I often get mistaken for an American. No jokes! The number of times I’ve had people ask me “why do you have an American accent” is quite a lot. Especially when I speak on the phone. If only I had a dollar for all the times I heard that, I’ll be a millionaire. Okay, not really but I’ll probably be a few hundred dollars richer.
My husband and I also have this private joke where we say I’m from Massachusetts. I have no idea how that came about and I’ve never even been to the US. Couple of weeks ago, I realised that I hadn’t actually narrated to him the time when I successfully pretended to be an American teenager who has just returned to Nigeria.
It’s really hilarious, and it would be much better if I demonstrated to you. Essentially we were in high school and my friend had just returned from the US after being there for a few months. She related all of her experiences in Florida including details of the school she attended there. I took all of this in wholly.
As I had only just resumed at the boarding house, a lot of people especially the senior students did not know me. On one occasion a group of seniors called out to me asking who I was. As a joke (and thinking they wouldn’t fall for it) I put on my best American accent, saying I had just returned from Florida and has always lived in the US but my parents wanted to me be exposed to the Nigerian culture so they sent me back home! I dished out all the details (using all of my friends experiences!). Oh dear – they fell for it. They actually believed me! I was laughing so hard inside. After a few hours I came straight and they couldn’t believe it! Thankfully we all laughed about it.
But I think I’ve always sort of preferred the American accent and English. That’s probably why I prefer spelling mum as “mom”. I remember once in primary school, the teacher asked if i could spell ‘Cheque’. I was wondering who wouldn’t be able to. So I confidently spelt ‘Check’ – and got a big fat X sign. But it turns out I didn’t really deserve that – common, that’s the American spelling!
It’s also interesting to see some of my friends relocate to the US and suddenly drop the ‘u’ from certain words and so begin to spell as “Color” and “Favor”; as well as move over to the ‘er’ side, spelling theatre as ‘theater’ and metre as ‘meter’. Many people already mix up the use of ‘s’ and ‘z’ – so that’s often not much of a change. But FYI, s is British. So we spell memoriSe and not ‘memoriZe’.
But the most fascinating bit of all of this is how some words are totally different in British and American English! One of the most fascinating ones for me ever was when I realised, the Americans referred to a ‘tap’ as a ‘faucet’!
An interesting one also is’queue’. A friend narrated how she kept asking “is this the end of the queue” and no one would understand her until someone asked if she meant “line”.
And you know why I got convinced to write this post? I’d had it in my drafts but had not read all of the words down to the very end. And then only two days ago, I stumbled on a fashion blog, where the blogger was talking about it being ‘Polo Season’. But I couldn’t see her wearing any polos! In all of the photos she had on a turtle neck top. I left a comment saying “oh i didn’t realise these were called ‘Polos’, I’ve always called them ‘Turtle necks'”. She replied with ‘Yeah, I think that’s a slang for it’. When I got to the end of this table, I realised! Apparently Americans call them turtlenecks while the British call them Polos. Amazing!
So I thought to myself “You really should publish this post!’
I think a lot of the TV shows and books we read will play a part in which words we relate to. Growing up as a child and reading lots of Enid Blyton books – which couldn’t be anymore British, I gravitate towards a few British options. But then, getting older and binging on American TV shows and novels – I realise that i’ll rather say ‘Let’s go to the movies’; and i most definitely prefer the word ‘apartment’ to ‘flat’!
Well, thank me later – but here’s 70 words that are different in American and British English!
Maybe I’m too much of a geek, but I really enjoyed finding these words and reading it – a lot of my vocabulary is definitely a mix of American and British. But more importantly, I can finally understand some terms. i.e I genuinely used to think ‘wall-to-wall carpeting’ was somehow for the walls! It really left me confused when they referred to it in movies.
Knowledge of these may also be useful in everyday conversations and in applying for international schools or jobs.
