In this article we have a special treat, one of our great and knowledgeable photographers Carole Gomez, has written a wonderful article about language and keywords. Carole saw an opportunity to help her fellow photographers on this subject, so with some discussion and encouragement from the Fotolia staff, Carole wrote the following article. Thanks again Carole.

Wouldn’t life be easy if we all spoke the same language? We’re not content with coming up with the 6,800 languages that are spoken in the 200 or so countries in the world. Oh no, we like to complicate things further by having two versions of English. American English, as well as being used in the United States, is taught in schools and to business students as a second language in many countries (Eg : Russia, Japan, the Philippines among others). British (or Commonwealth) English is used across the United Kingdom and many other countries (Eg : much of Africa – including South Africa, Pakistan, India, Malta, Australia, New Zealand).
So, which version of English is the designer searching for your image thinking in? Who knows! Which is why it’s a good idea to cater for everyone and include American and British words and spelling. To save extra typing, I’m going to refer to these as USA & UK from now on. No hidden Commonwealth agenda in that, it’s just easier on the fingers.
Maybe you know the basics. In case you don’t, the general spelling differences are :

  • Words ending ise in UK will end ize in USA (eg, realise / realize)
  • Words ending our UK will end or in USA (eg, humour / humor)

Now to the interesting bit, words with different meanings. These might come in handy one day, trust me. Tell a UK model that you want to shoot her in pants, you’ll get more than you bargained for if you’re a US English speaker!

  • Autumn vs fall: Autumn UK is referred to as fall in the US. There, I started you off with a nice easy one.
  • Biscuit vs cookie : A US cookie is a UK biscuit. To make it more confusing, a biscuit in the US is a little like a savoury scone in the UK. Hope you were all paying attention, can you guess which version of English I use from the way I spell savoury? I’ll be testing you at the end, you know!
  • Bonnet vs hood: The bonnet of a car UK is a US hood.
  • Boot vs trunk: The boot of a UK car is a US trunk.
  • Chemist vs pharmacy : A UK chemist is a US pharmacy (although UK does use pharmacy occasionally).
  • Chips Vs fries, crisps Vs chips: UK chips are US fries (although the UK does also use the term fries, but only for skinny chips, the fast food kind. (Oh, come on, don’t pretend you don’t know what they are!). Confused yet? Well, to make it worse…US potato chips are UK crisps.
  • Coriander vs cilantro: UK coriander is US cilantro. Great for garnishing all those yummy food shots.
  • Dummy vs pacifier : UK dummy is US pacifier.
  • Flyover vs overpass : UK flyover is US overpass
  • Football vs Soccer : A complicated one! UK football is usually US soccer, but very occasionally it means rugby. US football is always referred to as American football in UK
  • Fringe vs Bangs: UK fringe (hair) is US bangs
  • Gas – surely the most complicated?: US gas is UK petrol (for filling up the car). UK gas is a fossil fuel in gaseous state used to heat & cook.
  • Grill vs broil: UK grill (cooking method) is US broil
  • Holiday vs vacation, Christmas Vs holiday: UK holiday is US vacation. Note that holiday is not used in UK to signify Christmas. Hence, holiday decorations (US) are Christmas decorations (UK). So holiday images in the US will mean Christmas images. But holiday images in the UK will mean travel destinations!!
  • Jumper vs sweater: UK jumper is US sweater
  • Knickers vs panties: UK knickers are US panties. But, see pants for very important pant related information!
  • Lift vs elevator: UK lift is US elevator
  • Lorry vs truck: UK lorry is US truck
  • Nappy vs diaper: UK nappy is US diaper
  • Pants vs trousers: UK pants are US panties. But, US pants are UK trousers! Could be very important when directing models…
  • Post vs mail: UK post is US mail. So post box Vs mailbox. Also, in UK you would open the post (open a letter), US is open the mail.
  • Ring vs band : UK wedding ring is US wedding band
  • Rubbish vs garbage: UK rubbish is US garbage or trash.
  • Shop vs store: UK shop is US store
  • Tap vs faucet : UK tap is a US faucet
  • Trainer vs sneaker: UK trainer is US sneaker
  • Transport vs transportation: Depending on the search engine, you could have this covered with the root of the word. But UK public transport is US transportation. Transportation in the UK has nasty colonial connotations (apologies to Australian readers!)

Want to know more? Still awake?? Visit
for an in-depth discussion about the differences between the two types of English. There is a large dictionary on this site that is very thorough, and very useful for key wording. Ok, I’m letting you all off the test as you’ve been such attentive students. Apart from you, at the back – see me after class.