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!.