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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, and the fact that the two countries are separated by several thousand miles of water led to further diversion between the two dialects.


Some academics once believed that British and American English would diverge to the point of incomprehensibility, and 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, American English is in many ways a more conservative, traditionalist dialect than British English. American English has, among other things, retained the flat "a" in words like "bath", 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 (they stopped being used in standard British English around the American Revolution, but they still survive in most regional dialects), and retained the word "Fall" to describe the season that comes after summer (that being a usage that dates back to the Anglo-Saxons but was replaced in BrE by the Latinate "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”.


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.


Useful Notes:

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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 and Chinese). 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 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, and 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 means "to do". In Hong Kong, it can mean "fuck". (Hey, just like American English!)
    • In other dialects 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 (shouzhi) 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 dialects, including even the official one of Mandarin (Putonghua); for example, in mainland China 土豆 means "potato(es)", but in Taiwan the same phrase is used to mean "peanut(s)".
  • Another example is between the Taiwanese/Fujian Hokkien dialect and Cantonese dialect of Hong Kong. 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 called himself a jelly?. Also, in Hainan dialect, chia pui means to eat rice. Unfortunately, in Hokkien dialect, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 confusions. 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.
  • Someone from South Korea will have a hard time understanding someone from North Korea although both countries ostensibly have the same official language. There are some subtle differences in spelling and 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 the local language doesn't have an equivalent to. Also, due to decades of isolation and little communication between the two countries, many South Koreans find the North Korean accent to be bizarre and nigh-incomprehensible. For a better example of this, 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 itos 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). Furthermore, the North Korean dialect is archaic and stilted compared to the more modern South Korean dialect. 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.


