Words that could be confusing and embarrassing
in the UK & US
Originally by Deej Barton. Additional contributions by Adrian Hilton and
The Strange & Frightening Word of Deej Home Page
// Aggro /
/ Aluminium /
/ Anorak /
/ Anglo-American Relationships /
/ Archer /
/ Argy-Bargy /
/ Ass /
/ Aubergine /
/ Auntie /
/ Autumn /
/ Banger /
/ Barrister /
/ Baseball /
/ BBC /
/ Beak /
/ Beeb /
/ Beer /
/ Billion /
/ Billy Whizz /
/ Bin men /
/ Bins /
/ Biscuits /
/ Black Pudding /
/ Bleeding /
/ Bloody /
/ Blower /
/ Blowjob /
/ Boffin /
/ Bog Roll /
/ Bollocked /
/ Bollocks /
/ Bomb /
/ Bonk /
/ Boozer /
/ Bottle /
/ Bottler /
/ Bovver /
/ Box /
/ Braces /
/ Brass /
/ British Empire /
/ Brouhaha /
/ Bruce Grobelaar /
/ Bucket Shop /
/ Bugger /
/ Bugger Up /
/ Bull /
/ Bully /
/ Bum /
/ Bum bag /
/ Bumf /
/ Bung /
/ Buns /
/ Butchers /
/ Butty /
/ Canny /
/ Captain Pugwash /
/ Cars /
/ Chalfonts /
/ Chaps /
/ Chas 'n' Dave /
/ Chat Up Lines /
/ Cheeky /
/ Chemist /
/ Chips /
/ Choked /
/ Chopper /
/ Chuck /
/ Chucker-out /
/ Chuck-steak /
/ Chuffed /
/ Chunder /
/ Cider /
/ Cobblers /
/ Cock /
/ Cockerel /
/ Codswallop /
/ Conk /
/ Conker /
/ Cooker /
/ Cookery Book /
/ Cot /
/ Courgette /
/ Crack /
/ Crib /
/ Cricket /
/ Crisps /
/ Crumpet /
/ Crusty /
/ Cuppa /
/ Curry /
/ Cutlery /
/ Diabolical /
/ Dinky /
/ Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells /
/ Dodgy /
/ Doctor /
/ Doddle /
/ Dog & Bone /
/ Dole /
/ Doodah /
/ Doughnut /
/ Doughnut City /
/ Drunk Driving /
/ Duff /
/ Dummy /
/ Dustmen /
/ E /
/ Easy /
/ Easy-Peasy /
/ English /
/ English at Play /
/ Fag /
/ Faggots /
/ Fancy /
/ Fanny /
/ Farmers /
/ Fiddle /
/ Flat /
/ Football /
/ Fortnight /
/ Fringe /
/ Fruit /
/ Funk /
/ Funky /
/ Gammy /
/ Garden /
/ Gas /
/ Geordie /
/ Get stuffed /
/ Git /
/ Gob /
/ Goggle Box /
/ Going Shopping /
/ Googly /
/ Goolies /
/ Grass /
/ Greef /
/ Green Cross Code /
/ Green Fingers /
/ Grunt /
/ Gubbins /
/ Guys /
/ Half-inch /
/ Hand Break Turns /
/ Hard /
/ Hiring & Renting
/ Hotel Floors /
/ Hood /
/ Hush Puppie /
/ Icing /
/ ID'ed /
/ Ironmongery /
/ Irony /
/ Joanna /
/ Jelly & Jam /
/ Jelly-Belly Run /
/ Jemmy /
/ Jimmy /
/ Jimmy Hill /
/ Jock /
/ Joiner /
/ Joint /
/ Juggernaut /
/ Jumpers /
/ Kerfuffle /
/ Kip /
/ Knackered /
/ Knees Up /
/ Knickers /
/ Knock you up /
/ Ladder /
/ la's /
/ Lashings /
/ Liberal /
/ Lemonade /
/ Lift /
/ Lorry /
/ Lucifer /
/ Mandies /
/ Mars Bar /
/ Mash /
/ Matthew Le Tissier /
/ Mean /
/ Merchant Banker /
/ Milky Way /
/ Momentarily /
/ Monkey /
/ Motorway /
/ Muffler /
/ Mug /
/ Musical Terms /
/ Naan Bread /
/ Naff Off /
/ Nancy Boy /
/ Nick /
/ 99 /
/ Nipple /
/ Nissed as a Pewt /
/ North/South Divide /
/ NORWICH /
/ Nosh /
/ Off Licence /
/ On The Job /
/ Opal Fruits /
/ Paddle /
/ Page Three /
/ Pantomime /
/ Pants /
/ Pardon /
/ Pastie /
/ Pavement /
/ PC /
/ Pecker /
/ Pelican Crossing /
/ Pissed /
/ Plastered /
/ Please /
/ Plonker /
/ Points of View /
/ Policemen /
/ Pony /
/ Poppadums /
/ Porky /
/ Pot Noodle /
/ Potty /
/ Press Ups /
/ Pub Crawl /
/ Pudding /
/ Pukka /
/ Queer /
/ Quid /
/ Rabbit /
/ Randy /
/ Rat-arsed /
/ Readies /
/ Road Safety /
/ Roger /
/ Roundabout /
/ Rumpty /
/ Rubber /
/ Rubbish /
/ Rugby /
/ Rugby Songs /
/ Rugger /
/ Rugger-Bugger /
/ Sainsbury's /
/ Sausage Roll /
/ School /
/ Scrump /
/ Scrumpy /
/ Sesh /
/ Shag /
/ Sharking /
/ Sherbet /
/ Shit /
/ Skipping Rope /
/ Slag /
/ Slash /
/ Smart /
/ Snogging /
/ Sod /
/ Sod's Law /
/ Soldiers /
/ Solicitor /
/ Sorry /
/ Spanner /
/ Spondoolies /
/ Spotted Dick /
/ Spunk /
/ Squash /
/ Squiffy /
/ Standing for Office /
/ Stones /
/ Stuffed /
/ Sucker /
/ Sun /
/ Supergrass /
/ Surgery /
/ Suspenders /
/ Sussed /
/ Swag /
/ Swank /
/ Sweets /
/ Table /
/ Take That /
/ Tart /
/ Tea Leaf /
/ Telly /
/ Tiffin /
/ Tire /
/ Toon Army /
/ Toilets /
/ Toilet Humour /
/ Tomato Sauce /
/ Torch /
/ Tory /
/ Tosser /
/ Totty /
/ Towels /
/ Trainers /
/ Trainspotting /
/ Traveller /
/ Trunk /
/ Tufty Club /
/ TV Licence /
/ Twat /
/ Vet /
/ Vera Lynns /
/ Waistcoat /
/ Wallah /
/ Wanger /
/ Wanker /
/ Wankered /
/ Wazzock /
/ Wellies /
/ Wobbler /
/ Wonga /
/ Woody /
/ Wurzels /
/ Yank /
/ Yard /
/ Z /
/ Zebra Crossing /
- You know what these are. You're probably sitting on them
now. Over here buns are either bread or cake rolls. Asking for a
couple of sticky buns in a bakery here will mean Mr Crusty the baker
will give you two cake buns with icing (frosting) on the top. If I
went into a deli in Manhattan and asked for a couple of sticky buns I'd
probably get arrested...
- A goody but an oldie. Over here a 'fag' is a cigarette. So in
the song 'Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag' the line 'As long as you have a
Lucifer to light your fag' is not a fundamentalist Christian's statement
that all homosexuals will burn for eternity in hell, but saying that 'if
you always have a match to light your cigarette...'
- Meat balls made from offal (chopped liver) in gravy. Also
a small bundle of logs suitable to burn on a fire.
- You call pants what we call trousers; pants are the things that go underneath.
- In this country a pencil eraser. Don't be shocked if the mild mannered new
Englishman in your office asks for a pencil with a rubber on the end. Especially when he
says that he enjoys chewing it when he is thinking.
- To us, bodily waste. To you, practically everything as far as I could figure,
good or bad (and you certainly don't want us to touch yours...)
- To us the front bottom; to you the back one. In Britain, the fanny pack is known
as a bum bag for obvious reasons...
- To us what you call a muffler is called a silencer. In the UK a muffler is a
long scarf a la Dickensian Novels. A muffler was also a derogatory name for a certain part
of the female anatomy at my school, though this was probably unique to us. Try explaining
THAT to a upstanding American when you are standing at the petrol (gas) station in fits of
- Sidewalk to you. I couldn't think of anything smutty to go with this.
- To you it's quite legal to be pissed in a car in a traffic jam. In fact, in
large cities sometimes you cannot help it. For us, it means that you have been over doing
it 'down the boozer' (pub) and a kindly policeman will shortly flag you down and arrest you.
- To you a dance. To us sexual congress. In other words you
may have to summon up the courage to have a shag with someone, before
you might have a shag with them later on. Also a sea bird similar to a
cormorant, a type of carpet and a variety of rough tobacco.
- To be sexually attracted to or to desire. Also a tea cake.
- To us a quadruped of the horse family or a stupid person. The word you guys are
looking for in English English is 'arse'.
- We call these 'trainers' for some reason, possibly because
they are "training shoes".
- You call them vests.
- A classic example of our culture gap. To us football is what you call
soccer. To you football is what we call pointless. You probably think the same way about
- In England we play a game called 'Rounders' which has identical rules bar the
bat being a short baton designed to be used with only one hand. It's only played in
schools. In the US, it's a PROPER game...
- Some food differences
mars bar milky way
milky way three musketeers
opal fruits starburst
chips french fries
- 'Knock you up'.
- In our country, to wake someone up in the morning
so they won't be late. Slightly different meaning for our American
Cousins... (A big hint for Brits - preggers).
