The American Language/Chapter 18

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The American Language by H. L. Mencken
The Two Vocabularies

By way of preliminary to an examination of the American of today, here is a list of terms in everyday use that differ in American and English:

  American   English
  ash-can   dust-bin
  ash-cart   dust-cart
  ashman   dustman
  backyard   garden
  baggage   luggage
  baggage-car   luggage-van
  ballast (railroad)   metal
  barbershop   barber’s-shop
  bath-robe   dressing-gown
  bath-tub   bath
  beet   beet-root
  bid (noun)   tender
  bill-board   hoarding
  boarder   paying-guest
  boardwalk (seaside)   promenade
  boot   high-boot
  brakeman   brakesman
  bumper (car)   buffer
  bureau   chest of drawers
  calendar (court)   cause-list
  campaign (political)   canvass
  can (noun)   tin
  candy   sweets
  cane   stick
  canned-goods   tinned-goods
  car (railroad)   carriage, van or waggon
  checkers (game)   draughts
  chicken-yard   fowl-run
  chief-clerk   head-clerk
  chief-of-police   chief-constable
  city-editor   chief-reporter
  city-ordinance   by-law
  clipping (newspaper)   cutting
  closed-season   close-season
  coal   coals
  coal-oil   paraffin
  collar-button   stud
  commission-merchant   factor, or commission-agent
  commutation-ticket   season-ticket
  conductor (of a train)   guard
  corn   maize, or Indian corn
  corner (of a street)   crossing
  corn-meal   Indian meal
  counterfeiter   coiner
  cow-catcher   plough
  cracker   biscuit
  crazy-bone   funny-bone
  cross-tie   sleeper
  crystal (watch)   watch-glass
  department-store   stores
  derby (hat)   bowler
  dime-novel   penny-dreadful
  district (political)   division
  druggist   chemist
  drug-store   chemist’s shop
  drummer   bagman
  dry-goods-store   draper’s-shop
  editorial (noun)   leader, or leading-article
  elevator   lift
  elevator-boy   lift-man
  enlisted-man   private-soldier
  excursionist   tripper
  ferns   bracken
  filing-cabinet   nest-of-drawers
  fire-department   fire-brigade
  fish-dealer   fishmonger
  floor-walker   shop-walker
  fraternal-order   friendly-society
  freight   goods
  freight-agent   goods-manager
  freight-car   goods-waggon
  freight-elevator   hoist
  frog (railway)   crossing-plate
  garters (men’s)   sock-suspenders
  gasoline   petrol
  grade (railroad)   gradient
  grain   corn
  grain-broker   corn-factor
  groceries   stores
  hardware-dealer   ironmonger
  headliner   topliner
  hod-carrier   hodman
  hog-pen   piggery
  hood (automobile)   bonnet
  hospital (private)   nursing-home
  huckster   coster (monger)
  hunting   shooting
  Indian   Red Indian
  Indian Summer   St. Martin’s Summer
  instalment-business   credit-trade
  instalment-plan   hire-purchase plan
  internal-revenue   inland-revenue
  janitor   caretaker, or porter
  laborer   navvy
  legal-holiday   bank-holiday
  letter-box   pillar-box
  letter-carrier   postman
  locomotive engineer   engine-driver
  long-distance-call   trunk-call
  lumber   deals
  lumber-yard   timber-yard
  mad   angry
  mantelpiece   chimney-piece
  Methodist   Wesleyan
  molasses   treacle
  monkey-wrench   spanner
  moving-picture-theatre   cinema, or picture-palace
  necktie   tie
  news-dealer   news-agent
  newspaper-man   pressman, or journalist
  notions   small-wares
  oatmeal   porridge
  officeholder   public-servant
  orchestra (seats in a theatre)   stalls
  outbuildings (farm)   offices
  overcoat   great-coat
  package   parcel
  parlor   drawing-room
  parlor-car   saloon-carriage
  patrolman (police)   constable
  pay-day   wage-day
  peanut   monkey-nut
  pen-point   nib
  period (punctuation)   full-stop
  pitcher   jug
  plant (industrial)   works
  poorhouse   workhouse
  post-paid   post-free
  potpie   pie
  prepaid   carriage-paid
  press (printing)   machine
  program (of a meeting)   agenda
  public-school   board-school
  quotation-marks   inverted-commas
  railroad   railway[1]
  railroad-man   railway-servant
  rails   line
  rare (of meat)   underdone
  receipts (in business)   takings
  Rhine-wine   Hock
  road-bed (railroad)   permanent-way
  road-repairer   road-mender
  roast   joint
  roll (of films)   spool
  roll-call   division
  rooster   cock
  round-trip-ticket   return-ticket
  saleswoman   shop-assistant
  saloon   public-house
  scarf-pin   tie-pin
  scow   lighter
  sewerage   drains
  shirtwaist   blouse
  shoe   boot
  shoemaker   bootmaker
  shoe-shine   boot-polish
  shoestring   bootlace
  shoe-tree   boot-tree
  sick   ill
  sidewalk   footpath, or pavement
  silver (collectively)   plate
  sled   sledge
  sleigh   sledge
  soft-drinks   minerals
  smoking-room   smoke-room
  spigot (or faucet)   tap
  sponge (surgical)   tap
  stem-winder   keyless-watch
  stockholder   shareholder
  stocks   shares
  store-fixtures   shop-fittings
  street-cleaner   crossing-sweeper
  street-railway   tramway
  subway   tube, or underground
  suspenders (men’s)   braces
  sweater   jersey
  switch (noun, railway)   points
  switch (verb, railway)   shunt
  taxes (municipal)   rates
  taxpayer (local)   ratepayer
  tenderloin (of beef)   under-cut, or fillet
  ten-pins   nine-pins
  terminal (railroad)   terminus
  thumb-tack   drawing-office
  ticket-office   booking-office
  tinner   tinker
  tin-roof   leads
  track (railroad)   line
  trained-nurse   hospital-nurse
  transom (of door)   fanlight
  trolley-car   tramcar
  truck (vehicle)   lorry
  truck (of a railroad car)   bogie
  typewriter (operator)   typist
  typhoid-fever   enteric
  undershirt   vest
  vaudeville-theatre   music-hall
  vest   waistcoat
  warden (of a prison)   governor
  warehouse   stores
  wash-rag   face-cloth
  wash-stand   wash-hand-stand
  waste-basket   waste-paper-basket
  whippletree   splinter-bar
  witness-stand   witness-box

Notes[edit]

  1. Railway, of course, is sometimes used in the United States. But all the English dictionaries call railroad an Americanism.