing out; half past ten means the same thing as half ten in British English, quarter past ten means 10:15, and quarter till eleven means 10:45.
  • Generally speaking, due to the fact that Germany was politically and culturally fragmented for a very long time (with cultural unification only somewhat beginning to happen a few centuries back, and political unification even later), being more a set of somewhat related tribes than a nation, the differences in dialects are much more severe than in many other (European) languages. While the examples below reflect differences in vocabulary and idioms between Northern and Southern variants of Standard German, for the actual dialects (which are still widely spoken) it's less a matter of "false friends" or different idioms and more of a matter of hardly being able to understand anything, because it sounds almost like an entirely different language. See here for further details.
  • In Germany, "Stuhl" means "chair", and "Sessel" means "comfy chair". In Austria, it's the other way round.
  • Most Swiss are aware their dialect is just a standardized orthography and a serious literary tradition away from being a separate west Germanic language (like Dutch) and thus try to speak "standard German" when conversing with Germans. However, there are some subtleties not everyone is aware of, like "Peperoni" meaning (fruity) bell peppers in Switzerland and (hot) chili peppers in Germany. "You are going to put what into the salad?"
  • "Finken" is a form of the German word for "finch" and in Swiss German means a sort of shoes you wear inside the house.
  • The word "Fotze" can mean "bitchslap" in Bavaria or Austria, while in Germany as a whole, it is mostly a vulgar term for vagina.
  • In most of the German-speaking world, anmachen, "turn on", has a similar slang meaning as in English, though it can also be used to mean "hit on" or "chat up". In Berlin, it means to piss someone off. However, the latter meaning did ultimately expand beyond Berlin in youth slang and so-called "ghetto language", although in common, non-subcultural slang it still primarily means "to turn on".
  • There was a case of a Bavarian teacher who got to teach in a more Central German school. He was accused of insulting a female pupil whom he, precisely, called "Luder". In Bavaria, this is a common and pretty harmless term meaning "naughty girl". In other parts of Germany, it means "bitch".
  • Names for food differ greatly between Germany and Austria, often depending on which language or dialect they were loaned from. Germans would call an eggplant Aubergine (French), but Austrians use Melanzani (Italian). Carrots are Karotten (Austrian) or Möhren (Northern German), (gelbe) Rüben (Southern Germany). Potatoes are Kartoffeln (standard German), Erdäpfel (Austrian) or Grundbirn (southern Austria). And that's not even getting into the multiple terms used in local dialects - in some places the term for "potato" changes thrice in less than ten kilometers of distance.
  • There's the Berliner, which is a complicated matter requiring its own point. It is of course a person from Berlin, but it's also a donut in some Northern German areas. However, it notably is ''not'' called that in Berlin, where it is called a Pfannkuchen (which is one of several reasons why John F. Kennedy did not call himself a jelly doughnut in his famous 1963 speech). A Pfannkuchen, again, is what the rest of Germany calls a pancake. And in Austria, donuts are Krapfen and pancakes are Palatschinken. Confused yet?
  • "Das geht sich aus" is pretty standard in Austria for "that works" or "that is sufficient/ enough" in the rest of the German speaking world its a nonsensical phrase reminiscent of "that ends" or "that's turned of".
  • And to acknowledge the elephant in the room, there are indeed some differences in the types of spoken German between West Germany and East Germany, though they tend to be few and far between. The most example is the word for roasted chicken. While Wessis call it Hähnchen, Ossis call them Broiler; supposedly after American broiler chicken breed Warsaw Pact countries bought en masse after they failed to create a chicken breed that produce much meat.

  • A Bilingual Bonus in TV sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond is that it illustrates how Italian as spoken in North America is classed, by linguists, as a distinctly separate dialect of the language, with its own peculiarities, mostly due to being derived from the dialects of the southern regions most Italian immigrants came from: different pronunciation, new vocabulary items, and especially different words for foodstuffs and dishes. People more familiar with European-Italian culinary terms are often baffled by seeing Marie prepare familiar dishes with completely unfamiliar names. Braciole, for instance, is better known as Involtini in Europe. While the series avoids use of Gratuitous Italian, in episodes where it would be odd for a lively Italian-American family not to use the language, differences are marked. Native Italians speak the name "Barone" with three syllables and emphasis on the final "e"; the Barone family of New York pronounce their name with only two.

  • There are so, so many in Indonesian and Standard Malay. Both derive from the same language, but due to differences in vocabulary (and sometimes grammar), they are usually regarded by locals as separate languages. In Malaysia, "Indonesian Malay" and Standard Malay are considered more-or-less the same language, but in Indonesia, oh boy, it's not the same case here. Indonesians would kindly tell you that the Indonesian variety of Malay that they speak is a separate language, called "bahasa Indonesia", or the "Indonesian language"; and it serves as a unifying language for all Indonesians, since most Indonesians don't speak Malay as a first language. And as far as they are aware of, the "Indonesian Malay" language only means the local Malay language used in Sumatra.

    In general, casual Malaysian and co. speech sounds like a Malay equivalent of Flowery Elizabethan English (or at the very least, Antiquated Linguistics) to Indonesians. Many of Malaysian vocabulary "quirks" do in fact exist in literary Indonesian, but they had gone obsolete or rendered archaic with the introduction of other words (Indonesians usually learn them from decades-old novels, like Sitti Nurbaya).