- A pastie is a meat and potato pastry that originates from
Cornwall, UK. In the guidebook I had for Michigan, it mentioned that
some Cornish tin miners had come over and brought over the recipe with
them when they settled the Upper Peninsula. Even so, I had to taken
aside and carefully told what an American pastie was so I wouldn't
embarrass parents in front of children at the summer camp I was working
at when I was talking about my liking for Cornish Pasties... (And for
any confused Englishmen who no idea what I have been writing about, a US
pastie is small piece of material stuck onto the nipple of a stripper).
- I'm not sure if you have this word in the US. When I
said I was knackered I got puzzled looks. It means you are tired. It
comes from the fact that horses are often tired when they have testes
removed (their knackers) when they are castrated. (Sorry! I guess you
didn't want to know that...) The word may have also come from the
'Knacker's' yard - a place where Bostik the geriatric horse would go on
just before his last long journey to the Big Glue Pot In The Sky.
This usage seems to be older than the testicle usage.
- Fag. (Oh no not again!)
- When at a public (i.e. private - confused you will be) school
in the UK, you may have to 'fag' for an older boy. This usually involves shining shoes,
cleaning up and performing other favours for this older lad. In return for fagging, the
older boy looks after your interests and makes sure that you fit into the school and promote
the school spirit (bon vivre, not necessarily the alcoholic kind). This may also be a fag
(i.e. a tiresome thing).
- In the US what we in the UK call the boot of a car. In the UK, the trunk is the
front end of an elephant. Can be embarrassing if you happen to be a pachyderm working as a
taxi driver in NY. (Also a large metal and wooden box much beloved of Edwardian travellers).
- In the US it is perfectly acceptable for a boss to ask whether you are feeling
full of spunk of a morning (i.e. full of get up and go.) This situation in the UK may only
arise when a director is quizzing a male actor in the adult entertainment business.
- In the UK, an acceptable description of a wine that has taken on the flavour of
the barrels it has matured in. In the US *never* go a wine tasting and claim that this
wonderful Californian Chardonnay has an excellent 'woody' flavour, unless you are the female
co-star of the aforementioned
and you are in the process of filming an 'arty' movie.
- To our American cousins, the bit of a car that the engine sits under or place
where you might live if you are a rapper. Also, a gangster or other
exponent of violence. To us Brits, the part of a coat that is designed
to cover your head when it rains. What you call the 'hood' we call the 'bonnet' on a car.
- To the citizens of the United Kingdom, an instrument of warfare, the stuff that
you use to cook your dinner on or a state of matter that is neither liquid nor solid. To
you guys, what we call petrol and the gaseous by product of bottom burps ( wind).
- To keep one's pecker up is a state of mind in the UK, an athletic feat in the
US and a way of life for the common or garden woodpecker.
- Although we have a lot of colourful euphemisms for the lavatory experience in
the UK (e.g. spend a penny, watering the daisies) we lack the prissiness of our American
chums. To us a toilet is a bog, a kharzi, a shithouse (or alternatively an outhouse in more
polite company), a gents/ladies but mostly a toilet. It is perfectly acceptable to be in
the Ritz and request to use the toilet. However, you guys seem ashamed of the t-word.
Hence you go to the John (where no-one called John is there) and the bathroom (where there
is no bath). ...And a word of warning for English chaps in the US - never admit to eating
baked beans out of the can.
- What you call beer, we call lager. What we call beer, you call disgusting. This
might be mutual.
- In the UK, you might see an unshaven tattooed uncouth man with big muscles in a
pub. If you accidentally spill his beer, he might get upset and request you to join him
outside. He might say `Come on then if you think you're hard enough!' Or even 'I'm hard,
me, so you better watch your step, mate.' He is not casting aspersions on your sexual
persuasion, nor does he have an erection. He is merely stating the fact that unless you
buy him another pint of lager in the very immediate future he might beat seven shades of
shit out of you. In the US, our friend the
would probably say 'I'm hard' while sharing a
bottle of woody flavoured chardonnay with his co-star...
- There will be if you use this word in the US. It means
an uproar or a tumult - general confusion in otherwords. The typical
reaction of the average American when Johnny Brit opens his mouth and
asks whether he can have a fag off him.
- Imagine you are travelling in the UK along the M3 into Basingstoke (why I
can't imagine - it's a God forsaken place.) You have already worked out that a motorway is
the same as a freeway and you are feeling pretty pleased with yourself. In front of you is
the biggest rotary you have ever seen. In the UK, we call them roundabouts. To instil a
morbid fear of these things in our children we force them to play on miniature versions of
them in playgrounds (wooden disk that turns around with bars to hold onto) and make them
watch endless re-runs of the Magic Roundabout. This program was originally a french satire
on politics in the late 1960s though it looks just like a animated kiddies show made by
someone on SERIOUS acid. Sugar cube eating dogs indeed. In the US, you
call these "traffic circles" or just "circles" (e.g. Dupont Circle in
- You eat these with milk and with great self control you
only eat two at a time (you don't? naughty!). We call them biscuits.
You call biscuits those dry crackery things that might go in soup (or at
least I was *told* they were called biscuits, though many people have
mailed me to say that a US biscuit is similar to the UK scone.)
US biscuits are of Southern origin; check out
- To be full up after eating too many cookies. Also 'Get Stuffed' a cookery
program for insomniac students and people on a low income, where you are told how to make
fancy versions of beans on toast using everyday ingredients like baked beans, bread, butter
and curry powder. The recipes are invariably called things like
'Currybeanytoasty-yum-yum-a-go-go'. As well, 'get stuffed' is something you say to someone
who isn't your best mate.
- In the US a perfectly reasonable first name. Pity then, the multitude of poor
Americans given this unfortunate appellation when they come over to old Blighty. Wherever
they go, grimy street urchins snigger, little old ladies try desperately to stifle guffaws
and ordinarily quite sensible members of society burst out in laughter. And why? In the
UK, saying 'Hi, I'm Randy!' is akin to saying to our American cousins 'Hello friend, I'm
feeling horny.' However, save your pity for poor soul Randy Highman who introduced himself
to my supervisor at a conference not so long ago...
- Over here we say 'al-u-min-i-um'. You say
'aloom-i-num'. Neither nation can spell the word.... (Aluminiumiumium?)
- In the UK to have a sleep or a nap. A kip house is apparently a brothel. Being
young and innocent I was unaware of this...
- English Swear Words.
- Our chums across the Atlantic should be warned about the
following. If some English bloke comes up to you and uses one or more of them when
addressing you, please be careful. He may not be friendly...
- A charming little word that implies that the addresser is accusing the addressee
of onanism. Usually accompanied by the coital f-word and the oedipal compound-noun. The
addresser may also raise his right hand and portray a chillingly accurate portrayal of the
act in question...
- The round male dangly bits. Also, saying 'the dog's bollocks' is akin to
stating 'this is the shit' in the US. Not to be confused in agricultural circles with
'bullocks' which are bull shaped and go 'moo!'.
Americans use the analagous "bollix" as in "I really
bollixed that up", but it's only slang, not actually rude.
So you can (and, indeed, Colm Meaney did) get away with
saying "Bollocks" on prime time USA TV.
- Nancy boy.
- A male who may express either a sexual preference for his own gender or
acts in a less than masculine way.
- Not only a component of
every good mechanic's toolbox
but also someone not overly blessed with intelligence or savoir faire. A geek,
nerd, dork or a dweeb in other words.
and then use your imagination... Also tosspot.
- A woman of uncertain worth and reliability. Also used in English 1970s police
shows (e.g. The Sweeney) when describing a notorious criminal. (e.g. Dosser Jenkins? That
slaaaaag!). Originally used to describe a by-product of the (now sadly nearly defunct) coal
- Many a Saturday night I have heard this word being shouted by rival groups of
young men at each other. The dulcit cries of 'Oi Wanger!!' have disturbed the peace of many
a town centre. It is a word used to either describe a penis or an attempt by the
alcoholically challenged to say
- Another willy euphemism. Immortalised in the TV program 'Only Fools and
Horses', starring David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst - 'You plonker Rodney!'.
- Naff off.
- Go away. As used by the Princess Royal, Princess
Anne. For a while she was known as the 'Naff Off Princess' in the tabloid press.
- Wazzock - a fool or idiot.
- Strange fact: British males often use wanker, bastard, tosser, plonker etc as terms of endearment.
- In the UK, only the luxury car market have automatic
transmission - in other words the Jaguars, Rolls Royces and Bentleys of
the world. Most cars have manual transmission. This is because our
roads aren't straight and you need full manual transmission to navigate
some of the more tortuous country lanes in Good Old Blighty. As a
consequence all learner drivers have to learn how to drive using a car
with manual gears. I was told that in the States this is referred to as
'learning how to drive stick', and in the USA a manual car is a
"stick shift". In the UK, asking your driving
instructor whether he could teach you how to drive stick may cause
potential embarrassment... You can take an automatic-only driving
test in the UK, if you don't mind everyone calling you a girly wuss.
- Blowjob, although a word in common use now in both our countries was referred
to as 'Plating' before the GIs came over during WWII. Hence the calling card of Cynthia
Plaster-Caster, the woman who made plaster casts of the erect willies of Jimi Hendrix and
the Dave Clark Five, amongst others, had 'Your plater or mine?' on her calling cards...
- Jelly & Jam.
- In the UK, jelly is either the stuff you US-types call jello or a seedless
preserve made from fruit, sugar and pectin. To confuse things further, fruit preserves are
generically called jam over here too. Hence, if you were in an English restaurant enjoying
a piece of bread with peanut butter and fruit preserve on it you would be eating 'a peanut
butter and jam sandwich.' BTW, I used to enjoy peanut and jelly sandwiches when I was
little in the UK sense of the word... Sloppy, but very nice.
- To you big rock things that geologists play with. To us
also a unit of weight. 1 stone is equal to 14 pounds. Also, English
pints show remarkable value for money compared to their US counterparts
- 568ml compared to 473ml. Good thing to know when ordering beer.
- In the UK to say someone is 'cheeky' is to imply that they are awnry or
suggestively rude. Much beloved of the 'Carry On' Movies which starred Barbara Windsor and
Sid James. Typical dialogue...
