Until today, all my transatlantic translations have been from US to UK English. No more. Today I stumbled across a most surprising example of British English not working stateside. It was the most innocuous of words. I was only trying to say hello.

What happened was this. I was on the way down the drive with Child 2 and Child 3 in the car when I saw my neighbour out playing with his kids. Being as he is a very cool chap to whom I owe a big favour right now I swallowed my native British reserve and rolled down my window. I drove past with a wave and a smile and called out, “Hiya!”

All good? All clear? Apparently not. Read on.

“Hiya – what’s that?” said Child 3 from the back seat.

“Yeh mom, what’s that?” said Child 2 sitting next to me. “Don’t you mean hi? Or hello?”

“What’s hiya?” said Child 3 again coming over all Lady Bracknell. In fact she made it sound almost unclean.

“It means hello,” I said, “are you being serious? It means hello you or hello how are you or something like that.” I took in a weary breath. “Are you really telling me no one says hiya over here?”

“Yup,” said Child 2.

“So don’t say that,” said Child 3. “Say hey instead.”

“Seriously? Hey?”

But they didn’t even bother to reply.