    It gets even worse when you take the difference in loanwords into account. Malaysians has a tendency to shove Arabic loanwords in formal speech and texts, albeit much less in casual speech. Not so much in Indonesia, they tend to use Dutch loanwords, calques and local coinages instead; in spite of Dutch never being an official language in Indonesia, the Indonesian language borrowed many a word from Dutch, and as a result speakers from both countries may be confused by the difference in vocabulary, especially when asking the locals where the post office is (Malay: "pejabat pos", Indonesian: "kantor pos"), trying to rent a bicycle (Malay: "basikal", Indonesian: "sepeda"), or buying a ticket (Malay: "tiket", Indonesian: "karcis").

    With all of this, it's no wonder why both sides trying to understand each other's language is just not worth it. This is why Indonesian shows aired on Malaysian television have available Malay subtitles and vice versa.
  • A frequently cited example is "awak", which Malaysians readily understand as "you" matter-of-fact. In Indonesia, people won't catch it as quickly, unless you're specifying it, and even then they would give you funny looks for using it in the first place. Instead, it would bring to mind either "deck crew," "body," or a first-person singular pronoun. The usual term for "you" in Indonesian is "kamu" and "Anda"note  which Malaysians also understand matter-of-fact and without any problem.
  • As stated above, Malaysians pepper a lot more Arabic loanwords in their speech, due to the country's more conservative slant. Some examples are (Malaysian vs Indonesian, respectively): "askar" vs "tentara" (soldier), "kaedah" vs "metode" (method), and "sifar" vs "nol" (zero), but the most recognizable one is "Ahad", which is still the casual Malaysian word for "Sunday". In Indonesia, the term is associated with Quranic schools and Muslim conservatives (others use the Portuguese-derived "Minggu". This may lead to further confusion as Malay too has “Minggu” as a loanword, but it refers to the week as a whole).
  • Malay also has Portuguese and English loanwords due to its previous status as part of the British empire, and prior to that, a trading post of the Kingdom of Portugal. For example, the Malay word for firefighters is loaned from Portuguese (Bomba), which is gibberish in Indonesian (properly pemadam kebakaran).
  • Malaysian cooking show hosts may ask their viewers to "menggauli", or mix a certain concoction. An Indonesian listening in may wonder why and how they'd rape a concoction.
  • In Indonesian, "buntut" is perfectly normal word meaning "tail", but in Malay it means "butt". Malay uses "ekor" instead. (which is a synonym of "tail" in Indonesian)
  • In Malaysia, the national census is known as "Banci Penduduk". An Indonesian, who would interpret it word-to-word as "Gay Population," would have presumed that transvestites are banned there. The Indonesian word for "census" is "sensus".
  • Eraser in Malaysia is called both "getah pemadam" and "penghapus". Only "penghapus" is acceptable in Indonesian; "getah pemadam" sounds rather gibberish (they would translate it literally as "extinguishing (pemadam) sap (getah)").
  • The word "budak" (Indonesian for "slave") can mean "child" according to some regional Indonesian languages, and definitely means "child" in Malay. Those only familiar with the Indonesian language may be surprised at how common and often the word is used in everyday conversations. ("Hey, your slave is misbehaving again. Try to discipline him, will you?" or "My slave is so lazy, he refuses to do his chores!" or even "This is Rudi, my slave. He's grown a lot since you last met him!")
  • The Malay word for "free" (of charge) is "percuma," which means "worthless" in Indonesian. The Indonesian word for "free" (of charge) is "cuma-cuma" (which can sometimes mean "worthless") and the Dutch-derived "gratis".
  • The word for "can" in Standard Malay is "boleh", as in "Malaysia Boleh!" (Malaysia can do it!) It also means "may", e.g. "you may leave the classroom". Unfortunately, Indonesians only use the latter meaning and disregard the former as outdated, so the word for "can" in Indonesia is "bisa", which is actually familiar to Iofi fans: "OBISA!"

    Nordic Languages 
  • The Nordic languages Swedish, Norwegian and Danish are close enough that native speakers of one language will understand the other two. Basically it's three dialects that happen to be separated by political borders, and use slightly different spelling conventions. This, of course, means that the occasional differences in vocabulary (particularly where the same words have different meanings) can lead to much hilarity. One frequent source of puns and misunderstandings is the word "rolig", which means "calm" in Danish,note  but "funny, amusing" in Swedish.
  • There's "rar", which is the Swedish and Danish word for "cute, sweet", but means "strange, weird" in Norwegian. "You're the strangest girl I've ever met." (In Swedish "rar" can also mean "rare". However, it's almost never used that way.)
  • The word "yr", which in Swedish means "dizzy", but in Norwegian can mean "frisky" (although used, in that sense, about as rarely as the word frisky in English) or "light drizzle". However, the Norwegian word "ør" (pronounced as American "her" without the h) has approximately the same meaning as Swedish "yr", so that confusion will often be avoided.
  • A notable example is the Swedish word "grina". If someone from Stockholm says to someone who lives in Scania: "Jag grinade när min katt dog", they mean "I cried when my cat died", but the Scanian would probably think they're talking to some kind of demented animal abuser since the word means "laugh" or "smile" in the Scanian dialect.
    • The exact same problem comes with the Norwegian "grine", which also means "crying", but in Danish "grine" is "laughing". ("Da bilen kjørte over katten min begynte jeg å grina!", "When the car ran over my cat, I started crying [in Norwegian]/laughing [in Danish]!")
