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Is that a ‘crisp’ or a ‘chip’?!

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image Andrew Leong Murphy - Senior Language Instructor, Center for Languages and Professional Development, USJ.

What is the difference between ‘crisps’ and ‘chips’? I have had this discussion several times since moving to Macau! It may seem like an easy question, but the answer depends upon where the person speaking is from.

It may seem strange to think of there being more than one English, but, as noted in a previous article, there are often different answers depending upon which country you are from. A potato chip in the U.S. is a crisp in the UK – while, in the UK, a chip is something you might have with fish (sounds a bit strange from an American perspective!).


It gets even more confusing when you start talking about cookies and biscuits… This could lead to some confusion between someone from America and someone from Britain.


If you have an accident in the UK, you might go to the ‘Casualty’ department at the local hospital – in America you might go to the ‘Emergency Room’. This is why the television program in the UK was called Casualty, while the equivalent American program was called ER.


It is also very confusing with dates. In the UK, we would say dd/mm/yy (day/month/year). So, for example, 01/02/11 would mean the first of February 2011 in the UK. However, this would mean the second of January in US English! In the US, the format is mm/dd/yy (month/day/year). It is something I have to be careful about when I am filling out forms, and something I need to think about when I am reading something.


Even something as simple as filling up your car up can get confusing! In the UK you would ask for some ‘petrol’ (or maybe ‘diesel’) – in the US you would ask for ‘gas’. In the UK, ‘gas’ has a very different meaning! Even when trying to park your car there are differences – in Britain, you would use a ‘car park’, while in America you use a ‘parking lot’.


If someone asked me how much I weighed, I might well ‘I weigh xx stone’. In American English, someone would more usually say ‘I weigh xx pounds’. Of course, the advantage of this is that many people wouldn’t know how much I weigh, even if I tell them!


However, many words from the US English have become much more used in British English now. When I was young, a billion was equal to a million million, now it normally a thousand million (the American usage). It has suddenly become a lot easier to be a billionaire in the UK!


As mentioned before, it really is amazing the number of differences between how English is used around the world. I have looked at just a few of the differences between American and British English, but the same could apply to the English used in other parts of the world. This definitely doesn’t make learning English any easier!




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