SJ: You don't get many of those to the pound! (Referring to BW's ample cleavage)
BW: Ooohhh! Cheeky!
SJ: Phoooarrr! I wouldn't kick her out of bed for eating crackers!
BW: Ooohhh! You are awful! (for a bit of variety...)
SJ: Loveliest pair of ...eyes I ever saw!
BW: Ooohhh! Cheeky!
and so on ad nauseam...
- In the US the device used to travel between floors in a
hotel is called an elevator. In the UK it is called a lift. Also, a
word of warning for American hitch-hikers. When hitching it is best to
ask 'for a lift' and not a ride. The seventeen stone lorry driver
may think it's his lucky day otherwise and make unwelcome amorous
advances. Unless, of course, you like seventeen stone lorry drivers and
know *exactly* what you are asking for...
- A similar problem to pants. In the US they are knee-length trousers
like what the Brits call 'breeches'. In the UK, they are the things that go underneath.
Typically British men wear pants under their trousers and women wear knickers, unless of
course, you are a Tory (Conservative) MP and then anything goes... Also NORWICH (Norwich is a city in
England famed for its
team, its cathedral and chat show host Alan
Partridge) was an acronym used by service personel during WWII for '(k)Nickers Off Ready
When I Come Home'. To be on the safe side when visiting the doctors it's best to keep
your pants/knickers on...
- In the UK a type of waterproof rubberised boot named after that Great
Englishman, the Duke Of Wellington. You guys in the US would call them 'gumboots' or
'galoshes'. In the UK wellies are much beloved of Tory MPs with large country estates and
farmer-types with sheep, particularly the 'Hunter' welly with the handy straps on the side.
- Warm clothing.
- In the UK we wear warm woolly upper garments during the winter which we
call 'jumpers'. You call them 'sweaters'. Boring but true. Also a long woolly dress is
called a 'jumper' in the US. I suppose both nations have the joke:
What do you get if you cross a kangaroo with a sweater?
A woolly jumper.
Groan. Somebody carbon date that joke please...
- You see that long metal object in your tool kit that
you use to adjust bolts on your car? We call that a spanner, not a wrench.
The expression "She has a face like a bag of spanners" somehow
loses its impact if you substitute "wrenches".
- In the US a line denoting a separation on the written page or on a computer, or
even a rip or tear in a piece of material. In the UK also a euphemism for a wee, a jimmy
riddle or urination. Also the name of a rather well known guitarist who was born in England
and hence should have thought a little harder before choosing his 'nom de rock'n'roooolll, man'.
- In the US someone who has enlightened and progressive views on abortion,
welfare, health care, racial and sexual issues, and sympathises with the needs of those less
fortunate than themselves. Or at least that's what they say. Republicans probably wouldn't
agree with this statement... In the UK, someone is neither left wing nor right wing but
somewhere in between. In both countries, 'liberal' can be used as an insult and a
compliment. Although most Americans liberals would probably balk at the idea, in the UK
they might be considered to be socialists. (Shock! Horror!)
- You know that thing you do when you are with your loved one when you tickle
each others tonsils? In the UK that's called snogging. Much beloved of kids at school
discos in-between swigging illicit bottles of vodka and Special Brew beer and 'getting on
(screaaaaammmmm!) (popular beat combo in the UK much admired by girlies).
- An undesirable and miserable person. Between 'sod' and 'bastard' on the 'are you
going to get your head kicked in?' scale.
- In the US, big guys who like sport, women and acting macho. In the UK, a
Scottish person who probably also likes sport, women and acting macho but in a Glaswegian
(i.e. from Glasgow) accent. Which is probably more scary since a lot of people have
difficulty understanding them...
- In the US, non-fizzy fruit drink possibly made from
lemons that we Brits call
Our 'lemonade' is fizzy, akin to
your pop or soda (depending on what part of the US you are from.) I was most disappointed when I
found this out for the first time in a US cinema...
- Crossing the road.
- In the UK we love our cute fluffy and feathery
friends. So much in fact that we name our road crossings after them.
We have pedestrian walkways that have broad black and white stripes (like
on the cover of 'Abbey Road' by the Beatles) which we call 'Zebra
Crossings'. We also have crossings akin to yours with the 'walk/don't
walk' signs on them which have a little red man standing still and a
little green man walking. These are illuminated when you are supposed
to stay where you are or walk respectively. This is called a 'pelican
crossing'. Even though the name is short for PEdestrian LIght
CONtrolled (and hence PELICON), the bird is associated with it. As for the
little green man flashing... There are also PUFFIN crossings
with Passive Infrared sensors, TOUCAN crossings where both people and
bikes cross ("two can cross", geddit?) and PEGASUS crossings with
press-buttons high up on a pole so horses can cross.
- In the UK the floors in a hotel are numbered ground floor, first floor, second
floor etc. In other words the first floor is the second floor, the second is the third and
so on and so on. In the US, you have a more sensible numbering system. A good thing to note
if you are a US bell-boy(UK)/bell-hop(US) looking for
(screaaaaammmmm!) suite on
the eighth floor in a UK hotel. (BTW Just follow the detritus of fluffy toys and soggy
- Waste disposal.
- In the UK our household waste is called 'rubbish' and is taken away by
the dustmen or bin men in their dustcart. In the US you have two types of household waste
- garbage and trash. Also, you see that piece of street furniture which you are supposed to
put the packaging from your lunch? We call them bins; you call then trash cans. I was sooo
confused about this.
- Merchant Banker.
- On both sides of the Atlantic an honourable and decent profession. In
the UK, cockney rhyming slang for an onanist (see
- Buying a drink.
- Those establishments where you buy alcohol late at night where you are
not allowed to drink it on the premises are called Off Licences (or Offies) in the UK and
Liquor Stores in the US. I'm over 21 and was repeatedly carded(US)/id'ed (UK) when I tried
to buy beer (this was before I *tried* American beer). I thought that a British Passport was
good enough ID for a liquor store since it got me in the country, but no, I needed an
in-state driver's licence. Hellooo? I'm a tourist with a British Passport and an English
accent who is wearing a T-shirt with UK tour dates on the back. Don't you think I *might*
be the genuine article? (Sorry. The incident still annoys me.)
- Please and sorry.
- In the UK, no sentence is complete without either or even both of these
words. In the US, the former is said begrudgedly and 'What's the name of your lawyer?' is
said instead of the latter.
- We speak english in the UK. So do you in the US.
But yet we don't speak the same language...
- Women's things.
- Pads = US. Towels = UK. Tampons =
everywhere. Do you have the ones with wings too? Do you have a patronising Clare
Rayner-type who does the advert?
- In the US the state of a bread roll when it is stale. The
opposite meaning is implied in the UK... In the UK, as well as this, a
'crustie' is a person of possibly no real fixed abode who engages in
an alternative lifestyle involving travelling around the country,
wearing 'alternative' clothes (ex-army or hippie gear), having a
pragmatic attitude to drugs and has possibly dubious personal hygiene.
They would rather be called 'Travellers' and I admire them for
their stance against 'straight' society. (oooh a bit of politics there...)
- In the UK, the definition of
describes more than adequately the biggest muscle in the body. In the US, a person whom we
would call a tramp. Also the act of being a bum. I have been reliably informed that
(screaaaaammmmm!) have cute bums but only one (the scruffy
with the dreadlocks) actually looks like one...
- North/South divide.
- Ask anyone from the north of England where the North ends and the
South begins, they might say 'Worksop' is the dividing line. Ask anyone from the south and
they might say 'north of Oxfordshire' or even 'north of London'. These definitions differ
by well over one hundred miles! In the north the people have cloth caps, whippets (racing
dogs, not aerosol cans of whipped cream!), keep pigeons, speak in a funny way and drink
bitter in grim working men's clubs. In the south, the people are either country yokels who
speak in a funny way, or people with loads of money who speak like the Queen or brash
Cockneys who speak in funny way while engaged in dealings of a dubious nature and drinking
lager. That is, if you believe the stereotypes as portrayed in the media. It is all utter
- As I have said before,
As I said before, being sorry is all part of being English. We apologise for
things that aren't our fault again and again and again. I am convinced that the first word
that an English baby learns to say after 'Mama' and 'Dada' is 'sorry'. Anyway, 'pardon me'
is a polite way of excusing your way through a crowd or excusing yourself or if your bodily
functions betray you in public. The US equivalent, 'excuse me' only seems to be used in a
sarcastic way, i.e. 'Well excuuuuuse me!' while exch anging lawyers' telephone numbers.
- A UK truck. A word used in the tongue twister 'Red Lorry
Yellow Lorry' by parents to torture their kids. Try it. You'll hate me for it.
- Along with sarcasm, the basis of English humour. Totally
lost on most of our American chums. Saying '...NOT!' is not sarcasm.
However, the Simpsons has its ironic moments. In the US most
people pronounce "irony" as if the first two syllables were
the metal iron, so it comes out like "iony".
- When an English girl says 'I'm easy' she is not saying
'Please sleep with me.' She is saying 'I don't mind what we do.' Then again in the presence
- In a similar vein, to bonk someone in the UK is to enjoy
sexual congress with them. It also means to hit someone, usually on the head. The two
might be related if you like that sort of thing...
- The latest word coined by the British Tabloid Press for
fun stuff in the dark. Obviously they got bored with bonking... Anyway, a typical sex
scandal headline in the Sun (infamous tabloid paper owned by Rupert Murdock)
would read 'Robbie-ex-from-
(screaaaaammmmm!) caught in four in bed
rumpty with Divine Brown, OJ and some ugly Tory Minister who will shortly be
- In the UK those things that women hold their stocking up with. You call
them garters. Confusingly, when I was in Cub Scouts, the things with the tags on them you
used to hold your socks up were called garters too. These were instruments of torture -
ideal for pinging and causing yelps of pain during prayer on church parade services. Some
children are sooo cruel. Anyway, what you call suspenders we call braces.
- Frankly foul purple vegetable used in moussaka. You
call them eggplants.