  • Not even the two written forms of Norwegian, Bokmål and Nynorsk, are immune to this. In Bokmål, the pronouns "han" (he/him), "ham" (him), "hun" (she) and "henne" (her) are reserved for persons. In Nynorsk, "han" (masculine), "ho" (feminine) and "henne" (feminine object) can be used about anything as long as the grammatical gender is right. Have fun writing Nynorsk sentences like "Bob found Alice's cake (feminine) and ate 'her'".
    • The slight unfamiliarity of Bokmål users towards can be exploited to humorous effect. For example this phrase: "Meir enn halvparten av arbeidarane ved Lommedalen sagbruk og høvleri vart i går sagd opp på grunn av usemje med bedriftsleiinga. Bedriftsleiinga har truga å sage opp fleire av arbeidarane neste veke." It sounds like: "More than half of workers at Lommedalen sawmill were sacked (sagd opp) yesterday because of a disagreement with the management. The managment is threatening to sack (seia opp) more of the workers next week." However it actually says: "More than half of workers at Lommedalen sawmill were sawed up (sagd opp) yesterday because of a disagreement with the management. The management is threatening to saw up (sage opp) more of the workers next week.
  • A couple of Danish examples that are generational rather than geographical, but nonetheless tends to confuse people a lot:
    • If you are 50+ years, "gå i byen" ("going to town") means going out in general — visiting friends/family, going to the movie theater/restaurant etc. while to younger people, it means hitting the town, i.e. going to the bars/clubs to drink, dance and have fun.
    • If you are 50+ years, "komme sammen" ("coming together") means being friends with someone, while to younger people, it means dating someone.
  • "He went away" (han gick/gik/gikk bort) is a Swedish, Danish, and old Norwegian euphemism for "He died". This leads to confusion with modern Norwegians, as illustrated here.

    Portuguese and Galician 
Here we include the Eonavian or "Galician-Asturian" and Fala or Xalimego languages, if any diferences exist.

Portuguese in Portugal (and other Portuguese-speaking territories)note  and Brazil, as well as Galician, is similar, but many words mean different things overseas:
  • "Banheiros": in Brazil, bathrooms/restrooms; in Portugal, lifeguards.note  Galician-speakers use the word "socorrista", which in both European and Brazilian Portuguese means the more general "rescuer"; "rescuer" is said "rescatador" in Galician.
  • "Durex": in Brazil, Mexico and Australia, duct tape; in the rest of the world, a brand of condom common in North America, the UK, and Europe.
  • "Puto": in Portugal, kid; in Brazil, masculine of "whore".note 
  • Similarly, "Rapariga" in Portugal and other Portuguese-speaking countries means girl, young woman; in Brazil, it means "whore".note 
    • Galicia uses "rapaz"/"rapaza" instead of "rapaz"/"rapariga".
  • Even more similarly, "Polaco/a" in Portugal, other Portuguese-speaking countries and Galicia means a Polish man/woman; in Brazil it means "whore" (of either sex).note  The Brazilian term for "Polish man/woman" is "Polonês/a".
    • Even in Brazil, the usage of the word varies. In places that got expressive Polish immigration, the word "polaco/a" is used to refer to people with Central European heritage (no matter if Polish) and/or blonde. In those the diminutive "polaquinho/a" gets the pejorative connotation instead.
  • If you say "Vou tomar uma pica no cu." in Portugal, you're about to go get a shot for, say, flu, on your buttocks. In Brazil, not only are you telling people that you're gay, but you're also announcing that you're about to be sodomized. And being quite vulgar about how you say it, in fact.
  • "Camisinha" litterally means "little shirt", but in Brazil it's a euphemism for condom. This, by itself, isn't very problematic. The problem is that, in Portuguese, "-inho/-inha", a suffix that indicates smallness, is possible to be used as a kind way to speak. Therefore, in Portugal, "Eu queria esta camisinha" means "I wanted this shirt", while in Brazil, it can mean "I wanted this condom".
  • Computer jargon in Brazil and Portugal is also pretty much mutually exclusive, since Brazil prefers to import words from English or do only mild adaptations, while people in Portugal often calque them.
  • Sometimes you need to think about the etymology of the translated word to be able to understand the other ("Arquivo"/"Ficheiro", both meaning File. Brazilians can only understand "Ficheiro" by thinking about what "Arquivo" meant 50 years agonote ).
    • Galician speakers use "ficheiro" and "arquivo" interchangeably when referring to an individual file, but not to archives.
  • There are also significant differences in grammar, such as the gerund. Portugal (outside Alentejo) and other Portuguese-speaking countries usually use "estar a <<plain verb>>" (with the "estar" appropriately flexed), while Brazil, Alentejo and Galicia use "<<verb>>ando" (or "endo" or "indo").
  • Similar to Spanish below, European Portuguese distinguises between friendly "You" (Tu) and polite/respectful "You" (Você), while Brazilian Portuguese uses Você and Galician uses Ti for both.
  • "Cachorro" means pup in Europan Portuguese and Galician and any dog in Brazilian Portuguese.
  • "Propina" in Portugal means tuition; in Brazil it means bribery.
  • "Gasosa" in Portugal and certain parts of Brazil means any soda; in other parts of Brazil it refers alone to lemonade soda; in Angola it means bribery.
  • In Portuguese "meigo" means kind; in Galician it means magician. "Mago" instead means magician in Portuguese. (Note that both "mago" and "meigo" derive from the Latin "magicus", that which relates to magic, and the meaning of "meigo" only came to be unrelated to magic in Portuguese after the Middle Ages.)
