In particular, I don't mean mere alternate spellings like colour, honour, but words that are entirely different: using lift instead of elevator, fridge instead of refrigerator etc.

What is the common outlook on using them in plain informal speech in the US? What are the chances they won't be recognized at all? Will they be seen as pretentious? Weird? Unwelcome?

  • 7
    Fridge is a common shortening of refridgerator in us english
    – n00b
    Jan 24, 2013 at 13:58
  • @n00b and British English.
    – Liam W
    Jan 24, 2013 at 19:51
  • 1
    shrug I was taught fridge is British, refrigerator is US. But nowadays I spot many mistakes of my English teacher...
    – SF.
    Jan 24, 2013 at 21:37
  • 3
    As the fridge example demonstrates, even separating what is "British" and what is "US" English can be difficult. If you're concerned about a specific word, ask about that.
    – Shog9
    Jan 25, 2013 at 0:20
  • It depends on the word. British usage of rubber for eraser might cause a few chuckles.... "Has anyone got a rubber?"
    – Elder Geek
    May 13, 2014 at 20:19

3 Answers 3


AFAIK most Americans know the British equivalents for their words, and vice versa.

Some people even use them (some Britons use the American words). It wouldn't be considered weird - an American would just assume you were British, or learnt British English. It wouldn't be considered unwelcome either, by the vast majority of Americans.

  • ex.: "soccer" is often used by Britains to specify that it is about British "football" / American "soccer".
    – user98085
    Jan 24, 2013 at 12:35
  • @FEichinger Soccer is not a generally used term in the UK. Most if not all people in the UK would use football from association football which is the correct term. It's the American adoption of the term football that has confused the issue and forced the use of the term soccer to differentiate the two sports. Throughout the UK and Europe it is known as football. Jan 24, 2013 at 12:40
  • 1
    @spiceyokooko Oh, that was not supposed to read "within the UK" or "among Britons". It's used to specify when in a international conversation (f.e. the Internet, or larger meetups). In a predominantly European conversation, "football" is indeed sufficient.
    – user98085
    Jan 24, 2013 at 12:47
  • 1
    FYI People from Britain are called Britons or The British
    – Matt Ellen
    Jan 24, 2013 at 12:49
  • 2
    Ask @MattEllen: He's British. Briton is the noun form of British. Or just look it up.
    – Robusto
    Jan 24, 2013 at 13:11

I think there is a chance that some of the less common words would not be recognised at all between the AmE and BritE, but it does depend on what sphere the words are from.

The common ones are fairly well known, others not so:

From cars:

Trunk, boot. Hood, bonnet. Rocker panel, sill etc

From culinary:

Bitter sweet chocolate, plain chocolate. Tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes. Tomato paste, tomato puree. Cilantro, coriander.

And so on.

  • 1
    Tomato sauce <-> crushed tomatoes? Do you mean tomato sauce <-> ketchup?
    – mcalex
    Jan 30, 2013 at 8:27

In general, I would say no, but there are some exceptions. The first time I encountered a sign in a public place saying "toilet," I felt it was quite crude. Americans would only use that word for the actual fixture, preferring restroom for such contexts.

  • Yes, Americans do seem to avoid the word toilet. From the British perspective, the euphemisms 'restroom' or 'bathroom' are laughable, since neither describes the purpose of that place. The French use toilette (anything French sounds more sophisticated) but the German speaking areas often prefer WC.
    – toandfro
    Sep 18, 2013 at 21:00
  • In Canada we have "washroom", which actually confused one American when I went down to Virginia a few years ago.
    – Joe Z.
    Apr 7, 2014 at 15:07
  • @toandro Americans are perfectly willing to say the word toilet, but since it refers almost exclusively to the plumbing fixture, they would not ask to be directed to it. In carefully worded US English the toilet is in the bathroom (the room with the bathtub). In a public building it is in the restroom. This term is used even though it is now very rare to reach the toilet through an actual restroom. The term "toilet" is itself a euphemism. Until the 20th century "toilet" meant a dressing room.
    – David42
    Mar 7, 2015 at 2:26

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