Category Archives: UK-USA

US/UK Adjectivenoun Revelations

I’ve always been bemused (is that the word?) by the difference in pronunciation between the US and UK of terms like “apple sauce” and “ice cream”. In the UK, they are pronounced with equal emphasis on the first and second words. “Apple Sauce”, “Ice Cream”. In the US, the emphasis is on the first word, “APPLE sauce”, “ICE cream”, implying that the first word defines the type of sauce or cream we are talking about. Which I suppose is true. “PEANUT butter”. In fact you could almost remove the space between the words.

“Applesauce” (I think it’s actually spelled like this here). “Icecream”. “Peanutbutter”.

I’ve just noticed a new one, but it’s slightly different. In the UK it is said that popular things “sell like hot cakes”, implying a load of cakes (of any type)  have just come out of the oven, and every buys one while they’re hot and delicious. That’s how I understand it, anyway. However, in the US it is pronounced and written “sell like hotcakes”, which implies that hotcakes are a specific type of cake. A quick google image search tells me that it is a another word for pancakes – and the American style of pancakes too, not the thin crepe-type UK ones.

Conclusions? I don’t know. I just noticed it, is all.

Another American Backwards Thing

Just thought of another thing that this country gets consistently wrong in a weird contrarian illogical way: dates.

August 9, 2012Fine, no doubt about the meaning.
2012-08-099th of August 2012. Year-Month-Date. Fine by me. A bit techie - I put this on the end of filenames to make them sort alphabetically and by chronologically at the same time. Works especially well for meeting minutes. Also, it's International Standard 8601, so there's that.
8/9What's this? To my UK eye, this is the 8th of September, because in the UK we go up in order of size of time period. But in the US it means August 9th. OK, this could go either way.
8/9/2012This is the worst for me. By adding in the year at the end, the implication is that we're moving up in the size of time periods, Day to Month to Year. But no, in the US this is 9th August 2012. It really makes me have to stop and think.

OK, it’s just another cultural difference, which I have to get used to. But this one irks me more than some of the others – there’s no logic behind it that I can see (although when explained by an American, they’re adamant that it all makes sense). It’s like a traditional way of thinking causes a need for extra cognitive load and introduces the possibility of error.

WordPress, the software that this site runs on, has an option where you can schedule a post to be published at a later date and time. The options show up as follows:


As you can see, they have to make it clear and say “08-Aug” because they put the month field first.

This stuff was brought into sharp relief in the terrorist attacks in New York in 2001 and in London in 2005. New York’s attack was on 9-11; September 11th in local parlance. It was obviously terrible international news, but I know that in many countries, people had to think twice about the date, thinking of it as November 9th.

London was easier. 7th July 2005. 7/7. No getting confused there. Everything was very clear on that day.

American Backwards

I love living here, got my Green Card, not going anywhere, building a life etc etc please don’t shoot me. That said, here are some weird backwards things I’ve been noticing. Consider it an addendum to the Same but Different posts.

Political Red and Blue

In the UK, red is left-wing and blue is right-wing. Conservative stronghold counties are known as “True Blue”. Paranoid news reports about lefties and commies referred to “reds under the bed”. Billy Bragg was involved with the Red Wedge. In the US, political reporting shows conservative states as red and progressive states as blue. This confuses and perturbs me.

Measurement Units

SI units are used worldwide. The UK is a bit stubborn in many ways, with miles on the road and pints in the pub. There was a kerfuffle a while back when market traders resisted converting from pounds and ounces to grams, but I think that particular rebellion was crushed, as is only right.

Here in the US, it’s Fahrenheit (where zero is 32 and 100 is 212, of course), and engineers are trained in SI units (I assume) and then go to work on projects where they have to convert to feet and inches (with all the rounding errors that introduces). Plus weirdly they call feet and inches “English” units, despite the English mostly not using them. I guess calling them “Imperial” units (as is done in the UK) is a bit much for this young, fragile democracy.

Speaking to an intern here in the office who is an undergraduate studying Civil Engineering, I was told,

It’s a pain in my ass. Depending on the book you use, the professor you have, and sometimes the department you’re in, you might use SI units, American units like feet and inches, or even British units.”

He wasn’t able to define what a “British” unit was, but did mention the existence of “slugs“, which are an Imperial unit of mass used in hydrology.

Admittedly, this might be a perspective from within the rail industry. The UK was still using miles and chains when I was there, due to the ancient plans and drawings that were being referred to.

They call LEGO bricks “Legos” goddamnit

Not much else I can say about this.

Can’t think of any other examples right now that aren’t just cute “faggot”/”pavement”/”elevator” references. But there are some pretty fundamental differences lurking here, that can swallow an unsuspecting foreigner alive. Tread carefully, my fellow travellers.

The Same But Different, UK-US Differences Part 3

Blanket duvet / quilt
Quilt thin quilted cover with design on it like they used to make.
Sheet Sheet
Sherbet Sorbet
Fizzy sweet powder Sherbet
Comforter thin duvet
Flan Creme Caramel pudding like what used to make me cat up when I was a kid.
Pudding Blancmange
Dessert Pudding

The Same But Different, UK-US Differences Part 2

UPDATE: This is all being moved to a dedicated page, where I will continue to document the differences.

The Same But Different, UK-US Differences Part 1


= pretty much equal to
~= similar to
/= not equal to
CVS = Boots
Rite Aid ~= (a slightly shabby) Boots
Walgreens = Boots
Target ~= what Woolworths could have been
7-Eleven ~= Londis / Wavy Line (as was)
??? = WHSmith (I’m still looking)
Reno 911! ~=
Sanford & Son = Steptoe & Son
Hershey’s chocolate /= chocolate
Sidewalk = Pavement
Pavement = road surface
Smoke a cigarette = Smoke a fag
Smoke a fag = shoot a homosexual dead
Rick Warren ~= Rowan Williams
Brian Williams /= Zeinab Badawi (but kind of, and I ran out of ideas)

The Same But Different, UK-US Differences Part 1

Here’s my ongoing project to spot which US products are like which UK products, because it has never been done before anywhere, in slim humorous books or elsewhere. These are my observations as and when I think of them, so don’t expect completeness or accuracy, or indeed entertainment. Keep your expectations low, is what I’m saying.


= pretty much equal to
~= similar to
/= not equal to

(* includes bonus reactionary curmudgeon entries! No prize if you can spot them!)

Pine-sol ~= Dettol
Clorox = Domestos
Good Humor ice cream = Walls ice cream (same logo)
Lays potato chips = Walkers crisps (same logo)
3 Musketeers ~= Milky Way
Milky Way ~= Mars
Snickers = Marathon*
Vons ~= Sainsburys / Tesco
Gelsons ~= Waitrose
Albertsons ~= Asda (I think you know what I mean)
Cif kitchen cleaner = Cif, which used to be called Jif
Jif = a brand of peanut butter
Starburst = Opal Fruits*
Bro-Magnons =  Townies (i.e. collars flipped up)
Glenn Beck / Sean Hannity = Richard Littlejohn / Peter Hitchens
Larry King /= Jeremy Paxman (no matter what Larry thinks)
Larry King ~= Michael Parkinson (i.e. sycophantic but with a delusion of being a hard-hitting interviewer)
NPR and its local affiliates KPBS, KPCC, KQED and KALW etc ~= BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service