Dictionaries of British/American English mostly cover well-known variants like truck/lorry and elevator/lift But these are just the tip of the iceberg. What I intend to cover here are words/phrases/pronunciations/grammatical constructions that get me into trouble on a daily basis.But as we've seen already with chips and crisps and jumper and sweater, it's often the case that the relationship between these 'well-known variants' is far more complex than the cross-dialectal dictionaries and word lists give credit for. Such is the case for AmE truck and BrE lorry, as Molly discovered recently. She writes:
I teach translation from Italian to English to language majors [in Italy]. I am lucky this term to have three women in my class on the Erasmus project [EU student exchange system--ed.] who are from the UK. They told me today that British English for "pick-up truck" is "pick-up truck". I asked them "What about a lorry?" and they told me that a lorry is much bigger.I hope they told Molly that a lorry is much, much bigger, as many of the things that AmE speakers call trucks are not lorries in BrE. This is a lorry (from freefoto.com):
And so is this (also from freefoto.com--henceforth the links will be put in the text):
The really big kind of BrE lorry is an articulated lorry, which has several names in AmE--but I've covered those before, so have a look back here.
An AmE speaker will start to go wrong with their general lorry-for-truck translation rule when they get to this:
This is a (BrE) van--but never an AmE van.
Think of it this way, if it's referred to as a lorry, you'd need to have a special (AmE) driver's license/(BrE) driving licence to drive it, whereas the kind of thing that you could (AmE) rent/(BrE) hire in order to move your worldly belongings from point A to point B would have to be called a van in BrE. [But maybe not--see comments for details!] But in BrE, you might instead opt to hire a man with a van to do your moving for you.
In AmE, van is limited to referring to things like this:
And it refers to those things in BrE too--though they may be called transit vans (after the Ford Transit). In the UK, the white variety of these vehicles (as pictured) are the typical vehicle driven by tradespeople, and a stereotype has arisen for the (BrE) white van man as an unsavo(u)ry character. You can read more about that here.
While/whilst this next vehicle would be called a van or a minivan in AmE, it would be more likely to be called a people carrier in BrE:
As Molly was informed, there's no particularly BrE word for (orig. AmE) pick-up trucks, but then again, there are few pick-up trucks in the UK. Now don't--please don't--get me started about people in the US who use comically large pick-up trucks to do little more than drive to work and through the Taco Bell (orig. AmE) drive-thru. I've lived in Texas. If I start, I might not be able to stop. (But the BBC h2g2 site has a fairly good take on it.) I have only seen one of these monsters in the UK, and if you don't think they look silly in their American context (in [AmE] parking lots/[BrE] car parks full of similar things), then you'll just have to come and see one in the UK. They're hilarious. Or wrist-slittingly depressing. Something like that.
An antipodean P.S.: In South African English, a pick-up truck (just about always a little Japanese model) is a bakkie.