I Say Tomato: English to English Translations


English and English; English speakers the world over speak it, but for some reason things get . . . misunderstood and confused. I’ve noticed it a lot lately, guess that’s why I’m blogging it, and most recently with my fab friend Snuggles who asked me what “bangs” are. At a bit of a loss (you try to explain that one succinctly), I sent this picture:

And said that it was the way her hair was cut short in the front and hanging down on her forehead. To which she replied: FRINGE. Well, huh. Fringe goes on those crazy suede vests with the dangly . . . fringe. THIS is fringe:

And it’s horrible (unless any of you, my dear friends own any, in which case, it’s delightful, a unique fashion statement and even quite charming).

So this got me thinking about other instances of late. For example, Amber recently blogged on her bilingual son and his refusal to call a garbage truck anything other than a bin lorry (seems he’s not all that bilingual when it comes to sanitation workers’ transportation). And Tally who thinks (not erroneously) that cotton candy is called “candy floss,” but when I hear “floss” all I think of is dental floss (or butt floss, but I don’t want to be rude). I had to ask Ali what a “bottle shop” was (it’s a liquor store for those not in the know); when I was trying to explain being run over, I said “pedestrian crossing” or “walkway” and apparently it’s “zebra crossing” over there; and I’ve asked almost all of you at one time or another to translate your English to . . . well, English.

Then there are “jumpers” which I think might be sweaters (not button downs, though, those are cardigans; um, I think), I’m still not really sure what a “brace” is, and one of my faves is “mobile” which is what we call our cell phones, what makes it so fab is that even when Americans say it, it HAS to be mo-bile, the “ile” part pronounced as in “isle” or “aisle.” It sounds perfectly normal and good on British people but sounds so funny and not a little pretentious and just plain odd on an American. But I think that’s true of lots of Brit terms that Americans use (not counting, of course, Americans actually IN the UK—the second I get in British air space, I start saying “telly,” “brolly,” “loo,” and “tomato” (as you say it, not as I say it) and very often just shout these out as if I have tourettes.). I just think it’s cute to hear “blah blah blah” in American and then all of a sudden and replete with English newscaster voice “jolly good blah blah blah” (the blah blah is back in American, usually with that tell-tale twang). It’s just cute. And always makes me smile. Much to the speaker’s confusion at times.

But I get that same smile at times, as well. Living in New England and occasionally letting a “ya’ll” slip out is bound to elicit that smile (along with a sad look full of pity that I’m likely to be slightly retarded and almost certainly inbred), but there are some New England terms I refuse to utter, “carriage,” being one of them. This is said very nasally and with emphasis on the “cah” at the beginning, sounds sharp and a bit . . . well, nasty to my ear. It’s a friggin’ grocery cart (or just “cart”), anyway. Or what do you call those wheeled wire or plastic devices one uses in supermarkets to contain one’s shopping until it’s paid for; these are also often rolled out to the car where one will place one’s items in the trunk . . . er, boot.


For the funniest list of English words and their “American” translations click HERE to go to Tally’s blog on same.


Although I didn’t take the first pic, I do have one that is surprisingly similar. When I’m on vacay (aka vacation or holiday), I often will take photos of everyday things that are quite different than my version of that everyday thing. As here, we have yellow “yield” signs that I’m assuming send the same message to drivers, so this was well worth the pic to my mind. I have at least a hundred shots of thatched roofs. Kind of regret that actually, as one or two would have done just fine.


48 thoughts on “I Say Tomato: English to English Translations

  1. Funny writing, I was laughing all the way. I think you should start AskFuzzy.com 🙂 so we can all ask questions regarding English and other stuff. Hopefully in the future we will all speak the same English, but then we won’t be able to see funny articles like this :). Long live English and its numerous accents. You forgot to mention your English language with Rii, can’t understand what you guys talk some time 🙂

  2. hubby used to, and sometimes still does, call those things at the grocery store that you and i would call a ‘cart’, a ‘trolley’. i’ve found myself sometimes calling it a trolley, as well.

