The Expat Diaries: Another Instalment of My Guide to Speaking British

K.Rothman(Sarah)-1277.jpgThank you so much about all of your kind words on my video from last week. It seems like most people could hear a bit of a British lilt while I was talking, but there was a consensus that I still pronounce most things in a North American way. And a few people just heard a Canadian gal through and through.

But whether my accent has changed much or not, I’ve definitely been adapting my vernacular. Sometimes it happens unintentionally – a British expression slips out without me even thinking about it. With others, I prefer the ‘new’ phrase and started incorporating it into my everyday speech. I take out the “rubbish” instead of the “trash” and when I’m feeling down, things might be “a bit rubblish.” I’m more likely to refer to something unsavoury as “dodgy” instead of “sketchy” and I “fancy” things instead of “liking” them. On Sunday afternoon I might go watch a “film” at the “cinema” instead of heading to the “movies.”

But there are still so many British phrases that I’m still learning. And whenever I hear a new one, I whip out my pink Filofax and jot it down (much to the amusement of my friends). So, I thought it was time for another instalment of My Guide to Speaking British. Here’s what I’ve learned since last time:

rucksack: backpack
paracetamol: acetaminophen
soft cheese: cream cheese
nail varnish: nail polish
mouth ulcer: canker sore
plaster: bandage
cling film: plastic wrap
knickerbocker glory: ice cream sundae
bobble hat: toque
push chair: stroller
ladders: runs (in your stockings)
kirby grips: bobby pins
ladybird: ladybug
gig: show (as in concert)
badge: pin (as in the kind you might buy at a gig)
bug bear: pet peeve
the tip: the dump
a tip: a mess
slap up feast: “a big meal with all of the fixings” (I’m not sure we have an everyday translation for that)
coach: bus (the ones that take you between cities – the city buses are still buses)
loud hailer: megaphone (apparently not everyone uses this one)

And as for those of you who requested I make more videos – thank you! I’ll be doing my best to figure out the technical side, so that I can do something a bit more snazzy soon. Is there anything in particular you’d like me to cover?

For now, here’s to all of this sunny weather – which is perfect for spotting ladybirds & eating knickerbocker glories,




Photograph by Katherine Rothman.


  1. Smeeeff says:

    I love this post! I really love learning (admitidly not really using) local terms, I’m from south west England but now live in Glasgow and although I’ve been here for 5 years I’m still learning!

    Smeeeff xx

  2. I really like to read your blog and funny thing. I mostly speak american english but I just realised I used some english (british) expression.

    Kisses :)

  3. This is amazing! I’ve never been to the UK (the amount of british people I follow on the internet proves how much I want to go, though). I’m a California girl, but I LOVE learning about other cultures, even ones that feel as “close” as Britain. I might also have to do a similar post on my blog for like California words too:) Definitely enjoyed this!

    Love, Aubry

  4. Woahh the thing that has me thrown the most is ‘paracetamol’! How do you even pronounce ‘acetaminophen’? And CANKER SORE? You crazy Canadians. Anyway I loved this post!

    Kirsten |

  5. I understood MOST of those, but I guess Australia is very British!

  6. Rosie says:

    I’ve never heard ‘loud hailer’ before (I’m British), but I’ve always called a push chair a ‘buggy’. Maybe it’s a local thing!

    ‘Knickerbocker glory’ always used to amuse me, as pants (underwear) are also knickers here.

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