Words used for different things in different places

  • African: In most of the world, anyone of African descent. In the US and Canada, specifically someone who migrated from Sub-Sahara Africa. North America has significant populations of people descended from slaves brought from Africa to the Americas by colonial powers. In the US they're referred to as "African Americans," while Canada lumps together all people of African descent—whether they've been there for generations or migrated from Africa or the Caribbean—as "Black Canadians." But even then, "African" is still only used for recent immigrants. Their children or grandchildren, on the other hand, are likely to identify as African-American/Black Canadian if they're fully socialized within the country. In all situations, though, it refers specifically to black Africans, not Arabs or whites, so many Egyptians are not "Africans" by this definition, nor are white South Africans. Anglophone black Africans have a tendency to refer to "the African continent" if they want to be clear that they're referring to the geographic entity.
  • Asian: In the US, refers most often to East and Southeast Asians (Japan, China, Thailand, the Philippines, etc). In the UK, refers most often to South Asians (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc.) and Middle Easterners (outside North Africa). This occasionally causes confusion. Both Americans and Brits are aware that "Asian" encompasses all of the above, but Americans will specify "Middle Eastern" or "Indian" and Brits will specify "Far Eastern/East Asian" (or perhaps use the more archaic and out-of-touch term "Oriental").
  • Barbecue: As a verb, everyone uses it to mean "to grill". But as a noun, the UK uses it exclusively to mean the process or the appliance, whereas the US could also use it to refer to the meat it produces or the get-together in someone's backyard where the cooking happens. In the Deep South and parts of the Midwest, "barbecue" is distinct from "grilling"; grilling is done on an open flame, while barbecue is done at a lower temperature for several hours (it may or may not include "smoking" as well), leading to a distinct taste that's Serious Business in those parts of the country. In Britain, any form of outdoor cooking is a "barbecue", even grilling; a "grill" in the UK is exclusively an indoor appliance, which in the US is known as a broiler. Australians are also famously adept at barbecuing and might call the device a barbie, as in the famous "shrimp on the barbie" line — except any self-respecting Aussie will tell you that shrimp are too small to be properly barbecued, and you'd better use prawns.
    • As more expat Saffas arrive in Britain, the South African word braai is gaining more currency as an alternative word for "barbecue".
  • Bender: In the US, it's an extended drinking spree. In the UK, it can be an extended drinking spree, but more often it's a derogatory term for a gay man. This is why Avatar: The Last Airbender got the British Market-Based Title Avatar: The Legend of Aang (and the film, just called The Last Airbender, didn't get the name change and was seen as full of Narm in part for that reason). On the other hand, the Futurama character Bender (so named in America because he's a robot who runs on alcohol) got even funnier.
  • Bike: Short for "bicycle", but could mean all sorts of things. In the US, it's just as often used to refer to a motorbike as to a pedal bike; the UK uses it more often to refer to a pedal bike. "Bike" has an additional slang meaning in the UK to mean a young, shameless, promiscuous woman (because everybody rides her, get it?).
  • Biscuit: In the UK, it's a dry cookie that the US would call a cracker or cookie, often served with tea. In the US, a biscuit is a specific kind of savory quickbread with a rich, soft interior and a flaky, slightly crispy exterior, the kind you get at a KFC. Sometimes it is also used in the British sense, but specifically for dogs. A few parts of the US also have their own unique kinds of "biscuits" (e.g. the Southern "beaten biscuit", the New England "sea biscuit", or various places' "pilot biscuit"). In Australia, all of these can be biscuits, although there (and in Britain) "cookie" is seeing increasing use for American-style chocolate chip cookies. In the end, both "biscuit" and "cookie" are loanwords from different languages: "biscuit" from French, and "cookie" from Dutch.
  • Bogan/Bogon: Usually an obscure term for an address in an unassigned or reserved IP space, in Canada it's a racist slur for Arabs (possibly derived from the French slur bougnoul or bougnole, specific to North Africans), and in Australia it's their unique variety of what the UK would call a "chav" or the US would call "white trash". This word is not used in the United States except by devoted Star Wars fans referring to the Dark Side of the Force.
  • Brew: Colloquially, in the US a beer, in the UK a spot of tea.
  • Bum: In the UK, it refers to one's backside. In the US and Canada, it could be a term for the backside, but it's considered a "cute" and "G-rated" variant of "butt" (it could even be used in kids' shows in Canada). More often, though, it's a derogatory term for a homeless person. The verb form to bum is used in most places to mean to borrow (or more accurately to mooch), but when used without an object in Britain, it can also be a slightly immature term for anal sex, usually of the male homosexual variety.
  • Buzzard: In the US a vulture, everywhere else a hawk (genus Buteo). An archaic term everywhere, but given that "buzzards" have their own trope with a distinct Old West vibe, the American definition tends to be more cemented.
  • Chili/Chilli: In the UK, spelled with two L's and refers to the fruit of the capsicum plant, known in the US as a "chili pepper" or just a "pepper". In the US, "chili" by itself usually refers to the dish chili con carne. The Australians use "chilli" to refer to the dried ground fruit of the piper plant, which the Americans call "black pepper". Britain uses "pepper" to refer either to the latter or to what Americans call "bell peppers". The Americans have an advantage on chili in some sense, as it's a loanword from Nahuatl, the language of the Aztec Empire.
  • Chips: In the UK, they're what the US would call "French fries" (or just fries). In the US, they're what the UK would call "crisps". The UK and Ireland also use the term "fries", but specifically to refer to the thin-cut style like you'd get at a fast-food restaurant, as opposed to the thick-cut style you'd get at a fish-and-chip shop; in the US, "fries" refers to both styles. Some American places might call thick-cut fries "steak fries" or "potato wedges", but this has a connotation of being needlessly fancy. The only time the Americans use "crisps" is on Pringles packaging, for legal reasons;note  most Americans call them "chips" in conversation. Confusingly, in Australia and South Africa, both varieties, fries and crisps, are called "chips"; Australia also calls fries "hot chips", and South Africa calls them "slap chips" ("slap" being Afrikaans for "soft, floppy").
  • Cider: In the US, it refers generally to unfiltered and spiced apple juice (as distinct from "apple juice", which is heavily filtered and not spiced). In the UK, it refers specifically to the alcoholic variety, which Americans call "hard cider"; other cider is just "apple juice". (Fun fact: the American distinction comes from Prohibition, which banned "hard cider" and led people with a taste for it to get as close to the "original" as they could get.) Also in Britain, the definition has in recent decades expanded to include fruits other than apples; fermented anything is a cider, except grapes (that's "wine"). As Americans get deeper into craft brewing and picking up on traditional British cidermaking techniques, "cider" specifically meaning alcohol is becoming more widespread in the US, but "apple cider" still generally means all varieties, and more often than not means non-alcoholic.
  • Some clothing items have it particularly embarrassing:
    • Pants: in the US, they're what the UK would call trousers. In the UK, they're what the US would call underwear. This also has the effect of the UK using "pants" as a slang term for "a bit crap" (e.g. "I went to the circus, but it was pants"), which confuses Americans further. Underwear also has some terminology distinctions; for female underwear, what the US would call panties (perhaps derived from the British usage of "pants"), the UK would call knickers, which leaves "pants" mostly used for male underwear.
    • Suspenders: in the US, they're what the UK would call braces. In the UK, they're what the US would call a garter. The UK also uses the term garter, but specifically for the fancy, lacy, frilly, lingerie-style version, so you wouldn't really hear the word in polite society in the UK. Huge difference; under the Stock Costume Traits, one end is hopelessly nerdy, the other quite a bit sexier.
    • Thong: In Australian Slang, it's what Americans would call flip-flops. That is, sandals with a strap between the big and second toes (though "flip-flops" in the US can also refer to "slides," where there's just a simple broad strap across the toe region). In both the UK and US, "thong" refers to a revealing type of underwear that goes between the buttcheeks. Both uses are derived from the original definition of a "thong" being a strap of leather or cloth; the difference lies in what they're holding together. In the UK, the term "thong sandal" might be used for a "fancier" kind of footwear more designed for a night out than a day at the beach (not that it's that common in typical British Weather, at least compared to sunny Australia or California). An Australian sailor once compared sailing around Cape Horn to "climbing Mount Everest in thongs", which makes for an interesting debate as to whether it's dumber to climb a mountain in your underwear or in flip-flops.
    • Vest: In the US, it's what the UK would call a waistcoat, which in the US is a "fancier" word for the same thing. In the UK, it's what the US would call an undershirt, and more specifically for any kind of sleeveless top, so would a tank top (called a singlet in the UK) or a sweater vest (confusingly, called a tank top in the UK — now we're going in circles).
    • Jumper: In the UK, it's what the US would call a sweater. In the US, it's what the UK would call a Pinafore dress (sometimes shortened to just "pinafore"), a sleeveless dress worn over a shirt or another dress (usually associated with little girls but sometimes worn by adult women). In the US, a pinafore is a dress with an apron-like bib above the waist in front and only straps in the back, which is also called a "pinafore" in the UK (and yes, it does lead to confusion).
  • College: Obscenely complicated:
    • In the US, usually used interchangeably with "university". Sometimes a university will be divided into different study programs known as colleges (e.g. "the California University College of Tropeology"), but whole institutions that call themselves "colleges" are functionally identical to those that call themselves "universities". But there are distinctions: For instance, a community college is not considered a university but instead offers two-year associate degrees or technical certifications.note  "College" is usually limited to an undergraduate degree and does not describe post-graduate degree programs; for instance, a law student would not describe themselves as "in college" but rather "in law school". The service academies are also not "colleges"; someone at the Military Academy would say they're "at West Point", or in the Naval Academy would say they're "at Annapolis".
    • In the UK, "college" refers to Sixth Form and is what Americans would call the last two years of high school, which may or may not take place at an institution that also offers post-secondary education for adults. "College" is also the term used for the semi-independent establishments that make up the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and Durham. In Scotland, "college" can refer to particularly old high schools, or to what Americans would call a "community college".
    • In Canada, there's a strict distinction between "colleges" and "universities" — only universities can grant degrees, whereas colleges can only grant diplomas and certificates. However, some Canadian universities (like the University of Toronto) contain "colleges" as a holdover from the British system. Unlike an American, a Canadian university student would not describe themselves as "in college" (although due to Eagleland Osmosis the term will be understood that way in Canada). For added fun, in some provinces English-language high schools are called "collegiates" and French-language high schools are called "collèges".
    • In the Republic of Ireland, "college" is the vernacular shorthand for all post-secondary education, including post-graduate studies. This usage stems from the unique history of higher education in the Republic, as before 1989 no Irish university could actually directly provide academic instruction and had to relegate that duty to a constituent college.
    • In Australia, "college" refers to private high schools, although in some jurisdictions the term is limited to senior high schools. Universities are called "universities", but sometimes their residential houses are called "colleges". In neither case is "college" really an educational level; an Aussie describing where they went to high school would just say, "I went to school at St. John's College," and an Aussie living at a college at a university would just say, "when I was at Sydney University I lived at St. John's College." (And yes, it's not unheard of for these places to have similar names.)
    • In New Zealand, "college" refers to secondary school, what most other places call "high school". New Zealand has "high schools", too, though, but the difference varies from place to place; single-sex vs coed, Years 9 to 13 vs Years 7 to 13, private vs public, or state vs state-integrated (which is also state-run but used to be a private school and gets to keep its character).
  • Corn: In the UK, is an umbrella term for all grains. In the US and Canada, has come to refer specifically to maize. Causes confusion to Americans when Brits refer to "corn" that's native to Europe, since to Americans it can only mean a New World food (particularly I, Claudius's reference to it in pre-Columbian Europe).
  • Cow: colloquially can be a slang for a certain time of woman, but in the US said woman is fat or stupid (or both), and in the UK and Canada it's a mild word for "bitch". To an American, "skinny cow" could be taken as a contradiction.
  • Craic: a loanword from Irish that means "fun, amusement", is pronounced like "crack", which can lead to confusion when used in places unfamiliar with it (essentially everywhere that's not Ireland or certain parts of the UK), thinking it refers to "crack" as slang for smokeable cocaine. An Irish doctor could tell an American patient to "have some craic" on vacation and be misunderstood to be prescribing some... very unorthodox medicine. "How's the craic?" is a more common phrase used in Ireland roughly meaning "What's up?"
  • Colored/Coloured: In the US, an outdated (formerly polite, now usually seen as racist) term for all darker-skinned racial minorities, particularly blacks. It's still used in a few archaic contexts (e.g. the NAACP or the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). In many other Anglophone countries, it's seen as more "outdated" than "racist". But in South Africa, "Coloured" has a very specific meaning, deriving from The Apartheid Era, referring to people of mixed race — they had fewer rights than whites, but more than blacks, and they ended up developing their own ethnic identity which survived Apartheid. The term is neutral in South Africa and can be used fairly casually. For instance, Die Antwoord's song "She Makes Me a Killer" mentions a groupie who "looked just like a Coloured Angelina Jolie." An American would call the girl "mixed" and might be taken aback by the use of "Coloured" if they're not familiar with South African culture. note 
  • To come of age: In most English-speaking countries, is a general term for transition into adulthood (e.g. Coming-of-Age Story). But in the Indian subcontinent, it is used exclusively to describe a girl who's gotten her first period. It leads to some raised eyebrows in unexpected situations in South Asia.
  • Cunt: In the entire Anglosphere, it is a term referring to female genitalia and not generally a nice word, but it's much more offensive in the US and Canada than in the rest of the Anglosphere, to the point that use of the word alone is considered sexual harassment there. In the UK, it's slowly becoming less acceptable and seen more as sexist, but it's not quite the "c-bomb" it is in North America, where people are afraid to even string the syllables together. In Australia, it doesn't even have to refer to a woman; anyone can be a cunt. In some parts of Ireland, it's used quite freely; in Connacht, "cuntish" is regularly used to describe something as bad or undesirable.
  • Cute: In most of the English-speaking world, it means "pretty", often with the connotation of youth, innocence, and general adorableness. The US has an additional occasional twist of it meaning pretty without substance; "Don't get cute on me!" might be yelled at someone who's trying something Awesome, but Impractical, or someone who's trying to blackmail someone by invoking a Cuteness Overload. In Ireland, it can mean that, but it can also mean "sly", and a "cute hoor" is a very Irish phrase for an especially sly and often untrustworthy person, regardless of how nice they are to look at.
  • Deadly: Aside from its usual meaning, in Ireland and among Australian Aborigines, it's also a slang term for "cool". This causes confusion in the rest of the English-speaking world. In Australia, the term has become synonymous with Aboriginal culture (e.g. the national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts-sports-media award show is called the "Deadly Awards").
  • Dink: In the UK, it's a small dent, like in a car bumper, what the Americans would call a ding. In parts of Australia, it means to give someone a lift on your bike. In Western Canada, it's a particularly rude bit of schoolyard slang for "penis" (cf. American "dinky", heard in Who Framed Roger Rabbit). In the US, it's another term for a "flake", or it can refer to a childless married couple as an acronym for "double income, no kids".
  • Dummy: In the US, a stupid person, or perhaps a mannequin of a person used to stand in for someone like a crash test dummy. In the UK, a small rubber device for babies to suck on that the US would call a pacifier.
  • Fag: In the UK, a cigarette or cigarette butt. In the US, a nasty slur for a gay person (or really any LGBT person, but particularly gays), to the point that it's now bleeped on television. Both terms are short for faggot and come from the old definition of "faggot" being a bundle of sticks held together with string (usually spelled "fagot" in the US) — in the US case, the journey was pretty convoluted but may have derived from depraved practices at British boarding schools.note  In Britain a "faggot" could also be a type of meatball, although the term is mostly in disuse now. Indeed, many Britons are becoming more aware of American disgust at the term (e.g. Colin Baker, at a Doctor Who panel at Comic-Con, referred to a "fag break" but then quickly apologized to the American audience and clarified that he meant "cigarette break").
  • Fancy: In the US, mostly used as an adjective meaning "elegant" or "stylish". In the UK, mostly used as a verb indicating desire, often used in a sexual or romantic context, e.g. "Fancy a shag?" To "fancy" a person in this context is like having a crush on them, or really liking them without actually saying you really like them; outside the UK, "fancy" can be used as a verb to refer to people, but it just means that you like them, not "like them" like them. This can lead to confusion in a rather... delicate situation. "Fancy" is also used in Britain to distinguish domesticated pet rabbits, mice, and rats from wild or laboratory breeds, a usage known only among serious aficionados in the US.
  • Fancy dress: In the UK, what the US would call a costume party. In the US, what the UK would call just a formal dress party or a black tie event. Relatedly, "costume" in the US refers to cosplay and stuff like that, while the UK uses it simply to refer to the way you dress, what an American would call an "outfit" or "uniform".
  • Fanny: In the US, slang for "butt", and kind of silly and old-fashioned at that, similar to "heinie" or "rear" — the kind of thing that would pass for Toilet Humor in a kid's show. In the UK, it's a much ruder word for female genitalia, similar to "snatch" or "pussy" in the US. The American term fanny pack is what's known in the UK as a bum bag, evoking the image of the rear rather than the front (but still worn across the front).note 
  • Fit: In the US and Australia, it means someone who is physically fit. In the UK, while it also means this, it adds the pleasant frisson of "highly sexually desirable".