  • Until about the 1980s, Portugal and other Portuguese-speaking territories as well as Galician used to call an elevator "ascensor", while Brazilians called it "elevador", echoing the "elevator"/"lift" separation in English. Nowadays, both sets of countries use "elevador" and the word "ascensor" is considered archaic... except Galician speakers still use the latter.
  • The word for bus: it's "autobús" in Galiciannote , "autocarro" in European Portuguese, "ônibus" in Brazilian Portuguese, "toca-toca" in Cape Verdean Portuguese, "machimbombo" in both Angolan and Mozambican Portuguese, and "microlete" in Timorese Portuguese.
  • Some differences between Northern and Southern Portugal (roughly divided by the river Mondego):
    • An espresso: it's bicanote  in the South and cimbalinonote  in the North;
    • Pressurized beer: it's a fino in the North and an imperialnote  in the South. (In the North the latter is instead used as a synonym for cheap beer, as the Imperial brand was repurposed there for just that.) (In Brazil, it's called chopenote .)
    • The Mall: Used to be drugstorenote  in the Southnote  and shopping center or shopping in the North. Around The '80s the latter set of terms came to be used and, nowadays, the translated term centro comercial or the shorter English one shopping is used.
  • In Galician, the word "grelo" refers to rapini, a green leafy vegetable popular in the region. In Portuguese, it's a slang term for the clitoris. This led to an extremely unfortunate incident in 2015, when a small Galician town advertised its rapini festival on its local website, with an automatic Spanish translation provided by Google Translate. However, since the languages are so similar, Google's algorithm mistook the Galician text for Portuguese, and translated it accordingly. Vulgarity, and legal action, ensued.

  • As this (English-speaker friendly) video hilariously illustrates, Spanish is chock-full of these on account of being spoken in 20 countries in North, Central, and South America, plus a very heterogeneous country in Europe, an African and an Asian country (Equatorial Guinea and the Philippines respectivelynote ), and a significant chunk of the United States. Dialects differ to the extent that Spanish pages have to either focus on a specific target country or use a region-neutral dialect, and movies and TV shows almost always have at least two dubs.
  • More important than any word is the phonetic difference: In most Spaniard dialects (including the Standard Castilian used on national TV), and also in Africa and the Philippines, the letter "s" is pronounced as in English, but "c" before "e" and "i", and "z" are pronounced /θ/ (the same sound as the "th" in "thick"). In the Cordobese, Canarian and all Latin American dialects, however, the /θ/ sound does not exist and all three letters are pronounced /s/. Finally, in southern and western Andalusia, it's the opposite and all three are pronounced /θ/ (some Latin Americans wrongly believe that this is the case elsewhere in Spain).
  • Rioplatense Spanish has a few oddities that separate it from the other dialects:
    • The letters Y and Ll, instead of sounding like an English "I" like they do in most dialects, usually sound like an English "Sh" (a Y will still sound like an I if it is at the end of a word).
    • Instead of using to refer to the person you're talking to, vos will be used, which also changes the accentuated syllable and/or form of the verb (Example: The phrase "Tú haces" would become "Vos hacés").
  • In Spain, the most common form of "You" (in the singular) is , while Usted is used for strangers, superiors, the elderly, i.e. anyone supposed to be treated with respect. In most of Latin America, Usted is the default form, while is only used with family, close friends, and small children, or to insult someone or speak to God (seriously). (Basically the same rules as French vous/tu, really—down to the "better ask" variability when it comes to one's parents-in-law.) In Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, the default form of "You" is Vos, which is what was used in place of Usted elsewhere before the 1600s. Vos sounds extremely archaic to Spanish speakers when not accompanied by a Plate River basin accent... unless it's Central America, where Vos can also be used at home but nowhere else. Confused?
    • Even more confusing, in some countries like Colombia and Costa Rica the usted is used informally, as in the equivalent of or vos, used among friends, relatives and even pets.
  • Another major difference is in the second-person plural. In Spain, there is a distinction between vosotros, which (confusingly) is the plural equivalent of , while ustedes is the plural equivalent of usted. However, Latin American Spanish uses ustedes in the second-person plural in all situations—even if everyone in the group you're addressing would be called individually (e.g. your siblings or closest friends), a Latin American Spanish speaker would call them ustedes collectively. This sounds weirdly formal to many Spaniards. On the other hand, because Spanish verbs have their own conjugation to agree with vosotros, Latin American Spanish speakers find the whole vosotros thing needlessly confusing (especially because ustedes doesn't have its own unique conjugation but shares the forms of the third-person plurals—i.e. "they/them"—ellos and ellas).
  • Caliente means "hot" in Spanish. When said about a person, in many Latin American countries it means that person is good looking, like in English. However, in Spain it means that person is horny, in Venezuela that it is very angry, and in some countries depending of the context can mean either or both of those meanings.
  • Cajeta is Argentinian for "vagina", and Mexican for a caramelized milk confection known in Argentina as "dulce de leche".
    • Cajeta used to mean "box" but this meaning has almost been completely lost today. The diminutive Cajetilla survives in Spain as the word for "matchbox", but in Argentina Cajetilla is slang for an Upper-Class Twit, and in Cuba enseñar la cajetilla is slang for smiling.
  • Concha, whose general meaning is "shell", is slang for "vagina" in Argentina and Uruguay, and a kind of sweet bread in Mexico.
    • Concha is also the diminutive of the name Concepción (and has its own diminutive, Conchita). Because of the slang above, people have stopped naming girls Concepción in Argentina and Uruguay, and it is widely seen as an old lady's name-only.