- In the US something that is small or poorly made. In
the UK something small and cute. I'm not sure if you had Dinky Cars in the US, but these toy
cars are now worth a fortune over here. And I gave all mine away too (sob!)...
- Imagine you are in a boardroom. The chairperkin (note
dubious PC nomenclature) says 'I reckon we should table the motion about the McBigcorp
account'. If you were American you would think 'Gee, I guess we can forget
about that for a while' - i.e. the motion has been postponed. If you were
English, you would think 'Jolly good show old bean! I
talking about that one!', i.e. the motion has been brought up for discussion. How do
people in trans-atlantic companies cope?
- In the US, calling someone a twat is unwise since you are accusing them of
resembling a part of the female anatomy. In the UK, a mild insult meaning 'idiot' much
beloved of school children who might get into trouble with naughtier words.
- In both countries to be 'swanky' implies that you are showy and vulgar, or to
say that something is 'swanky' could also mean that it is posh or expensive. Comic book
characters (e.g. those in UK comics The Beano and Whizzer & Chips) are often seen going into
the 'Hotel de Swank' after getting money for some good turn, where they promptly blow it
all on a plate of mashed potato with sausages sticking out of it. I have never seen such a
delicacy on offer in the hotels I have been in, much to my disappointment. Anyway, I have
also been reliably informed that 'Swank' is also the name of a US DIY magazine populated by
young women who have great difficulty keeping their clothes on or their legs together. They
also wear high heels in bed. Weird. I have a theory about how the magazine got named. The
editor was wandering around Soho, London (the red light district) one day when he heard a
Londoner shout 'S' wank innit?' (It is a
wank isn't it).
Thinking, 'Aha - I'm au fait
with English slang: hence 'Swank' would be a great name for a porno mag' he toddled off back
to the US and created said magazine. Unfortunately, in this context the Londoner was
probably referring to his job being pointless...
- In both countries 'potty' is that little plastic seat that kids are forced to
use when they need to expel bodily waste when they are too big for nappies(UK) /
diapers(US). Americans take the meaning of this word into adult life unchanged. English
chaps use 'potty' to describe someone who is a bit silly, dolalley or, to be frank, mad.
After watching the film 'The Madness of King George', I can see how the two meanings might
have a common ancestry...
- You guys might describe an item covered in blood as 'bloody'. So might we.
'Bloody' is also a mild English swear word which is always used in cheesy programs made by
Americans about the UK. Hardly anyone over here uses it anymore. Similarly, the word
'bleeding'. We use 'fuck' just as much as you guys, the big difference being that we can
use it on network television after 9pm in a non-gratuitous way, whereas you can only shout
'fuck' in the privacy of your own home. So there. It may have originally
been a contraction of "by our Lady" and so therefore quite strong language.
- You can walk on it and you could smoke it (if it wasn't illegal). In the UK you
can also do it as well. To grass on someone means to tell on them, usually to an authority
figure like a policeman or a teacher. Someone who tells on a lot of people is known as a
'supergrass' - most often used when describing IRA informers who do the dirty on their
Republican chums. Also
is the name of a pop combo who are rather more popular
over here than they are in the US. Whether they named themselves after this definition or
one more akin to why
are called 'Green Day' is uncertain...
- UK policemen are unarmed. As a consequence I feel safer over here than I
did in the US. Anyway, the following are used to describe policemen: bobbies, peelers,
filth, cops, pigs, the old Bill (or the Bill), rozzers, coppers, a plod or perhaps
'bastards' if you are feeling lucky. I'm not sure how many of those you guys might use.
Imagine you are a
and you spot a car in good nick (reasonable condition) so
you decide to nick (steal) it. Along comes PC (Police Constable) Plod, puts his hand on
your shoulder and says 'You're nicked mate!' even though he isn't your friend and he
probably isn't wielding a knife. This is your cue to say 'It's a fair cop! You got me
banged to rights and make no mistake. You'll find the rest of the swag (ill-gotten gains)
in the sack!' if you are stupid or 'I aint done nuffink copper!' if you are aren't.
- Crime and punishment.
- If you had 'been a naughty boy' and taken to court, you may find
yourself confronted by a 'beak' (a magistrate), who might send you down for some time 'at
her Majesty's Pleasure'. You would go to gaol (or jail), or 'nick' as it is sometimes
- Three meanings in the UK: a sausage, an old car well past its prime and a
small firework that makes a loud noise. If you were repulsed by the idea of eating a
, the British banger would really make your stomach turn since it makes even a Taco
Bell meal look like it contains high quality meat. The Tabloid press seem to think that the
European Economic Community (the UK is a rather reluctant member) wants to ban the British
Banger. WRONG! They just want to reduce the bread crumb, eyes and goolies (male genitals)
content and put meat in instead...
- A nose. Also conkers is a game were small children thread horsechest nuts to
lengths of string and hit the nuts together. The first nut to break is the loser. A conker
that beats many conkers is known as a 'bully', as in a 'bully-niner' is a conker that has
beaten nine other conkers. It has probably been soaked in vinegar, baked in an oven or
scooped out and filled with concrete. If such a conker hit you on the conk you would know
all about it.
- On both sides of the Atlantic, members of the military
who run around shooting things. Also in the UK, soldiers are pieces of
buttered toast or bread that you dip in your soft boiled egg at
- Half inch.
- To you, half an inch or 1.27cm. To us, to borrow
without asking first. The likely activity of a
- There are four obvious meanings that are common to both the English and the
Americans. A willy (penis), a male bird, to ready a gun and to knock or place something off
centre. In England there is a fifth. If a person says 'Ello cock!' they are greeting you
as a close personal friend. The first meaning may also apply if you are a *very* close
personal friend and the third may apply if the first makes its unwanted presence known in
an unsuitable situation...
- To you a vegetable. To us a fruit drink similar in in
its lack of effervescence to US lemonade. Also called 'cordial',
though how friendly a bottle of orange squash can be is open to debate.
- There are many meanings to this word, e.g. a vessel to contain your 'cuppa' (cup
of tea). In the UK, a mug is a fool or an idiot and to mug up is to learn. In the US a mug
is a thug or a hoodlum (shortened version of mugger I suppose). In other words, you better
mug up on how not to be a mug before you are mugged by a mug.
- Drug slang.
- In the UK we have some great rock festivals like Reading, Phoenix and
Glastonbury (yeah!). You guys have Lollapalooza (okay) and Woodstock (wasn't the second one
a dodo or what?). Anyway, we have some drug slang which you might hear if you were into
such things at these events (not that I'm condoning them but...)
Vera Lynns (or Veras) - skins or tobacco papers (named after a WWII singer.)
Mandies - Mandy Smiths (very young ex wife of ex Rolling Stone Bill Wyman) or spliffs, and also Mandrax.
Billy Whizz - speed or amphetamine - named after a comic character who could run very fast.
E - ecstacy or MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine). Much hilarity ensues when
a contestant on the UK quiz show 'Blockbusters' asks host Bob Holness 'for an e'. Ho ho.
There are many others...
- In the UK to be mean implies you are frugal to the point of
being stingy. In the US you might be mean (i.e. aggressive) because of that English
guy's inability to get his wallet out and buy you a beer.
- My favourite time of year when the leaves turn orange,
red and yellow. You call it 'Fall'. I prefer Autumn.
- We call them sweets. Unless they are American confectionery, then we call them
candy too. I have met quite a few Americans girls called 'Candy' but never ever an English
one called 'Sweets'. In the USA Candy or Candi is usually short for
Candance, whereas Condi is short for Condolezza...
- The implements you eat with. You guys also call them
flatware and silverwear.
In both countries a fool or a silly person. Also a piece of candy on the end
of a stick that us Brits call a lollipop or a lolly. We also call money 'lolly' too to make
things just that little bit more confusing...
The twenty sixth letter of the alphabet. You call it 'Zee'; we call it 'Zed'. A
whole generation in England has had to relearn the alphabet after hearing the 'Alphabet
song' on Sesame Street. Sadder still, the song doesn't rhyme with the English 'Zed'. At
least the 'Numbers song' works (1-2-3-4-5, 6-7-8-9-10, 11-12, do do-do do-do do-do do etc etc...)
When visiting the garage make sure you know the difference between a UK tire
(band of metal placed around the rim of a wheel designed to strengthen it) and a US tire
(pneumatic effort called a 'tyre' in the UK). If you make a mistake it could be a very long
and bumpy ride home.
In the US purely the number before one hundred. In the UK a yummy variety of ice
cream consisting of a scoop of vanilla soft-scoop ice cream in wafer cone with a chocolate
flake stuck in it. The cone is specially designed to allow the melting ice cream to flow
all over your hand before you get to eat it.
- Spotted Dick. In the UK this is a dessert made out of
suet, flour, sugar and raisins which is cooked by boiling and then served with
custard. Yum. If certain former secretaries are to believed President
Clinton has a very distinctive spotted dick, though not in the UK sense
of the word...
- Going for a drink.
Wahey! It's Saturday Night and Newcastle Utd (a soccer team) has
won an away match! The la's (lads) in the Toon Army (their fans) are feeling like a
celebration! So they go on a pub crawl... And for any of their American chums coming
along, these means they are going bar hopping.
When a Brit says 'What's on the box?' he is asking what programmes are
being shown this evening on the television. The obvious reply at this point is 'a goldfish
bowl and a picture of your mum (mom - US)'. He might also refer to the television as a
'goggle box' or a 'telly'.
Those things you soothe with Preparation H. The drug companies
aren't fooling anyone you know. We all know that 'H' stands for 'haemorrhoids'. Even so, people
who suffer with this affliction might refer to them as 'Sieg Heils', 'Chalfonts' (after
Chalfont St. Giles) or even 'Farmers' (after Farmer Giles) - all of which rhyme with
'piles'. Such is the joy of cockney rhyming slang.
To you a small furry cute thing that might be a close relation of Bugs
Bunny. Also in the UK to rabbit is talk incessantly about trivia. This meaning was immortalised by
professional cockneys Chas 'n' Dave in their song 'Rabbit' which was about a non-stop talker.
