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Saturday, 9 June 2012


Yes, this post is all about knickers. Or, if you are American, panties. Because knickers and panties are one and the same thing, divided only by the Atlantic separating the UK and the US.

Last night, whilst on twitter, one of my American friends posted a tweet about her husband's friend turning up at her house forcing her to run upstairs and put some pants on. Cue much hysterical laughing from me and an English friend. In England, pants are the male version of knickers. Boys wear pants and girls wear knickers. After much merriment we all agreed that in our next blog posts we would have to drop the word 'knickers' in it.

I decided to take the challenge one step further. After an email from my Entangled editor the other day, the language barrier between the US and the UK had been playing on my mind, and this twitter hilarity solidified it for me. We speak a common language but there are many occasions when we might as well be speaking Martian to each other.

My editor stressed that they are keen to preserve the authenticity of the voice, which in my case is English. I am English, I think in English and I write in English (apart from a couple of books I have written in which the heroines are Irish - in those books I thought and wrote in Irish. Which is English but with it's own living quirks). I go to the cinema to watch films, my kids wear trainers (although my eldest referred to them once as sneakers. Only once mind. He never made that mistake again ha ha ha) and when I was a kid I had a fringe. When I was a kid I also devoured Sweet Valley High books. It was through these books that I first became aware that, despite sharing a common language, there were many words I did not understand. What the heck was a twinkie? And a jock? And a barrette?

So here is my (brief) rundown of commonly different words:

English              American

Knickers           Panties

Pants                Jocks *

Trousers           Pants

Fringe               Bangs

Trainers            Sneakers

Film                  Movie

Fag                  Cigarette

Sweets             Candy

Crisps              Chips

Chips               Fries

Courgette         Zucchini

Aubergine        Eggplant

Hairclip            Barrette

* Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong on that one as I know a jock in America is also a sporty-type.

I would love to hear about any I have missed, not forgetting the other countries that also have English as its common language, such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

Language is a wonderful, fluid, living thing and we should celebrate it in all its forms. But I should stress now I will never watch a movie, my kids will never wear sneakers and when I was a kid I did not have bangs.

Thanks for reading and take care xxx


  1. bahaha. Great post, can't believe I missed the chat about knickers last night. Need to go on Twitter more.

    My editor had to ask what a few things meant on my edits. With Anna being Scottish (which is quite probably a whole other language) she had no idea what some of my phrases meant.

    I didn't know what Jocks were either, but I tend to call 'em boxers. Unless the guy wears y-fronts :-/

    So 'bangs' means 'fringe'! Always wondered about that.


    1. See - I am educating you! That's my good deed done for the day! xxx

  2. Great post. This cracks me up! I am an American living in the UK. I coach/teach cheer/dance as a hobby and I taught ballroom/Latin/ballet, etc. and do loads of choreography.

    When I first moved over I did choreography for YMCA shows. One particular piece was a 40s-style American swing dance number. I made the God-awful mistake of telling the elderly, male (and terribly proper)director of the YMCA that the boys in the piece would be wearing kackis, sleeveless tanks, and SUSPENDERS!

    I thought he was going to have a heart attack. He thought I planned on dressing the pre-teen/teen boys in drag. How was I to know what I call a garter belt (as in stockings), you call suspenders. It was a long while before I lived that one down. :)

    1. That's hilarious! Love it. I remember as a kid my cousins from Australia came over for a visit and one of them asked to use the dunny. We didn't have a clue what she was on about and by the time it was worked out the poor thing had wet herself! :-)

  3. Ha! I take my hat off to you, Michelle. I really didn't think you'd succumb to the dare, but more fool me! And what a terrific post! I was planning mine tomorrow on a similar line, but now I have to rethink. That'll teach me not to be quicker. You're a star. Only one thing - I'm Welsh, my lovely. So if I told you I was sending you a big cwtch for this, would you know what I mean? Huge hugs and thanks for all the fun. xxx

    1. Great minds think alike and all that! I have no idea what a big cwth is and can only hope it's not Welsh rhyming slang, ha ha ha xxx

  4. Michelle
    Funniest one I ever had...
    Durex in Australia used to be sticky tape.
    The conversation in my first work place as a very young librarian when I asked my Scottish co-worker if I could borrow her durex!
    The look on her face was priceless and she never let me forget it!

  5. Talking of condoms, I believe rubbers in the States are condoms, whereas in the UK they are erasers. Cue huge classroom misunderstandings.

    Another easy one is sidewalk (USA) = pavement (UK) = footpath (Oz/NZ) What the hell you write when you are English, living in New Zealand, writing a book set in Australia for a predominantly American audience is enough to turn anyone loopy.

    This was an interesting post on Oz/Kiwi writers reeling in their language for a world audience from earlier in the year:

    1. Oooh, thank's for that Jo - will have a look at that in a mo :-)

  6. ~laughs~ I need to get into the habit of reading my authors' blogs daily. Oi.

    No one really calls male underwear "jocks" in America, save for the very specific "jock strap," a highly unflattering monstrosity that needs to be retired from our fashion repertoire. Terminology depends on style. Boxers, briefs, or the hybrid boxer-briefs. Boxers are loose shorts, briefs are the tighty-whiteys, boxer-briefs are like biking shorts with the appropriate modifications, etc. But mostly "jocks" refers to males with heavy involvement in sports, who generally have a mentality that's just plain pants.

    I'm trying to think of some other differences - I believe for you a jumper is a warm, heavy top, while in American English that's a sweater and a jumper is a kids' outfit, either overalls or a onesie. I'm too brain-dead at 5am to think of much else. I'm sure it'll crop up when we're working on edits.

    Dreading that now? ;)

    -Your highly amused editor

    1. *falls on floor laughing head off*

    2. ...I'm guessing that entire explanation contained enough Americanisms to nearly asphyxiate you. Shhh. I spent less than a year on your side of the pond. My acclimation wasn't that thorough. ;P