A study found the British have no idea about words like sandlot, boondocks, cilantro and more.
The U.S. and England ostensibly speak the same language. (English, FYI.) But each country’s version of English has evolved over centuries, taken in different directions by cultural, social, regional and media forces. And some beautiful and horrible accents.
I mean, American dictionaries are adding street slang like colony collapse disorder and geocaching; I don’t know that those hip terms have made it over there.
So who can provide us insight into the biggest differences in the two versions of English? The Belgians. Obviously.
The Center for Reading Research at Belgium’s Ghent University conducted a study last year to test which words Americans knew that Brits didn’t and vice versa. More than 600,000 people from the two countries weighed in.
Here are 11 of the words that had the biggest spreads between U.S. and U.K. awareness.
1 | sandlot (known by 97 percent of Americans vs. 32 percent of the British)
The real tragedy here is how few British people are aware of a tremendous movie — especially one that’s part of an extinct film breed (modest budget sports movies). When they hear Benny “The Jet” they probably think of the Elton John song. (Then again, when we hear of Reginald Dwight, we mistake him for the guy who was attacked during the Rodney King riots.)
2 | Staph (86% American / 25% British)
Our infections don’t sound posh enough? I searched but couldn’t find what word is used in place of “staph” in the U.K.; it must be something because it’s not like an entire country can avoid them. Are you telling me not a single British kid ever goes swimming in a pond filled with hypodermic needles and sewage runoff?
3 | Kwanzaa (91% American / 24% British)
Nine out of 10 Americans have finally heard of Kwanzaa. Maybe we’re not a country stuffed to the seams with racists!
4 | Coonskin (88% American / 31% British)
Oh never mind. We still cling to our terms that sound vaguely to not-so-vaguely racist.
5 | Goober (96% American / 37% British)
A lite insult AND a type of candy to eat mindlessly during a movie? They’re really missing out.
6 | Boondocks (96% American / 37% British)
“Boondocks” is a great American word because, depending on your perspective, it can refer to a comic strip, an Adult Swim cartoon, a popular country song or the remote area where you and/or your relatives live. In all four cases, it’s impossible to escape.
7 | Cilantro (99% American / 40% British)
So what ingredient do British women complain about then?
8 | Crawdad (86% American / 20% British)
I assume this means a lot of British people have never known the joy of eating crawfish. Here’s the executive summary: Ton of work, very little food as a result, but if you’ve ever wanted to eat 300 animals in one sitting without getting full, they’re hard to beat.
9 | Flub (89% American / 31% British)
“Flub” is fairly colloquial and its first recorded usage was 1904 in America; there was really no reason for it to cross the ocean. The British have plenty of their own adorable slang terms for “botch,” although I don’t know any, they’re usually little rhymes like, “bops and tops” or “flibits and ribits.”
10 | Acetaminophen (92% American / 36% British)
How is it possible that 92 percent of Americans know Tylenol’s maiden name? I mean, I know we love our drugs, but still. I’m shocked at that side of the equation, not the relative lack of knowledge in England. Is it possible that this country is secretly full of geniuses?
11 | Provolone (97% American / 36% British)
Provolone seems like such a standard cheese over here — I mean, it’s the default at Subway — it’s weird to think all of England is going without it. Of course, our entire country is going with cereals that have under 200 grams of sugar in a serving, so we’re missing out too.