Language Barrier (Part 1)

“Okay ladies, hang onto your woggles!” …If you’re an American reading this, then I’m sure you’re having the same reaction I had, “What?! What is a woggle?” A woggle, as I discovered last week during my water aerobics class, is a pool noodle. I had no idea what the instructor was talking about when she mentioned our woggles. I’m sure it doesn’t speak very highly of my maturity level that my first reaction at hearing the word woggle was an internal giggle. I played it cool and looked at the others around me to discover just what the heck a woggle was. As an American expat living in England, I’ve experienced many situations similar to this.



So let’s take a step back in time to almost four years ago. My visa was approved, my bags were packed, and I was moving to England! One English speaking country to another, it seems pretty simple, right? That’s what I thought before I discovered that there was a language known as English and then there was what I had been speaking, which was known as American English. Don’t get me wrong, I knew there were some words they used in England that we didn’t use in America and I learned some of them when I visited the country prior to moving, but I had no idea just how many things would sound completely foreign to me. I suddenly found myself in a place where words I’d known my whole life meant something totally different and some things were known by completely different words. If I didn’t have the help of my husband I’m sure I would have embarrassed myself on more than one occasion.

Next to completely different words are the different spellings of the same word. The English love their u’s! Color becomes colour, glamor becomes glamour, favor becomes favour, the list goes on and on. It really blew my mind when I found out curb is spelled kerb. That’s just for the sidewalk type of curb though, if you mean it in a curb your enthusiasm way it’s still curb. Confusing, right? I’ve fought the spelling issue to this day, but now that I know my kids will be attending school here I’m going to have to give in and start spelling things like a true Brit so they don’t get confused. I’m sure all my in-laws and British friends on Facebook think I’m dimwitted and don’t know how to spell properly. Truth is, I’m just stubborn.

Back to the true meaning of this post, the different words. There are so many differences, there is no way I’d be able to cover them all in one post, but I’ll share a few with you. Woggle’s not exactly common. I’ve lived here nearly 4 years and last week was the first time I’d even seen a pool noodle here, let alone heard the word woggle. Something a bit more common? Pants. If you see someone wearing some nice looking pants and you’d like to compliment them, do not call them pants. They will probably think you’re talking about their underwear. Pants here are known as trousers or jeans. Women’s underwear can be referred to as knickers. Men’s and children’s underwear are most commonly called pants. I still struggle with remembering this one and I’m constantly saying pants instead of trousers. Oops.





Now I’d like to take a minute to talk about cars. I’m sure you all know that in the UK the driver’s side is on the right of the car rather than the left. Did you also know that in the UK many parts of a car are called something different? The trunk is the boot, the hood is the bonnet, the windshield is the windscreen, and the side rearview mirrors are wing mirrors. While the horn is known as a horn here it can also be called a hooter. I don’t know about you, but when I lived in Michigan and I had cause to use the phrase, I would say honk the horn, however since living here I’ve more commonly heard it phrased as pip the horn. Pip pip!


Now I’m going to cover some of the more risquรฉ words. I think it’s important to know these if you’re ever planning a visit to the United Kingdom. I will try to be as delicate as possible, but if you’re a sensitive sort, please do not read this paragraph. If you’re still reading, then I have a bit of advice for you. If you are someone who enjoys wearing a fanny pack and you’ll be mentioning it for any reason while you’re in the UK, you should remember to refer to it by its proper English name of bum bag. I’m afraid that a fanny in this country is a rather vulgar word for a lady’s private areas. Next, if someone approaches you and asks for a fag, please do not be offended (9 times out of 10 anyway. After all, I can’t say for certain you’re not hanging out with the type of people who wouldn’t use the word offensively!), that is merely an English slang word for cigarette.

As this is only part 1, I think I’ll end this here. There are so many more and I look forward to sharing them with you. Even if you’re never planning to visit the UK, I find it interesting how many different words and phrases there are here and hopefully you will too. I must be going now, so as my in-laws would say, “Ta-da everybody!” (That means goodbye.)

*ย Any differences in language that I discuss only pertain to the area that I live in, Leicester. I donโ€™t know if other areas of the country use the same words, though I would assume that in much the same way that different states in the US have different accents and slang words, different counties in England have as well. Also, from time to time I may mention a word that my in-laws use, let me say now that although my in-laws in particular may say these words, that doesn’t mean they are used in all parts of England (they might be, I wouldn’t know!). Let me also add that I do know England came before America and that these posts are meant to be a lighthearted bit of fun. Thank you.


20 thoughts on “Language Barrier (Part 1)

    • Thank you! From comments I’ve received in other locations, I think ta-da may be a regional thing, or maybe even just something my husband’s family alone says. It’s still cute!

  1. This is so informative and amusing. I have used pants in the American way so many times while I was visiting. It’s hard to get used to a “new” language.

  2. Mrs Rayford I am a cousin to Lisa Thacker Daniels and Stephanie Thacker Wier thru their Dad David. I was excited when I read that you three were going to start a blog. I knew it would be interesting, informative and fun. Loved reading your post. I knew some of the words from reading a lot. I had no idea what a woggle was either. I also did not know about the word fanny. Really good writing. I look forward to the rest of this installment as well as all the other posts by our two relatives we share. Thank You Again for a fun read.

    • Hi there! Thank you so much. We’re all really enjoying writing the blog so it’s great to hear that people enjoy reading it as well.

    • My English husband is continually amused by some of the Americanisms I come out with. Even after almost 4 years of marriage! Glad you enjoyed it ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Pingback: DpChallenge: Manner of speaking: He says tom(A)to, I say tom(AR)to | Comfortably Numb

  4. I wrote about the same thing…but the other way around ๐Ÿ™‚ As a brit I have NEVER heard those things being called woggles (I just googled it and it turns out yes that is what ‘we’ call them over here) so youve taught me something new lol. What about chips/chips/crisps/fries…have you got used to that yet? xB

    • Haha! It’s nice to hear about it in reverse. My husband is always laughing about “Americanisms” I come out with. After 4 years I am finally used to chips for fries and crisps for chips. I now have a bit of a problem when I visit my family in America because I have to remember to go back to calling them by their American word! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Pingback: GES in America : Language | Geek Ergo Sum

  6. Pingback: Language Barrier (Part 2) | Three Ladies and Their Babies

  7. Pingback: Language Barrier (part 3) | Three Ladies and Their Babies

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