  • In Spain, Euzkadi would not be understood as anything but the Basque name of the Basque Country, but in Mexico people would think first of a famous brand of car tires, "Euzkadi Radial", which was founded by Germans, ironically enough.
  • The Spaniard phrase por la cara is a literal translation of the British phrase "by the face", which normally means "free" in Spain and the U.K., but in Mexico por la cara would be translated as "receiving something in the face" (normally a punch).
  • Pendejo is Mexican for "moron" and Argentinian for "brat". It can also mean "pubic hair" or "coward". It may also mean "coward" in Central America.
  • Cachondo is Spaniard for "funny" and Mexican for "horny" (although cachondo can also mean "horny" in Spain).
  • Guarro is Spaniard for "dirty" (both in the sense of "unclean" and "pervert"), and Mexican for "bodyguard".
  • The verb coger is probably the most (in)famous example of Separated by a Common Language in Spanish. It means "get" or "pick up" in Spain and a few Latin American countries, but in Mexico and many South American countries, it's an offensive word that means "to fuck." In Costa Rica, at least among younger people, it can mean both. So if you say something completely innocent like voy a coger eso ("I'm going to take/pick that up") some people will look at you weirdly or make fun of you.
    • Spanish singer David Bisbal made a Latin American room burst into laughter when he said that he had been very lucky to be picked up in the first edition of Operación Triunfo (Spanish equivalent of American Idol).
    • This is even worse in the bullfighting world between Spain and Latin America: In Spain, when a bullfighter is caved or gored by a bull, the word cogida (i.e. the noun form of coger) is used. In Mexico and probably other countries, the term cornada is used instead.
  • The word guagua means "bus", "van", or "truck" in the Canary Islands and several dialects influenced by its dialect (Cuba, Puerto Rico, Louisiana). So, coger la guagua means "to take the bus" in Canarian and Puerto Rican Spanish. In Chile, however, "guagua" means "baby." Ahem, it derives from the onomatopoeia of a baby's cry. It is also very close to the babytalk word for dog, "guauguau" ("guau" is the Spanish rendering of "woof").
  • More innocently, the "standard" word for bus is "autobús" across the hispanophone world, and "camión" is the word for truck/lorry. However, in Mexico, "camión" means "bus"; Mexicans call the other things "trocas" (from American English "truck") instead.
  • Tajo means "cut, opening" in Spain and "cunt" in Argentina. Guess how Argentinian tourists took a sign that forbid "to take vegetables through the cut [in the fence]" in a Spanish farm.
  • Computer-based terminology can be a royal pain to translate depending on which Spanish-speaking country you're talking about:
    • In Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Peru, Puerto Rico, Argentina and Uruguay the word "computer" is translated as computadora but in the rest of Latin America it's translated as computador and in Spain as ordenador, in this case it could possibly be a way to avoid a version of the Scunthorpe Problem, as the Spanish word puta (whore) is in the words computador and computadora. The same problem occurred in French. The word "computer" sounds like con putain, meaning "cunt-whore", so the word ordinateur" was proposed instead.note . This is quite problematic in some places like The Other Wiki, when any of the three words can be used in any of the articles, depending of the dialect used by the editor.
    • In programming, the English word "array" (a series of data elements in a certain order) doesn't really have a translation in Spain: many people use the English term, while some try to shoehorn the word "vector" if the context allows for it.note  In Mexico and maybe the rest of Latin America, the word used to translate it is arreglo, usually meaning a fix for something broken, or a musical arrangement.
    • The "OK/Cancel" orders in both computing and videogaming are very different between Latin America and Spain: In the former, both words are translated literally (OK/Cancelar), but, for many reasons related with the historical grudges Spain still had with the English-speaking world, Spaniards will never use the word "OK" in professional backgrounds, through they will do so in informal speech, and they will prefer to use "Aceptar/Cancelar" instead for the same thing.
  • The Mitsubishi Pajero is a car named for the Pampas cat (from paja meaning hay). But it had to be renamed for certain markets because "pajero" also means "wanker" in various Spanish dialects. In the US, Canada, and most of Latin America,note  it is the Mitsubishi Montero, and it is the Mitsubishi Shogun in Britain.
  • The Volkswagen Beetle is known as the Escarabajo, which is a literal translation, but is commonly referred to as Fusca in countries with greater Brazilian influence. In Mexico, however, "Fusca" is a slang for a shotgun.
  • Gaming terminology can be a bit confusing between countries:
    • A game in Mexico is translated as juego (both videogaming and sports games), but in Spain, a game in videogaming is a partida, and a partido in sports.
    • When you "press a button" in a joystick or control pad, you say presionar un botón in Mexico and pulsar un botón in Spain. This is one of the simplest ways to know in which dialect a game was translated.
    • An arcade in Mexico is called maquinitas or chispitas, and recreativas in Spain.
    • A video game is a juego de video in Latin America and a videojuego in Spain.
    • The Shoot 'Em Up genre is known as "juegos de disparos" (Shooting games) in Latin America, and "Matamarcianos" (Martian/Alien Busters) in Spain.
  • A video is a video in Latin America (vee-DEH-oh) and a vídeo in Spain (VEE-deh-oh).
  • A pinche in Spain is a kitchen help. In Central America it is The Scrooge. In Chile it is a hair clip and also a type of kitchen's tool. And in Mexico it is a pejorative word akin to "damn" or "bloody" (as in, if your neighbor has a dog that barks at nothing all day, you'll probably yell pinche perro!—"bloody stupid dog!"—at some point).
