This week we are going to take a drop back away from the cars themselves and take a look at terminology. And no, I am not referring to the infamous “reverse procedure” instructions in most manuals on how to reassemble your automotive explosion. What we are looking at here are the words that are used for the same parts of the cars depending on whether you are speaking “English” or “American”. Ever look at your US friend’s faces the first time you tell them you are going to stuff something in their boot?
Yes, as the phrase most often attributed to George Bernard Shaw goes, “England and America are two countries separated by a common language.” And this is no more true than when we talk about cars.
When I was younger, way so may years ago, I learned most of what I knew about my cars by reading manuals and magazines. Of course, since my fascination was my MG and other British cars, my reading materials were most all of British origin. I used to get that “are you from another planet” look from the folks at the local NAPA store when I would go in and talk about spanners, wings, petrol, and knock-offs. Oh, and if you want a good laugh, imagine all of this with a good Southern accent.
Honestly, it didn’t get much better when I tried to explain what car I was working on. How many of has heard the infamous, “MG? Who makes them? Do you mean GM?”. Luckily the local Foreign Car Parts came to the rescue with parts, education, and then a job. But that is a different and very long and circuitous story.
So, while most of us have gotten used to the English to American translation, there are still those new to the hobby who may get confused. And, if you are into this type of thing, you will soon begin to come across slang and insults. They just come with the territory. I urge you to check out Anglotopia and their Top 100 Most Beautiful British Slang Words and Phrases – Guide to English Slang. The entire Anglotopia site is wonderful and I can’t recommend it highly enough, but their exposes on slang, swearing, and other such language topics are both amusing and informative.