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?

closed as not constructive by Mohit, Mistu4u, Liam W, bytebuster, Shog9 Jan 25 '13 at 0:19

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    Fridge is a common shortening of refridgerator in us english – n00b Jan 24 '13 at 13:58
  • @n00b and British English. – Liam W Jan 24 '13 at 19:51
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    shrug I was taught fridge is British, refrigerator is US. But nowadays I spot many mistakes of my English teacher... – SF. Jan 24 '13 at 21:37
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    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 '13 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 '14 at 20:19

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 '13 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. – spiceyokooko Jan 24 '13 at 12:40
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    @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 '13 at 12:47
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    FYI People from Britain are called Britons or The British – Matt Ellen Jan 24 '13 at 12:49
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    Ask @MattEllen: He's British. Briton is the noun form of British. Or just look it up. – Robusto Jan 24 '13 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.

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    Tomato sauce <-> crushed tomatoes? Do you mean tomato sauce <-> ketchup? – mcalex Jan 30 '13 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 '13 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 '14 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 '15 at 2:26

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