It has become my personal campaign of tilting at windmills to make standard American English more international in character. To do this I started using words that I thought more logical (or just plain sound better) from British English. Like crisps instead of potato chips. Hopefully I will be able to pick up a Transatlantic accent as well.

Join me! After all it is crazy, but gosh it can be fun too. Plus being eccentric is charming when trying to get a date. (Okay, I don’t know that this actually works that well, but you never know...)

A list of the words I prefer from my years of watching BBC programs:

  • "Chips" instead of "French fries" (Though I still use French fries to refer to the thin French cut chips like McDonald’s serves.)
  • "Crisps" instead of "Potato chips"
  • "Dustbin" instead of "Waste Paper Basket" (Such a clumsy term)
  • "Nail varnish" instead of "Nail polish"
  • "Plonk" instead of "cheap wine"
  • "Put down" instead of "Put to sleep" (what a dishonest idiom)
  • "Sultanas" instead of "Golden raisins"
  • "Tram" or "Tramway" instead of "Light Rail"

The words I throw in as synonyms:

  • A
  • Aerial for Antenna
  • Argentine for Argentinean
  • Autumn for Fall
  • B
  • Biro for Ball-point pen
  • Bloke for Guy
  • Brolly for Umbrella
  • C
  • Cinema for Movie theater
  • Clingfilm for Plastic wrap
  • Constable for police officer
  • Cuppa for Cup of tea
  • D
  • Daft for Stupid
  • Dodgy for Iffy, suspect
  • Dotty for Feeble-minded
  • Downmarket for Seedy
  • E
  • F
  • Fancy (verb) for Like
  • Fire brigade for fire department
  • Flat for Apartment
  • G
  • Gents for Men's room
  • H
  • Holiday for Vacation
  • I
  • Ice lolly for Popsicle (Such a cool term!)
  • Ironmongers' for Hardware store
  • J
  • Joiner for Carpenter
  • Jumper for Sweater
  • K
  • Knickers for Panties
  • L
  • Lad for Boy
  • Ladies' for Lady's room
  • Loo for Bathroom
  • Lorry for Truck
  • M
  • Maize for Corn
  • Motorway for Highway
  • Mince instead of Ground meat
  • N
  • Nappy for Diaper
  • Nick for Steal
  • Nutter for Kook
  • O
  • Off for Spoiled
  • P
  • Patience (card game) for Solitaire
  • Pavement for Sidewalk
  • Peckish for Hungry
  • Petrol for Gas
  • Pinch for Steal
  • Pitch for Playing field
  • Plait for Braid
  • Post (noun or verb) for Mail
  • Pneumatic drill for jack hammer
  • Prat for Jerk
  • Q
  • Queue for Line (of people)
  • R
  • Rank for Taxi stand
  • Refectory for Cafeteria
  • Ring for Call
  • Roundabout for Traffic circle
  • Row for Quarrel
  • Rucksack for Backpack
  • S
  • Sack (verb) for Fire
  • Skint for Broke
  • Sleeper for Railroad tie
  • Spanner for Wrench
  • Starkers for Naked
  • Sweets for Candy
  • T
  • Tap for Faucet
  • Telly for TV
  • Tin for Can
  • Tip for Dump
  • Treacle for Molasses
  • U
  • Upmarket for Classy
  • V
  • W
  • Waistcoat for Vest
  • Water closet for Bathroom
  • Windscreen (automotive) for Windshield
  • X
  • Y
  • Z

The Rest

Bloody- I just like this mild expletive. It does not sound as old fashioned as using "heck" or "darn". I must admit I also like using exclamations translated from other languages too. They’re just fun for me. Like "Go to the Devil’s Grandmother!" (Russian)

Chat up- This is a lovely idiom that has no direct equivalent in American English as far as I know. For those not in the know it means to chat flirtatiously.

Hedgerow- My understanding is that this means any hedge in England. I might use this word for a narrow band of trees and bushes, but we don’t have many things like those here in America.

Jam- I understand that this is the word for any Jelly in England. I already use this word to refer to a sugary type of preserved crushed fruit. Like my mom’s strawberry Jam and Jelly when referring to the stuff made with just the juice of a fruit.

