Enigmas Wrapped in Riddles (Languages & Cultural Differences Around the World)

In my military schooling, I had to take a class in cross-cultural communications… even so, the different complexities in communication between cultural areas around the world is still an enigma and extremely difficult. Subtleties in gesture, inflection and facial expressions are the mother of the cultural snafu and language dialect differences can make a fool out of you quickly.

By popular demand… I will continue my list of favorite British English / American English differences I started in the linked post above…

  1. The spelling of the word program in British English is programME… why the heck do you need to add an ME to the end? This is a trend for the British equivalent words to have more letters. I equate this to Americans being lazier and just dropping letters throughout the years…
  2. The way the British pronounce Renaissance… seriously? Now the way in the YouTube link is pretty quick, but some more sophisticated folks slow it down and give it like 7 syllables… ridiculous
    How to pronounce renaissance | British English and American English pronunciation - YouTube
  3. Europe as a whole uses long scale math while the US uses short scale math… this doesn’t matter until you get to very large numbers… I had an argument on what 1 billion was at the pub before I understood there were two math schema… the British long scale is 1 billion is “1 million million” or 1 x 10^9 while American short scale is 1 billion is 1 x 10^6… 1 x 10^6 in long math is called a milliard (milliard is used in Germany as well)
  4. On the subject of math… the British add an s to the end of it… “you really need to work on your maths”… “it takes some maths to get it right”… ugh. And they don’t say reading & writing… it’s “literacy”
  5. What the heck is a stone? Well in the UK it is not something you throw, well it can be… but it can also mean 14 lbs. Why? I don’t know, but folks will tell you their weight in stones which makes you have to do irritating math in your head real fast. How much do you weigh? 12 stone 4 pounds… what? Just say 172 pounds so my brain doesn’t have an aneurysm
  6. The British pint is larger than the American pint… 20 equivalent American ounces to 16. Why? Probably so you can drink more and not feel as guilty when you say you’ve only had two pints… if you really care about the actual answer… follow the link…
    Why a Pint is Bigger in the UK than in the US - ANSI Blog
  7. Redundancy notice - it’s the British version of a pink slip… telling someone they were “made redundant” means they are laid off. It’s just different… I can’t get too worked up over this one as pink slip made my pub mates roll on the floor laughing
  8. Nibbles - grown men will say this about bringing stuff to dart or pool matches… we say snacks… nibbles are for rabbits
  9. Controversy - Americans say CON-tro-verse-eee… some British dialects to include the one around where I lived say con-TRO-ve-see… How to pronounce CONTROVERSY in British English - YouTube
  10. The Grand National - best horse race… the equivalent of the Kentucky Derby in pageantry, strange hats and snobbery, but a steeple chase that has riders flying off their horses and subsequent “loose” horses getting in the way of other horses… it’s a lot of fun to watch due to the chaos. Grand National Montage - YouTube

I’ll do another 10 later… also will have to start my Germany version. @DFresh11 needs to do a Brazilian one, @BDragon will need to do an Irish one (I have some, but not a lot).

Wait until I do my Iraqi one from my year in Baghdad during the war… the world is insane but also unique and amazing all at the same time. How in the world in Star Trek can everyone on the planet Klingon just speak Klingon? That, not the rest of the science fiction stuff, makes it completely unbelievable.


Being made “redundant” just sounds so cruel. Like, not only do you lose your job, you gotta be told by some mid-level HR toadie that you are literally duplicative of some of other schlub.

“Sorry, you are exactly the same as Jane from the Stoke-on-Trent office but she does better office banter and doesn’t microwave fish for lunch.”


So true brutal way to find out you are no longer needed. Also great pull with Stoke on Trent home of 2017 WSM Eddie Hall.

To fill @jazznutUVA request let me see what I remember from Ireland, some of this will be muddle thanks to playing rugby with too many internationals and for fun and games I may throw in some poly talk as well for my islander fam.

  1. Ireland is strange because it’s technically a two language country with Gaelic still a requirement in school and in the south west of the country it is still used regularly the result is sometimes you get a hybrid English Gaelic language when talking at the pub. For example" That’s good craic" Craic loosely translates to fun, gossip, funny, laugh.

2.Black stuff = Guinness “I’ll have a pint of the black stuff”

  1. Madness juice = Bulmers which = Magners in the rest of the world. An apple cider made outside of Tipptown aka Tipperary

  2. Kip = nap. “Have a kip before we go out?”

5.Give it out = When you have to get on/yell at someone. “I have to give it out to the boys after their shift last night cause they were slacking on the job.”

