But I've also found that my 20-something-year-old students can be fairly insensitive to dialectal differences coming from me. I recently asked them to read a draft chapter of a textbook I'm writing, and to let me know if they came across any examples that didn't work for British English. Many of them pointed out American spellings--even though I'd explicitly told them not to. (Instruction-following is a skill that's unevenly acquired among my students!) Only one out of about thirty students noticed a glaring Americanism that was repeated several times in the chapter: the use of pickle as a count noun.
In the US a pickle is a cucumber that's been pickled, but in the UK such things are called dill cucumbers or, if they're not dill, pickled cucumbers. If you are American and like dill pickles, don't bother buying English ones, even if the bottle says kosher dills. They are all made with sugar and taste more like what I would call sweet pickles than like a good deli pickle. Some specialty shops sell decent, non-sweet ones imported from Poland. (See this more recent post for more on the meaning of cucumber.)
In the UK, pickle, also known as sweet pickle, is a condiment made of chopped vegetables and fruits pickled in vinegar and sugar or other sweet ingredient. Click here for a recipe for pumpkin pickle.
The most popular pickle in the UK is Branston pickle. If you're offered a cheese and pickle sandwich, it's probably got Branston pickle in it. The thing that I find most fascinating about Branston pickle is its list of ingredients:
Vegetables in various proportions (Carrots, Rutabaga, Onions, Cauliflower, Marrows, Gherkins), Sugar, Malt Vinegar - from Barley, Spirit Vinegar, Salt, Chopped Dates (with Rice Flour), Apples (with Preservative: Sulphur Dioxide), Modified Maize Starch, Tomato Paste, Colour: Sulphite Ammonia Caramel, Spices, Concentrated Lemon Juice, Onion Powder, Garlic Extract.
You can see a number of BrE terms here: Spirit Vinegar (US: White Vinegar), Marrow (a type of squash that's not common in the US), Maize (US: Corn).
You can also see a number of BrE spellings: Sulphur/Sulphite as opposed to US Sulfur/Sulfite, and Colour, of course.
But which of these things is not like the other? It's rutabaga! One of the great mysteries of life (which was later solved!) is why an British product made in a British factory for British consumers has an altogether American word like rutabaga on its label.
Every year I run a pub quiz for our incoming Linguistics/English Language students and (despite the fact that the word is on a jar in most English kitchens) a question that always stumps them is "What is the British word for the vegetable that Americans call rutabaga?"
Do you know?
Click the link below for 'comments' to get the answer and some etymological info about rutabaga.
Click here for the big list of vegetables.