You’ve been to England and know that when an English person talks of the bonnet, they mean the hood of their car, not an Amish woman’s headgear. In Scotland, they’ll pass the jug, not the pitcher. Throw a couple of shrimps on the Barbie (not the Mattel version), Mate (not your life partner) and dinner will be ready.
Well, how hard can it be to speak English in other English speaking countries? Harder than you think. You could find yourself in some very embarrassing situations. If you are off to visit the far reaches of what was once the British Empire, here are some words to remember, so that you don’t offend across the pond or down under.
Pants - In the U.K. if you ask where can you buy a pair of pants, you’ll be sent to the underwear department. If you want jeans or khakis, call them "trousers." Avoid Using In: The U.K., Ireland
Fanny – We all have fanny packs for those day hikes and bike rides. However, in most other English-speaking countries, they're called "bum bags". Why? Because "fanny" is slang for a part of the female anatomy (similar to the “little cat” slang we use in the US). And please don't tell someone to stop being lazy and get off their fanny! Avoid Using In: The U.K., Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa
Pissed - In America, if we are "pissed off" we're angry. The English and Irish are very drunk when they are “pissed”. Yet if someone is "taking the piss," it means "to make fun of," not "to get drunk." Avoid Using In: The U.K., Ireland, Australia, New Zealand
Bangs – When Michelle Obama had that new “do” with bangs, it was all over the press. However, outside of North America, that wasn’t very complimentary to our First Lady. Overseas, "bangs" is more commonly used as somewhat vulgar slang that it is interchangeable within the US. Fringe is the proper way to describe that forehead covering hair style. Avoid Using In: Anywhere outside of North America
Knob - Americans hear the word "knob" and think "doorknob" or "lever." It has a much dirtier meaning in other countries, like Australia and the U.K., where it's an insult or slang for a part of the male anatomy (remember fanny above for women). Be insulted if someone calls you a "knob head." Avoid Using In: The U.K., Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa
Root - Americans may "root around" looking for a lost object, but Australians and New Zealanders use the term to refer to having intercourse. Avoid Using In: Australia, New Zealand
Pull - If someone "pulled" last night in the U.K., they're not talking about a muscle at the gym. It's slang for a successful pick-up while out carousing. "Going on the pull" means you are going out to get some action. Avoid Using In: The U.K., Ireland
Bugger - If you affectionately call your child a "little bugger," don’t do it while traveling in any other English-speaking country. In most other places, from Canada to Australia, it is used as an expletive similar to the f-word. Avoid Using In: Most places outside of America
Now travel the Empire and use the Queen’s English!
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