We are kicking off this week with a guest blog post from Language Insight’s very own Lisa. Here, she writes about how things can get lost in translation even when you’re all speaking the same language.

Never mind different languages around the world, what about in the UK where different words mean the same thing?

Originally from Lancashire, I spent four years training as an accountant in Sutton, Surrey. I was quite amazed that although still in the UK, people seemed to use completely different words to describe something to what I would use.

On my first day I asked if I could go and have my dinner. My manager was shocked, thinking I was asking to leave for my evening meal and wouldn’t be coming back! We then realised that it’s more common in Lancashire to say breakfast, dinner and tea whereas down south it’s breakfast, lunch and dinner. We had countless arguments about which one sounded best!!!

I also remember asking people if they wanted a ‘brew’. This drew a lot of blank looks! Then I asked ‘tea or coffee?’, which people replied to. I later found out that no one says ‘brew’ in the south!

When talking about my pants getting dirty on a night out someone replied: “Why weren’t you wearing any trousers?” I was confused, but when we discussed it further I found out everyone thought I was talking about my underwear!!! In Lancashire trousers are called pants but in the south pants is underwear!!

A few other examples of different words the north and south use for the same thing are:

Butties = Sandwiches

Ginnel = Alley

Barmcake = Sub Roll

Bonnie = Pretty

I still chuckle to myself about our girly weekend to Newcastle with all my female work friends. One of them was chatted up by a Geordie guy and I had to translate for him as my friend from down south could not understand his accent!

I enjoyed my time living in Surrey and I am still amazed that although everyone speaks English, people born in the same country can speak so differently.


Can you think of any more phrases that are only used in the north or south of the UK?