It contains the line 'You've got more rabbit than Sainsbury's' (Sainsbury's is a supermarket
A Geordie (a resident of the northern city of Newcastle) might say 'a
canny crack'. Canny is easy to translate - it means good or lucky. The trouble is what does he
mean by crack? He could be referring to how beautiful his lady friend is, the fun he is
having or even both. However, if he comes towards you and says 'Howay ya bastad, I'm
borstin' (get out of my way, friend - I need to use the bathroom) it would be prudent to
stand aside and let him pass.
In the UK, any member of the scientific community is referred to as a
'boffin' by the tabloid press. According to them, every boffin wears a white coat, glasses, carries
a clipboard and talks incomprehensible rubbish. They may be right.
- Being drunk.
Back at the pub the la's have been drinking quite a bit of beer.
Some of them are feeling squiffy (slightly drunk) while the others are getting completely
wankered, plastered, rat-arsed or even bollocked (very drunk). They are starting to feel
'nissed as a pewt' (spoonerism for 'pissed as a newt'). How drunk a small amphibian can be
is open to question. Anyway, the evening is turning into a bit of a sesh (a drinking session)...
- Having fun.
Greg Proops (an American comedian who appears regularly on 'Who's
Line Is It Anyway?' - on Channel 4 in the UK and the Comedy Channel in the US) made an observation
about how the English and Americans have fun in his stand up show. The Americans will join
in with anybody - even a complete stranger - if they look like they are enjoying
themselves. The English would rather die than do this. Also, at Disneyland, upon seeing
Mickey Mouse, an American would bounce up to him and say 'Hey! It's Mickey Mouse! How are
you Mickey? Hey look guys! Get a photo of me and Mickey!' even when he is with a group of
adults. An Englishman would say 'Good grief man! It's a bloke in a silly costume - can't
you see that?' and walk off. This is an example of the English sense of humour backfiring.
The Englishman thinks he is being ironic. The Americans think he is a miserable sod.
- The BBC.
Or the British Broadcasting Corporation. The BBC consists of five radio
channels (six if you include the World Service) and two terrestial channels - BBC1 and
BBC2. They are funded by the TV licence. This is something that you have to buy EVERY year
that costs as much as a small black and white portable
irrespective of whether
you watch BBC TV programmes or not. By just having a working television set in your house
you have to buy a licence. I can't imagine this being a popular idea with the American
public! Also, public information broadcasts are shown on all channels telling you what
happens if you don't buy a licence. Apparently there are TV detector vans that travel the
length and breadth of Britain looking for people watching the
who haven't paid
their licence fee. Woo! Scary! 1984 - Big Brother is watching *you*! Not surprisingly
the BBC has several affectionate nicknames - either 'The Beeb' or 'Auntie' (referring to the
image of the BBC being like a loving but strict maiden aunt). Finally, if you see something
that offends you on BBC TV, you could write to a program called 'Points of View' where you
can air your grievances. These letters always seem to be from people called 'Disgusted of
Tunbridge Wells' (Tunbridge Wells is a town in the London commuter belt) which go along the
lines of 'why oh why oh why oh why oh why...' ad infinitum. Very sad.
The sort of people who might play American Football in the US would play
rugby in the UK. These people who play rugby call it 'rugger' and the people who play rugby might
refer to each other as 'rugger-buggers'. Rugby players are renowned for their ability to
drink and chunder (i.e. vomit copiously). In fact in most University towns during term
time, you can often hear the sound of a rugger team on a 'jelly-belly run' where they try to
consume as much
and curry as possible while
such charming ditties as 'The Mayor of Bayswater's Daughter',
'Four and Twenty
Virgins came down from Inverness (and when they returned there were four and twenty
less)' and (if you are English) 'Swing Low Sweet Chariot' with the amusing hand actions.
One of the lines goes 'Coming for to carry me home'. One guess on how the word 'coming' is portrayed...
In both countries a receptacle that can contain water,
, wine or
any other liquid. Also, in the UK, to say that 'you've got some bottle' means that you are
brave or possibly foolhardy. To 'bottle out' means that you are too scared to do the brave
or foolhardy deed - you may be called a 'bottler' if this is the case. This bottling out by
a bottler may or may not involve the use of bottles.
You see those people who hang around in supermarkets and shops with
large amounts of meat? They are butchers. If a butcher (or anyone else in the UK) asks you to
take a butchers at something - don't despair! They are asking you to look at it. (Butchers
= cockney rhyming slang for Butchers Hook = look).
These are also called 'dogs' (dog and bone = phone in cockney
rhyming slang) and 'blowers'. So if an Englishman says 'I had a good natter on the blower last
night!' he is saying 'I had an interesting and stimulating telephone conversation yesterday
evening'. He has probably *not* been indulging in anything kinky.
If you are out of work you would be able to claim dole money (or
benefit as it's officially called). You would call this 'welfare'. The dole is also known
as the 'rock 'n' roll' or 'sausage roll' - cockney rhyming slang again. BTW - in the UK a
sausage roll is a savoury snack consisting of sausage meat in a baked flaky pastry tube.
Meanwhile, back in the pub, the La's have spotted a couple of attractive
young ladies. They would probably describe them as 'totty'. A couple of the more coherent ones
decide to indulge in a spot of 'sharking' (i.e. attempt to proposition them) with a couple
of their best chat up lines. You would call them pick up lines. On both sides of the
Atlantic, such efforts are equally corny...
In the UK, this word has two meanings. It is a toasted tea cake much
beloved of Oxford Dons which taste scrummy with paté. The lads might also describe the young women
they are currently harassing as 'crumpet' too, though whether they would taste as good with
paté on them is not known.
Better known to our American cousins as a mouth. A gob-stopper (i.e. a huge
spherical piece of hard candy) is useful way of filling it. It's not a good idea to 'gob'
it out (i.e. spit it out) in polite company if you don't like the flavour, even if you are a
US gob (a sailor).
You have a small child who refuses to stop crying. In the UK you would
stick a dummy in its
. In the US, this object is better known as a pacifier. Both do the
job equally well.
A sandwich. Chip butties (i.e. french fries between two pieces of
buttered bread with tomato sauce (UK)/ketchup (US) is a much loved English delicacy. Chip butties in
the US sense of the word are equally enjoyable. Yum!
On both sides of the Atlantic a boy's name and a radio communications
acknowledgement. Also the act of enthusiastic
. There was a children's BBC TV
programme called 'Captain Pugwash' that (mythically) featured the characters Roger the
Cabin Boy, Master Bates and Seaman Staines. All I remember of this program is the dreadful
animation (coloured cardboard cut outs). Perhaps I was too young to remember or understand
the names of the crew members...
In the UK if someone said that they were 'going to school', it would
mean that they are attending an educational establishment that has students between the ages of five
and sixteen. In the US, it can also mean the place of higher education that you attend
after high school which us Brits call University. Confusing? You bet.
- More Football.
After realising that the young ladies aren't interested in their
advances, the lads start to talk about
. Our soccer commentators are every
bit as annoying as your football ones since they speak in clichés (Over the moon, Ron; Sick
as a parrot, Ron; The boy did good, Ron), wear bad 1970s tweed jackets, have unattractive
hairstyles (e.g. the 'Brian Moore' where a practically bald man grows one side extra long
and then combs it over his bald patch - this invariably flutters in his face in strong
winds), have no idea what-so-ever about football and tend to be called 'Ron'. Then again,
given the fact that most footballers are capable of great athletic feats on the pitch but
are unable to string a sentence together without slipping into clichés (I gave it 110%
today, Ron; I'm a bit choked (disappointed) after missing that penalty, Ron; I'm chuffed
(glad) that we beat the local Junior School second eleven today, Ron) I suppose they are
only making the best of a pretty poor situation. Worst of all the football commentators is
the one they call 'Jimmy Hill' who is used as a bogeyman by soccer fans to frighten their kids.
- Money slang.
On the London Stock Market and on street markets animal names are
used to describe amounts of money. For example, a pony is 25 pounds and a monkey is 500 pounds. An
Archer is 2000 pounds - named after a certain well known Tory MP and very successful author
(Lord Jeffrey Archer) who gave this amount to a young lady 'on the game' (a prostitute) some
years back to prevent her taking her story to the press. Allegedly.
In the UK means the same as 'easy-peasy' - i.e. a very simple thing to
do. A footballer might say 'it was a doddle!' after showing a bit of
and scoring a
hat-trick (scored three goals in the same game) against the aforementioned Junior School
- Drunk driving.
The lads decide they need to get home. One of them tries to
drive a car. They are stopped by a policeman... In this situation, policemen constables are
supposed to flag you down and say ''Ello 'ello 'ello! What's all this then?' while bending
their legs. Either that or 'Is this your vehicle, sir?' Both statements are pretty dumb
when you think about it... Anyway, the driver says 'I haven't had a cunt all night,
drinkstable' and with a single spoonerism he gives the game away...
An act of sodomy. Also a swear word used in the UK that is akin to
saying 'damn' in the US bible belt - i.e. a bit rude. It's a word much loved by Hugh Grant -
currently the world's most famous Englishman. Also to 'bugger up' is to make a mess of
things. Probably 'Oh bugger, you've really buggered up this time you silly old bugger' was
going through Hugh's mind when he was caught in the company of Divine Brown...
- Toilet Humour.
Or how to find an Englishman in a crowded room. Fill a room
full of English speakers from the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and England. At the front of
the room have a soberly dressed man with a microphone and a PA system. Get him to read out
this list in the grave voice used by lawyers when they are reading out a will that contains
bad news for everyone... 'Bottom. Willy. Wankel Rotary Engine. Grommit. Toilet'. The
ones who are laughing uncontrollably are the Englishmen. Naughty words are funny, aren't they?
If you have a flat you either have a flat
, or perhaps an apartment
if you are British. A block of flats isn't very flat is it?
- Skipping rope.