  • Cars: While equivalents of "vehicle" (vehículo) and "automobile" (automóvil, as well as its short-hand auto) are used on both sides of the pond, the most common, colloquial term akin to the word "car" is carro in Latin America and coche in Spain. In Spain, a carro is a cart, while in Mexico, a coche is a carriage. In the Caribbean, coche is used as the shortened form of cochecito which means baby stroller. In Guatemala, a coche is a pig: Spanish cooperantes have been known to get confused by the number of coches the average poor rural Guatemalan family has.
  • Soy is soya in Latin America and soja in Spain ("j" is pronounced like a hard /kh/ sound in Spanish).
  • Gringo is universally a term for someone whose native language isn't Spanish, usually people from the US. However, it varies extremely in how pejorative it is among countries, from being essentially the inverse of "Spic" to being just a neutral, informal term like "Kiwi" for New Zealanders. Americans tend to be offended by it because in northern Mexico and the United States, where most Americans are likely to encounter Spanish speakers, it is an offensive or condescending term, which causes many, many problems when they encounter Spanish speakers from other countries who use the word with no negative connotations. Problems like the Argentinian not being able to understand why his pal from Houston just broke his nose.
    • That being said, while the word Gringo is known in Spain, it is considered Latin American slang. The Spaniard (and Cuban) slang for US citizens is Yanqui (from "Yankee", as used in Britain for referring derisively to Americans).
  • Even nationalities aren't safe: gallego in Spain is someone from Galicia, while in Argentina it's someone as dumb as a Pole.
    • Because of extensive Galician migration to Latin America in the late 19th and early 20th century, gallego is widely used as a synonym of "Spaniard" all over Latin America (with the exception of Brazil, where its equivalent, galego, is equated with Portuguese people instead), to the exasperation of many a non-Galician Spaniard who makes conversation with a Latin American and does not know better (Scottish and Welsh people who get called "English" will relate).
  • In Latin America, a cholo is a person of mainly native American descent. In Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia the term was appropriated by many natives and mixed people who use it with pride to refer to themselves, but in Chile and Argentina it is a very pejorative term used to insult immigrants of the former countries or people with predominant Aymaran features. In the United States, it is a pejorative term for stereotypical Latin Gangbangers, Cartel types, and other low-class people of Latin American origin and their stereotypical associations (e.g. tattoos, weird variations on Catholicism, and low riders).
  • Mamón is a species of tree in Cuba, Costa Rica, Colombia, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama and Venezuela, but in other Latin American countries it means literally "sucker", usually with sexual connotations. In Chile, however, the mamón is a Momma's Boy (i.e. one who might as well be still sucking his mom's breasts, but no other part of her), and in Spain it's just a low-intensity insult on the range of boob or idiot.
    • Bonus if a Chilean and a Mexican talk to a Filipino and they get confused and/or disgusted as to why the latter loves to eat Mamon. In the Philippines, it's the name of a buttery palm-sized sponge cake.
      • Early 20th century mexican cookbooks included many Mamón recipes, basically a poundcake soaked with a fruit puree.
    • Many loanwords from Spanish are mostly the same in Tagalog, but used in different forms. Chisme is the Spanish verb for "gossip," while "chismoso/chismosa" is the noun for a gossiper. Many Filipinos just use chismosa as the verb and bypass chisme entirely, which can make a sentence sound incoherent to other Spanish speakers.
  • Spaniards only call it rancho if the place they are talking about is in the Americas. If it's in Spain, it's a finca or a cortijo.
  • There are two state lotteries in Chile - the oldest and largest is the Polla Chilena de Beneficencia note . Originally, the word polla meant "betting pool", a meaning that's still in use in most of Spanish-speaking Latin America... but in Spain, it's slang for "penis". Invariably, Spaniards visiting Chile are amused by this particular lottery and some of its advertising: Juegue con la polla y sea feliz. ("Play with the lottery and be happy."), Hágase millonario con la Polla. ("Become a millionaire with the lottery."), etcetera.
  • Cerdo is Spanish for "pig", in all meanings it has in English (except as slang for Police). However, in Spain it is more commonly used for the animal, while in Latin America it is more used as an insult (depending of the country, the animal will go by chancho, coche, etc).
  • In Spain, a shooting is a tiroteo, and to shoot is disparar or tirotear. In Latin America, a shooting is a balacera, and to shoot is balear. In Spain, balear is only something or someone from the Balearic Islands.
  • Cartoons are caricaturas in Latin America and dibujos animados in Spain. In Spain, caricaturas are... well, caricatures.
  • Military terminology is also different between countries, for obvious reasons:
    • The military rank "second lieutenant" is translated as "Sub-teniente" in Mexico, and "Alferez" in Spain, Chile and other Latin American countries.
    • A "squadron" is cognated as "escuadrón" in Mexico, but in Spain, it's translated as "escuadrilla" instead.
  • Since Spanish has grammatical genders, some words had different genders in many countries:
    • The word "Internet" is male in Mexico, but female in Venezuela and other countries. It is genderless in Spain; some people use the masculine form, but it is considered uneducated.
    • The word "Terminal" is female in Mexico, but male in Spain when applied to electronics and female when applied to transportation (e.g. airport terminals, bus stations, etc). The transportation examples are male in Chile, Peru, Colombia, and Venezuela.