    great blog! i laughed and laughed, mostly because i remember when hubby and i first got together and one of us would say something and the other would look blankly back because we didn’t know what the other was talking about. 🙂

  3. LOLOL…oh Fuzzy, you’re fabulous. You have no idea how many times Kris and I have had this conversation…I have done a blog on this and I’m trying to find the link to it now. But yes…fringe = forehead covering hair, sweater = jumper, and a shopping cart is also a trolley. You really do write the best blogs 😀

  4. I say, Fuzzy, old bean….what an absolutely spiffing blog, what? LOL.
    I love the differences in English between the UK and the US. Can often lead to some hilarious misunderstandings. In a reverse of what you were saying, one thing that NEVER sounds right is servers in UK McDonalds outlets saying things like “Have a nice day”. It just doesn’t sound right coming from a Brit.
    If you love the hilarious results of bad translation from one language to another, try Engrish.com. A really funny collection of bad translations from several asian languages into English. Look at the restaurant menu section in particular.

  5. I think only British McDonalds staff can get away with saying that whilst scowling and saying it with a total sense of sarcasm.

  6. Very funny blog Fuzzy. Had me thinking though, not only of the differences in English between English speaking counties, but the difference just in the US. For example, in the midwest, we stand “in” line to wait our turn. In New York, they stand “on” line. What you may call a soda, I probably call a pop, and what some call a hero sandwich, I call a submarine sandwich. And then there is the question, the girl with the bangs, does she bang? Wow, this English can get you in trouble!

  7. LOL Chris, you are too funny! Thanks, though, for your great comments! :))

    Yay, glad you liked it, Kerry. See to me a trolley is one of those things that rides down the street in San Fransisco but is a streetcar (named Desire) in New Orleans. But trolley is much preferable to “carriage,” I must say. :))

    lmao @ you list, Tally, thank you so much for the url; I’ve linked it in my blog now as it’s really very good. But what IS a brace? Is that a suspender here? And thank you so much for the fab compliment, too. :))

    LOL, Mitch, old bean. Too funny, reminds me of that guy, what’s his name who never talks on his show but is hilarious and once I think he said “old bean” in a stiff “posh” voice being sarcastic. Anyway, thanks for the great comments! :))

    Teehee, Tally, “have a nice day” is trite in both languages (hehe)

    Hey Michael, good points! I still call a “soda” or “pop” a “coke” (no matter what it is, it’s a coke. If it’s rootbeer, it’s a coke; orange soda? a coke; coke? a coke; pepsi? also a coke). A hero’s a sub to me, and IN line, not on it! :)) Thanks for the fab additions, you’re right, we don’t even understand each other right here in the U. S. of A. :))

  8. Yes Fuzzy, braces are what you call suspenders…suspenders here are what women use to hold their stockings up…*puzzled*

  9. Hmmm, we call those things used to hold up stockings “garters” which I think are little green snakes there *more puzzled* (but laughing my butt off!)

  10. LOL @ Fuzzy.
    Here are a couple from right here in USA!
    One of the words that define dialect/location for me is W-A-T-E-R.
    waarder=NJ, Waahta=NY, Warrrrrrder=NC, wahterr=midwest, What’s California…I can’t remember. English: Waltah?

    Then there’s f-i-s-h. Southern: Feesh..
    then there’s f-e-e-t. Southern: feetses (just kidding) LOL

  11. hmmm some funny stuff. Braces are things that go on your teeth. Jumpers to me is a one piece outfit. Usually in dress form. So many words so many different meanings.

  12. Only understood half of it, but jolly good stuff, Fuzzy. Just dropping by and thought I’d comment. You’re lucky you don’t have English from India and Pakistan to cope with too! Cheerio!

  13. I don’t know what ya’ll call them up there, but we call them buggies down here. You know, you tell a couple of the ten (mandatory) kids to go get you a couple of buggies to hold all the milk and bread your gonna need for the 2 hours you are snowed in. 😉 Love this blog.

