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Says who?

ENGLISH SLANG WORDS FROM AROUND THE GLOBE


Story by Bailey Gilliam

Most Americans realize there are differences between British and American English. Words such as trolly, muppet and trainers have completely different meanings across the pond.

Did you know other English-speaking countries have developed their own slang words and phrases as well?

In Ireland, a chipper is a cheap fast food restaurant. In New Zealand, dairy is a small grocery store. In Australia, a power point is a wall plug. In Canada, a Caesar is a cocktail, not a salad.

Keep reading to learn a few more differences between American, British, Australian, New Zealand, Irish, Canadian, South African and Caribbean English.

New Zealand 

New Zealand shares many words with Australia, which makes sense due to their proximity to one another. So it is safe to assume that the above Australian words are also used in New Zealand. But here are a few that differ from its neighboring country and certainly differ from the United States. These words are exclusively from New Zealand.

OUR FAVORITES

Kiwi = a New Zealander
Jandals = flip flops
Bach = beach house
Dairy = small grocery/corner store
Op Shop = Thrift store
Sweet as = good
Chokka = full
Up the boohai = in the boonies

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Tramping = hiking
Ice block = popsicle
Chilly bin = cooler
Jumper = sweater
Judder bar = speed bump
Jumbo bin = dumpster
Cow = farmer
Whiteware = kitchen appliances

The United Kingdom

Many British-English words are pretty well known to Americans at this point. We all know that “chips” are fries, thanks to the popular dish, fish and chips. We are probably aware that a “bonnet” is the hood of a car, and a “boot” is the trunk, thanks to the popular TV show Top Gear. And thank you, Great British Baking Show, for teaching us that “biscuits” are cookies, “sweets” are desserts and “rubbish” is trash. Here are some lesser-known words and phrases.

OUR FAVORITES

Crisps = chips
Gutted = extremely sad
Curtain twitcher = nosy neighbor
Fill someone in = assault someone
Snowed under = overwhelmed
Trainers = sneakers
Trolley = shopping cart
Muppet = idiot

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Petrol = gas
Cool box = cooler
Ice lolly = popsicle
Wellies = rainboots
Field glasses = binoculars
Bloke = dude
Torch = flashlight
Caravan = mobile home
Garden = backyard
Windscreen = windshield
Nappy = diaper
Chuffed = delighted
Knackered = sleepy
Sorted = taken care of
Skip = dumpster
Hob = stovetop
Chemist = pharmacy
Buggy = stroller
Fairy cake = cupcake
Lift = elevator
Estate car = station wagon
Braces = suspenders
Pen knife = pocket knife
Lorry = big-rig truck
Larder = pantry
Loo = toilet

Ireland 

English is one of Ireland’s two official languages, and English is now spoken natively by over 99 percent of the Irish-born population. Irish English, also known as Hiberno-English or Anglo-Irish, is a cover term for varieties of English spoken in Ireland. There are a number of shared features in pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary across the forms of English throughout the island. Many Irish English words are derived from other language influences such as Irish, Middle English and other European languages.

OUR FAVORITES

Chipper = fast food
Whisht = shh
Craic = fun, gossip, a good time
Bucklepper = overconfident person
Jacks = toilet
Yoke = thingamabob
Culchie = someone from the country
Grand = good
Langers = drunk
Gaff = house

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Beer mat = coaster
Plaster = band aid
Guards = police
Jacks = toilet
Childer = child
Amn’t = am not
Cod = a foolish person
Messages = groceries
Runners = sneakers
Mot = young girl or woman
Minerals = sodas
Gurrier = tough or unruly young man
Yo-yo = Euro
Eejit = idiot

Australia 

Many Australian words are the same as their American-English or British-English counterparts, but with “ie” or “y” added. For example, “Christmas” becomes “Chrissie.” A bit cute, isn’t it? Many of these changed words reminds me of things said in the film, A Clockwork Orange: “Welly, welly, welly, welly, welly, welly, well. To what do I owe the extreme pleasure of this surprising visit?” – even “droogies” and “maskies” just sounds Australian. There are so many examples of this, so we’ll skip the explanations and list them here. Truckie: truck driver, sparky: electrician, trackie daks: sweatsuit, choccy: chocolate, brekky: breakfast, sunnies: sunglasses, biccies: cookies (biscuits) and sickie: sick day. (You’ll also find that they add “o” or “er” to the ends of words to shorten them.)