This is called a jump rope in the US. Maybe in the UK the
implication is that you skip along while you use the rope and stay in the same place in the US. This
brings back horrible memories of School Sports days, skipping races and s ack races. Ouch!
...As do press ups (UK) / push ups (US). A jolly wheeze (a good
idea) if you like this sort of thing. A real
if you don't.
- On both sides of the Atlantic, a profession where the aim is
to make brightly coloured liquids that smell (or at least that is the
approach of Chemistry in school). Anyway, in the UK a chemist is also
a place where you would be able to buy your rubbers (in the US sense,
possibly in the UK sense too) and hangover cures, *and* also the person behind
the counter. In the US this place would be known as a 'drug store' and the
friendly chap in the white coat would be the 'druggist'. Also "pharmacy"
- Bovver. Doc Martens boots, until very recently, had rather a bad image
problem. In the UK they were associated with right wing thugs who used to
wear them to look hard. They gained the nickname 'bovver boots'
since these fine upstanding young men used to wear them when they went
out to cause trouble, 'bovver' (bother) or even 'greef' (grief).
Nowadays they are popular with the Lollapolooza crowd and the sound of
someone wearing Doc Martens is more likely to remind one of their loved
one than instill fear (as is the case with me). A story with a happy
- Duff. In the US, this word is synomymous with ass. In the UK
saying something is a bit duff implies that it is useless. None of
this explains why the phrase 'up the duff' (i.e. pregnant) came about since it
is a physical impossibilty in both senses of the word...
- Bumf. Junk mail - who needs it? In the UK we have the solution!
'Bumf' is a old UK army term used to describe unnecessary and unsolicited
documentation. It literally means 'bum-fodder' - i.e. toilet paper (US) or
bog roll / lavatory paper (UK).
- Joint. In the UK, one of the great joys of Sunday Lunch is sitting
down with your relatives and enjoying the Family Joint. Not of the herbal
variety note. I am referring to a large piece of meat - beef, lamb or pork
usually - served with potatoes, green vegetables and gravy. The joint would
have been roasted along with the potatoes. One of the things I really
missed when I was vegetarian...
- Bucket Shop. In the US a crooked stocks and shares brokerage firm. In
the UK a travel agent that sells cheap flights to sunnier climes. This
might be a useful thing to note if you are swindling money out of your
clients in a bucket shop and realise it might purient to disappear off to
'Dun-dealing', your luxury villa in some undisclosed tax haven in the sun,
and you require the services of a bucket shop.
- Cooker. A device that might be used to prepare a joint in the UK
that might be called a 'stove' or a 'range' in the US. Also a description
of a type of fruit that is used in cooking - e.g. a Bramley apple. The
text you follow to create scrummy food from said fruit would be found in a
cookery book (cook book -US). Hence you might cook some cookers on your
cooker using a cookery book to create a 'momma's apple pie' scenario. Which
would be really cooking.
- Chaps. I have used this word many times before in the UK sense of the
word - i.e. a chap is a good ol' boy or a much trusted male friend. The
English also use the word 'bloke' to describe someone who is friendly and
'one of the lads' but not someone you know that well. Anyway, US chaps are
leather leggings used for ranch work.
- Billion. In the US a thousand million. In the UK a thousand times
that amount. As a consequence there are considerably more US billion dollar
industries than there are UK billion pound ones despite the exchange rate.
- Vet. In the UK this means the chap that you take Rover to when
you want to doctor him (i.e. neuter). Man's best friend? I think he may
disagree with you on that one. Anyway, a vet in the US is called an ex-
serviceman in the UK, unless they are getting old, then they might be called
a veteran too. But never a vet. Unless, of course, they looked after the
regimental mascot. He would then be a veteran vet.
- Cricket. Popular myth has it the sound of the English Summer is
incomplete without the sound of willow against leather, scones with jam
and whipped cream and a cup of tea in a fine bone china cup. This
translates into American English as 'sitting around eating small plain
cakes with jelly and cream watching a game where the idea is to
stand around for hours on end.' Ah yes, but this is Tradition you see.
Occasionally you might see a chap throw a ball at another chap with a
bat, who is wearing padding on his legs, in an attempt to knock over the
wicket (the sticks behind the batsman). If this ball bounces in
an unexpected manner, this is called a googly. If it is a really erratic
googly, the ball may hit the batsman in the goolies (male private parts) at
which point the batsman is allowed to throw a wobbler (get upset). This
might be a 'bit of a sticky wicket' (a problem)... If it is
any consolation to our American Chums, a lot of English people don't
understand cricket either and can't see the point in a three day game
which ends in a draw. The English Cricket team is also spectacularly bad at playing the game
that England taught to its former colonies, even if the rules were designed to make
sure that only the English knew and understood them. As a consequence, most English people
consider their country's cricket team to be a joke and certainly wouldn't go as far
as admitting that they actually supported them. This could be a problem if Norman Tebbit
(the Tory MP) gets his way an introduces the 'Cricket Test' (i.e. which cricket team you
supported) as an immigration test.
- Anglo-american relations. Ask the average American what they think
England is like and they may paint some romanticised image of Royalty,
cricket (qv), people who speak like the Queen / Dick Van Dyke, castles and
their friend Bob who lives in London. When they get here they often
disappointed to discover that England is smaller and damper than they
expected and the sad fact that not every Englishman knows their friend Bob.
Also, we don't have Mountain Dew or Twinkies, the Queen is never in and the
house that Auntie Nellie lived in before she emigrated to the US has been
knocked down and been replaced by a multistorey car park. Despite all this,
millions of you guys visit our country and we are very glad to see you. A
word of warning though. Some English people seem to think it is absolutely
hilarious hearing Americans mispronounce place names. To spoil their little
game here are some handy hints. Firstly, Leicester is prononced 'Lester'.
Secondly, in place names like Birmingham and Durham the 'ham' is pronounced
'um' (e.g. Durham is pronounced Dur-um). Thirdly, Reading, the city, is
pronounced 'redding'. Finally, Fowey is pronounced 'foy'. Unfortunately
there are many others - too many to list here...
A word used by Brits to describe a part of the body that is
injured or doesn't work in quite the way it should. For example, a
ex-serviceman might say that he had to leave the army because of his gammy
leg. He might also describe himself as having 'green fingers'. This is
unrelated! This just means he has got rather adept at growing vegetables in
his allotment (small rented plot of ground for this purpose). You would call
this having 'green thumbs'.
- Fringe. If you have longish hair like me, you might have quite an
extensive fringe. These are called 'bangs' in the US. The Edinburgh Fringe
is unrelated to this - it's a place where over-paid young people called Ems
and Jeremy go to watch bad comedy at exhorbitant prices for a month in the
Scottish City of Edinburgh.
- Funk. On both sides of the Atlantic a genre of music populated by
people in silly looking brightly coloured clothes who make fun dance music
while ingesting incredible amounts of drugs. Confusingly, to be 'in a funk'
means you are feeling a bit blue in the US and to be very scared in the
UK. Also in the US, if you were feeling 'funky' it would mean that you
either were feeling good about yourself and enjoying the funk music or
you smelt bad. In the UK, the latter may be very true if you were feeling
funky (i.e. totally terrified!).
- Doughnut. An English doughnut is a round sweet pastry with jam on the
inside. It is quite different to the American 'donut'. Also, 'to doughnut'
is to surround someone so it looks like they are in a crowd of people. This
was coined when the Commons (lower chamber of Parliament) was first
televised in 1989. If the Member of Parliament (MP) speaking was
surrounded by people all listening attentively to his speach on clause
3, sub-clause a(ii) of the second hearing of the white paper on EEC
Banger Content Regulations and the camera was trained on him, it
would look like the chamber was full of people and the voters would
think their elected representatives were giving value for money. If
they panned the camera back (as they sometimes do), it would be obvious
that the only people present were those around the speaker and his
opposite number in the opposition benches! Also 'Doughnut City' is the
nickname of my hometown of Basingstoke due to the proliferation of
roundabouts that it contains. Finally, to doughnut in the US means
to spin a car through 360 degrees. This is one of the few fun things that
you can do in the Entertainment Capital that is Basingstoke, though we
would call them 'hand-break turns'.
- Anorak. A short outdoor coat which is usually waterproof and wind
proof akin to a US parka. Also, in the UK an 'anorak' is someone who does a
boring or pointless hobby like trainspotting (collecting locomotive
engine numbers) which might involve the wearing of such an item of clothing.
- Yank. Much in the same way that a American may not be able to
differentiate between a Northerner or Southerner in England, us Brits have a
similar problem with Americans. We call you 'Yanks' generically. Even if
you come from Louisiana or Georgia. It seems that we are as equally ignorant
of your history and geography as you are with ours...
- The British Empire. Even though 29% of Americans think that the
guy who first put the "Great" in front of "Britain" probably meant it as a
joke (according to TV Nation anyway), until fairly recently our country had
quite a big empire - nearly half the world's land mass at one point. We
have never really got over losing our Empire, even if it was attained by
killing people, wrecking their cultures and generally being beastly to
anyone not British. Anyway, we have several words left over from our
days of Empire, like 'wallah'. This is a Hindi (asian indian) word
meaning person and is related to their profession. For example, a
'laundry-wallah' would be someone who works in a launderette, an
'accounts-wallah' would be an accountant and an 'amen-wallah' would be a
preacher. Also tiffin - a light lunch. My aunt once had a dog called
'Tiffin'. She lived next door to a big, hairy, hungry looking dog who
thought that 'Tiffin' was a very apt name for a small, slightly podgy
- Diabolical. In the US something is diabolical only if it involved the
work of the Horned One himself. Over here something can be diabolical if it
is incompetently done or not much fun to do. Even so, I have known people
who's cooking can be described in every meaning of this word. Yuk.
- Pudding. You may have one of these after your main course - i.e.
dessert. Then again, in the UK you might have one as your main course
too. Confused? As a rule of thumb, in the UK if it is a savoury
pudding it's a main course; a sweet one would be dessert. And finally,
I know how much you guys love hearing about all the delicious delicacies
we have over here so... Black pudding is a sausage made from pork
sausage meat and blood. With added extra offal. It's very tasty.