  14. Funny blog and I can relate so well.
    Since my daughter was an exchange student, we had quite a few different nationalities represented in our house for a couple of years (her inbound friends etc.). My favorite translation faux pas was when we were eating watermelon outside and Louise, from New Zealand, said that back home she “spits the pits off the dick” (LOL) I’m sure my jaw dropped and my eyes popped out of my head in cartoon fashion. Translated (without the heavy accent), she spits her watermelon seeds off her deck.
    I am so easily sucked into other people’s dialect. When I leave Rii’s blog page, I usually hear myself with an Irish accent (well sometimes Finish depending on what part of her life she is talking about). And similar to you, I say words out loud in a tourette kind of way. :0)
    It is Desmond’s accent that draws me to him. So dreamy. . . (wink, wink).

  15. Accents and dialects offer some of the joys and varieties in life. Language and its formation is a fun study for me…I guess I need more hobbies. LOL

  16. LOL…I did the blog a few months ago. Its funny how quickly I got used to the differences and how much of my old USA slang I have forgotten. While my accent hasn’t changed at all in 9 years, the way I have used my words have.

    A phrase I will never use here again is…Fanny Pack…and I will never get used to people going outside for a fag.

    I can get used to going to the loo and having a butty. I can even put things in the boot of my car and check under the bonnett but I will never, ever say ….I am going out on the piss…..LMAO!

  17. Oh, Gaby, and roof is sometimes “ruff” (like “rough”). This is fun!! :))

    I know, Bert, isn’t it cool? :))

    Thanks for stopping by, Neil, and I must say I’m curious as to which parts you understood and which you didn’t . . . 🙂

    lmao as one southerner to another . . . ten or so kids . . . multiple buggies, omg, Pris, tooooooo fab!! :))

    Yep, Nancy, I love a man with an accent, I have to admit! And too funny on the deck thing; it can be funny listening to people try to speak English, but I still maintain that we are among the “best” listeners/triers in this area. I’ve been in countries and TRIED to speak the language, or seen others try, and if it’s not PERFECT the person they’re speaking to pretend not to understand or won’t make a simple contextual leap from one silly meaning to a similar sounding word with a meaning that makes more sense. Drives me batty and is RUDE as hell, I think. I mean if someone is trying . . . anyway, that’s another blog post. :)) Huggs

    Ah, Princess Ceres, I have to say that while words and that fascinate me, etymology couldn’t be more boring to me. I know that doesn’t make much sense, but there it is :)) Thanks for your comment, and be sure to let us know how your birthday was.

    Amber, what’s a butty? Besides, I think that living in the UK excuses all the stuff I mentioned, I can be there for an instant and suddenly be copying the accent, words, etc. It’s not even on purpose, just happens. Thanks for your comments! :))

  18. A butty is a sandwich. Dang if they won’t call a spade a spade. Took me 4 years just to say it right. It is spelled Butty but pronounced Buuttie. Oh, my head hurts! Fab blog BBB!

  19. a butty is a SANDWICH? doesn’t sound at all appetizing, too . . . butty. Yuk. lmao. I heard that on one of the Brit coms and always meant to ask what it is, and now I know. So a bacon butty is a bacon sandwich? Hmmm, okay. lmao@ spade a spade! :))

  20. That is a great list on Tally’s blog- got it copied and stored. On the other hand as someone else said about the mystery of language:

    “I personally believe we developed language because of our deep inner need to complain.” ~Jane Wagner

  21. I was doing really good until you got to the carrieag part. thought it was a car. itsa a cart though, a shopping cart. I woulda never thunk that one. why is that called carriage? I think those English english spaekkers have a little bit a of a strange language.

  22. Hei Fuzz Gal.

    Enjoyable blog entry, so tis.
    Just tink bout the word: ‘misspell’ in Brit English to begin with – ‘mispell’ in American.
    boot = trunk
    pavement = sidewalk
    et cetera
    I do love WORDS in any language…Hence the ABC Tag was just me cup of tea.

    When I moved to Ireland and asked the hairdresser to cut me bangs she was rather *HUH?!!* – until I literally showed what it was and her very firm comment to that was: *It is a fringe!* So even today me hair has the fringe for the Brits and the bangs for Americans.

