Lost in Translation

I always enjoy posting examples of British and American English being different and the differences are often particularly apparent when it comes to slang and swear words. I was on Cape Cod with my family today when we came across The Knob, a small coastal landmark in the town of Falmouth. In US English knob is chiefly used for doorknobs and to describe features like a prominent round hill. In UK English it is commonly used as a slang term for a penis and as an insult such as; “he’s a right knob”. As with so many British insults it can be used in a semi affectionate way to a friend like “stop being such a knob!” As you were probably expecting I couldn’t help but take a picture of one of the signs…


The Knob is a peaceful coastal location with great views.

30 thoughts on “Lost in Translation

    1. There are plenty of localisms left, I will give you one as an example; In Devon we call tourists grockles but in the neighbouring county of Cornwall they call them emmets (lots of people from the rest of the UK holiday in Devon and Cornwall) but knob is pretty widespread nationally. 🙂

      1. It’s just a slightly pejorative way of saying tourist. Emmet means both ant and tourist so you can get a sense of the meaning there I guess. I have yet to be called a flatlander but I am due to be in NH all weekend so I’ll report back if that situation changes. 😛

  1. Hahaha… I love these differences! Had a few conversations over last week trying to explain them and save embarrassment for US folk. As if you took a photo at an angle that makes it look slightly phallic too!

    1. Those little differences can cause so much embarrassment haha! It’s nice of you to help others avoid that situation. I’ve had to explain how “tosser” has a different meaning in the past too! 😛

      1. We clearly have far too many words for insults! And I think us Brits have a knack of saying things in a certain tone that makes even innocent words sounds derogatory!

  2. I’m an Australian living in Canada and back home we share the same meaning for a “knob”

    We are doing a road trip to Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard this weekend, I hope I see heaps of Knobs … LOL

  3. My husband is from Falmouth and the Knob has always been one of our favorite places to go. It’s a bit off the beaten path so it’s great that you got to see it! Did you drive along Sippewisset Road as well or did you take the main busy road there?

    1. It’s beautiful, we were the only people there! I really like Falmouth and I wish we lived closer, I bet your husband is always happy to go back. We did drive along Sippewisset Road. 🙂

      1. Sippewisset is my favorite! My husband grew up right by the end of it (not woodshole end). My in laws are still down there so we visit when we are home in the summer. We have a house down there too but it’s rented while we live abroad. My sister in law has a house float in woodshole harbor. It might still be too early for them to be out, but next time you go down, take a look for them.

  4. Different pronunciation of the same word can get you into trouble too: A long time ago, I read an interview in which Madonna said when she was married to Guy Ritchie he had to explain the crucial difference in the British pronunciation of ‘khaki’ (cahky) and the US pronunciation (cacky) with particular reference to khaki ‘pants’ (‘trousers’)! Now I’ve gone and lowered the tone even further! Sorry! 😄

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