Are you using the correct dictionary?

5 Jul

Make sure you have the right dictionary or use the correct online dictionary for the type variety of English you’re studying.  The wrong dictionary can give misleading information.

Recently I was given a new Portuguese-English dictionary. When I looked up a few words, I became aware that it might cause some difficulties for someone learning Brazilian Portuguese. According to my new dictionary, a bicha is ‘a worm’ or ‘a queue’ in English.

 Two problems:

First, I know that the slang use of this word in Brazil that might cause the unwary learner problems.

Second, a ‘queue’ in BRITISH English is a line of people waiting, either standing or in cars.  In the US, a line of people is very rarely called a queue – it’s usually just  called a line.

Anyone who uses iTunes, Netflix, or similar sources of online entertainment knows that ‘queue’ has recently become a part of American English. It is used to mean the ordered list of music or movies that the user plans to download, listen to, or watch.

When I checked more carefully, I realized that my new dictionary was for Continental Portuguese and British English.

So, check your dictionary. If the item of clothing in this picture is called a ‘jumper,’ you are definitely not using a dictionary of AMERICAN English.


American men don’t wear jumpers. Jumpers are worn by girls and women in the US.  This is an example.

Here’s a short test of your knowledge of British and American terms for items of clothing.

Match these items of clothing:

British                                     American

1. vest                                        a. sweater vest

2. waistcoat                             b. sweater

3. tank top                               c. undershirt

4. jumper                                 d. vest

(answers: 1-c, 2-d, 3-a, 4-b)

Interested in learning more about American English and Americanisms?     Contact me.

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