We’re back with another comparison of English words from around the globe. In case you missed our last edition of the megabattle, here’s how it works: We take a word and find out how you say it English dialects from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Let the battle continue!
First, let’s welcome back our contenders:
From the UK: Tom
From the USA: Martinique
From Australia: Erin
From New Zealand: Fiona
From South Africa: Christine
1. A party
Tom: Everyone I know calls a party a do. So, you could say a birthday do, a wedding do, an anniversary do, and so on. A do usually implies the party is formal to some degree, which makes sense because British people are totally classy all the time.
Martinique: We just say party, which you can hear in all the most popular songs ranging from Miley Cyrus to Kendrick Lamar. If a party is insane, you call it a rager. Or, if you want to go all out, you can “Party like it’s your birthday!” Go, shorty!
Erin: In Australia, you might get invited to a bash, which is not an excuse to go on a rampage and destroy things! This word is particularly used as in birthdaybash. For other events, such as graduations or housewarmings, we just use party.
Fiona: For Kiwis, a do is something our grandparents might say, but the word is definitely not used by anyone younger, not even my parents! Just stick to party when in NZ.
Christine: The South African version of party is possibly the greatest word of all time: jol. lt can be used as a verb (to jol, meaning to party) or as a noun (a jol, meaning a party) but just to be extra lekker (see below), you can use the word to describe something as cool, sexy, or amazing. (And a little extra information for all you romantics out there: Jol is also used to describe a long session of kissing.)
2. A small orange
Tom: In the U.K., we call most small oranges clementines, even if they’re technically a satsuma or a tangerine. It’s all the same to us, and who cares as long as they’re delicious and citrusy?
Martinique: While we say mandarins and clementines as well, we also use the word tangerines because, contrary to some Brits, we care about citrus fruit. What’s the difference? Well, I’m glad you asked: Mandarins are slightly smaller than their orange friends and tangerines and clementines are varieties of mandarins. #themoreyouknow
Erin: I feel like I haven’t been lucky enough to come across a variety of mini oranges in my time – though, I would definitely say that yummy and scrummy mandarins are the most commonly used (and seen) alternative.
Fiona: We usually refer to the small orange as mandarins, aka the sweet, easy to peel orange you can eat anywhere. (Now, that’s a slogan!)
Christine: In South Africa, we call this a naartjie, which originally stems from the Tamil word nartei. (Even though we’ve been calling a small orange naartjie since 1790, it apparently doesn’t mean that anyone outside of South Africa understands it.)
Tom: The common British abbreviation is hanging, obviously derived from the hung part of hungover. So essentially, you’re hanging on a hangover. The implication is that you shouldn’t let go because you’ll probably be sick everywhere.
Martinique: We just say, “I’m hungover!” and try to recover as quickly as possible, which, I may or may not know from experience, only gets more difficult after 25. Just remember that water is your friend.
Erin: Aussies tend to feel seedy after too many rum and cokes. It’s enough to make anyone swear off drinking (again).
Fiona: After too many beers or sav blancs, you might feel a bit hung the next day, meaning you’re a little worse for wear and should take it easy.
Christine: South Africans say, “I‘ve got a moerse babalas!”In Zulu, I-babalazi means drunk, so naturally, a babalas would be the following symptom, right? Just saying the word makes you sound like you’re drunk.
4. Traffic lights
Tom: British English shortens this to just lights. So, you’d say, “I got stopped at a red light.” or “The lights were green when I drove through them.” (That’s our story and we’re sticking to it.)
Martinique: We tend to say stop light or light. Example: “Go down two blocks and make a left at the light.” I know the British pluralize it, but only one light is on at a time! (This is one of the many reasons we had to become independent from the United Kingdom. Yes, that’s OUR story and we’re sticking to it.)
Erin: We follow the United Kingdom’s lead and also refer to traffic lights as lights.
Fiona: We take our cue from the motherland (U.K.) on this one, sticking to lights as well.
Christine: In South Africa, you might hear “Make sure to turn left at the robot.” Yes, most tourists would be looking out for a Star Wars character on the road, but in South Africa, this is a completely normal expression. Supposedly, the term originates from the good old times, when traffic lights were manually controlled by police officers who were then replaced with a machine – hence the name robot. However, it seems South Africans are not the only bright people in the world – the U.K. apparently also used the word up until the end of the 1930s. Bet you didn’t know that, Tom?
Tom: British English bizarrely abbreviates this to sarnie, which used to only be the slang word for a sandwich filled with bacon but now means any sandwich flavor. It originated around the 1960s, so I can blame my grandparents for perpetuating such a ridiculous word.
Martinique: We say sandwich, but you can get specific: BLT, for instance, is short for bacon, lettuce, tomato, which can be your whole sandwich or an add-on.
Erin: In Australia, a sanger is the go-to word. Vegemite sanger? Ham sanger? Chicken salad sanger? All delicious lunchtime wonders!
Fiona: The sammie, which is slang for sandwich in NZ, is a lunchtime staple and can be made in any form, as long as it’s two pieces of bread with a few fillings.
Christine: In South Africa, we don’t like thinking about sand in our food, so we changed the word entirely to call it a sarmie. (We’ve got enough sand already, thank you very much.)
6. Really nice
Tom: This is an interesting one because there are lots of words that mean really nice, depending on where you come from in the UK. In my local accent, from the west of England, you’d say something was lush. (At some point, lush meant appealing to the senses, so I guess that’s where the origin of its meaning comes from. It also just sounds nice, doesn’t it?)
Martinique: If you hear someone say, “That is really nice!” it could mean that they either think something is really nice, or that they want to convey the opposite and describe something horrible. We Americans tend to be very sarcastic or diplomatically beat around the bush, so watch for tone. If you don’t want to be misunderstood, you can say sweet, spiffy, great, wicked and awesome.
Erin: In the land Down Under, there are dozens of words meaning really nice, but most are only used by the oldies (elderly people) these days! Non-oldies often use sweet, ace, and awesome.
Fiona: Kiwis often use the word as to accentuate the following adjective, so in this case, we would say nice as, which means really nice.
Christine: When the Dutch settlers heard the Brits use luscious to describe the awesomeness of South Africa, they decided to use their translated version, lekker, and introduce it to the South African slang vocabulary.