    • "Meerkat" is normally translated as "Suricata" (female, regardless the gender of the animal) in Mexico and male (Suricato) anywhere else.
    • Originally, the word fox was translated as "zorra" (female), regardless the gender of the critter. Since the word "zorra" can be also used, just like English, as a euphemism for "whore" in some countries, the word now has separated genders when dealing with the animal itself ("zorro" for males and "zorra" for vixens), and the male noun is preferred as the de facto name for the species.
    • An interesting example also happens when talking about video game consoles: In Latin America, video game consoles are referred to in masculine terms, while in Spain, they are referred to in feminine ones instead. This is because during the 80s and 90s, consoles were referred to as "sistemas" in Latin America exclusively, which is masculine there, while Spain used "consolas" exclusively, which is feminine. Due to language drift and the heavy influence of Spaniard video game magazines in Latin American media, Latin Americans started to refer video game consoles as "consolas" as in Spain, but the masculine terms remains. As an example, the NES is referred to as "el NES" o "el Nintendo" in Latin American, while in Spain, it's "La NES" or "La Nintendo" instead. In both cases, the term "consola" is used on both sides of the world.
  • The name of the language itself is subject of this as well: In most of Latin America, the Spanish language is called "Español", but in Spain and some parts of South America, it's called "Castellano". This is because the Spanish language was born in the Kingdom of Castile (in Spanish, Reino de Castilla) and is named as such as result. Some Spaniards, especially those from non-Spanish speaking provinces like Catalonia or the Basque Country, takes personal offense when the Spanish language is named as "Español", due of their already complex relationship with the rest of Spain. For a better comparison for English-speaking readers, that would be the equivalent for an American to say he speaks "American" language, when talking about his accent.
    • The same goes with Basque as well: In Latin America, the Basque language is named as "Vasco". In Spain, the same language is named as "Euzkera" instead in either Spanish or any other Spaniard languages, and some Spaniards take personal offense if the word "Vasco" is used instead.
  • School-based terminology varies a lot between Latin American countries:
    • Early childhood education (ECE): In Mexico, this kind of level has many different names: Until the 2000s, it was named "Kindergarten" (or "Kinder", for short), which is a German loanword standing for "kid's garden", but officially by the Mexican government, it's actually called CENDI (Spanish acronym meaning Centro de Desarrollo Infantil, translated as Childhood Develpment Center), but almost no one outside the government use that name. The Spanish translation of the word "Jardin de Niños" is also used as well. In Spain, this is normally called as "parvulario", as kids are normally called "parvulos" there.note 
    • Elementary school: In Mexico, it's called "primaria" and in Spain, it's normally called "colegio". Note that, while "colegio" shares the same ethimology as "college" as in English, it means a different kind of education level.
    • Junior High/High School: In Mexico, it's called "secundaria" and "preparatoria" respectively (bachillerato is also used as well), and in Spain, both levels are named "Instituto" (Institute), albeit in the case of JH, the Spaniard equivalent is normally named as "Instituto de Educacion Secundaria", while HS in Spain is also called "bachillerato" as in Mexico. Keep in mind in Mexico an "Instituto" can be also used to describe a school hosting many educational levels in the same place (normally elementary, junior and high school levels) or a different kind of school, like a school of laws, arts, etc.
  • The names of colors in Spanish differ from place to place. Brown can be "cafe", "marrón", or "pardo". Pink can be "rosado" but also the shorter "rosa". Purple is either "violeta", "morado", and "purpura".
  • On the news: "Los sanitarios están desbordados", in Spain it meant that hospital workers were having trouble with too many patients and not enough beds, in Mexico it meant that excessive rain was making water come out of toilets.
  • A Ladybug is a "Mariquita" in Spain and Venezuela, a "Catarina" in Mexico, a "Vaquita de San Antonio" in Argentina and a "Chinita" in Chile.
  • Stop signs read "ALTO"note  in Mexico and Central America, "PARE"note  in South America and the Caribbean,and "STOP" (in English) in Spain.
  • Within Latin America, nobody can agree on the name of the loaf form of unrefined cane sugar (which usually goes by the Indian-derived name "jaggery" when not discussing Latin American cuisine, unless you're like an economist or trade lawyer or something in which case you call it "non-centrifugal cane sugar"). There's at least half a dozen different words for the stuff; of these, the most important are panela (Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador), piloncillo (Mexico), and ra(s)padura (Caribbean and Southern Conenote ), but there's several others with strong regional followings. For a substance that far more linguistically diverse regions that like to use the same ingredient (e.g. Indianote  and Chinanote ) have pretty much one word each.

    Dutch, Flemish and Afrikaans 
  • In Flemish Dutch, "Ik zit vol" ("I'm full") is a way of saying one is pregnant. In Netherlands Dutch, it's a way of saying one has had enough to eat.
  • The phrase "Ik zie u graag" ("I like seeing you.") means "I'm in love with you." in Flanders, but not in the Netherlands. So when a Flemish person says this to a Dutch person, the message will quite probably not get across.
  • Also famous for this is the verb "poepen", which to Dutch people means "to shit", but which for Flemish people means "to have sex". note 
  • In the Netherlands "lopen" means "to walk", but in Flanders, it means "to run". note 
  • The word "tas" means "bag" in the Netherlands. In Flanders, it can mean "cup" as well, which can lead to amusing conversations from a Flemish to a Dutch person about how they accidentally knocked their "tas" off the table and it shattered.
