Wellingtons. Or wellies. Or rainboots.

We had the most beautiful weather in Blighty on Sunday. It was bright and breezy with sunshine that warmed your bum when you stood in it; basically, a perfect autumn day. I wore this to watch my brother taking part in a cycling race: I’m glad I wore my wellies as it took place in the grounds of a country house… lots of grassy verges and muddy patches.

As far as I could see I was the only person wearing a bowler hat and stripy blazer – there’s very little chance of me turning up in the same outfit as someone else in the wilds of the Devon countryside. Especially teamed with a neon yellow scarf, which looks like a snood but isn’t – I simply tucked the ends down the back of my blazer. I prefer the neatness of a snood sometimes.

Bowler hat: Asos
Scarf: Asos
Blazer: Very
Sweater: Debenhams
Skinnies: Gap
Gloves: unknown
Sunglasses (in hand): Rayban Wayfarers
Wellies: a gift
Socks: unknown

Now something I have realised from reading fashion blogs a lot: in the UK we say snood, Americans say infinity scarf. (The latter makes perfect sense. Snoods were actually some Old English hairnet thing originally.) Also I think maybe wellies (wellingtons / rainboots / gumboots) is a British expression. It got me thinking – when you’re learning English as a secondary language, what words are you taught when learning things that the Americans and Brits (and other English speaking countries) name differently? Assuming we’re talking fashion, take these examples (please correct me on the American if I’m wrong!):

British: American
Wellies (Wellington boots): Rainboots
Courts: Pumps
Pumps: Tennis shoes
Waistcoat: Vest
Vest: Undershirt
Trousers: Pants
Pants: Panties

How confusing is all that?? It does tickle me every time a blogger comments on my “pants”… of course I know they’re referring to my trousers, but if you’re “caught with your pants down”, the connotations are even worse in the UK than in the US…! (Note: some British girls say knickers instead of pants; I say pants. Some girls insist only boys wear pants.)

Ooh I feel a sartorial dictionary post coming on 😉
If English isn’t your first language, which do you say – pants or trousers? I’m intrigued!

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  1. 21 April 2013 / 7:20 am

    Hi Catherine,

    Have just discovered your wonderful blog! I'm originally from India, but lived in the Middle East & Ireland before moving to Lincoln, UK three years ago. Obviously in India, we follow UK English, but I'm often surprised to discover how many American terms/pronunciations have crept into my English. And that's certainly because of all the American shows/movies I watch. For example, I find it very difficult to pronounce 'Garage' the British way. In India, we call trousers 'pants' and 'knickers' usually means shorts. Here's a good example of how these differences in regional English can cause embarrassment: A few months after an anaesthetist friend of mine arrived from India to work in Ireland, she met her boss on the beach. The next day, she told her colleagues that the boss was on the beach at the weekend in knickers. 🙂 Can you imagine their reaction?

    P.S. Looks like I have a lot in common with you. I'm 42 and your 'About' section may well have been written about me (except for the redhead bit). And I moved from a big city (Dublin) to a tiny village outside of Lincoln.

  2. 3 December 2011 / 11:10 am

    Wow, I never knew that there were wellies this fashionable. Great outfit!

  3. Tammy
    2 December 2011 / 2:55 am

    I have black and white polka dot wellies. My husband will say are you going to wear your rain boots! Whatever you call them they sure as hell come in handy when it's pouring!
    I bet all eyes were on you in that fantastic outfit!

  4. Gray Skies
    1 December 2011 / 11:01 pm

    I lived in England for a while about six years ago, and I just loved learning all the different words you guys use! When I moved back to America, there were even times when I would use the British word for something because I couldn't remember the American word. (Such as "lorry" instead of "truck.")

    Also – and I mean this in the best way possible! – you do the kooky look so well with your outfits. I really like that you never look ordinary – your outfits always have some sort of quirky touch, like that bowler hat 🙂

  5. 1 December 2011 / 1:06 am

    You look so smashing in this outfit, Catherine. I have noted some charming differences in British/American fashion vocabulary, although I've always called rainboots "Wellies." I do refer to trousers as "pants", so I hope I haven't offended!

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