    Anyway, NITEY NITE and all that stuff – have to hit the hay ASAP. HuGGiz from Rii xx

  23. Well I would tell you its a trolley for the shopping but Kerry and Tally have already beaten me to this one.

    Thanks for the mention in your blog its fabulous to be linked to your page.

    What do you guys call the basket then, the thing that you take instead of the cart or carriage when you only have a few things to get in the grocery store or Supermarket as we call it?

  24. Too funny. This thing (among other things)popped to my head while reading between the lines of “pedestrian crossings”. Some of you funny ones over the other side of the mighty ocean spell the first letter of Zebra with a “ZEEE”, and not with a “ZED”. I find it so funny. I am still smiling.
    But lucky you never hear my pronunciaton. I am awful! So who am I, really, to criticize? It’s like the pot calling the kettle black.LOL!

  25. lol Sarge, I think there might be something to that, and yes, I just LOVE Tally’s list; you should drop her a comment so she knows you liked it too! (unless you did, in which case, I’ll butt out. well, should butt out anyway, huh?) ;D

    No clue, Lisa, odd, huh? But I guess they think shopping cart is strange? :))

    Yay! Rii, yes, now that I know it’s fringe, I shall call it that, too, when it seems right. I may even add that to my tourette’s list of words to randomly shout out. teehee :))

    We call those useless, Snuggles, everyone knows that we have enormous fridge’s here that dominate the whole kitchen, and we buy in bulk. lmao They’re just baskets here, too. :)) Huggs. Well you can tell me what “kit” is and what “natty” means (though I think from your recent fab post that it means “very nice and fancy”?)

  26. Hey Fanta! I would LOVE to hear your pronunciation, I bet you have a fab voice. As to the “zeb-ra” crossing, yes, that is funny! Wish I’d thought of it. Huggs

  27. In England, as well as regional variations, there are also class-based differences in word choice. A Germanic word such as ‘begin’ is less posh than a Latinate word such as ‘commence’. This goes back, I believe, to the Norman conquest of 1066, when the Anglo-Saxons became a subordinate class. Do these class differences in language exist in the US?

    Being Cornish, one of my favourite words is ‘dreckly’ (presumably a corruption of ‘directly’). When a Cornish person says ‘I’ll do it dreckly’ they could mean they’ll do it soon but they’re just as likely to mean they’ll do it whenever, at some time in the future, when they get around to it.

  28. Braces to hold your pants up or your teeth in place….brace as in “brace yourself baby here I come”…..trolley as in “off your trolley”=totally screwed up…..trolley as in shopping trolley…we call a trolley a tram…..also trolleyed as in totally drunk….then there is pissed as in totally drunk…pissed as in pissed off…..natty as in nifty…kit as in get your kit off (clothes)…..bottleshop also grog pit….this could go for hours…….Imagine what its like for me too a lovely English rose blistering under the Aussie sun and having to translate the Aussie lingo so’s I can understand….when I first arrived here I actually HID behind my hubby as I couldn’t understand a damn thing anyone mumbled really quickly at me…mate…ave a g’day

  29. There are still things I can’t get used to when I visit the States! We often call a filling station a garage…and almost never is it pronounced “gah-rahge”…it’s more like “garidge”.
    And I still always get confused with the chips/fries/crisps thing…

  30. Ok Fuzz, are you trying to teach ya gran to suck eggs here? I dun get it lol, we talk english, the queens english infact and the americans talk a slang version of it, much the same as a cockney or a scouser would, hell even the brummies were smart enough to invent their own take on stuff lol. I’ll chat to ya soon about how to speak gooderer inglish dan dem dat dunt.

  31. This is wonderful! I’ve had the best time travelling in English-speaking countries where I have more difficulty communicating sometimes than in countries that speak a different tongue!

    Isn’t ‘Give Way’ what happens to an overloaded bridge as it crashes down?

    Thanks for your thought-provoking post ~ as always!