What’s the most surprising one you’ve just learned? Have you got a preference for the American or British accent and English? Let’s do basic litmus test – how do you pronounce the letter Z – Zed or Zee?
pS: Okay I admit, I’m definitely a slight geek. Pretty upset I failed to include some words in the above table! I’ve listed a few of the omitted ones below. If you’re feeling extra geeky, there’s a lot more on Google!
ppS: It was such a struggle trying to figure out how to get the table in. And I had to settle for these not-so-pretty screenshot image. If there’s anyone able to put this into a prettier image, please help!.
Oyindamola AbbattyNovember 17, 2016 at 12:13
Hahahahah…funny story. I don’t have a British accent, I’m more of the British English type and I find it really annoying when I’m using MS Word and there’s a red line underneath when I spell color as colour. Eventually I figured out that I could change my MS Word settings to British english. It saved me a lot of grief. So it’s definitely Zed not Zee for me.The YC blog || Bloglovin’50 Random Facts About Me
Kosiso AsomughaNovember 17, 2016 at 12:51
I found myself smiling throughout my read because MS Word is always correcting me when I type and it can be frustrating. I did learn some new words and comparisons. As for the litmus test, it’s Zed most of the time and Zee at other times. Cool read!
Uzoma | Don't Touch The HairNovember 17, 2016 at 13:41
Great list, Kachi. I did not know that suspenders are called braces in British English. What do they call braces that straighten teeth? I think I prefer how the British accent sounds. There are so many unique accents in the UK which is great. For the litmus test, I prefer ‘zee’ because that’s what I learned and grew up saying. When I moved to Nigeria, it took some time to get used to some of the different meanings. It worked out in the end.You may be able to do some simple HTML for the tables. Maybe there’s a Squarespace plugin for it too.Don’t Touch the Hair
Praise AbuNovember 17, 2016 at 14:10
LOL, funny story Kachi. For me it’s a mixture of both, more of the British though.For the litmus test, it’s a zee most times and Zed at other times.My Style Look Book Series
nchedo chinwubaNovember 17, 2016 at 16:01
Lmaooo your storyy!!American English is so hard😩😩😩 Sometimes I don’t even know if the word I’m writing is American or British English. Biko I’m Igbo or is it spelt as Ibo?
Kachee || KacheeTee.comNovember 17, 2016 at 16:04
I don’t even know if it’s Ibo or Igbo! 😅😅😅. In some things though American English is simpler. 😄😄
AtinukeNovember 17, 2016 at 18:28
oh! definitely polo neck/turtle neck, always thought they were different. My vocabulary is actually a mix of the two also. Lol, the Paracetamol is so our thing. i pronounce it as ZED. Love, love, love this post, so enlightening!tinukeawe.wordpress.com
Mz CharideeNovember 17, 2016 at 18:38
Monika || Violet RootsNovember 17, 2016 at 21:44
That’s really funny that you pretended to be an American teen. haha. There are so many small and big differences in words and meanings. This list is really comprehensive and there are a ton I didn’t even know about. Like “dummy” instead of “pacifier” and “number plate” instead of “license plate”-MViolet Roots || Instagram
AbbyNovember 18, 2016 at 00:32
I love the British accent! Sounds very polished. I can relate to Chips and Fries😭went to America asking for chips only to get blank stares. Lool😂😂
Kachee || KacheeTee.comNovember 20, 2016 at 06:47
Brenda MobebiNovember 18, 2016 at 01:05
Here in Nigeria, we just mix both of them.. I know i used to spell colour (British), but these days i see people spelling it color(American) and sometimes i get so confused myself spelling both in the same exam.Others are:neighbour (british)neighbor (American)criticise (British)criticize (American)and so on………Fact am trying to make here is, if you wanna stick to British, do it and not to mix it up with American…As for me i still prefer the British.Brendascouch.com
A girl calledNovember 18, 2016 at 13:02
I mix them all up, depending on my mood and how they look. I pronounced it as Z as Zee but like I said i use both. I am going to save this images and decide on which country to stick to. Lol I wish I could fake accent but nah everyone would know I’m Nigerian 😂😭.