6.Banjaxed = broken. "

  1. Culchie = country. “Ah yea he’s culchie came up on a farm.”

  2. Tig = town. Everything is we’re going to Tig Roy, or Tig that. Just the name of the town.

9, Half a time = They will say oh we’ll meet at half 8 which means we’ll meet at 8:30. Confused the hell out of me at first.

  1. Bangers & Mash = Sausage and mashed potato dish. Very good.

  2. Pudding = blood sausage common with a traditional Irish breakfast.

  3. Jangles = Islander term for sandals/flip flops

  4. Bula = Fijian for hello/hi/welcome/ whatsup/ hey

  5. Vinaka Vakalevu = Fijian for thanks/I appreciate you

  6. Goose/Goose step = Fijian slang for side-step/juke

Lots more to come as I get more time.


This took me a while in the UK as well… but it gave me a headache when I got to Germany as halb Neun (half nine) means 8:30… since we hang out w/ British expats here as well… half nine is 9:30 to them. Been 16 years… still makes my head tick trying to get it straight.


Will get a better list soon but in Brasil you give time in a different way. It is never 7:40 but is “vinte pras 8” or “20 til/ before 8”.

Also big there with military style time which was easy to get used to somehow


One kinda weird thing is in Brasil I easily can do metric system with weight and distance etc and of course temperature. Impossible for me to use it in the US for some reason. Weird

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I have no idea how tall my kids are in Imperial… just cms due to EuropaPark ride height restrictions.

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Funny how that works

Also on doors that say “push or pull” the word for pull is “puxar” pronounced “push R” so for first few months Fresh always pushin in the door to my beera store instead of pulling. Doh!


How about in Hungary where shaking your head is yes and nodding is no… but when they speak to Americans they understand that it is backwards, so sometimes they will accommodate and do the Western versions.

My kids’ piano teacher is Hungarian and teaches them over webcam… he has issues with this… so do my kids. Hahaha!


Even if you look around the US, American English has a ton of regional differences.

Firefly/Lightning bug
Water fountain/drinking fountain/bubbler
Shopping cart/Wagon

Lots more


In Tennessee we always said : what kinda coke yall got?



My favorite US dialect one… in chart form… w.t.f. Mississippi and Alabama… Devil Beating His Wife???

Second favorite… gotta love North Carolina their drive through liquor stores…

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For you @DFresh11… Tennessee is solidly in the green… “coke”


I remember the kids in high school would wear brew thru T-Shirts all the time. Those and the Big Johnson ones. Can’t imagine schools let kids wear those now.


The Surf Shop ones too… can’t remember what was before Surf Shop…

The Big Johnson one I remember the most… Big Johnson Bar & Pub - Liquor in the Front, Poker in the Back… yeah, wouldn’t fly in today’s society. LOL!


BruThru shirts were everywhere in HS. Funny cause when I went to college at X Ohio had drive through liquor stores everywhere.

If I hear someone say pop I automatically know you aren’t from my neck of the woods. Gotta be a midwest to NE thing.

Also if you ask for a soda in the UK, you will get soda water plain.

@jazznutUVA we had a huge talk about the Devil Beating his wife thing at work like my 2nd month on the job was with my boss and our VP. We’re all spread out around the country and my boss from NYC but living in Bama was trying to figure out if I had heard that term before. Mind you I work at a very liberal non-for-profit where we are very careful about what we say and how we reference people. Dragon had a little sweat going as I tried to figure out if I should say it or not.


What I’ve found while not getting too political…

If you identify as Democrat or Republican… I cannot have a rational conversation with you as the issues are just a team sport for you.

If you identify as liberal or conservative… I can have a rational conversation with you as we can civilly discuss our differences even if we agree to disagree.


Actually like that breakdown. Might start using that and taking it a step or two further. For what it’s worth I believe polarization is most detrimental thing happening to western society. All the other stuff goes through the filter of that and comes out goose sh%t.


I worked a road construction job in Caswell County, NC (just across the border from Danville, VA) the summers after my first and second years at UVA. Dudes on that job site would say that every time it rained when the sun was out.


Those NY Times accent visualizations are fun. Regional dialects are probably declining but interesting to know that “sunshower” was mostly a NY area thing. There was another random one that was mostly in the tri-state area. Maybe “on line” rather than “in line”?