OUR FAVORITES

Servo = gas station
Smoko = work break
Biffo = a fight
Biro = ballpoint pen
Dobber = snitch
Sunbake = sunbathe
Togs = swimsuit
Bottle shop = liquor store
Esky = cooler
Arvo = afternoon
Dag = nerd
Daks = pants

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Sanger = sandwich
Sandshoes = sneakers
Shelia = girl
Bruce = boy
Bushwalking = hiking
Gumboots = rain boots
Chockers = completely full
Barrack (for your team) = Root (for your team)
Paper knife = letter opener
Chemist shop = drug store
Dummy = pacifier
Gaol = jail
Gridiron = American football
Mozzy = mosquito
Pay TV = cable TV
Notice board = bulletin board
Power point = wall plug
Road train = trailer truck or big rig
Rubbish tip = garbage dump
Star jumps = jumping jacks
Whinge = complain
Bum bag = fanny pack
Duds = clothes
Tucker = food
Crockery = plates, bowls, etc
Fairy floss = cotton candy
Icy pole = popsicle
Roadhouse = diner
Ute = pickup truck
Chunder = vomit
Cobber = friend or buddy
Shonky = sneaky

Canada 

Canada may be a close neighbor, but there are plenty of expressions and words that Canadians use that Americans have no idea about. Canadians prefer the British spelling of words like “colour” or “centre,” but their pronunciation is closer to their Southern neighbors, Americans. Most people would have a hard time telling the difference between American and Canadian accents. But every once in a while, most famously when an “out,” “about” or “eh” slips out, there’s no denying that Canadian English has some unique characteristics. In fact, there are quite a few words and expressions that Canadians use in the English language that might confuse Americans.

OUR FAVORITES 

Rockets = Smarties
Pencil crayons = colored pencils
Hydro bill = electricity bill
KD = mac n cheese
Chirping / Beaking = making fun of someone
Gitch = tighty-whities
Mickey = bottle of liquor
Stag Party = Bachelor Party
Homo milk = whole milk
Two-four = 24-pack

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Brown bread = wheat bread
Caesar = Bloody Mary
Keener = brown-noser
Toque = knitted winter hat
Elastics = rubber bands
Eavestrough = gutters
Runners = sneakers
Chesterfield = couch
Garburator = garbage disposal
Gong Show = a situation that has gotten out of hand
Timbit = doughnut hole
Double-double = 2 creams, 2 sugars
Serviette = napkin

South Africa

We typically think of English speakers as coming from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada or Australia. Indeed, the vast majority of the world’s native English speakers hail from those four countries. However, South Africa is also an English-language hub. Some 5 million South Africans speak English natively with a South African accent, and another 11 million speak it as a second language. Many words in South African English come from Bantu languages, which are indigenous to the country. Others come from Afrikaans, a language related to Dutch spoken by the descendants of the Dutch colonists who settled in the area in the 1600s. As a result of all these influences, South African English is unique.

OUR FAVORITES

Just now = in a little while
Shame! = an interjection for pleasure or sympathy
Robot = traffic light
Tekkies = sneakers
Slap chips = French fries
Sharp = exclamation
Braai = BBQ
Lekker = cool
Bioscope = movie theater

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Bond = mortgage
Tune = cause trouble
Café = corner convenience shop
Biltong = beef jerky
Howzit = how’s it going
Sarmie = sandwich
Scale = steal
Hire = rent
Swimming costume = bathing suit
Main meal = entree
Cool drink = soda
Gogo = grandmother
Tomato sauce = ketchup
Ag! = Oh
Goga = Bug

The Caribbean

English is the third most widely spoken language in the Caribbean after Spanish and French. It is the official language of twelve Caribbean countries (Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago), as well as seven British Overseas Territories in the region (Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Montserrat, Turks and Caicos). The Anglophone Caribbean (the 19 territories where English is an official language) is home to around six million people, most of whom speak a variety of Creole as a first language and acquire Standard British English in the formal education system. Caribbean English primarily traces its roots to British English and West African languages. Just as with South African English, there are many influences on the language, and therefore there are many English words that are entirely new to Americans or take on new meanings.

OUR FAVORITES

Lime = loiter
Wagwan = what’s going on
Steups = kiss one’s teeth
Eat parrot bottom = talkative
Bandulu = criminal
Cheese on bread! = Wow!
Upful = cheerful

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Bellywash = lemonade or limeade
Bassa-bassa = trouble
Bashment = Reggae party
Comess = confusion or commotion
Sheg = annoy
Like peas = a lot
Pompasetting = showing off