Lost in Translation

Hello, SErs! Harmony here 🙂

While working with an American editor the self-same week that my last post on Wicked Words went live, an amusing situation (word-wise) arose. It had to do with our uncommon common language between UK and US English. We think we’re saying the same thing, when in fact …

Oh dear!

The first word that got lost in translation was HOMELY. Here’s what Google has to say:

Apparently, my American readers would have taken that descriptive to mean ugly and plain while my English Readers would have understood it as cosy, comfortable, and something nice, lols!

A common word with the same meaning on both sides of ‘the pond’ is HOMEY … it gets across the meaning I wanted and seems a far safer one to use. So, now I need to get out of the homely habit and into the homey one!

While HOMELY took me by surprise, the next one, I knew about but had a brain block initially, and it gave us both a chuckle …


A plain, simple word, right?


In the UK … 


And … in the US … 

So, when editing my short story for an American anthology, I had to swap out RUBBER for ERASER to avoid any misunderstandings!

Some American words are creeping into the UK such as ELEVATOR and TRASH and even FLASHLIGHT, and RUBBER does sometimes get used interchangeably; however, I’m not sure the reverse is true, as a TORCH still means something completely different between continents, as does BOOT (versus TRUNK). And FANNY in American means the opposite of its UK counterpart. It’s the difference between front and back!

I would love to see what words you’ve come across that read the same, are spelled the same, but mean something completely different 🙂

Harmony Kent


43 thoughts on “Lost in Translation

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  3. Hello Harmony! That’s hilarious, but you know it’s the same with Spanish speaking countries too. The same Spanish word could have several different meanings depending on whether you’re in Spain, Central or South America or the Caribbean.🙄

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Isn’t it weird how we all speak English yet words translate differently? To put it in perspective, we have the same issue within the U.S. where certain words have different meanings depending on where you’re at in the country.

    I’ve read my share of British authors and have enjoyed learning the differences in our dialects. Words are such strange creatures 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Words sure are strange creatures! 🙂 We have the same between counties in the UK where we argue over whether it’s a bap or a bun or a bread cake … it’s a circle of bread that mostly gets used with burgers! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Amazing how both countries speak English, but so many differences. I knew about some of these, but I didn’t know fanny meant front in British English. You mentioned the boot of a car if I’m not wrong we use hood for the front, and you use bonnet. A bonnet here is something a baby wears.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Ha ha ha. Yep, we use bonnet. I’ve only ever seen it used for a hat in historical novels, lols! Or, decades ago, a baby bonnet, but it isn’t in common usage over here anymore. I love how language morphs and changes. Apparently, back along, ‘Nice’ used to mean unpleasant, then it got used in sarcasm so much that its meaning switched to pleasant! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. There are a few words that have different meanings between The UK and Australia, we mainly use UK-speak here but one example is ‘Fourex’ which used to be a term for a condom in The UK whereas it’s a brand of beer in Australia…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Yes, a great post, showing that language is a live thing.
    I always had to make corrections, at first, in my manuscripts as I used British English and had to change to American English as the editor asked, being an American publisher. Sometimes it confused me. Thank God for all ki9nd of dictionaries!
    So in the end, the English I use is a kind of Romlish, Romanian and English!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The first time I read a book from across the pond, I thought it was full of typos. 🙂 Favor is Favour and Booger You is the same as F*** You over here. Interesting language differences. Great post, Harmony.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ve read enough works by authors from across the pond to recognize many of our language differences, yet I still laugh at some of them. Here “bum” is a hobo or a person without any means of support, rather than a body part, and depending on how it’s used in a sentence, the difference can be pretty amusing. It can also be a verb, to bum, which means to beg or borrow. “The man bummed a cigarette from his new acquaintance.” I guess that would sound either pretty strange or downright awful to our friends across the pond. Ah, words! How I love ’em! 😀

    Liked by 4 people

  10. I’m aware of many of the language differences, but “fanny” is a new one to me. I don’t think I’ve ever used that particular word to describe (in the US) someone’s bottom, but I’m certain if I did it would have raised quite a few eyebrows across the pond!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. What would be a lovely story in the UK could end up being a hilarious comedy in the US! 😄 I knew about homely, but had no clue about rubber – too funny!

    Though not an American creation, Mexican tacos are a big deal here. Yankee-assumption is all people of Latin descent share the same heritage, blah, blah, blah. I couldn’t stop laughing when a former co-worker of Brazilian descent said in her country ‘taco’ was the outer shoe sole! Gives ordering a plate of tacos a whole new meaning! 😄😄😄

    Liked by 1 person

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