What I mean is, when I worked in Ireland editing content written for the US market, I felt like I had a decent understanding of American English - a working knowledge, perhaps. Everyone in the British isles has enough familiarity with American TV and movies to know that sidewalk means footpath and vacation means holiday - but there are subtleties that you don't learn for years (like not to tell an American to walk on the pavement), and misconceptions that go uncorrected, and little things that it takes time to pick up on. I thought I'd help a nation - or two - out with a few notes on such things. (And if I've got it wrong, I'm sure someone will help me out in the comments.)
Today: Garden and Yard.
In the UK and Ireland, the space of your property around your house that's not in your house is called your garden. Even if it's paved or covered in gravel, it's pretty much still your garden, but definitely if it's got anything green in it. Not everyone can aspire to a perfectly manicured lawn, but most people have a garden of some sort, unless they live in an apartment. When you do things in this area - cutting the grass, trimming the hedges, picking up dog poo - it's called gardening.
In the US, this space is your yard. If you're doing things there, you're doing yard work. You can have a front yard and a back yard, and maybe a deck, which would be a patio in Ireland because mostly people don't have decks. I don't know why they have raised decks in the US but only paved patios at home. (Anyone?)
If you call your yard your garden in the US, you're liable to make people think you're getting ideas above your station. A garden, over here, is something carefully tended and maintained - a vegetable garden or a rose garden, perhaps. Any Tom, Dick, or Harry can't just think they have a garden by opening the front door and stepping onto the grass.
Conversely, if you described your garden as a yard in Ireland, people would envisage a dusty, perhaps slightly industrial, space devoid of any vegetation at all. "Yardwork" does not bring to mind pruning the roses or evicting dandelions, but something more burly and somehow metallic.
|One scrubby rhodedendron does not qualify our yard to be called a garden.|