USA Stationery Slang That Brits Need to Know

I have to admit, as an American, my inner 12-year-old gets to giggling whenever one of my British colleagues refers to an eraser as a “rubber.”

That’s why I enjoyed this BBC piece translating common office terms for Brits working in America and vice versa.

Brit to America Stationery Terms

For example, the aforementioned rubber might be an eraser in the UK, but it is slang for a condom in America. The possibilities for misunderstanding are endless.

Other helpful translations from the BBC:

  • Blue tack = sticky putty
  • Brackets = parentheses
  • Canteen = cafeteria
  • Cheque = check
  • CV = résumé
  • Drawing pin = push pin/thumb tack
  • Full stop = period
  • Hash sign = Pound sign
  • Leaving ‘do’ = leaving party
  • Oblique = slash
  • Sacked = fired
  • Sellotape = sticky or Scotch tape
  • Skive (off) = play hooky or shirk work duties
  • Tick = check
  • Tipp-Ex = Wite-Out

Remember that a biro to a British worker is just a pen to an American – or an ink pen to an American from the South. And Brits use their biros to write on A4 paper, while Americans use the slightly shorter 8.5 x 11 page.

Bic Cristal Medium BP Blue

More on office supplies: elastic band (UK) is rubber band (US). Ink printer (UK) is rubber stamp (US). Pritt stix (UK) is glue stick (US).

Another interesting difference results in the diary/journal conundrum. What Americans call a calendar or planner, Brits call a diary. What Brits call a diary, Americans call a journal. Getting the two confused could lead to some awkward discussions about boundaries.

When speaking to human resources, an American asking for a raise is akin to a Brit asking to rise. Taking vacation time in the US is going on holiday in the UK. And layoffs to Americans are “making redundant” to Brits.

If an American says to leave a note, he means a paper with a handwritten message. If a Brit says it, he means to leave money.

A pinboard is a bulletin board. A bank holiday is a legal holiday. And a director is a manager.

That should be enough to get you through your first days at work. There are plenty more, so you might want to check out a dictionary of British-to-American for more help.

And feel free to add your own translated terms in the comments below.

Photo of author

Tony Bridges

As a seasoned journalist and freelance writer, I've spent over three decades telling stories and exploring the world through the written word. With a passion for writing instruments, I found my niche at The Pen Vibe, a blog that shares our collective fascination with pens, pencils, and other tools that have shaped the art of writing.

1 thought on “USA Stationery Slang That Brits Need to Know”

  1. “Leave a note” is NOT the British term to denote leaving cash . A British person would say “ I have left the money on the table, or possibly the cash”.
    The only time someone would refer to money as “notes” would be by way of an explanation, such as “ I only have notes “( when explaining you have no coins for a vending machine or similar .
    By the way, we “fill in forms in the UK . We do not “fill out” 😊


Leave a Comment