  • Football: In the UK, it refers to Association Football. In the US, it refers to American Football. In Australia, it can refer to any one of association football, Australian Rules Football, or Rugby League, depending on the location and context. Association football is often called "soccer" for disambiguation, particularly in the US and Australia, but it can be used elsewhere as well (the term coming from the "association" in association football). Canadian Football is similar to American football but has slightly different rules; sometimes the two are referred to collectively as "gridiron football", after the "gridiron" pattern of the field markings; the term has the added benefit of being more inclusive to other countries (something Americans are notoriously bad at). In Ireland, it can refer to association football or Gaelic football. Many places will use "footy" as short for their preferred form of football, but not the US and Canada, where it carries the connotation of association football (a distinction we occasionally make on This Very Wiki, e.g. Footy Rules and Footy Leagues). All of these "footballs" are all codes of football, so no one usage is wrong.
  • Garden: In the US, it's a small plot of land where one grows flowers and some small vegetables. In the UK, it's the land adjoining one's house, what the US would call a lawn or yard. Meanwhile, a British "yard" can also refer to an enclosed portion of land on your property, but with less of an implication that there are plants there.
  • Geezer: In the UK, an informal but otherwise neutral word for a man. In the US, a ruder term specifically for a Grumpy Old Man, generally out of touch and yelling at the kids to get off his lawn. In the UK, it can also be mistaken for the word "geyser", which is pronounced "guy-zer" in the US (leading to references to geysers being mistaken for geezers).note 
  • To get off with someone: In the UK, it means to kiss or make out. In the US, it means to bring the other party to sexual climax. The British also have the term snog for making out, which Americans might know but usually see as an Inherently Funny Word. Meanwhile, the American term "to hook up" can mean either of these meanings.
  • Grub: In the US, it's a slang term for food. In the UK, it's insect larvae (and can be used this way in the US as well). In Australia, it's an insult meaning "degenerate".
  • Gypsy: In the UK, a slur for the Roma people. In the US, a more generic, neutral term for a carnival fortuneteller who may or may not wear traditional Eastern European garb, completely divorced from the word's origins. Only recently have Americans cottoned on to its status as a slur.
  • Hockey: In most of the English-speaking world, it refers to field hockey, played outdoors on a football-style field with eleven players a side. In the US and Canada, it refers to Ice Hockey, played indoors on an enclosed sheet of ice with six players a side. Internationally, "hockey" usually refers to field hockey and "ice hockey" is its own thing (cf. the International Hockey Federation for field hockey and the International Ice Hockey Federation for ice hockey). This is the only usage in which North Americans will accept "ice hockey"; Canadians are very proud of their form of hockey and don't like to use the "ice hockey" disambiguation.
  • Hooker: In the US, common slang for a prostitute. In Ireland, a term (pronounced with a long o like "hookah") refers to a traditional fishing boat used in Galway Bay, sometimes repurposed for racing. "Hooker" is also a rugby position and can be used in that context in rugby-playing countries (of which the US is not one).
  • Jap: In the UK, a British shorthand for "Japanese"; in the US, the same thing but a very offensive slur, originally used during World War II. It was only in more recent years that Brits even grasped that it was offensive in the US. While there was no shortage of racism against East Asians in Britain during the war, they tended to use much stronger slurs. See also Paki, a slur going in the opposite direction.
  • Kiwi: Used frequently in reference to New Zealand, but with some differences within New Zealand and outside it. Around the world, a "kiwi" refers to the weird flightless bird that's the country's national symbol, and also refers generally to anyone or anything from New Zealand. Outside New Zealand, it also refers to the fruit that looks vaguely like the bird; but in New Zealand, the fruit is always called the "kiwifruit" (and since the bird is endangered, you probably shouldn't joke about eating it).note  A New Zealander may also refer to the New Zealand dollar as the "kiwi", something that foreigners might take a while to pick up on.
  • Knocked up: In the UK, it used to mean to be woken up, often abruptly — originally, it meant someone literally knocking at your door to wake you.note  In Australia, at least around World War II, it meant to be too exhausted to continue. In the US, it means to impregnate, often unplanned and out of wedlock. For the most part, the American usage has taken over everywhere else.
  • Lemonade: In the US, refers to a drink made from lemon, sugar, and water, which is not carbonated. In Australia and New Zealand, refers to any lemon-flavoured carbonated drink, like Sprite. In the UK, it usually means a carbonated drink but not always; ordering one there can get you anything from a Sprite to an American-style lemonade with carbonation. You can also get "still lemonade" for the exact American style, and in America you can get "sparkling lemonade" for the British style. ("Raspberry lemonade" and things like it are considered very American.)
  • Mental: In the UK, it's a playground insult for "crazy", an added sense that's generally lacking in the US. Accordingly, a mentalist in the UK would be an insane person, whereas in the US it typically refers to a type of Phony Psychic who uses physical cues and code words from a confederate to pretend to read minds (not to be confused with the TV show "The Mentalist" whose protagonist used to run one of these scams, but now uses those talents to help law enforcement).
  • Napkin: In the US, it's what the UK would call a serviette. In the UK, it's what the US would call a diaper (occasionally shortened to "nappy"). And in Japan, which uses the English loanword, it's what the US and UK would call a sanitary napkin (more colloquially a "pad"). Ask for a "napkin" in a restaurant, and you might get a strange reply. Canada sometimes uses "napkin" and sometimes "serviette" (in some parts of Canada "napkin" might be interpreted the Japanese way); some places in the US close to the border may understand "serviette", but in other parts of the US it may refer to a wet wipe, often with disinfectant, usually given to customers to clean their hands after eating messy food like buffalo wings.
  • Native: Within the United States, this term can have various meanings depending on who you're referring to. "Native American" or just plain "Native" obviously refers to indigenous peoples. But if you were born and raised in a specific state, like Ohio, then you'd be an "Ohio native" regardless of your race. Except Alaska and Hawaii. For various reasons, the indigenous people in those states are considered separate from the Native Americans in the Lower 48, and "Alaska/Hawaii Native" is only used to refer to those groups and not people who were simply born there. Hawaii has the additional term kamaʻāina to refer to people from any ethnic origin who were born in Hawaii. But in general, people that are from Alaska or Hawaii without being ethnically indigenous are referred to as Alaska/Hawaii-born. Hawaii also uses the term "locals" to refer to long-term state residents regardless of their birthplace.
  • Outhouse: In the UK, it can refer to any number of subsidiary buildings on a property, such as a barn, guest house, or shed. In the US, it's used exclusively for an enclosed outdoor toilet; the broader category is an "out-building". What Americans call an outhouse is a privy in the UK, a dunny in Australia, or a long-drop in New Zealand and South Africa.
  • Overseas: In the US and Canada, off-continent; in the UK, anywhere outside the country. An American in Canada or Mexico (or perhaps even Brazil) wouldn't consider himself "overseas", whereas a Brit in France or even Ireland (but perhaps not Northern Ireland) would consider herself "overseas".
  • Paki: In the US, used very occasionally to refer to a Pakistani, not generally offensive. Sounds similar to other uncommon slang terms (like "packie", New England slang for a liquor store, or "Pachy", short for a Pachycephalosaurus) — not a big issue. In the UK, it's a very offensive slur for Pakistanis (and sometimes for South Asians in general), particularly associated with hate groups in the 70s and 80s. Americans are only slowly catching on. Meanwhile, in New Zealand, it happens to be the regnal name for the current King of the Māori. See also Jap, a slur going in the opposite direction.
  • Pasty: As a noun (sounding like "past", not "paste"), in the UK and Australia is a kind of meat-and-vegetable pie, sometimes called a "Cornish pasty" after the region that made it famous. It's relatively unknown in the States,note  where a pasty is the sticker that strippers wear over their nipples to keep them technically within state decency laws.
  • Pecker: In the UK, it literally means "nose" but can be used for "spirits" or "nerve", hence the expression "keep your pecker up". In the US, it means "penis"; the expression has a different meaning there.
  • Pie: In the UK and Australia, generally refers to all sorts of pastries, sweet and savoury. In the US, it refers primarily to a pastry stuffed with fruit, sweetened vegetables, custard, and/or cream-derivatives, often as a dessert. Meat pies are not unheard of in the States but are not what people usually think of; they're often called "pot pies" (except in parts of Pennsylvania, where the term refers to a kind of noodle soup). "Pie" might also be a shorthand for a pizza in some parts of America. Louisiana has the "Natchitochesnote  meat pie", which is known in the Southwest but called an empanada. See also pasty, which is a pie in some parts of the Anglosphere.
  • Pissed: In the US, it means to be angry, usually through the intervention of someone else. In the UK (and most of the rest of the Anglophone world), it means to be drunk. Confusingly, "pissed off" means "angry" in most of the Anglophone world; in the US, the difference with "pissed" is just a matter of degree. In the commentary for Shaun of the Dead, it's stated that the only thing they consciously did to avoid confusing Americans was to say Mary the zombie was "so drunk" instead of "so pissed", because they were aware of this.
  • Pot plant: In the UK, it refers to what the US calls a potted plant. In the US, "pot" is slang for "cannabis". Not that they'll complain. Same in Canada, where it's legal nationwide.
  • Public school: In the US, Scotland, and Australia, it refers to a state-run school. In the US, it has added connotations of being a Sucky School; because Americans famously hate paying taxes, public schools there are chronically underfunded. "State school" is sometimes used in these places as well, but in the US, it refers specifically to a public post-secondary institution. In England, though, a "public school" is actually a private school that happens to be open to the public (as opposed to restricted to members of a certain group or a private tutoring arrangement). And English public schools are very expensive and prestigious, analogous to what the US would call a prep school or collegiate academy — the upper echelon of private schools.
