The strangest American phrases (and what they mean)

words Al Woods

If you’ve ever spent time working in both the UK and the USA, you’ll have noticed that there’s a bigger language barrier than people first assume. Sure, we technically both speak ‘English’, but an American’s version of English is very different to a Brit’s version of the same.

French fries are chips, sneakers are trainers, and the subway is the underground. But it’s not just the words and phrases that are different. Some of them are well known but there are some newer ones creeping into our culure. There are just so many American phrases that confuse foreigners including us Brits. Our communication styles are totally opposite too, with Americans feeling perfectly comfortable dishing out praise and answering questions directly. But British workers? Well, conversations in the office depend on the fine art of tact and subtlety: “with all due respect” infers very little of the kind, and a project that went “reasonably well” was actually a roaring success.

So with the United Kingdom’s penchant for a stiff upper lip, and America’s preference for open expression, it can help to have some means of translation to hand – such as the helpful guide below. Whether you’re an American throwing around these phrases in the office, or a Brit who’s confused by the phrases and terminology that are slowly making their way across the pond, take a look at Foothold America’s Americanisms glossary to shine a little light on the matter.

American phrases

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