British English – American English: Transportation (vocabulary)

TransportationDear All,
The previous post has focused on the vocabulary pertinent to the topic of education and pointed out some major differences between BrE and AmE in this respect. The present post focuses on the topic of transportation. Before we start the discussion, it is worth noting that most of the differences in vocabulary between BrE and AmE are connected to concepts originating from the 19th to the mid 20th century*, when new words were coined independently. Consequently, practically all the words related to the car and railway industries are different.

Let us first examine major differences related to the car industry and traffic:
accelerator – gas [pedal], accelerator** (BP, 2014; OD, 2014; CDO, 2014; MW, 2014; ABBY Lingvo,2014)***
articulated lorry – trailer truck, semi
bonnet – hood
boot – trunk
car journey/drive – road trip
car park – parking lot
crossroads – intersection, crossroads (rural)
cul-de-sac – dead end
diversion – detour
driving licence – driver’s license
dual carriageway – divided highway
estate car – station wagon
fire-engine – fire truck
fly-over – overpass
gearbox – transmission
gear lever – gear shift
hood – convertible top
lollipop man/lady – crossing guard
lorry – truck
motorbike – motorcycle
motorway – freeway, highway
number plate – [license] plate
overtake (vehicle) – pass
pavement – sidewalk
petrol – gas, gasoline
roadworks – construction zone, roadwork
roundabout (road) – traffic circle
sleeping policeman, speed bump – speed bump
taxi – taxi, cab
ticking over – idling
traffic jam, tailback – traffic jam
windscreen – windshield
zebra crossing, pedestrian crossing – cross walk

The list above does not exhaust all the possible differences, it rather focuses on those words and phrases which are in common use and which are important in everyday life. In addition to these words and expressions, there are also a number of terms related to the railway industry. To begin with, the BrE word “railway” corresponds to “railroad” in AmE. Consequently, the equivalent of the BrE “railway station” is AmE “railroad station” or “train station“. The person who drives trains is referred to as an [engine] driver in BrE and an engineer in AmE. Furthermore, in BrE trains are said to have guards and in AmE they are said to have conductors. Compare also the following examples:

BrE:
The train is at platform 1.
AmE:
The train is on track 1.

In BrE, a place where two tracks meet is called a “set of points” while in AmE it is called a “switch“. A place where a road and a railway line cross at ground level is called a “level crossing” in BrE and “grade crossing” in AmE. If a person wants to get to the nearest underground station (tube) in the context where AmE is used, s/he should ask for a subway station.

In order to help people to get on time to their destinations, trains have timetables (BrE)/schedules (AmE). When passengers do not know the date on which they will be returning, they usually buy a single ticket (BrE)/one-way ticket (AmE). Interestingly, if people travel through a city where BrE is used, they may hear the following phrases: “Take your seats!” (when their train is about to depart) and “All change!” (when the final destination is reached). In AmE, the expressions which correspond to the phrases above are “All aboard!” and “All out!” respectively.

In summary, this post has focused on the topic of transportation and pointed out some major differences in vocabulary between BrE and AmE. It is necessary to remember though that languages and language varieties do not exist in isolation and tend to exchange their vocabularies. Moreover, within each variety, there exist numerous dialects and sociolects****. This all this means that a) what is a norm in BrE now may become a norm in AmE in the future or vice versa and b) in a particular BrE dialect certain words or phrases may be exactly as they are in AmE whereas in a particular AmE dialect certain words or phrases may be exactly as they are in BrE. The following post is going to focus on the topic of clothes.

See similar posts:

  1. British English – American English: Pronunciation
  2. British English – American English: Spelling
  3. British English – American English: Education (vocabulary)
  4. British English – American English: Clothes (vocabulary)
  5. British English – American English: Food (vocabulary)
  6. British English – American English: Miscellaneous (vocabulary)
  7. British English – American English: Units of measurement (vocabulary)
  8. British English – American English: Idioms (vocabulary)
  9. British English – American English: Verbs (grammar)
  10. British English – American English: Nouns (grammar)
  11. British English – American English: Prepositions (grammar)

References
ABBYY Lingvo (2014). Retrieved February 15, 2014 from, http://www.lingvo-online.ru/en
Cambridge Dictionaries Online (CDO) (2014). Retrieved February 15, 2014 from, http://dictionary.cambridge.org/
Merriam-Webster (MW) (2014). Retrieved February 15, 2014, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/
Oxford Dictionaries (OD) (2014). Retrieved February 15, 2014, from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/
Project Britain (BP) (2014). Retrieved February 15, 2014, from http://projectbritain.com/americanbritish.html

*In mid 20th century, movies and television became an important factor which contributed to faster rates of lexis exchange between BrE and AmE. The introduction of the Web has also played an important role.
**Bold type is used for AmE words.
***These sources have been consulted here and further in this post.
****Sociolects are language varieties associated with a particular social group based on their social rank, age or other factors.

Iaroslav

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16 Comments

  1. cel pintat de vermell

    Thanks! I’m learning English and I’ve realized that I have quite a mixed vocabulary. By the way, does British English use more words of French (Latin) origin than American English?

    • You are welcome!
      Indeed, as we learn English we tend to pick up words from both BrE and AmE. In English in general, the percentage of words of French origin is quite high due to different events and intercultural contacts in the past. Significant influence on English was in 1066 (the Norman conquest). This was well before AmE had developed and consequently it was influenced by French as much as BrE. Therefore, I would not say that one variety has more words of French origin than the other one.

      By the way, I personally found it helpful to stick to one variety of English: it is easier for me (less words to remember) and it is easier for the people around because they expect me to use consistently this variety.

      I hope this answers your question and good luck in learning English!

      • cel pintat de vermell

        Yes, I too think I should use just one variety. I’ve always studied British English, but what really made me learn the language is immersion, and that is difficult to control. All the books, films, YouTube videos, blogs, forums… They come in any shape. Now I’m trying to correct some of this mess. 😉

      • The fact that you already speak English is an achievement. Polishing our language (both native and second/third/etc.) is a good idea, of course. Your English is good, by the way. =)

Trackbacks

  1. British English – American English: Education (vocabulary) | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
  2. British English – American English: Pronunciation | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
  3. British English – American English: Spelling | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
  4. British English – American English: Education (vocabulary) | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
  5. British English – American English: Clothes (vocabulary) | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
  6. British English – American English: Food (vocabulary) | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
  7. British English – American English: Prepositions (grammar) | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
  8. British English – American English: Nouns (grammar) | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
  9. British English – American English: Verbs (grammar) | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
  10. British English – American English: Units of measurement (vocabulary) | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
  11. British English – American English: Idioms (vocabulary) | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
  12. British English – American English: Miscellaneous (vocabulary) | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS

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