British English – American English: Units of measurement (vocabulary)

Scales

Dear All,
One more interesting aspect of the vocabularies of BrE and AmE is units of measurements. As it is known, numbers require precision; otherwise, one can find him/herself in a situation where s/he is late for an important meeting, underpaid or overpays his/her bill. In order to avoid these or similar situations, it is worth exploring the differences in units of measurement between BrE and AmE. These differences are addressed in this post.

Unlike AmE, in BrE, “and” is inserted before tens when a three(or more)-digit number is pronounced:
123 – one hundred and twenty-three – one hundred twenty-three*
1023 – one thousand one hundred and twenty-three – one thousand one hundred twenty-three

In BrE, numbers are often counted in hundreds up to 1,900; whereas in AmE, it is a common practice to do so even for much higher numbers:
1,200 – twelve hundred – twelve hundred (the same)
2,200 – two thousand two hundred – twenty-two hundred

When British people need a bus or look for a street number, for example, 124, they ask for bus/street “one-two-four”, while in North America, it is more common to say “one twenty-four” in this case.

If they deal with a phone number, BrE speakers usually use the word double when the same figure is repeated twice side by side, whereas AmE speakers just say it twice: 001 – double oh one – oh-oh-one. It should be noted that the numeral “0” is referred to as nought, nil (sport), oh, zero in BrE and oh or zero in AmE.

The “#” sign is known as “a hash symbol” in BrE and “a pound sign” in AmE. If a BrE speaker says “a pound symbol”, s/he usually means the currency sign “£”. “#” is also known as “a gate” in the British context.

Interestingly, a radio ad announcing an item on sale for “one ninety-nine” means that the item costs 1.99 if this is in the British context and 1.99 or 199 if the announcement is made in the American context. In BrE, an item on sale for 199 is pronounced as “one-nine-nine”. Notably, BrE speakers can drop either denominations altogether or just the word “pence”:
£1.22 – one twenty-two = one pound twenty-two,
whereas AmE speakers either drop denominations altogether or say both words:
$1.22 – one twenty-two = one dollar twenty-two cents.
The AmE equivalent for the BrE colloquialism “quid” is “buck/s“. The word “quid” does not typically take the ending -s, while the AmE term “buck” does. However, when BrE speakers refer to more than €1.00, they may say “euros” (as in two euros etc.), although the norm is “euro” for the plural form. There are also certain differences in how BrE and AmE speakers hand-write numbers in connection with currencies:
BrE: £1.22
AmE: $1.22 = $122 = $122

Dates and time have their peculiarities in BrE and AmE too. The typical way of writing, for instance, March 8, 2014 is
08/03/14 = 08.03.14 in BrE and
03/08/14 = 03.08.14 = 08/03/14 = 08.03.14  in AmE.
A date where the whole word is used to write the month has different formats in BrE and AmE as well:
8 March (pronounced as “the eighth of March”) in BrE and
March 8 (pronounced as “March eighth“) in AmE.
The BrE constructions “a week today”, “a week tomorrow”, “a week Monday”, etc. correspond to the following AmE constructions: “a week from today“, “a week from tomorrow“, “a week from Monday“, etc.

BrE speakers use the 24-hour clock not only in the context of an air travel, but also in their everyday speech. The hours and minutes are usually separated with a full stop (“.”), e.g. 13.15  = 1:15 pm. AmE speakers, in contrast, use the 12-hour clock in their everyday speech. The hours and minutes are usually separated with a colon (“:”), e.g. 1:15 PM = 13:15 (the latter format is less common). 1:15 is usually pronounced as “quarter past …” in BrE and “quarter after … ” in AmE. Remarkably, in BrE the word “past” is sometimes omitted in informal speech as in 1:30 (“half one”).

Finally, mass measurements are also different in BrE and AmE. It shows itself mainly in body mass which is measured in stones (equal to 14 pounds) and pounds in BrE and kilograms in AmE. For instance, in BrE, it is common to say that a person weighs “10 stone 5” (the plural form is “stone”); whereas in AmE, it is common to say “65.7 kilograms“.

In conclusion, this post has focused on the units of measurement and has addressed some of the major differences in vocabulary between BrE and AmE. The key differences have been shown to be in connection with currency, time, date, and weight measurements. The following post is going to continue comparing BrE and AmE and is going to examine one of the most interesting aspects of the language, phraseology (idioms, sayings, proverbs).

*Bold type is used for AmE words.

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: Transportation (vocabulary)
  5. British English – American English: Clothes (vocabulary)
  6. British English – American English: Food (vocabulary)
  7. British English – American English: Miscellaneous (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)

Iaroslav

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

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