  • Pudding: In the UK, it's a solid cake that's usually steamed or boiled; it can be sweet, savoury, meat-based, all kinds of thing. In the US, it refers specifically to a dairy dessert consisting of flavored milk thickened by corn starch and served cold, what the British might call custard. In the US, custard is similar but thickened with eggs. The only British-style pudding to catch on in the States is bread pudding, while the meat varieties are unheard of and bizarre for an American to picture given what they're used to. "Pudding" is also used as a general term in the UK for what Americans would call "dessert", the sweet treat at the end of a meal.
  • Pull: somewhat uncertain slang. In the US, it doesn't mean anything. In some parts of Canada, it means "to masturbate". In the UK, it can mean "to attract a girl", or it can mean "to tongue kiss".
  • Purse: In the US, what the UK would call a handbag ("handbag" in the US generally denotes something bigger). In the UK, what the US would call a wallet but for women (the US might also refer to it as a "clutch" or "coin purse").
  • Randy: In the UK, it just means "horny". In the US, it means "horny" with the implication that the man in question (because of course it's a man) is also young, inexperienced, wildly exuberant, and not terribly threatening. A colt is randy; a stallion is horny. This element of "cuteness" might be how "Randy" came to become an acceptable nickname in the US but not in the UK.
  • Reckon: Means the same in both Britain and America (to think, guess, suppose), but it has an added stigma in the US for being not only archaic but the kind of language a Half-Witted Hillbilly would use. It's used more widely in the UK and okay for intelligent people, although in some places it might also be a sign of backwardness, like the stereotypical Somerset yokel who precedes every sentence with a slow "Oi reckon..."
  • Retard: In the UK, it's a childish insult for someone who's a little slow on the uptake. In the US, it's a very offensive slur for someone with an intellectual disability. In the UK, you can use the term "retard" on The BBC without an issue; in the US, you can lose your job if you use it and anyone hears you. Bizarrely, "retard" used to be a technical term which was itself designed to replace an earlier technical term "moron" that had become a slur, only to start a euphemism treadmill. See also Spaz, a slur going the opposite direction.
  • To root: As a verb, in the US it means to cheer someone on, often a sports team. In the UK and Ireland, it can mean that, or it can mean to go looking for something, generally with the implication that it's buried somewhere in an untidy heap ("root around" has a similar meaning in the US, and it's analogous to "rooting out" as in "to root out corruption"). In Australia, it means "to have sex with" — the sports context is "to barrack".
  • Rubber: In the UK, it's what the US would call an eraser. In the US, it's what the UK would call a condom. Mistaking these could lead to the wrong impression. More confusingly, the UK also has an archaic definition referring to what are commonly known as "Wellington boots" (called "gum boots" in Australia and shortened to "wellies" in the UK).
  • Screwed up: In the UK, it means "rolled up". In the US, it means "messed up" (what the British might call "bollocksed up") or "disturbing", and in Australia it means "broken". The American version has since filtered into British and Australian usage.
  • Shag: In the US, it often refers to a type of fuzzy carpet popular in the 60s and 70s, and occasionally a hairstyle reminiscent of the carpet. Along the coast of the Carolinas, it refers to a slow Lindy Hop dance popular since the 40s. In the old days in Britain, it referred to coarse-cut tobacco (Sherlock Holmes occasionally had some). Nowadays in Britain, it's a verb meaning "to have sex". Thankfully, Americans are pretty well aware of this usage thanks to Austin Powers.
  • Shit: In all places it has a scatological meaning, but in the US, Canada, and Australia can also be a synonym for "stuff". This means that in those places, "shit" is not always negative, depending on the context; if you open a fridge there and comment, "you've got a lot of shit in here," it wouldn't be received poorly. In Britain, on the other hand, it probably would; if you describe random stuff as "shit", it carries the implication that it's not very good. (Unless you are a World War II RAF pilot who speaks like a 2010s teenager.) In the US, it's been observed that there's a significant difference between something that's "shit" and something that's "the shit"; the former is bad, the latter is good. In Britain, the term "bollocks" (meaning "testicles" and not "feces") can be used positively (e.g. "the dog's bollocks") the same way "shit" is in the States (where the term "bollocks" is not used at all and seen as very British).
  • Slag: In the US, the by-product of metalworking, most typically the liquid leftovers of ore refining. As such, it can also be used as a verb for turning something into slag, and from there it became slang for totally destroying something, particularly if it involves melting it down (sometimes associated with the Transformers, who being robots will often threaten to slag each other). In the UK, it's a synonym for "slut" (which is why Transformers media stopped using the term after a while).
  • Solicitor: In the US, a salesman who shows up when you don't want them to, like a door-to-door salesman or telemarketer; homes and businesses will occasionally have signs reading "No Solicitors", and this is what they mean. In the UK, it's a lawyer (and a few special non-lawyers) whose entire job is to write legal briefs and who cannot engage in oral advocacy in the courtroom, which is a barrister's job. The US doesn't even have the solicitor-barrister distinction (someone who specializes in oral advocacy might be a "trial lawyer", but any lawyer can do any lawyer job, for the most part).
  • Spaz: In the US it's a rather mild and childish insult for a klutz. In the UK, it's a highly offensive slur for a disabled person, originally derived from the term "spastic" to refer to muscle spasms (used the same way in the US), which might accompany such disabilities as cerebral palsy. See also Retard, a slur going the opposite direction.
  • Spinster: Nowadays the term refers to an unmarried woman, but the tone of how it's applied varies by region.note  In most of the Western Anglosphere, it's a derogatory term for an unmarried middle-aged woman along the lines of "old maid." But in Africa and the Caribbean, it's a completely neutral term that's the female version of "bachelor," to the point that "Bachelor" and "Spinster" are listed on marriage certificates.
  • Spunk: In the US, it refers to a little toughness, fighting spirit, forcefulness or "moxie"; it's commonly used to refer to women who are a little tougher than one might expect, but in a good way, hence the term "You Got Spunk!". In the UK, it refers to sperm or ejaculate. Therefore, in Britain, implying that a woman has "a lot of spunk" would imply that she's just slept with a large number of men. Confusingly, the American sense was also used in Britain as late as the 1930s, and the British sense is now starting to migrate to the States.
  • Stuffed: In the US, it means being full after overeating. In Australia, it means "broken", usually beyond all repair. In Britain, it has a sexual meaning. (In all three places, "get stuffed" is not a nice thing to say to someone, although for different reasons.) Relatedly, a stuffed animal in the US is a plush toy shaped like an animal, but in the UK is a real animal that's been stuffed for whatever reason, often as a trophy.
  • To table: In the UK, it means to propose; in the US, to delay or postpone, essentially meaning the opposite in terms of how quickly you want something done. (It once caused total confusion between American and British planners during World War II.) The US does have the term "to bring something to the table", which is roughly equivalent to the British sense.
  • Tea: Refers universally to the hot drink, but in the UK also refers to a light meal eaten in the afternoon, usually involving tea and also cakes, scones, and biscuits. It may or may not be called "afternoon tea", as some Brits use "tea" for the meal Americans (and many Brits) call "dinner"; either way, if you've been invited over for "tea", expect more than just a hot drink.
  • Theater/Theatre: In the US, it's where you watch a movie. In the UK, it's where you watch a play; you watch a movie in the cinema. Note also the different spellings, which are another feature of the linguistic divide and are addressed below. Americans might sometimes use the "theatre" spelling if they want to be particularly fancy, though. And some dialects, particularly in the South, are well known for pronouncing it to rhyme with "creator."
  • Torch: In the UK, what the US would call a flashlight. In the US, it refers exclusively to a flame at the end of a stick, which is also called a torch in the UK (it's context-dependent there). Interestingly, a number of smartphones — whether set to British or American English — will refer to the device's flashlight function as a "torch".
  • Torrid: In a sports context, used totally differently. An English Premier League team that's off to a "torrid start" is at the bottom of the table and in danger of relegation. A Major League Soccer team that's off to a "torrid start" is on top of the standingsnote  and likely already booked its playoff spot.note 
  • Tramp: In the UK, it refers to a homeless person. In the US, it can mean either that or a woman who Really Gets Around. Compare Lady and the Tramp to Frank Sinatra's "The Lady Is a Tramp".
  • Wardrobe: In the UK, a tall external cabinet used for hanging clothes and is a regular part of the bedroom furniture set (and might also be a gateway to a magical land). But in the US, one's wardrobe is the clothes themselves, as the term refers to a person's entire collection of clothing, possibly divided by season/occasion like winter wardrobe, school wardrobe, etc. The clothes are hung in a closet, an alcove built into the walls of the home for this purpose (and might also be a metaphorical hiding spot for a queer person keeping their sexuality/gender identity a secret). While British-style wardrobe cabinets are not unheard of in the US, they're rarely a necessity since closets are the norm in American homes.
  • Wog: In the UK, a very offensive slur towards Africans. In the US, virtually unknown as a term. In Australia, it refers instead to people from southeastern Europe (usually Italy, Greece, and the former Yugoslavia), and it's much less offensive because like much of Australian Slang, it's an Appropriated Appellation.

