When British mums and American moms read each other's blogs, things can get lost in translation.

British and American Vocabulary – Mummy/Mommy Edition

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Categories humor, Parenting

Oh, the confusion that British and American vocabulary can cause! I spent the first 8 years of my life in the United Kingdom. I’ve spent the last 18 years in the United States. (There were another 10 years sandwiched between in Bangladesh, but English isn’t the primary language spoken there, so we’ll set Bangladesh aside for now.)

While American English and British English are generally mutually intelligible, vocabulary differences can cause some awkwardness. When I arrived in the US at age 18, I received a compliment on my pants. I was mortified, thinking that my underwear was visible. Only later did I realize that my American friend was referring to my outermost layer of clothing, the thing I would have called my “trousers”. A British coworker here in the US likes to tell the story of having needed to change something he’d written in pencil, and thus asked for a rubber, not knowing that the thing he wanted was called an “eraser” around here. His innocent office supplies question was interpreted by some as a request for family planning assistance.

I’ve been reading more British mummy blogs (translation: “mommy blogs”) of late and my latent vocabulary has been returning. For those of you reading blogs across the Atlantic, in either direction, allow me to offer you a translation guide for terms relevant to a parent’s life.

British Term American Term
flat Flat/apartment living can be a challenge and a joy with young children. apartment
dressing gown A British dressing gown is a bathrobe in the US. bathrobe
crisps Crisps = potato chips chips
cot Baby crib (US) = cot (UK). In the UK</td>
<td > a crib refers to what Americans might call a cradle. crib
nappy Reusable or disposal</td>
<td > "nappies" and "diapers" are the same thing. diaper
chips French fries = chips fries
marks How's your British-American translation? grades
pinafore Adorable jumper/pinafore! jumper
mum/mummy sadia2toddlercarry mom/mommy
dummy Pacifier pacifier/paci/ binkie
trousers British and American terminology differences can cause confusion. Trousers or pants? pants
ice lolly popsicle = ice lolly = ice pop popsicle
pushchair strollerconnected stroller
jumper Colourful winter wear. sweater
swimming costume Love this swimsuit! swimsuit
lorry An American semi is a British lorry. truck/semi
pants/undies/ knickers Panties to Americans</td>
<td > pants to Brits. Confusion could be awkward. underwear/panties
holiday Relax vacation
garden Gorgeous backyard! yard

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Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 10-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. They live in the Austin, TX suburbs, where Sadia works full time in information technology. She contributes to a number of parenting websites and magazines and also runs The Mommy Blogging Guide, where she answers mommy bloggers' technical questions.

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