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I’ve been aware of the differences between British and American English from about the time I started reading. For some reason we had a number of British children’s books, mostly those written by E. Nesbit, when I was little. I remember being very indignant one time when my second-grade teacher marked “colour” and “favour” wrong on my spelling test. I knew those words were right, after all, I had seen them in books! You’d think the teacher would have had enough of a brain to say, Hmm, apparently this child has come across some British spellings! But apparently not.

Anyway, the latest book I was editing had to be Americanized. I have to say that I liked some of the Briticisms better than their American counterparts. Here are some of my favorites. Feel free to add to your vocabulary:

Alice band: headband
chat-up line: pickup line
chinwag: conversation
dustbin: garbage can
bobbly: those bally things that form on sweaters
bun fight: formal party (lots of women with hair in buns)
double-barrelled surname: hyphenated last name
made redundant: fired
winkle: draw out with effort

Yes, you have to hand it to the Brits for actually having a noun to describe sweater balls (for lack of an American term) or to coin “winkle,” referring to prying a winkle from its shell. And being “made redundant” sounds much less insulting than being “fired” (although you can also be “sacked”). I think it’s a shame that we don’t say “whilst” and have removed the s from forwards, backwards, and towards. However, I must admit I find “zits” more fitting than “spots.”

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