Things using different words in different places

  • What the UK calls a queue, the US calls a line. And in most of the US, you wait in line, but in New York City and environs, you wait on line. In Canada, sometimes it's a line and sometimes a line-up. "Queue" is catching on in America, though, as it avoids confusion with other uses of "line"; for instance, you see "printer queue" or "Netflix queue". But some Americans use "queue line", perhaps out of fear that "queue" is too obscure a word.
  • What the UK calls a by-election, the US calls a special election. Both terms refer to an off-cycle election to fill an unplanned vacancy in a leadership office, like a political office or a corporate board. And only the British call such a vacancy a casual vacancy (leading to confused Americans trying to get into J. K. Rowling's book The Casual Vacancy and not understanding what it meant).
  • Almost all automotive terms are different: in the US "gasoline", in the UK "petrol"; in the US "trunk", in the UK "boot"; in the US "parking lot", in the UK "car park"; in the US "hood", in the UK "bonnet"; in the US "stick-shift", in the UK "manual". Jeremy Clarkson once surmised that this was one reason it took Top Gear so long to catch on in the US.
  • What the US calls counter-clockwise, the UK calls anti-clockwise.
  • What the US calls an apartment, the UK calls a flat. Similarly, what the US would call a roommate, the UK would call a flatmate or housemate (unless they're literally sharing a room as opposed to just the living space).
  • What the US calls canned food, the UK calls tinned food. The proverbial tin that describes its products exactly would be a "can" in colloquial American English. The US also uses "canning" to refer to preserving food in vacuum-sealed glass jars, which the UK would call "bottling".
  • What the US calls a liquor store, the UK calls an off-licence (or "offie" for short) and Australia calls a bottle shop (or "bottle-o" for short). The term "off-license" is also used in the US, but because every state regulates alcohol differently, it encompasses a dizzying variety of establishments who may or may not be allowed to sell certain kinds of alcohol at certain times. Each state also has its own terms for different kinds of stores (e.g. "ABC Store", often used in the South and referring to "Alcoholic Beverage Control", because those states have a state monopoly on some subset of alcohol sales; or "state store", used in Pennsylvania because, um, that state has a state monopoly on a subset of alcohol sales; or "party store", a specific variety in Michigan for stores that sell both booze and other "party" items like snacks and disposable plates/cups/cutlery). Even the seemingly universal "liquor store" changes meaning subtly across state lines—in Pennsylvania, at a "liquor store" you can buy wine and spirits but not beer,note  but in New Jersey, a "liquor store" seems to sell mainly or only beer (this causes significant confusion because these states neighbor each other), and in Southern California it can refer to basically any convenience store whether or not it sells alcohol at all.
  • In TV show parlance, what the US calls a season, the UK calls a series. Meanwhile, the US uses "series" to refer to a show as a whole. This can lead to confusion, even on This Very Wiki; for the most part, we use "season" for American shows and "series" for British shows, although the UK can use "series" and "season" almost interchangeably. One possible distinction is that the US tends to be stricter about releasing episodes on a yearly schedule, making "season" a more appropriate term.
  • In the US, a building's entrance is on the "first floor", and the levels keep going up from there. In the UK, a building's entrance is on the "ground floor", the level above it is the "first floor", and the levels keep going up from there (which is the convention in all of Europe). While the entrance floor might be called the "ground floor" in the US, the next one will be the "second floor" and not the first. And the device that transports you between floors is an elevator in the US and a lift in the UK; "lift" can be used in the US but is more for industrial purposes or wheelchairs.
  • What the US calls pantyhose, the UK calls tights. Some Americans also use "tights", sometimes interchangeably with "pantyhose", but more often referring to what both sides call "leggings" — thicker, opaque, and acceptable as outerwear.
  • What the US calls the mail, the UK calls the post. And when you send things through that system, in the US they're mailed and in the UK they're posted. And the guy who delivers them is the mailman in the US and the postman in the UK. But the entity in charge of the whole thing is the United States Postal Service in the US and the Royal Mail in the UK. What a language! In the US, "posted" usually refers to something stuck on a wall (or a Message Board), but the term "postman" is sometimes used (e.g. the novel The Postman and its film adaptationnote ), as is "postmarked" to refer to the date that something was mailed.
  • Several odd food examples:
    • What the UK calls an aubergine, the US calls an eggplant, and Asia and Africa call a brinjal.
    • What the UK calls marrow, the US calls squash.
    • What the UK calls courgette, the US and Australia call zucchini.
    • What the UK calls coriander, the US calls cilantro, borrowing from Spanish. The plant seeds are called coriander in both places.
    • Carbonated drinks are all over the place. In the UK, they're often called "fizzy drinks" or given an "-ade" suffix (see Lemonade), whereas in the US "-ade" implies that it's not carbonated (e.g. Gatorade). In Scotland, they're sometimes called "juice" (everywhere else, "juice" refers to... well, juice). In Ireland, they're traditionally called "minerals". In the US, it varies tremendously by region; while parts of the country are divided between "pop" and "soda", and most will accept "soft drinks", in some parts of the South Coca-Cola is so dominant that "Coke" is a generic term for any and all soft drinks, regardless of whether or not they're brown or made by the Coca-Cola Company.
    • What the UK and Ireland call sweets, the US calls candy, and Australia and New Zealand call lollies. "Candy" in America also includes chocolate, and even some pastries and cakes depending on context. "Lolly" is also used in the UK specifically to refer to what in the US is a lollipop, and the UK variant "ice lolly" is what the US (and this wiki) calls a popsicle.
  • What the UK calls trainers, the US calls sneakers or tennis shoes, and Australia and Ireland call runners or joggers. "Trainers" is slowly catching on in the US, particularly among running enthusiasts looking for specialized shoes, but most Americans associate the term with children's underwear or training bras.
  • Toilets are funny, and while a "toilet" refers to that porcelain bowl in every country, there are a ton of euphemisms for referring to the room in which it sits:
    • The UK will call it a toilet or a loo. "Toilet" is considered the technical term and is often used to denote public facilities; it's considered the polite term in the UK, whereas "loo" is more casual. WC (short for "water closet") is seen occasionally; it's an international standard common throughout Europe, so it's particularly likely in public places. A cloakroom refers to a room with a toilet and sink, and a bathroom (unlike in the American usage) must be fully equipped with everything you may need, including a bath, shower, and sometimes even a bidet.
    • The US will call it a bathroom if it's in someone's house, or a restroom if it's a public facility. "Toilet" is occasional slang but is seen as crude (along the lines of "john" or "crapper"). "Bathroom" is considered the more neutral term but is seen as a little childish, while "restroom" is considered more "official". A room with only a toilet and sink is sometimes called a powder room or half-bath (most often in context where specificity is needed, e.g. real-estate listings). Lavatory is heard in settings where they may be trickier to use or more restricted, like on an airplane. Latrine is considered military slang and can refer to anything from an entire building full of toilets and sinks to a hole you dug in the woods (the local Drill Sergeant Nasty is more likely to make you use the latter).
    • Australians will use all sorts of terms; loo, toilet, bathroom, lavvie, or the local slang term dunny.
    • Canadians use bathroom the way Americans do, if it's in someone's house; for public toilets, they prefer to use washroom. They also use powder room for a bathroom with only a sink and toilet (specifically a guest bathroom in someone's house), and a bathroom only accessible from a large bedroom is sometimes called an en suite.
    • Filipino English has the unique term comfort room, sometimes abbreviated C.R.
    • Finally, one that cuts across dialect lines: English-speaking mariners and those who associate with them (e.g. United States Marines) are liable to call a toilet—especially a ship's toilet—a "head", to the frequent confusion of landlubbers.
  • What the US calls kindergarten doesn't even really exist in the UK, but to the extent that it does, it can be called nursery, pre-school, reception, Year 1, all kinds of things. This reflects the strong German influence on American education reformers in the 19th century (indeed "kindergarten" is a German loanword), where the concept caught on more quickly than it did in Britain. There is such a concept as "nursery school" or "preschool" in the US, but it refers to before kindergarten (which it might in the UK as well). The word "playschool" is normally used in Ireland.
  • What the US and Canada (and This Very Wiki) call Tic-Tac-Toe, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand calls Noughts and Crosses, and Ireland calls X's and O's.
  • What the US calls a bus, the UK may call a "bus" if it's for public transport (like the famous London double-deckers), but a coach if it's for long distances or tour groups. British pubs used to have signs saying "No football coaches allowed," which confused Americans might interpret as banning their local offensive coordinator but which really bans busloads of Football Hooligans.
  • What the US calls bumper cars, the UK calls dodgems. They're not exactly the same, though; in dodgems, you're supposed to avoid the other cars, whereas in bumper cars, you're supposed to hit the other cars (Americans like violence, who knew?) The event at which you'd find such a ride is an amusement park in the US and a funfair in the UK, but again, they're not exactly the same; a funfair has the implication of being a travelling event, whereas an amusement park stays put.
  • What the US calls sports, the UK calls sport. But what the US calls math, the UK calls maths. So simple, yet so complicated.
  • What the US calls "asking for a ride", the UK calls "asking for a lift". The terms are both understood in both places — but in Ireland, be sure to ask for a lift, because a "ride" is also a euphemism for sex.
  • What the UK and Australia would call overalls, the US and Canada would call coveralls. In the US, "overalls" refer to "dungarees" — denim trousers with shoulder straps.
  • What the UK calls an arse, the US calls an ass. "Ass" in the UK is used to refer to donkeys, which it can (but usually doesn't) in the US. In some cases, the technical term for a certain donkey is "ass", which makes it difficult to discuss in the States (don't search for the "African wild ass", the Internet is American and will interpret that differently). What the US calls an asshole, the UK just also calls an arse, although both countries use "dumbass".
  • What the US calls Scotch tape, the UK calls Sellotape or sticky tape. Both countries suffered a Brand Name Takeover.
  • What the US calls a moose, the UK calls an elk. "Elk" is the older term, with cognates in other Germanic languages, referring to the big, unmovable, none-too-bright deer; although they still exist in Europe, they went extinct in Britain in ancient times. This may be why confused British colonists in the Americas misidentified the mule deer as an "elk", because they didn't see any real "elk" — and when they turned up later once the colonists made it to Canada (but of course), they called it a "moose".
  • What the US calls a Christmas Special, the UK calls a Christmas Episode. (And they're both tropes!) They're not exactly synonymous; while they both have a Christmas theme and are often aired around Christmastime, a Christmas Special is a unique one-off program (like A Charlie Brown Christmas), whereas the Christmas Episode is part of the continuity of an ongoing series.
  • Both Brits and Americans will call a large and luxurious private watercraft a yacht, regardless of its propulsion. However, the British/Commonwealth use of “yacht” for recreational sailboats that can be much smaller and humbler, can lead to confusion among Americans, who may joke that “a yacht has a minibar and a jacuzzi”. Terms like “yachting” and “yachtsman/woman” rather than “sailing” and “sailor” are somewhat more common in referring to the sport of sailing in the Commonwealth than the US, where they can be seen as carrying a “snooty” or “stuffy” connotation.
  • What the US calls fair use, everywhere else except the US calls fair dealing. Both are exceptions to copyright law where it is permissible to re-use copyrighted property even without securing permission or rights to use it. The specifics are slightly different from country to country, though.