  32. Yes, Jon, class difference in language do exist here, as well, though I think (and others can correct me) that “accent” or inflection are more telling than mere word choice, which after all only indicates one education (part of but not all of one’s socio-economic status). I could go on and on about this, actually, but I better not! :)) Thanks for your fab comments.

    lmao, Ali, you are too funny! I love your comments because you make me laugh :))

    Thanks, River.

    hehe, Tally, well a garage here is where you park your car, and it can be either public (usually a “parking garage”) or private (at your house). The place we get our cars serviced or repaired can be a “shop” a “repair shop” the “dealership” or whatever else (lots of choices on that one, as it turns out), but we get gas at a gas station (or apparently in MI at the “filling station,” which sounds sort of quaint and dated to my ear) or at “the citgo (Mobile, etc.).” (and it’s gas not petrol :)) Our fries are your chips, and our chips are your crisps. Dunno, guess you’ll just have to remember that one. Oooh, or order BOTH fries and chips? :))

    lmao, Monty!! You are too funny :))

    Aw, thanks, Jillene. :))

    Thanks for the wonderful discussion, all, and huggs all ’round! :))

  33. Hey Fuzzy,

    You haven’t seen my kitchen! The fridge is near enough the only thing in it really, it takes up enough room. Don’t think you Americans are on your own with that one.

    Kit means stuff like all the gear to do the hobby etc like you need a rugby kit to play rugby.

    Natty means nice and clever. Hope that makes sense to you. x

  34. Hi 🙂

    I have to look for some logic in *some* things to sort them out. The word ‘Fringe’. Let’s try this by association; humour me [humour <- that’s the *correct* UK spelling … hahaha]

    The pic of the lady with ‘bangs’ doesn’t quite gel (excuse me, no pun intended … hahaha.) when compared to the fringe of the coat that you share. If I was asked (seriously and without reading this) if this lady had any ‘bangs’ I would *just* as seriously say that she doesn’t carry any bruises; unless she hid them? That would be a fair enough and accurate answer … hahaha.

    All I would say is that where one would apply the word ‘Fringe’ in either country I think it would apply by association of appearance; OK, I’m English but I can associate ‘The Surry with the Fringe on top’ as a no-brainer just as easy to the fringe on the ‘Western’ jacket, another no-brainer, and directly with the hair style and *all* would make perfect sense by interpretation alone. They each have a fringe by interpretation, even to the US Dictionary, which is a periphery: edging, outskirt or boundary. Considering that those with ‘bangs’ cut their hair shorter at that particular point would mean to say they have created a periphery purely in it being shorter than the rest of their hairstyle; a periphery, or, a fringe. If someone has their hair the same length all around would mean neither a ‘bang’ nor a ‘fringe’ because there is no periphery *or* boundary-mark … hahaha.

    OK, I spent a lot of time on that one word but I can associate the word ‘fringe’ in either the US or the UK; the fact we don’t share the same words across the entire board is what makes language itself absolutely fascinating!

    Excellent blog that brings an endless fascination to me; more-so when It’s just as easy to confuse the UK with US ‘speak’ as it is to confuse the US with UK ‘speak.’

    Lovely blog and I really am not trying to teach anyone English-English; more showing how I get there by direct association and interpretation living in England with an English-English Dictionary ad my guide … lol.

    Bored yet? LOL.

    And now my toes are throbbing 😦


  35. You never bore me, Frank! Thanks for a fun and clever discussion of the word “fringe.” However do you come up with this stuff? What about boot, though? I mean a boot is a boot and one puts one’s foot in it, not one’s spare tire and ice scraper! :)) Thanks for the always great comments.

  36. Hi 🙂

    OK already hahahaha. Here’s a good, and very appropriate, answer to what you ask fuzzy 🙂

    To fill something is to boot-up, or should I say that is one derivative; but you may not find that in a US Dictionary. However, and interestingly, we do this each time we start up our PC’s. We ‘Boot-Up’ our system. We turn it on, it goes through POST (Power On Self Test) through the BIOS (Basic Input Output System) and what that does is to *load* the operating system in order for your PC to run; which is not at all different to loading a trunk if you think about it.

