Crisps, Chips, Fries, Same Language Different Ballgame

Languages can be complex to understand and learn at the best of times, whether that be your mother tongue or a second language. When you add in slang, regional dialects and accents they can be even more complex to master.

One of the most interesting language relationships is that which is shared by the US and the UK. Both speak English but our friends from ‘across the pond’ have altered many of the words we have come to know. So just what happens when nations who speak the same language, change or alter words?

In truth, the answer is that there is a larger scope for error and misunderstandings, we are, to steal the saying, “lost in translation.”

The underlying lexicon of your personal vocabulary shouldn’t alter the fact that here in the UK we speak what is known as the ‘Queen’s English.’

Class, social status, accent and slang do not drive the selection of words that we use but cultural contexts and varying styles of communication can. For this reason we are left with words changing meaning from speaker to speaker.

In US English chips are not deep fried chunks of potato like they are here, but thin slices similar to what we in the UK call crisps, over there what we call chips are know as fries and there are no crisps at all.

Still with me?

An aubergine is an eggplant, a biscuit, a cookie and braces, suspenders.

Your tea may be stirred counterclockwise instead of anticlockwise and home could be an apartment not a flat.

Your car is filled with gasoline not petrol and you form a line not a queue to pay for it. Failure to do this could see the assistant snap your license plate as opposed to taking a photo of your registration plate, indeed so many of the small things that we do in our day to day lives have seen their meaning altered.

Some words see a spelling change such as mum and mom, yet retain their meaning, while others replace the adjective for a similar descriptive word such as crocodile clip in the UK becoming an alligator clip.

For many years football fans around the world cheered for David Beckham but his move to the US was to play soccer not football. Over there it is a game in which the feet are used only to run and not to play.

But fear not America you are not alone in the way you use your English, our closest neighbours, Ireland, also alter meaning and change the structure of what we associate as basic grammar and structure.

If you were caught fooling around beyond the Irish sea, you’d be acting the maggot, something that has been broken is said to have been banjaxed and an error of huge proportions would be a haymes.

These sayings, words, patterns and sentences are all ingrained in the way various cultures and social groups communicate. I guess all that can be said is that we’ll have to shrug and get,crack or move on with it.

As the complexities of language continue to baffle many it is a chance that businesses can’t take. Indeed many of them turn to professional language solutions agencies such as London Translations to save them the indignity of not knowing their wage packet from their paycheck.

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