British Versus American Terminology – Don’t get lost in translation!

The UK and the US have a wonderful relationship – we have lots in common with our transatlantic neighbours but contrary to what many people think, language might not be one of them.

We recently opened new offices in America and everything was going swimmingly, until we suddenly realised that our teams on both sides of the Atlantic were sometimes completely confused after a conference call or Skype meeting. It turns out that despite both offices speaking English, they were speaking very different languages.

Our team in the US seemed outraged when their British peers went outside for a quick “fag”, and the UK team were left baffled when they were asked to meet an American client on the “first floor”, which in British English means ground floor.

It transpires there are hundreds of words that have a completely different meaning across the pond, so to ensure you don’t get caught saying something offensive or embarrassing, we created this jolly good video comparing the British and American terminology for certain objects.

The biggest attack to British English comes at the sacred, quintessential British ritual of tea time (you will not believe what they call a biscuit, it’s almost blasphemous).


Here's the cross-Atlantic business lingo you can't afford to get wrong either!

UK VocabularyUS Vocabulary
To phone/ring someoneTo call someone
Annual leaveVacation days
Paid maternity leave\_(?)_/¯
Franking MachinePostage Meter
Post/ Letter boxMailbox
Inland Revenue /HMRCIRS
Cash PointATM
Pension SchemeRetirement Plan
National Insurance [number]Social Security [number]
Post CodeZip Code
Weird scone thingBiscuit
Bum bagFanny pack
SkivePlay hooky

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