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“words have different meanings in different countries”


The old saying "words have different meanings in different countries" - does anyone have any specific examples of this they can share, or can you sign post me to a useful resource?

Gwen Turpin

6 Responses

  1. Have a look at Wikipedia
    If you type “false Friends” in google and choose the wikipedia link there’s a very comprehensive list of them. If you’re looking for some funny ones then there’s constipado in Spanish – it doesn’t mean what you think and also embarazada in Spanish as well – that one can lead to a few red faces!!

  2. Example
    I can’t think of many but this one is from my school day French.

    I am hot – English
    Je Suis Chaud – Direct translation “I am hot” means… I am horny!

    J’ai Chaud – “I have heat” means I am hot.

    Hope that helps.

  3. do these help?
    in the military…
    “Mess kit” to the British army means the smart bow tie gear worn to a formal mess dinner. To the Americans “Mess kit” means a knife fork spoon and a tin plate.

    Similarly an american soldier hangs his pistol holster on his LBE (load bearing equipment) a Brit hangs it on his belt.
    (Sadly this is now archaic…a Brit now hangs it on his PLCE; Personal Load Carrying eguipment.

    Think also of…
    ZIP=uk closes your flies
    ZIP=us tells the postie where you live

    Bonnet-uk thing under which you find the engine of your car, US it is a hood

    also fender and trunk

    Lift=uk takes you to a different floor
    in the us it goes in your shoes to make you taller

    Fag or faggot…lets not go there

    “Knock you up”…ditto

    in the US a robin is a bird about the size of a pigeon…in the UK it is about the size of a sparrow

  4. Can be embarrassing!
    In England, you call it a floppy, in South Africa, it’s a stiffy. Yeah I know.

    In South Africa and America, pants are outerwear – you wear them over underpants in South Africa and shorts in the US.

    In England it’s a traffic light, in South Africa it’s a robot. In England it’s a roundabout, in SA it’s a traffic circle.

    If a South African or American asks for your “cell” number, they are not casing aspersions – they are referring to your mobile phone.

    “Just now” means shortly in SA (as does “now now”) and right now in the UK. “So long” in SA means “in the meantime”, in the US it means goodbye.

    “Cheers” in SA means goodbye, in the UK it means thanks.

    In the UK and SA we call them sweets, Americans say candy and Aussies say lollies.

    Thongs in the UK are worn as underwear, whereas in Australia and (to a lesser extent) SA, they are worn on your feet. That kind of footwear in the UK is known as flip flops.

  5. ‘went off’
    One to watch in translations or when speaking with foreign colleagues: “If the fire alarm goes off,…” To someone unfamiliar with English, the fire alarm ‘going off’ would mean it STOPS ringing.

  6. Look
    “Look”, in the UK its mild term of rebuke and a warning that harsh words are about to be delivered, in Australia its simply a conjunction.


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