I’ve discovered that Americans can show an element of hilarity if you ask them if they own a ‘swimming costume’. Somehow it evokes images of chicken suits, or similar get up for a costume party. Note: I was going to say ‘fancy dress’ party, but it turns out that’s another phrase that isn’t used in America. But in Britain you can even shorten costume to ‘cossie’, as in: ‘Do you have your cossie with you?’
Instead of the potentially hilarious ‘costume’, Americans use the far more conservative and formal-sounding word ‘suit’, as in ‘bathing suit’ or ‘swimsuit’. I’m not going to say that one is correct over the other. But with the Olympics coming up, I can’t help thinking about Michael Phelps (who does look a bit Spiderman-esque in the pool; surely that counts as a costume?). Phelps and his team are heading to London equipped with ‘a revolutionary new system’, about which a Speedo scientist doctor said: “These are the fastest suits ever made”.
I still think it would have sounded so much cooler if Speedo’s scientist had said: “These are the fastest cossies ever made.”