There is a question I asked a lot of people about that and everyone answered differently.

Can I use British idioms in America or in front of an American citizen? Because some beautiful idioms are British and we do not have American version of them like:

Do not beat around the bush

screenshot of Cambridge Dictionary entry for "Beat around the bush"

Some of them said:

  1. They will laugh to you
  2. They hate and cannot stand each other
  3. It is ok to use

And guess what? All of them were true and I saw all those answers in movies. But finally is it ok to use or not? If yes or no, Why? Or where I can and where I can not?

Thanks for helping me🙏🏻❤

  • Some Americans might not recognize certain BrE usages, but most will be recognized (either because the American has heard them before, or because in context the meaning is obvious anyway). For the reverse situation, Brits will almost always recognize AmE usages, even if we don't normally generate them ourselves. That "imbalance" is partly because American culture dominates the world, and partly because there are far more Americans than Brits, so we encounter their ways more than they encounter ours. Jul 27, 2023 at 20:02
  • As a typical example, Americans often snigger at the BrE usage I'm just popping out for a quick fag because they "pretend" they understand fag as meaning male homosexual. But they only do that for the sake of humour. Almost all Americans know perfectly well that fag is used in BrE to mean cigarette. Jul 27, 2023 at 20:05
  • 3
    That dictionary entry says that 'beat around the bush' is mainly a US idiom, and 'beat about the bush' is a mainly UK idiom. They are so similar that Americans will understand the British version and vice versa. In many expressions, 'around' may be replaced by 'about' without destroying meaning (in US and British English). Jul 27, 2023 at 20:05
  • @FumbleFingers - do they still do that? I thought it had gone the way of Mrs Slocombe's pussy. Jul 27, 2023 at 20:06
  • @MichaelHarvey: Who? What? Do Brits still pop out for a fag, or do Americans still snigger? Jul 27, 2023 at 20:08

1 Answer 1


There's a humourous saying that British and American people are "divided by a common language". It's true that there are some words and idioms that are unique to each dialect, but we understood each other perfectly well. Most of the English-speaking world is familiar with American idioms through US movies and TV shows being widely syndicated. As for the other way around - my experience in the USA as a British person has mainly been that certain things I've said have been noticed as being "typically British", but rarely have I not been understood. When confusion has arisen it is usually over terms for things, not idioms or sayings.

Your example of 'beat around the bush' is possibly a misunderstanding on your part - that note in your dictionary is pointing out an alternate UK variation, not saying that the idiom itself is uniquely UK English. This ngram shows its use in US English publications only.

As for whether you will be "laughed at" for using idioms from other dialects - I presume you are not a native English speaker anyway. There are probably lots of analogies, metaphors and idioms you might use from your own native language while speaking English anyway, so using a British one is hardly going to stand out.


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