An Australian Guide to American Slang

Americans and Australians may share English as a mother tongue, but many things can get lost in translation. Before your next trip to the US, brush up on your American slang so you don't accidentally find yourself ordering the wrong thing.

On the Road

If you're renting a car, you'll need to find the latch for the trunk rather than the boot. And if you need to check your fluids, you'll open the hood rather than the bonnet.

Look for a gas station instead of petrol. And everywhere but Oregon and New Jersey, you pump your own gas.

Americans call roundabouts traffic circles, though the traffic signs are similar so you should have fair warning.

And rental car excess is called deductible. You can avoid those fees at the rental counter by covering your trip before you go.

Getting around

When walking along a street or road, you'll be on a sidewalk, not a footpath - those are reserved specifically for parks or hiking trails.

Looking for the CBD of a certain city? You'll be more likely to find it if you ask an American to point you in the direction of downtown.


If you see an activity call zip lining, that's flying fox.

If you're planning on skiing, off-piste is called back country or off-trail skiing in America. (Be sure to check your policy for covered activities and get winter sports or adventure sports cover.)

And football is called soccer in America, so if you're looking to keep up on the latest matches, check in at a sports bar or ESPN (the cable sports network) to see what matches they are showing.

Eating well

In the US, biscuits are not sweet, so you might be disappointed. If you're looking for a sweet treat, ask for a cookie instead.

Don't order "rocket" for your salad - instead, ask for arugula.

Capsicum is not a phrase Americans will recognise. They call these vegetables "peppers". And aubergines are eggplant.

There's plenty of delicious takeaway food in the US, but that's not what they call it. Instead, ask for "take out", or just say you want your food to go.

Avoiding trouble

Don't visit any neighbourhood described as "sketchy" - that's a synonym for dodgy.

And thongs are flip-flops. (Thong means a very skimpy kind of undergarment there – you'll be surprised if you're looking for footwear).

Anything we missed?

Have you had a miscommunication in America due to a lost in translation moment? What terms are we missing?