- An open pie (in the UK) and a tartlet (in the US). Also in the
UK, a tart is a woman of uncertain worth (prostitute) who might tart herself up (i.e.
put make up on) before coming round for tea to eat tarts. By the way, tea
is a meal as well as a drink in the UK. Tea is usually taken at about four
o'clock in the afternoon.
- Ahhh... Cider.
In the US usually non-alcoholic, but
always very much so in the UK. Heaven in a glass.
Somerset, a county in the South-West of England,
is famous for its cider, and even more so for cider's bigger and
nastier cousin called 'Scrumpy'. Most alcohol may increase the desire
but reduce the ability to perform (to mis-quote Shakespeare), but
Scrumpy goes the full hog and leaves you incapable of coherent speech,
unable to walk and definitely unable to even think of sharking (qv) after
one or two pints. A well known brand of scrumpy is 'Cripple Cock' and
even if the bottle has a cartoon of a cockerel (UK)/rooster(US) with a
crutch on the label, the true meaning behind the brand-name is fairly
obvious if you drink this stuff on a regular basis... The whole
experience was summed up best by the Wurzels (a west country comedy
band) who sang a song that went...
'Oi am a zider drinkerzzz
Oi drink zider all dayyyyeeee... oo-arrr!'
You have been warned, kids. Also to scrump is to borrow apples from
orchards without the express permission of the owner.
- Paddle. Imagine you are at the sea-side. You are sitting on a sun
lounger with a 99 in one hand and a copy of the latest Jackie
Collins in the other. After the sixteenth rumpty scene in as many
pages, you get bored. So you turn to your loved one and say 'fancy a
paddle?' In the UK, this means wandering down to the water's edge,
taking your shoes and socks off, rolling your trousers up to the knee
and having a bit of a splash-around in the briney foam. In the US, the
sea may not enter into the equation. Indeed, paddling (i.e. spanking) your
loved one in public is frowned upon in even the most 'enlightened' of
company and would get you arrested.
- Chuck. In the UK, to chuck is to throw, chuck-steak is stewing
steak and a chucker-out is a bouncer. Also it can be a term of
endearment, like 'pet', 'love' or 'dear'. All these confuse our
American chums. Especially if you call your American girlfriend
'Chuck'. Few girls are called 'Charlie' - or at least in my experience
- Knees-up. You are at a party in a boozer
in the East End of
London. Suddenly, some kindly gent walks over to the joanna (piano) and
starts hammering out a dischordant tune while singing:
Knees-up muvva Braan
Knees-up muvva Braan
Oh wot a knees-up, oh wot a knees-up
Knees-up muvva Braan. OI!!!
Meanwhile, a couple of the old dears start doing a can-can like dance in
time to the music. You are now experiencing what some people in England
call 'fun'. Chas 'n' Dave
might play at such an event.
- On the job. Another slang phrase for bonking. Hutchinson
mentions a humourous column in the Guardian which states a US
Government statistic that 'nationwide, 62289 civilians died on the
job in the last decade.' The headline? 'What a way to go!'
- Lashings. Okay, you've had a bit of a paddle. How about lashings
and lashings of rice pudding? Not as kinky as it sounds, honestly. In
the UK, lashings implies a large portion. (Oh strewth!)
- More money slang. If someone in the UK asks you whether they could
borrow some wonga, spondoolies, brass, readies or even a couple of quid,
don't panic. Follow this simple step by step guide...
1) Remove your wallet from your pocket/handbag.
2) Open said item, allowing moths to escape.
3) Remove the amount of money requested by your friend.
4) Secure loan by noting the location of children, family pets, cuddly
stuffed animals and other valuables for future reference...
- Smart. In the US to be smart implies that you are intelligent,
clever, witty, a joy to be with, wonderful company etc. It can mean this
in the UK as well, but typically in the UK 'to be smart' means that you
are well dressed. Being smart (UK) is not a prerequisite for being
smart(US) though in my experience...
- Crib. I occasionally listen to rap music, so
this word has puzzled
me in the past. In the UK, a crib is small bed-like object that is
used by newly born babies as place of rest in-between crying, eating,
making a mess, more crying, relieving themselves, gurgling cutely
when the grandparents come round and screaming loudly when they
leave. I should know - I was a little anarchist when I was very
small. Mind you, I soon progressed onto a cot - the same sort of
idea but bigger and with reinforced bars to stop you getting out -
much to my annoyance. Also, in the UK 'to crib' means to copy in an
exam. In the US, you do not make a distinction between a cot and a
crib. Anyway (getting back my original point), when a rapper is
talking about taking his baby back to his crib (his small
apartment), infant care may not be the most likely outcome. At
least, not in the short term... By the way, a cot (for adults) is
called a camp bed in the UK.
- Guys. In 1605, a group of plotters,
wanting to bring down the
British Government of the day, hired a Dutch explosives expert called
Guy Fawlkes to help them blow up the Houses of Parliament. The plot was
foiled. Even so, we still celebrate this failure to destroy the centre
of our Government by letting off fireworks and burning effigies of Guy
Fawlkes (called Guys) on November 5th. One of the more quaint customs
of Merrie Olde Englande. The American meaning of the word 'guy', implying
people of either sex, is used only when talking to male friends in the UK
- and then only when you want to sound American...
- Hush Puppy. In the Southern United
States, a hush
puppie is a small, deep fried cornmeal cake. In the UK it is a brand of
lightweight comfortable shoe, much beloved of chaps who spend a
lot of time on their feet, like PC Plod the Police Constable. I'm not
sure if British hush puppies would taste very nice deep fried - a
bit cheesy perhaps...
- Ladder. In both countries an item used to
scale the outsides
(and insides) of buildings. However, if you are in the UK and you
heard a lady (or a Tory MP for that matter) say 'Oh bother! I have a
ladder in my tights!' note that she isn't carrying a large and
cumbersome item of hardware(US)/ironmongery(UK) around with her.
She just has a run in her panty hose...
- Surgery. The only time you might go to
surgery in the
US is probably if you are under anaesthesia and awaiting a doctor to come
along and cut you open with a scalpel. Confusingly, in the UK
you can go to a surgery and never come into contact with scalpels,
anaesthesia or any of that paraphernalia. Here, a surgery is a
consultation session with a professional - e.g. a doctor, a member
of Parliament, a dentist - even a member of the legal profession.
Also, a surgery is the place and the time where the consultation
takes place, especially in the case of the doctor.
- Bung. To 'bung' in the UK means to throw,
toss or pass. It is
also a large sum of money used as a bribe, usually to fix results in
a sports fixture. I am a (very) occasional fan of Southampton FC -
a fairly unsuccessful soccer team in the UK. Being English I tend to
support the underdog whenever possible... Mind you, they do have
Matthew Le Tissier (God in human form) playing for them. Their
current goalie (bloke(qv) who stops the ball going in the net) is a
Zimbabwean called Bruce Grobbelaar. Late in 1994 he was accused of
taking money to let in goals. Hence the football chant 'Brucie!
Brucie! Bung us a wad!' (A wad is a large amount of money).
- Curry. I suppose that a lot of Americans
have a pretty
good idea what a curry is, probably from watching British comedy.
Anyway, curry is one of those things, along with fish and chips
that you *have* to try when you visit the UK. Curry is an British
dish based on Asian Indian cuisine. It is usually hot and spicy and
made with vegetables and meat. It's a like a spicy stew I suppose.
It's usually served with rice, naan bread (unleavened bread), mango
chutney and poppadums (gigantic flour chips which have been deep
fried). Curry is a traditional part of any pub crawl. You turn up
at the Indian restaurant, order sixteen pints of lager, the hottest
curries on the menu and a unfeasibly large number of poppadums and wait
patiently for the unfortunate waiter to return. At this point he
will say 'What shall I do with these, sir?'. This is your cue to
say 'Poppadum over there...'
- Fiddle. To you guys, fiddling is something
you would do
when you are bored or if you were playing the fiddle at a hoe-down
(yee-haw and all that). Over here in Blighty, it also means that
you are cheating the system in some way - for example on your lunch
expenses. It tends to take the impersonal predicate when used as a
verb - i.e. you would fiddle your expenses but you would never fiddle
your boss. Probably.
- Fruit. Imagine you are in a polite
Gentleman's club (a
little hard for most of us but never mind). You meet your old friend,
Blenkinsop, your chum who used to fag(cf) for you at Eton (a public
school). You say 'How are you, old fruit?' He replies 'Fine, old
bean. The lady wife is fine too.' If you are American, the above
conversation would be confusing since 'fruit' is slang for homosexual,
as is fag (but I have explained this one before...). In England, 'old
fruit' is middle and upper class slang for a good friend that you have
known for many years.
- Road Safety. British children are taught
the rudiments of
road safety by learning the Green Cross Code in the Tufty Club, a
play group for the under fives. Tufty was a squirrel with a large
bushy tail who starred in stories that always involved big main
roads and fast cars that always manage to narrowly miss mowing Tufty
down. I can't have been the only terrible tot waiting to hear the
story about 'Tufty, the Juggernaut (large truck) and the Hospital'...
- Pantomime. The nearest you folk have to
British Pantomime is Vaudeville. In the average panto, there are
several common characters. Firstly there are evil baddies that sneak up
behind the hero and heroine. When they baddy gets near to the boring
goody-goodies, you are supposed to shout 'He/she/it is behind you!'
whereupon said baddy hides behind the realistic cardboard tree ,
conveniently placed nearby, before the goodies turn around. There is
also a ridiculously camp, over weight man wearing a dress, wig, far too
much make up and a stuffed bra who is called 'the dame'. He is the
'mother' of the principal boy - the hero - who is always played by a
lithe young woman who slaps her knee a lot while wearing a pair of
tights. In addition there is a beautiful princess that the boy has to
woo and marry too. H'mmmmm.... Pantos are shown at Christmas and
the plot, as it is, is based on well known fairy stories like Aladdin
or Cinderella. From a childhood of watching these shows I came to
conclusion that they are more fun for the actors on the stage than
for the people watching them...