Kachee || KacheeTee.comNovember 20, 2016 at 06:46
Loool @ decide which country to stick too. 😅😅
Elege Marian NekaNovember 18, 2016 at 14:44
my vocab is a mix of both!!! I figure i use the british more tho…however some are just too “british” for me. I’d pick “lawyer” over “solicitor” anyway and then why d “acetaminophen” for common “paracetamol”…abeg life is not that serious!!! hahahahaha….Above all….great piece!!!
favour moyseNovember 19, 2016 at 02:14
Ok.. Paracetamol is actually the trade name of the drug while acetaminophen is the generic name. But the American names sounds way cool than british. BEFORE I DIE
Olaa BobadeNovember 19, 2016 at 18:14
Kachiii.. Been trying to comment on this post since I read it but network won’t let me be great. That’s by the way. This post is super helpful. I was in a spelling competition this August and the word I had to spell to make it to the final stage was Prioritise. I was confused, like why did she give me such a simple word till I got to the s/z part and I saw the trick. I just wasn’t sure anymore and I decided to go for ‘s’. Then she told me to repeat myself and I almost changed it to z but some strongwill left it at s. Such relief. Trust me to come back here during the finals. I also learnt that gaol is the British spelling for Jail. Hope you’re good. The Confident Woman: Joyce Meyer http://Www.laitanbee.com
Kachee || KacheeTee.comNovember 20, 2016 at 06:44
Laitan! Thank you for coming back to comment! I’m not even going to lie – I used to mix up the s and z as well. Such a common mistake. All the best will the finals of the spelling bee! 🎉
Chidinma AmoguNovember 21, 2016 at 13:13
I think some people take the American English as ‘tusher’ since it’s what they hear in movies and they’ve gotten so used to British Eng from growing up. I’m just relieved that driving license is correct. Nearly got me embarrassed somewhere.middleclassnigeriangirl.wor…
SogieNovember 27, 2016 at 13:14
Girl i love you so much. This post is everything, when I’m writing i usually interchange between british and american english. Itsdivadiaries.com
Kachee || KacheeTee.comNovember 30, 2016 at 07:47
Hahahaha. Thank you. I used to interchange too, but now I guess I’ll be more careful.
SogieNovember 27, 2016 at 13:14
Yes you are geek 😋😋
AmakamediaNovember 28, 2016 at 08:29
#TeamGeekLovely post, Kachee. I think it’s safe to say American English is easier than British English. Lol. I remember doing a presentation on this topic in GS 102 back in the days. It was not an easy something-something.Even the dictionaries and auto-cirrect on our phones is mostly American. SMH.Learnt a few new words.
Kachee || KacheeTee.comNovember 30, 2016 at 07:48
High five team mate!I know right re auto correct. Even writing this post, it kept bring up American spellings and I haven’t bothered to change it.
Goodness-Mercy WemeDecember 6, 2016 at 10:30
Such a lovely post! This s and z thing I actually thought one was a verb and the other a noun like advise and advice. The part of public and private schools I really don’t get- so the government owned schools is called public schools in UK but private in US is that what you mean.
Kachee || KacheeTee.comDecember 7, 2016 at 20:27
Hi Goodness. The s and z thing is different to the s and c. You’re correct the s and c as in advise and advice relates to a verb and a noun. In the UK Public schools are the really expensive and prestigious schools while in the US (like in Nigeria) those are referred to as private.
Goodness-Mercy WemeDecember 8, 2016 at 12:33
Oh-oh, i mistook the s and z for s and c thanks for pointing this out.
Goodness-Mercy WemeDecember 6, 2016 at 10:36
I don’t know what the problem is but I find it difficult to open your post, don’t know if it’s my browser (but I doubt cos I’m able to open other blogs), disqus seems to be worse would have dropped my comment a long time ago, pls any suggestion on what to do. Thanks
Kachee || KacheeTee.comDecember 6, 2016 at 11:00
I’m so so sorry about this. I don’t know what’s happening but I’ll definitely look into it. Thanks for letting me know.