A Quick Guide to Slang in the UK and America

Well some words are spelled differently but pronounced the same (colour/color or aesthetic/esthetic for example), some are spelled the same but are pronounced differently (vitamin, oregano, yoghurt), and a few mean different things entirely (e.g. pants).

Further, when you compare slang words and phrases between the two countries, things start to look very different. In fact, many people from the US and the UK aren’t able to understand each other, or they may use the same slang words to mean different things, which can lead to some very confusing situations!

For example, take the American idiom “for the birds”. In the US, if you say that something is for the birds, it means that it is unimportant or not worth thinking about. In the UK on the other hand, “bird” is slang for a woman. So, in the UK, if you said that something was “for the birds”, people would think you were trying to say it was only for women!



Here are a few other popular slang words and phrases that differ between the two countries:

Chinwag, e.g. “We had a good old chinwag”. This is British slang for having a long chat, probably made up of lots of gossip, and usually with someone you know well or haven’t seen for a little while. The closest equivalent in America is probably “shoot the breeze”, which means chatting to a friend about nothing very important.

Cheers. Americans and British people both say “cheers” when they are out drinking and clink their glasses together. The difference is that people from the UK also use “cheers” to mean “thank you”. In fact, British people say “cheers” all the time without noticing they’re doing it – a bit like the way they say “sorry” all the time. They often use, “OK, cheers!” to mean “Goodbye!”.

I’m Not Being Funny, But This is something you hear a lot in the UK. If someone starts a sentence with this, you can be sure that the next thing they say is going to be either an insult, something offensive, a complaint about someone, or possibly something a bit weird. Americans don’t say this, but they do say, “With all due respect…” which means the same thing (and doesn’t mean they really respect the other person!).

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