Spelling distinctions

Spelling can be different between the US and the rest of the Anglophone world — not different enough to really cause confusion, but enough to make it obvious where you're from. People are so used to their own spelling conventions that the other variety just looks "wrong". (That's why TV Tropes has a policy that you shouldn't edit them when you see them.) Even when writing about something distinctively British or American, English speakers used to a different spelling standard will use their own standard (e.g. British references to "Pearl Harbour" or the "U.S. Department of Defence").

Historically, there were many variant spellings in English, and there wasn't really a single defined way to do that. The first real "standardized" (or "standardised") English spelling came from Samuel Johnson's famous dictionary, and even then he wasn't seeking to codify spelling so much as identify the most commonly used spellings at the time. This helped solidify some of the particular trends of spelling of the era, such as a tendency to emulate French spelling wherever possible, even in words with non-Latin origins or borrowed directly from Latin as opposed to through Old French. The American variants were largely the work of Noah Webster, who was interested in wide-ranging English spelling reform but decided to start small — which is why a few of his changes were actually adopted in America (changing the entire orthography can be intimidating, to say the least). Many of Webster's suggested changes were designed to undo some of the French-influenced spellings. But for the most part, the reforms only caught on in the US and to a small extent in Canada; the rest of the English-speaking world didn't bother, and Canada got stuck somewhere in between American and Commonwealth spellings.