- Aggro. If someone in the UK is causing you
'greef' (qv) and quite a
bit of 'bovver', and you are a US jock you might go over and cause
some aggro. Aggro is short for 'aggravation'. If you are 'cruisin' for
a bruisin'' and causing aggro, the situation may start with an
'argy-bargy' (a heated argument) and end up with a kerfuffle (a fight)...
- Grunt. In the US, not only the noise that a
pig makes (presumably
when he isn't going 'oink') but also a low ranking soldier. Manual
labour is called 'grunt-work'. In the UK, grunt is a euphemism for
- Bomb. Imagine you are a Andrew Lloyd Webber,
the well known
writer and arranger of Mendelsson's and Puccini's Greatest Hits. (Not a
pleasant idea, but never mind) Your latest magnum opus has just opened
simultaneously in the West End of London and on Broadway. The reviews on
both sides of the Atlantic have described your production as 'a bomb'.
In the US, if the production was described as a 'bomb' it would mean
that your musical is going to flop badly and probably won't join
the ranks of your other successful masterpieces such as... erm... In the
UK, the musical was described as 'going down a bomb' - a great success in
other words. In this situation, your best hope would be that the UK
production will make up the loss made by the US one - otherwise it will
cost a absolute bomb (in the UK this means a lot of money).
- Jimmy. In the US, our old friend the tea
leaf (qv) might use one of
these to gain entry to somewhere where he shouldn't be. Mind you, he'd
call it a 'jemmy' since 'Jimmy' is UK slang for a Scotsman.
- Mash. Bangers and mash is a great British
meal. Mash is mashed
potato. To you American types, MASH is something you might go to if you
are a grunt and you've had a bit of an accident - a Mobile Army Surgical
Hospital. Believe me, the TV program MASH was much funnier without the
- Sherbet. Both nations have a sweet
substance called 'sherbet'
which is loved by children of all ages. In the US it is a type of
frozen ice dessert similar to sorbet in the UK. In the UK sherbet is a
yummy fizzy powder, usually served in little tubes with a liquorice stick so
you can dab the sherbet and get wonderfully sticky.
- Tory. In the UK, a Tory is a member of the
Conservative party, the
current Government in the UK. In the US, historically a Tory was someone
who remained loyal to the British during the American War of
Independence. Now, however, most of you guys think a Tory is that
irritating woman off of Beverley Hills 90210.
- Sod. I should have explained this one before
when I referred to it
when I was explaining the word 'git'. No matter. In both countries,
a sod is a piece of turf. However, in the UK, a sod is also an undesirable
person. Also, to tell someone to 'sod off' is implying that you no
longer wish to be in their company. It doesn't mean 'remove all the turf'.
By the way, 'Murphy's Law' (i.e. if anything can go wrong, it will) is
often called 'Sod's Law' in the UK.
- Nosh. In the original American-Yiddish
meaning of the word, a nosh
was a light snack or meal. In Britain, a nosh, or more often, a nosh up,
is huge meal or feast. Nosh ups are commonly shown in UK kids comics as
huge plates of bangers and mash.
- Nipple. In the UK, the nipple is *only*
the nipple on a woman's
breast. The rubber object on the end of a baby's bottle is called a
'teat'. The book 'Baby and Childcare' by Dr. Benjamin Spock,
caused great confusion in the UK. The book said that 'if the baby has
difficulty feeding, widen the hole in the nipple by inserting a sharp
needle'. He was referring, obviously, to the teat on a bottle. Ouch!
- Chopper. Apart from many common meanings
(e.g. helicopter, device
for cutting an electric current or a light-beam, slang name for a willy
(cf), low riding bicycle or motorbike), there are some meanings for this
word that are unique to the UK and US. In the UK, a chopper can be what
you guys call a cleaver and a set of choppers is a set of (usually false)
teeth. A US chopper is a machine gun. There's probably enough raw
material just using the word chopper for a pretty good spy movie - 'The
Man with the Golden Choppers' perhaps?
- Codswallop. In the 1870's Hiram Codd
patented a particular shape of
bottle suitable for containing fizzy lemonade(qv). Wallop is slang for
beer; hence British beer-drinkers came to call very weak beer 'Codd's
Wallop'. It is used nowadays to describe anything without real substance.
Hence, the title of my Web Page 'What a load of codswallop, pet!' means
'What a load of rubbish, friend!' Self-depreciating humour - don'tcha
just love it?
- Musical terms. Musicians who have
played on both sides on
the Atlantic may have noticed that an American would have no idea what a
crotchet was, nor a Brit would know what a quarter note is. They, are
in fact, the same thing. Here is a list of conversions to clear the
semi-quaver sixteenth note
quaver eighth note (a quaver is also a type of UK crisp)
crotchet quarter note
minim half note
semi-breve whole note
breve double whole note
- Porky. In the UK, if you are telling only
half truths or even
downright lies, you are said to be telling a porky (cockney rhyming slang
- pork pies = lies). A US porky is a porcupine.
- Sun. I have made several references to the
British Tabloid Press in
my lists. I'm not very keen on them, but I guess you had worked that one
out already. The papers with the biggest circulations are 'The Sun'
(which supports the Conservative Party) and 'The Mirror' (which supports
the Labour Party). Anyway, the Sun has made a 'great' addition to our
culture in the UK - the Page Three. Every day on page three of the Sun
there is a photograph of a topless woman, usually called Suzi or Debbie,
who, we are assured, likes children and bungy jumping. Is this a good
thing? I'm not bothered by them, but I think the amount of jingoism, sexism
and racism in the paper is of more pressing concern... (Okay, rant over).
- Bull. In the US, bull is short for
'bull-shit' - i.e. rubbish or
nonsensical. In the UK, bull is unnecessary or over-vigorous military
discipline, though the US meaning of the word is becoming more common.
- Going shopping. Going shopping for the
first time in the US is
worrying experience for Johnny Brit. Firstly, everything is in sold
in stores, rather than shops. Secondly, you push your shopping around
in a cart rather than a trolley. Thirdly, all of your shopping is put
into paper shopping bags rather than the familiar plastic carrier bags
by someone called the teller rather than the cashier. Most terrifying
of all is the thousands upon thousands of different varieties of junk
food, all of which are very bad for you. Two cases in point -
blue-berry kool aid and beef jerky. Yuck. Mind you, we do have Pot
Noodle over here. These are freeze dried noodles in a spicy sauce that
are reconstituted by adding boiling water - disgusting but strangely
satisfying after you have been drinking...
- Momentarily. Imagine you are flying
from the UK to the US. Just
before you land, the air stewardess announces that 'we are about to land
momentarily'. If she is American, she has just said that we are going to
land in the very immediate future. However, if she is British, you may
be spending less time in the US than you originally planned. The UK
meaning in this context is 'for a short time' as opposed to the US 'in a
short time'. Also, when an American stewardess said that the plane would
be taking off momentarily on the way home, I had images of the Boeing 747
kangaroo hopping all the way back to Blighty...
- Cobblers. In both countries, those fine
fellows who mend shoes.
Also, in the UK, 'cobblers' is synonymous with 'bollocks' and is the
nickname of the Northampton Town soccer team. Sometimes the tactics of
the Cobblers can be quite accurately described as cobblers...
- Sussed. In UK criminal speak, to suss
something is to suspect
someone of a crime or find out something. For example, our friend
the tea leaf would 'suss' out a house before using his jemmy
and you might say 'I got you sussed' if you are suspecting him of
dodgy (i.e. cunning and artful - and probably illicit) dealings...
- Torch. You and your British friend have
gone camping. You've pitched
your tent and have just got into your sleeping bags. Suddenly your
friend says 'Where's my torch?' At this point you have images of him producing
a US torch (i.e. one with flames) and setting the tent on fire! You feel
relieved when he digs deep into his rucksack and produces ...a flashlight.
- Joiner. An American joiner is someone who
has a propensity
for joining clubs and societies. A British joiner is someone who does
carpentry. These meanings could both apply to a gregarious carpenter.
- Hiring and renting. In the UK you would
hire a car or a television
set and rent a house. In the US you would rent all three. Confusing?
Well, judging by this dialogue sent to me by Martin Pitwood, the answer
is most definitely 'yes'...
My colleague went into a "car rental" place and said:
"Hello, I'd like to hire a car for a fortnight please."
To which, after a noticeable delay, the person replied:
"Oh, you want to *rent* a car. How long is a fortnight?"
(By the way, a fortnight is two weeks...)
- Legal people. In the US, an attorney is a
lawyer. In the UK, there
are two types of lawyers - those who plead cases in court (barrister) and
those who deal with out of court cases (solicitor). The distinction
isn't made under US law.
- Elections. A potential candidate for a
political job in the US
is said to be 'running for office'. In the UK this person would be said
to be 'standing for office'. Does this mean that elections are more
dynamic in the US than in the UK?
- Queer. On both sides of the Atlantic (yet
another - yawn!) euphemism
for a homosexual. However, in the UK it can imply that the addressee is
looking a bit unwell. Hence this conversation between an American and an
Englishman: Are you okay? You're looking a bit queer today.
American: Huh? It must be my suit.
- Oh, you know... The English often have
great difficulty remembering
the names of things. I have frequently found myself in conversations
with people talking about, you know, doodah and other gubbins, and not
having any idea what they are talking about. I suppose you guys talk about
thingamajigs and doodads all the time in the US...
- Yard. In the UK, a yard is small paved area
adjoining a house. If
the owner of the yard planted a single flower bed in the centre of the
yard, it would then be referred to as a garden, no matter how small the
former yard or pathetic looking the flower bed. In the US, it would still
be called a yard even if had a proper lawn and a multitude of flowerbeds.
A US garden is used only for growing vegetables.
- An Anglo-Asian Indian word meaning
genuine, sound and worthwhile. Which I hope this list is.