I can’t give up pants

In case we haven’t mentioned it a dozen times already, I have lived my entire life in Southern California and Cass has lived most of her life in the UK.  Despite the shared language, we are often delighted (or flabbergasted) by the differences in our speech that crop up between us.  (One time I wrote a scene for one of our English stories that involved the family getting together for Thanksgiving.  I know, I know! It’s just that Thanksgiving is such a staple holiday here in the states I didn’t even think about where it came from/meaning!)

Anyway, knowing Cass as long as I have, I’ve naturally dropped some words that don’t translate well from US English to UK English from my vocabulary to avoid confusion.  Chips, sweaters, sneakers, and bangs to start.

But guys, I can’t give up pants.  Pants in the US are just… pants.  I have a really hard time remembering that pants are underwear to the UK.

Dropping pants from usage means I constantly have to classify the two legged things I wear.  Jeans, sure, ok, thats fine… khakis, cords…slacks (do you really say slacks???) yoga pants… (well shoot – I’ve already ruined it again, do you have a term for yoga leg coverings?).

Now, let me be clear: No one in the UK is pressuring me to reserve the word pants for underthings.  The issue is that I am not ok with the images that must be conjured in the minds of English people when I use the word pants meaning legwear, not underwear.  Unlike the passing laugh of confusion between offering someone a cookie or a biscuit, this can get way more cringeworthy:

“I bought all my in-laws sweatpants for Christmas!”


“I tried on three different pants with this top but none of them worked so I threw out my pants and just went with a skirt.”

I use the word pants MULTIPLE times a day.  I holler at my kids to put on their pants, to change into their baseball pants, their comfy pants, their pajama pants.  I literally don’t even know what I’d substitute all those things for (Baseball uniform knickers? Aren’t knickers underwear too for you all?).

It’s an impossible situation and I feel no less paralyzed by the problem now that I’ve shared it with you!

How about you? Any funny cultural miscommunications you’ve had with friends?


p.s. Upon hearing what this blogpost was going to be about, Cass asked me what photo I was going to use for illustration.  Ha. Ha.  So, I’ll spare you from the many inappropriate ideas I had and leave you simply with this handy illustration of my position:



21 thoughts on “I can’t give up pants

      1. “Whole vest” – you made me chuckle there Ada! OK, I probably put that question badly. Just leave out the “whole”. But you’re right, it’s waistcoat every time.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh my gosh, lol, sorry Anji! I just assumed “whole vest” was a thing, I wasn’t being witty. Now that I’ve cleaned the cotton our of my ears, though I’ll have to change my vote! VEST!!!!! At least for everyday life. If I am reading something period I probably prefer reading waistcoat just because it’s that nice period touch, but nope, I’d never use waistcoat when referencing a vest ;).

        Liked by 2 people

      1. I’ve just had another thought about this. Ada, are you familiar with the concept of a ‘string vest’? Do you even have them in the USA? One of those would be a ‘hole vest’!


      2. Yes Anji! I had to google it (we’d call it a mesh vest which has a doctor seuss ring to it) – but that vest would indeed be hole-y. Wait. Stupid question. Is what you all call a vest what I call a shirt????

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Laughing out loud here! I have the same problem with pants when in UK but since English is not my native language I have older problems with this item and any other “leg covering things” like leggins, pantyhose, nylons and other items I do not know how to name. Since I lived in the UK for a year I went back to Brazil saying trousers and had to endure lots of giggles. I do like the word slack. Try saying it like Miranda – sssllaaackkkkh. It’s fun! If you don’t know Miranda ask Cass about her. You are missing out!!!


    Liked by 1 person

    1. TROUSERS! That was the word I knew they used but forgot! So – is it baseball trousers? I mean – problem #1 is I don’t think they play baseball, so I’m sure there’s no official word. But I bet they would say baseball trousers. But YOGA trousers doesn’t work!!! I thought between us we’d figured it all out, but no…

      I think that if neither US or UK English is not your first language you get a pass because you probably sound lovely no matter what odd implications your words might have!!


  2. Loved this. The best was when I mixed up earthquake and strwberry (in German, the words are similar enough and had just learned both words the day before while jetlagged) that I told my aunt she made an excellent earthquake cake. After hysterical laughter, from my cousins I was kindly corrected and laughed at my self. It is now a standing family joke.

    The other was when my 5 year old son misunderstood my mother in law. He said, “Grandma called you a sexy frog.” I was confused and everyone else was doubled over. When all could speak again, I was told she called me a ‘sexy brawd’. I was given a rinestone frog watch to commemorate the occasion. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. There really are so many differences. For example, what we in the UK call a waistcoat you in the US call a vest, our vests are your tank tops and I have no idea what you call what we would call a tank top (it’s a sleeveless jumper worn by nerds, but now I think of it, I don’t believe you say jumpers, what do you call them, wooden sweaters maybe?!). As for a generic word for leg coverings, ‘bottoms’ is perfectly acceptable and not at all rude, just the lower body clothing equivalent of tops 🙂 Or trousers or joggers etc. We wouldn’t refer to knickerbockers or pantaloons these days but those are fun words so maybe we should try to bring them back into use!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We would call that a sweater vest! Tee hee.

      All right well I’m going to take your word for it and when I do my post about packing I will just use the word bottoms every time. UNLESS I’m feeling cheeky in which case definitely going to use “knickerbockers.”

      Liked by 1 person

    2. This is the joy of the English language, Ceri, isn’t it? You start to explain what one thing is, and then it leads you to another and another… it’s no wonder between the UK and US things are often lost in translation!


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