Brits and Americans: Separated by a common language

Though both speak English, this husband and wife are sometimes lost in translation.

Though both speak English, this husband and wife are sometimes lost in translation

As some of you may recall from reading my columns on, I’m an American married to a Brit. On most days, he and I speak the same language and have no trouble communicating. But there are times when it’s clear we hail from different lands.

The irony for me is that, despite having lived in the U.S. for the past 12 years during which time he attained American citizenship, my husband has not picked up a single Americanism, whereas I often catch myself using Britishisms such as car park or pronouncing garage as GARE-odge, and I’m ever amazed that I do.

Some British words sound particularly foreign to my ear. Speciality is one. Aluminium is another. They look very much alike, but at closer inspection you’ll find the Brits have slipped in an extra i, hence the added syllable. Still, the two words mean the same as their American counterparts: specialty and aluminum.

There are other terms that strike me as quirky, amusing or a bit of both, and I’ve freely sprinkled them in conversation with my spouse. And some of the saucier ones, which I will not repeat here, sound ever so charming when spoken by a native Brit, but come across as coarse or even offensive in a Yankee accent; I know I simply cannot pull them off.

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