  • Dutch and Afrikaans both have the word "Kont". In Dutch it's fanny as the Americans would say itnote . In Afrikaans... Fanny as the English would say itnote , with the cultural faux pas of the C-word.
  • Then there's the poes thing. Afrikaaner comic Caspar de Vries points out in a routine that in Holland, it's the word you'd use when calling your cat in at night - "hier, poes, poes, poes!" In Afrikaans it also means "pussy". But in the Country Matters sense of the word. Try shouting "Poes!" in the street in South Africa, and watch the reaction.
  • The word bliksem in Dutch apparently only means "lightning" and is cognate with the German blitzen. In South Africa, it could simply mean "lightning".note  But in Afrikaans, the colloquial meaning is somebody who has exhausted your patience and who you might like to see being hit by lightning, or failing that, by a fist. Jou bliksem! is pretty emphatic in South Africa.
  • Afrikaans is well known for the word baie, which is actually from Malay.note  It's a general word for "a lot" that can be translated as "very," "many," "much," or similar. While Afrikaans is generally mutually intelligible with its European relatives, baie does not exist in Dutch or Flemish whatsoever, and most speakers don't know what it means, which can cause comprehension issues given how frequently Afrikaans speakers use it.

    Other languages 
  • The Philippines, being an archipelago, has had several very different languages develop among the certain isolated island clusters. While there are many shared local words and similarly loaned words from former colonizers, quite a lot can mean different things even when spelled and pronounced similarly. For example, the word "langgam" means "ant" in Tagalog while in Visayan it means "bird."
    • Some English words also mean very different things in Philippine English. For example, salvage in the military and police context means "summary execution." Girls should be careful about calling themselves tomboys – that term often means "lesbian" in the Philippines.
    • In Tagalog, puto has two meanings, which depend largely on the intonation: pu-to means male-whore, pu-to means rice cake.
  • Modern Hebrew, despite having almost no actual dialectical variations, does have one prominent example: while metsitsa (מְצִיצָה, lit. ‘sucking’ as in ‘the act of sucking something out of something else’) means ‘lollipop’ in Jerusalem, it means ‘blowjob’ to any Hebrew speaker elsewhere.
  • Avianca Flight 52 was low on fuel after being placed in a holding pattern by New York controllers due to bad weather. The pilots radioed a request for a "priority landing," as the plane was running out of fuel. "Priority" would be understood by Spanish-speaking controllers as a need to land immediately, but English-speaking controllers are used to "emergency landing." The plane crashed, killing 73 people. This trope can be fatal.
  • In Irish, the consonant clusters "cn" and "gn" are usually pronounced the way you'd expect, but in Ulster the "n" becomes an "r". Thus, "cnoc" (hill) becomes "croc" (hang), and "gnáth" (usual) becomes "grá" (love).
  • Differences between Finnish dialects, mainly between the Eastern and Western dialects, usually end up causing lack of understanding at most, but there are some well-known examples:
    • 'Itikka' is a mosquito in the east and a cow in the west.
    • 'Kehdata' is "to bother", "to mind" (as in "I couldn't bother to...", "would you mind...") in the east and "to dare", "to have the nerve" (as in "I can't believe he dared to...") — the latter meaning has its own word 'iljetä' in the east, which in the west is easily misunderstood for something doing with being mean or disgusted depending on the conjugation.
    • 'Käskeä' means "to command" in both east and west, but in west it has a widely used second meaning of "to invite". Cue major misunderstandings when eastern refugees relocated in western dialect areas received "strict orders" to come and eat, to visit, and help with some work.
    • "Pese vedellä" means "to wash with water" in standard Finnish. Some dialects pronounce the 'd' in the middle of a word as an 'r', turning it into "pese verellä", which means "to wash with blood".
  • There are few dialects in Russian, but the one that is most often poked fun at is the St. Petersburg one, which has the most unique vocabulary. Three most well known St. Petersburger words are "porebrik" (sidewalk edging, called "bordyur" in standard Russian), "paradnaya" (stairwell entrance, called "podyezd" in standard Russian) and "shaverma" (doner kebab, called "shaurma" in standard Russian).
  • Words "khleb" and "bulka" refer to bread and bun respectively in standard Russian. In St. Petersburg, they both refer to different types of bread (rye bread and white bread).
  • There are examples of this in the music of the St. Petersburg-based group Otava Yo. One of the songs for which they are best known outside Russia, Сумецкая, refers to Skobari, a term left untranslated in the lyrics becuse the name refers to a people in the wider St. Petersburg and Novgorod regions who do not appear to speak standard Russian. A скоба would appear to be a horseshoe in Pskov Oblast, but a подкова anywhere else in Russia. Quite a few dialect words appear in Otava Yo songs which are variant to standard Russian.
  • Perforated document bag is known as "fail" (English word "file") to European part of Russia, and as "multifora" (likely a case of Brand Name Takeover) to Siberia.
  • Outside Russia things can get complicated, because local Russian uses can borrow heavily from other languages, such as Hebrew, German, Ukrainian, Kazakh, or Belarusian. Try ask someone from Nizhniy Novgorod to get a "kisyushka" a tea bowl.
  • In Polish, the word pantofel refers to a slipper; however, which kind depends. In some regions of the Poland it refers to casual kind that you move around in your house, but in some it's actually a name for more formal kind of footwear, usually with heels (think something like Cinderella).
  • An issue in the early marriage of Arthur, Prince of Wales and Catherine of Aragon, as while the two fell in love when writing to each other in Latin, the two discovered upon their first meeting that they pronounced the language very differently.