Friday, 20 May 2011

English for Americans

It's multiculturalism at its best. London's a melting pot of people, of languages, of cultures. 

My Hindi is coming along nicely, I understand a few Polish sentences, and I still remember some Japanese I learnt in school. 

Arabic is on the tip of my tongue, Spanish is a rare necessity, and I can count to ten in a variety of others.

Thanks to a very good friend I even understand and speak a slice of Dutch. 



French still eludes me, but I can always ask any passing school kid. 

However, there's one language that I still cannot understand. There seem to be no online translators for it either. Which language? 


I gather that the Americans feel the same about English. 

So, in the spirit of co-operation, and with many thanks to Jumblerant (a compilation blog with regular posts of genius), I present the English for Americans poster. 

Clear as mud, right? Now if only we could get the ambulance service equivalent... 


Martin @ Insomnia Land said...

Love it. I left the UK and have been living in the US for three years now. I swear most people still don't have a clue what I am talking about whenever I speak!

Anonymous said...

What we say - Have you spoken to your GP?
What we mean - What a complete waste of my time!
What they think we mean - Have you spoken to your GP?

What we say - "your about to feel a little scratch"
What we mean - this is really going to hurt!
What they think we mean - This isn't going to hurt too much

Anonymous said...

What we say - So why have you called us today?
What we mean - I cant see anything wrong with you, in fact you look fitter then me
What they think we mean - They want to know what the life threatening injury to my fingernail is

Ambulance Junkie said...

Thanks for the insight IM, though I feel its portraying us 'Mericans in a less than glamorous light that we would expect. :) Thanks for the translation.
Be Safe ~AJ

burned-out medic said...

don't worry, it's getting to the point where even americans can't speak american - have you heard these people talk? - and soon it'll become extinct.

LongdistanceLaura said...

Please can I steal that for a "how we communicate with each other" conversation at work? It's not always an international thing, sometimes it's a "different style of working" thing :)

Anonymous said...


I used to travel & work in the US quite a bit. For what it's worth, in my experience an educated, literate, numerate American speaks almost the same English as an educated, literate, numerate Brit, but with 18th century spelling. The problems of a few different meanings are compounded when there is a mismatch of ELN either way. A moron is a moron in any language.

A few I could add, from embarrasing experience . . .

1. "Do you have a rubber?"
British meaning = "I have to erase some pencilled notes"
Septic = "Would you like to have safe sex"

2. "I'd like to table (something)".
British meaning = "I would like us to discuss (something)"
Septic = "I would like to put (something) aside".

3. "That object in my hand baggage is a torch"
British meaning = "I have a battery operated source of visible light in my bag"
Septic = "I have somehow managed to get oxy-acetylene welding equipment into my laptop bag and harbour evil intentions towards the aircraft and its passengers".

And lots more.


RD said...

As an America here is my interpretation:

"I hear what you say?"

-I understand what you said, but I don't agree with it, and I don't really want to talk about it.

"With the greatest respect..."

-I disagree with, but I am trying to be polite.

"That's not bad."

-That's okay, and could do in a pinch, but it could be improved and there are other probably better ideas.

"That's a brave proposal."

-That has a strong chance of blowing up in your face.

"Oh, incidentally / by the way."

-I am trying to be subtle, but you should really think about this.....

"I was a bit disappointed that....."

-I am very unhappy, but I am being polite.

"Very Interesting."

I like the idea.

"I'll bear it mind."

-I think about it for a few minutes, ignore it, and then, do what I wanted to in the first place.

"I'm sure it is my fault."

The person is try to meet me half way.

"You must come for dinner."

-I am going to check my schedule to see when I can invite you over.

"I almost agree."

He's not that far from agreement.

"I only have a few minor comments."

Re-write this please.

"Could we consider some other options?"

I do not like your idea. I can't think of something better. Can anybody else think of something else?"

Eileen said...

RD - In the case of "with the greatest respect..." no respect whatsoever is being even hinted at, either side of the pond.

Our 5 year old daughter drew something in the USA Army church Sunday school when we lived in Germany and decided it was wrong. She was (literally) dragged to the door and removed. Why? She asked for a rubber - the mind boggles what the teacher thought a child her age wanted one of THOSE for. The head of the Sunday school took it as a perfect opportunity for an educational lecture.

Anonymous said...

I love it!
I'm a first generation New Zealander. Mum is british, raised in Britain and this has had a huge impact on the language I use...I mostly aggree with the chart and completely aggree with t=the above comments!