American/British Language Differences: Automotive Edition

It has always struck me as bizarre that, when it comes to cars, there’s an especially-wide swathe of vocabulary differences between British English and American English. After almost thirteen years here in the USA, I feel like I have mastered most of these except for those that are spelled the same but pronounced differently over here, like the brand Jaguar. To me, it will always be Jag-you-are. Never Jag-war.

For those of you intrigued to learn more transatlantic automotive vernacular, here’s a quick checklist:

  • Bonnet: not decorative headwear but rather the British word for ‘hood.’
  • Boot: not footwear, but how we Brits say ‘trunk.’
  • Windscreen: yes, we call it a windscreen not a windshield.
  • Number plate: that’s English for license plate.
  • Manual: you call it ‘stick.’ You’ll find a whole lot more of these in the UK and Europe. In fact, most of us learn to drive manual. This makes us better multi-taskers, IMHO.
  • Hatchback: a three-door car. Again, many more of these across the pond. After all, British streets and parking spots are narrower, so it makes sense.
  • Saloon: not as glamorous as in the wild west, this is what we call a regular four-door car.
  • Estate: Personally I think station wagon cars are all ugly. Also it’s such a silly word.
  • Lorry = Truck
  • Caravan = RV
  • People Mover = Minivan
  • 4×4 = SUV

Things you may have in your car:

  • Anorak: in case it rains. Y’all call it a windbreaker.
  • Wellies: ditto, in case it’s rainy or muddy out. You’d call them rubber boots.
  • Torch: A.K.A a flashlight.

I’ve also discovered some words here in America for which I don’t think there’s a direct British equivalent:

  • Way back: fortunately it means what it says, as in “tell the kids in the way back of the car to stop throwing legos at each other.”
  • Tailgating: Grilling in car parks before sports events is not something Brits really know how to do. Or why.

On the flip side, we Brits do like a good car boot sale. No, this doesn’t mean selling our trunks. It’s like a big old market where everyone parks their car and sets up a booth to sell off second-hand stuff. Like lots of yard sales in a parking lot or a big field.

Buckle Up!

A few days ago, I witnessed a car fly into the air in front of my eyes, spin over and come crashing down, not even a foot in front of my eyes. Debris was flying all around. The smell of burned rubber was thick and sickly. Time stood still.

I pulled over. Ran to the car, as did several other people. The deafening silence suddenly got louder, like someone somewhere turned the volume up. People appeared. 911 was dialed, Sirens. Firetrucks, police cars.

I gave my statement to a police officer and sat with a woman who had driven into the slow lane to avoid a tire in the middle lane, and had set off a chain reaction of cars swerving and hitting the black SUV, which then flew up and crashed down, before me.

That car had been innocently driving down the highway, going from A to B, minding its own business when, out of nowhere, everything was quite literally turned upside down. I cannot imagine the shock, the terror of the four passengers.

I watched as the firefighters used all kinds of equipment to free the people inside from the mangled remains of their car. I turned away as they were stretchered out.

What I could tell, though, was that they were alive and had been wearing seat belts. Undoubtedly, the seat belts and airbags had saved their lives.

Later that day, I read on a local news site that their injuries were not serious. Given the chaos that had unfolded in front of me, I was amazed but so hugely grateful these strangers were all alright.

You never know what’s going to hit you, folks. Buckle up. Always. Front and back.

Life Before Kids & the Thrill of Getting “Checked Out”

Once upon a time, in the days before kids, I used to get checked out. At a bar. In a club. On the train.

I’m not talking about being chatted up or lusted after. I’m not talking about boyfriends or hook ups. What I am referring to is that moment when you notice a complete stranger noticing you with, let’s say, appreciation. Could be the mailman. Someone in the grocery store, the doctor’s office. A waiter at a restaurant. Somebody driving down the street. Usually no-one you know.

And it makes you feel good. It puts a swing in your hips, some pep in your step. Makes you toss your shiny hair over your shoulder and suck your tummy in. Blush a little. And then carry on your day, grateful for the reminder that you are a woman.

I’m sure at this point the feminists are aghast. We girls don’t need men to help us achieve self-worth and to feel actualized. Looks do not matter. It’s what’s inside that counts. Yes, yes I know.

But I’m not going to deny it – it feels damn good when you get checked out. I miss it.

I’m not at all surprised though, that in the first five or so years since having kids, it barely happened at all. I often went out without having looked in the mirror or put a comb through my hair. Clothes were baggy, at best. Unstained, if I was lucky. Makeup non-existent. My shiny nose was a beacon. (I did always brush my teeth, though.)

In time, however, the urge to put some effort back into my appearance and self-pride resurfaced. The urge to wear clothes that fit, even flatter, came back. Certainly, watching “What Not to Wear” helped. I saw myself in too many of those sorry souls that Stacy and Clint helped! I set my sights on becoming a yummy mummy.

And then it happened. Not once, but twice. Three times I got checked out. Woohoo, I’m back!!

Before we all get carried away, I have to set the record straight. There’s was something fishy going on. It soon dawned on me that each time it happened, I was driving my car. Huh?

Turns out, the men who I thought were checking *me* out, were actually checking out my new Ford Explorer, lusting after its new pay load, chassis, trim.

Hey, what about my chassis? My trim?

Oh how times have changed! But I’ll take it. Might as well enjoy the attention while I can get it.

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