    If the system didn’t Boot-Up then, of course, the system would fail because it needs to *load* Windows and other programs that we use in our Start Up memory when it Boots-Up; no load-up, no Boot-Up (and I’m emphasizing the word ‘load’ because that’s what is important to the meaning here.)

    So, there is a direct link in how ‘Boot’ is associated to *load*. Hence, here in the UK, we just as aptly call the ‘trunk’ … ‘boot’. Consider that we could, possibly, ‘Trunk-Up’ and not ‘Boot-Up’ our PC’s? That doesn’t sound quite right but in effect it would mean exactly the same thing LOL.

    Thank you so much for giving me an opportunity to reply again on a fascinating subject that is the English Language 🙂

    Hugs to you

  37. Ah, but I always thought of booting my computer as giving it a good kick in the butt . . . with my lovely booted foot! Hehe. Actually, what you say makes sense, though I have a relatively strong suspicion that whoever first called the trunk of a car a boot wasn’t thinking about computers. 😉 I don’t think, actually, that trunk is the best term, either, but it’s what I’m used to and isn’t that most of language, too? That we all agree? Remember Shakespeare’s “a rose by any other name would stil smell as sweet”; if we all decided to call a trunk/boot a sticky bun then a sticky bun it would be! (now I’m giggling–this is fun!) Huggs :))

  38. Love it!

    As someone who adores dialets and accents, and has spent 6 years re-learning the names for some objects – see Kerry’s Comment for an example! – and the pronunciation of others, I loved this Blog entry and the Comments

    A good example of the pronunciation re-learning I’ve had to do is the word water. My natural South Walian pronunciation of water is wartu, with the r rather soft; to get understood in these parts, I have to pronounce it war-tur, with slightly rolling r’s, which I think makes me sound Scots!

    I think it amuses my family when I speak to them and use American words or pronunciations and those that I rarely speak to say I have a definite American “twang” to my voice now. Which is really weird when I still get people here saying “Ooh… I love your accent”! Mum, however, says I sound the same to her, but then we speak every Sunday!

    When I was in my early teens I found myself buying a book called “What’s the Difference”, which is an American-British-American dictionary of sorts, which I should have brought over with me!

  39. Hey Dudge and thanks so much for stopping by; glad you liked the blog, though at this point, I believe the comments are far more fun! :)) Including yours, of course, that must have been fun and frustrating trying to adjust to one another, I can only imagine. See here’s where those vid/voice recorder blog things would be great because you could pronounce your Welsh English water for us; as is, though, it’s still good! I don’t know if this is based in anything other than my own observations, but I’ve noticed that people from the UK tend not to pick up an American accent or much of the slang as compared to Americans who move to the UK. That book sounds like something I would love; I’ve got one called “When is a Pig a Hog” that deals with some of the same things, though that’s not its main point.

  40. Some reasons to be grateful if you grew up speaking English:

    1) The bandage was wound around the wound.

    2) The farm was used to produce produce.

    3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

    4) We must polish the Polish furniture.

    5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.

    6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.

    7) There is no time like the present, he said it was time to present the present.

    8) At the Army base, a bass was painted on the head of a bass drum.

    9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.

    10) I did not object to the object.

    11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

    12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.

    13) They were too close to the door to close it.

    14) The buck does funny things when the does are present.

    15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.

    16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.

    17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail.

    18) After a number of Novocain injections, my jaw got number.

    19) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.

    20) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

    21) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

    22) I spent last evening evening out a pile of dirt.

  41. I remember the first time I read the word “queue” in a Paddington Bear book… I had NO idea that they were talking about lining up. LOL

  42. Oh, that’s excellent, Jenia!! And it really does show how difficult English is to learn and why learning it phonetically is STOOOOPID. Hehe, that’s a pet peeve of mine, as you might know! 😀

    During my Paddington Bear years, I was living in England so I didn’t even think of that, Kelly. That must have been weird. I do remember having no idea what Turkish Delight was when I read the C. S. Lewis Narnia books!!

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