Now, let's get into some specific examples:
  • Where most places have a word that ends in -re, the US may use -er (e.g. "centre" vs. "center", "theatre" vs. "theater"). This is designed to reflect where English words were borrowed directly from Latin; where words are borrowed from French, in the US they keep the -re ending (e.g. "genre").
  • Where most places have a word that ends in -our, the US may use -or (e.g. "colour" vs. "color", "favour" vs. "favor"). This one was a popular one, because it helped bring those words in line with more typical pronunciations (as opposed to words like "hour" or "tour"). It also keeps it consistent with variant forms which don't use -our anywhere (e.g. "humour", but "humorous"; "honour", but "honorary" and "honorific"). This particular change also has an interesting artifact (or "artefact") in Australia, where one of the two major parties is called the Labor Party, even as the word is spelled "labour" in pretty much every other application in Australia.note  There are also a few odd exceptions in America, such as "glamour" (which may originally be Scottish) and "saviour" (also often spelled "savior", but occasionally given the -our ending, especially in religious contexts). Canada seems to be even more enthusiastic about -our than even Britain; "honourary" will fly there.
  • Where most places have a word that ends in -ise, the US may use -ize (e.g. "criticise" vs. "criticize", "realise" vs. "realize"). This is to keep it consistent with the Greek root -izein, which uses the letter zeta. Even the Oxford English Dictionary, which usually uses British spelling, says the -ize is technically correct.
  • The US sometimes uses -se where the UK uses -ce (e.g. "practice" vs. "practise", "licence" vs. "license"). In the UK, though, both variants are often used, but one for the noun and one for the verb; for example, a doctor will practise medicine but have a medical practice.
  • The UK may repeat letters when inflecting certain words where the US does not (e.g. "focuses" vs. "focusses", "traveler" vs. "traveller", "canceled" vs. "cancelled", "marvelous" vs. "marvellous"). Confusingly, British English does sometimes accept the single-letter variant. On the American side, this was an incomplete adoption of Webster's suggestion to eliminate double letters as much as possible; had he had his way, we would have spellings like "bailif", whereas it's always "bailiff".. But confusingly, the British — but not the Americans — may drop the extra letter in derivatives of those words, leading to distinctions like "fulfil" (UK) vs. "fulfill" (US), "wilful" (UK) vs. "willful" (US) and "instalment" (UK) vs. "installment" (US).
  • A handful of words that end in -ward in the US end in -wards in the UK (e.g. "toward" vs. "towards", "afterward" vs. "afterwards"). But usage can vary; many Americans will use the -wards variant, but it's seen as colloquial, whereas it's more accepted in British English.
  • Some technical and scientific words are spelled closer to the original Latin in the US and with a French or Greek twist in the UK (e.g. "fetus" in the US, "foetus" in the UK; "sulfur" in the US, "sulphur" in the UK). Strictly speaking, the US versions are the more technically correct versions (e.g. IUPAC has it as "sulfur", and the British Royal Society of Chemistry also has "sulfur" for that reason even though the British standard is "sulphur"), but it's difficult to let go sometimes. For the most part, the only British texts to spell it the American standard are formal scientific writings.
  • And some words are just weird and different on opposite sides of the pond. Compare US "tire" to UK "tyre"; US "curb" to UK "kerb"note ; US "yogurt" to UK "yoghurt"; US "program" to UK "programme"; and US "aluminum" to UK "aluminium".

Other grammatical and orthographical quibbles

  • Date marking conventions differ between Britain and the US. In America, dates are usually written mm-dd-yy or mm-dd-yyyy. In the UK (and Australia, and New Zealand, and indeed most of the world), they're written dd-mm-yy or dd-mm-yyyy. This is reflected in the way they speak; if you're talking about Christmas, the British would call it "25th of December" while the Americans would say "December 25th". You also see this reflected in dates that are particularly associated with a particular country; Guy Fawkes Day is the "5th of November" even for Americans (when they're aware of it, at any rate), and the infamous terrorist attacks happened on "September 11th" or "9/11" even for Brits. Canadians use the American order (but when speaking French use the British order, because all Francophones do). In some cases, this is starting to change, especially where business is being done internationally; American companies are starting to use international notation, although in some cases both sides might use yyyy-mm-dd because it's easier for computers to sort (incidentally, this is how the Japanese typically write dates).
  • The word "meant" has an additional usage in the UK where the US would use "supposed". For instance, if you ask, "Who am I meant to be?", an American would almost always think you're contemplating your own existence, whereas depending on the context (e.g. a case of mistaken identity) a Brit could interpret this as "Who am I supposed to be?" If you say, "It was meant to be a Red Stapler," an American would think specifically that some higher power intended it to be a red stapler.
  • Where the UK would use "different to", the US prefers "different from" or "different than". The Oxford English Dictionary considers all three forms correct.
  • In most dialects of English, collective nouns are generally interpreted as referring to a group's members, so it becomes a plural noun. In American English, though, they are always interpreted as referring to the group itself as a single entity, so it becomes a singular noun. So in Britain, you'd say, "Liverpool are doing better than the owners expected," whereas in the States, you'd say, "Boston is doing better than the owners expected," but "the Red Sox are doing better than the owners expected."note 
  • Time notation is different in the US and UK. In the UK, 10:30 would be called "half ten", whereas in the US it's "half past ten". And in other European languages, they'd refer to it as "half eleven", even when they're speaking English. However, 10:45 is usually "a quarter to eleven" — except in some parts of the US, where it's "a quarter of eleven".
  • The US and UK have different ways to parse certain instances of Ambiguous Syntax. For instance, if you said that, "Alice insisted that Bob left," is it uncertain whether Bob left and Alice is insisting that he did, or has Bob not left yet and Alice is insisting that he go? Americans would generally accept the formernote , Brits the latter.

Stories about what happens when things do wrong

  • The British Newspaper the Observer caught a major scoop when it acquired a memorandum leaked from the highest levels of the US government. When they decided to publish it, they gave it to the most junior person at the foreign news desk for the simple task of copying it to their computer so they could print it. She copied it word-for-word and checked the spelling — but neglected to change the settings, causing the computer to change the American spellings to British spellings. And no one noticed until it was printed. So when people read a supposedly American memo written in British English, they immediately questioned its authenticity. Including the US government, who now had Plausible Deniability. So much for the scoop.
  • British authors Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman both complained about how Good Omens, an example of very British humour, lost something in its American version just because the British English was changed to American English. Not only were the spellings different, but whole jokes were lost because Americans didn't understand the British nuances and subtext.
  • The British Douglas Adams hated how the Americans adapted The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. He was particularly annoyed with the editors trying to make things more "relatable" to Americans (at one point ranting about how changing "Rickmansworth" to "Newark" not only ruined the joke but implied that Americans were total morons who couldn't comprehend that anything even existed outside of America). He fought back on the adaptation of the comic book version using American English, particularly Arthur Dent's speech bubbles, because in many ways Arthur is a very British character with very British mannerisms (and accordingly a very British annoyance and nonchalance at the Earth's destruction and his now being part of adventures in space). It also leads to variant renderings of particularly famous passages from the books (for instance, the scene which named the trope Puff of Logic has "zebra crossing" in the original but "pedestrian crossing" in the American version).
  • The Bob Marley song "No Woman, No Cry" is commonly thought to be about the joys of bachelorhood, as in, "No woman, no reason to cry." But if you understand Jamaican Patois, you'll know he's basically saying "No, woman, don't cry." And if you actually read the lyrics, the song is about consoling a female companion during a difficult time.

  • 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: 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 Malaysian/Bruneian/Singaporean Malay. Both derive from the same language, but due to circumstances are usually regarded by locals as separate languages. 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). Malaysia has a stricter rule regarding language usage, while until recent times Indonesians were free to absorb and use any words they wish, not helped by the fact that there are a more distinct languages in Indonesia or the sheer fact that most Indonesians don't speak Malay as a first language (the Constitution calls it a unifying language for a reason). Overtime, some archaic words are reinterpreted to refer to contemporary things, not all of them flattering.
  • 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.
  • Malaysians also 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").
  • Malay also has Portuguese and English loanwords due to its previous status as part of the British empire. 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...
  • 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" .

    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 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 problem is with the Norwegian "grine", which also means "crying", but in Danish "grine" is "laughing".
  • 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" 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.

  • 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 mean "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 "Vale/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.
  • 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 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 Latin America, the Spanish language itself is named as "Español", but in Spain, it's named "Castellano" instead. 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", "marron", 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.
  • 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 Malaynote . 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.