Ever since the British empire ruled over almost a quarter of the world so many years ago, the English language was always changing dialects all over the globe. Though very similar, there are some big differences between the three different types of English – Australian, British, and American. In addition to all that, accents can get confusing to every native English speaker for now and then. Many of our words remain the same and have the same meanings. Others have slightly altered spellings. Some, however, are used very differently.
Americans and Australians use the word flannel to describe a shirt with a checked or plaid design, while Britons see a flannel as a small washcloth. These shirts are often described as checked or occasionally plaid in Britain. So, we’d advise not asking to borrow a British guy’s flannel, even if you just want a shirt.
In Britain, an elevator is known as lift. While ‘lift’ to an American makes you think of weights or picking something up, in Britain, a lift takes you between levels of a building. Although to confuse matters further, Britons also use lift in the same way as Americans, in terms of moving things. Australians have the best of both worlds and use the two interchangeably.
In both Britain and America, a cactus is a small prickly plant from the desert. In Australia, however, cactus means something completely different. To Australians, saying something is cactus means it is broken or not working. For example, a leaking washing machine would be cactus – very dissimilar to our meaning of the word.
In Australia, a blue most commonly means a fight and often, is a nickname for a redhead. This is because redheads had a reputation for being aggressive in the early 1900s, so redheads became known as ‘blueys,’ thanks to the local slang of blue meaning fight. In Britain, feeling blue usually means sad or miserable. In all three forms of English, however, blue is, of course, a color.
Americans refer to a basket full of dirty laundry as a hamper, whereas Britain and Australia simply call it a laundry basket. A hamper in these two countries is more commonly a small wicker basket, usually used to carry cutlery and food for picnics.
In America, pants are the bottom half of our outfits, but in Britain, pants are called trousers. Pants are referring to a very different thing – undergarments. So, you’d get a very funny look if you asked your friend what pants they were wearing on a night out! Meanwhile, once again, Australians use the two terms interchangeably.
Whether you travel across America, Australia, or Britain, you’re bound to notice some pretty significant differences between the languages; from strange words and slang, to accent variations which make the language hard to understand. Thankfully, you’ll get the most part of the conversation, however, no matter where you travel of the three main English-speaking countries, due to the similarities and general familiarity of the languages.