Pub- A pub is very different from the American bar. For one thing they welcome people who are not there to drink alcohol. It would be more like what is sometimes called a 'family' bar over here. So I don’t use this word, even for the bars over here that call themselves pubs.


Personally I see International English not so much about limiting the use of words. (Except in a very few cases where I refuse to use a dishonest or clumsy word.) But to expand the vocabulary of English speakers as widely as possible. I know this does not make English easier to learn, but I do not see any way to reduce the language except by natural attrition.

I have no doubt that eventually some parts of the expanded vocabulary will become less commonly used. But if it a directed process coming from some sort of word police it will be resisted. What will keep the langauge even as it contracts is international communication.

So I think the goal in the short term is to introduce each other to new words from different parts of the English speaking world. I am starting with British terms for ease of access and will move on to more obscure ones as I do more research.

It would not be a bad idea to have some kind of Standard English for international use. As far as I know, such attempts did occur in the past.

Around the time of World War II, someone came up with the idea of Basic English. The idea was an abysmal failure, but I can see why: It was supposed to be a subset of English using a select number of verbs used in combination with modifiers, such as up, off, in, etc. Such combinations are very common in English, e.g., put up, give in, and such. Unfortunately, they also are the hardest part of the English language for non-native speakers to master. The idea was naive (despite it being pushed by Churchill), and could never survive.

A Standard English would have to be the full English language, not a subset. There would need to be some kind of agreement about its vocabulary, i.e., each word would need to be used in a way everyone understands as opposed to regionalisms. E.g. soda would be preferable to pop.

The greatest obstacle, given the nature of English would be standardized pronunciation. By that I don't mean phonetic alphabet, rather the same word is pronounced the same way by everyone (e.g. potatoe, either...).

For it to succeed, it could not be forced as a replacement of regional types of English. Rather, people should be allowed to continue speaking as they do, and only use the Standard English when communicating on an international level.

Systems following these principles do exist and are successful in other languages. China may be a prime example: Each province speaks pretty much a different language, but all school children are taught Mandarin, so they have a common language to talk with people from other provinces.

Indeed, Transatlantic already exists and is used as an international (or perhaps "metanational") dialect of English. But only by actors. For it to become a truly Standard English, it would have to be taught to school children with the clear understanding it is not the one and only correct way to speak, but the accent/dialect to be used in international conversation only. It would also have to become the standard dialect to teach English as a second language.

It is quite possible for you to pick up Transatlantic. All you really need is to study Teach Yourself Transatlantic, by Robert L. Hobbs, then practice, practice, practice. Unfortunately, the book is out of print, but you should be able to get a copy through interlibrary loan. The drama department of your local college may have a copy as well. For that matter, they may even tutor you (it is much easier to learn an accent from a live teacher than from a book).

One nice thing about Transatlantic is that it is not a native dialect of any place, so no one would feel why should I talk like people in XXX.

This is achieved by enhancing whatever it is you wish to say by speaking loudly and slowly.

For example, if in Spain and wishing to order a coke, a person not well versed in International English might say:
"Um, could I have a Coke please?"
And of course, the waiter would almost certainly have no idea what the foreign customer was desiring. Lets convert it to International English, so that the customer could communicate with the waiter in the correct manner:
"H E L L O, C O U L D, I, H A V E A, C O K E, P L E A S E?
The waiter will now of course understand what the customer said. It's a well known fact of tourists that if you say something loudly and slowly enough in English, anyone can understand it! After all, you can!

This public service braodcast was brought to you by ignorance and stupidity.
When writing documentation for UK English, make sure you switch dictionaries in Word or your favourite word processing program.

Several items that can confuse American English users when writing a UK English paper are:

  • You will find that most of the words that have a Z in them have changed it to an S.

    1. Capitalize = Capitalise

    2. Analyze = Analyse

  • A few words have "extra" letters:

    1. Color = Colour

    2. Flavor = Flavour

  • Some words change their spelling:

    1. Program = Programme

    2. Theater = Theatre

    3. Shop can be Shoppe

      gkAndy says: When talking about computer programs, UK English uses 'program' too. Programme is used for TV, radio, football etc. Thanks!

    If you switch dictionaries in your word processor, it should flag all of the "americanized" words for you.

  • Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.