Words that could be confusing and embarrassing in the UK & US
At long last, here is the complete list of Anglo-American
The definitions have been cross referenced with the most recent
edition of the Oxford Dictionary (unless I say otherwise in the
text), so if you don't agree with some of my definitions, take up
the argument with them.
I have made a few alterations, additions and removals too ...
Thanks to the many people who have helped me compile this list,
including: Paul R. Montague, Jonathon Watkins, Darran Potter,
Darlene Ollom & her friend Liz, John Lovie, Gail thingy in
alt.fan.british-accent, Kevin Walsh, Suzi Howe, D Loomis, Kate
Lingley, Martin Mazik, Ron Leech, Richard Smith.
If I have forgotten anyone, sorry!
The list is also available at my home page:
If you have any further suggestions please mail me at:
Who knows? There may be a second volume... (oh no!)
1) Buns. 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...
2) Fag. A goody but an oldie. Over here a 'fag' is a cigarette.
So in the song 'It's a long way to Tipperary' the line 'As long as
you have a Lucifer to light your fag' is not a fundementalist
Christian's statement that all homosexuals will burn for eternity in
hell, but saying that 'if you always have a match to light your
3) Faggots. Meat balls made from offal (chopped liver) in gravy.
Also a small bundle of logs suitable to burn on a fire.
4) Pants. You call pants what we call trousers; pants are the
things that go underneath.
5) Rubber. 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.
6) Sh*t. 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...)
7) Fanny. To us the front bottom; to you the back one. In
Britain, the fanny pack is known as a bum bag for obvious reasons...
8) Muffler. 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 laughter...
9) Pavement. Sidewalk to you. I couldn't think of anything smutty
to go with this.
10) Pissed. 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
11) Shag. To you a dance. To us sexual congress. In otherwords
you may have to summon up the courage to have a shag with someone,
before you might have a shag with her later on. Also a sea bird
similar to a cormorant and a type of rough tobacco.
12) Fancy. To be sexually attracted to or to desire. Also a tea
13) Ass. To us a quadraped of the horse family or a stupid person.
The word you guys are looking for in English english is 'arse'.
14) Sneakers. We call these 'trainers' for some reason.
15) Waistcoat. You call them vests.
16) Football. 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 cricket...
17) Baseball. 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
18) Some food differences
mars bar milky way
milky way three musketeers
opal fruits starburst
chips french fries
19) 'Knock you up'. In our country, to wake someone up in the
morning so they won't be late. Slightly different meaning for our
20) Pastie. 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...
21) Knackered. 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...)
22) 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
23) Trunk. 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
24) Spunk. 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
25) Woody. 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 male actor and you are in the
process of filming an 'arty' movie.
26) Hood. 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. 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.
27) Gas. 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).
28) Pecker. 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
29) Toilets. Although we have a lot of colourful euphenisms 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 sh*thouse (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.
30) Beer. What you call beer, we call lager. What we call beer,
you call disgusting. This might be mutual.
31) Hard. 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
sh*t out of you. In the US, our friend the male actor would
probably say 'I'm hard' while sharing a bottle of woody flavoured
chardonnay with his co-star...
32) Flummoxed? Our US chums will be if you use this word. It means
to be confused. The typical reaction of the average Brit upon
arriving in the US. Then again you might be 'hit for six' (i.e.
upset to the point of falling over) by it all. Which just isn't
cricket, eh chaps?
33) Roundabout. 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 instill a morbid fear of these things in our
children we force them to play on minature 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.
34) Cookies. 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 in the part of the US I went to).
35) Stuffed. 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 recipies 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.
36) Randy. 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...
37) Aluminium. Over here we say 'al-u-min-i-um'. You say
'aloom-i-num'. Neither nation can spell the word....
38) Kip. 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
39) 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...
i) Wanker. 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...
ii) Bollocks. The round male dangly bits. Also, saying 'the dog's
bollocks' is akin to stating 'this is the sh*t' in the US. Not to
be confused in agricultural circles with 'bullocks' which are bull
shaped and go 'moo!'.
iii) Nancy boy. A male who may express either a sexual preference
for his own gender or acts in a less than masculine way.
iv) Spanner. Not only a component of every good mechanic's toolbox
(see below) but also someone not overly blessed with intelligence or
savoir faire. A geek, nerd, dork or a dweeb in other words.
v) Tosser. See 'wanker' and then use your imagination... Also
vi) Slag. 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 mining industry.
vii) Wanger. 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 'wanker'.
viii) Plonker. Another willy euphenism. Immortalised in the TV
program 'Only Fools and Horses', starring David Jason & Nicholas
Lyndhurst -- 'You plonker Rodney!'.
ix) 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
x) Wazzock -- a fool or idiot.
Strange fact: British males often use wanker, bastard, tosser,
plonker, etc, as terms of endearment.
40) Cars. In the UK, only luxury cars have automatic transmissions
-- in other words the Jaguars, Rolls Royces and Bentleys of the
world. Most cars have manual transmissions. This is because our
roads aren't straight. 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.'
In the UK, asking your driving instructor whether he could teach you
how to drive stick may cause potential embarrassment...
41) Blowjob. 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...
42) 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.
43) Stones. 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
conterparts -- 567ml compared to 430ml. Good thing to know when
44) Cheeky. 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 Winsor and Sid James. Typical
SJ: You don't get many of those to the pound! (Referring to BW's
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 nauseum...
45) Khaki. In the UK a light beige colour. In US khaki can also be
green when referring to army fatigues which are generically known as
46) Knickers. A similar problem to 'pants' (cv). 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 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
47) Wellies. 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.
48) 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:
Q: What do you get if you cross a kangaroo with a sweater?
A: A woolly jumper.
Groan. Somebody carbon date that joke please...
49) Spanner. 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
50) Slash. 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'.
51) Liberal. In the US someone who has enlightened and progressive
views on abortion, welfare, health care, racial and sexual issues,
and sympathsizes 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!)
52) Snogging. 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 inbetween
swigging illicit bottles of vodka and Special Brew beer and 'getting
on down' to Take That (screaaaaammmmm!) (popular beat combo in the
UK much admired by girlies).
53) Git. An undesirable and miserable person. Between 'sod' and
'bastard' on the 'are you going to get your head kicked in?' scale.
54) Jock. 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
difficultly understanding them...
55) Lemonade. In the US, non-fizzy fruit drink possibly made from
lemons that we Brits call 'squash'. 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...
56) 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 &
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. For some inexplicable reason this is called a
'pelican crossing'. As for the little green man flashing...
57) Hotels. In the UK the floors in a hotel are numbered ground
floor, first floor, second floor etc. In otherwords 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
Take That's (screaaaaammmmm!) suite on the eighth floor in a UK
hotel. (BTW Just follow the detritus of fluffy toys and soggy
58) 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.
59) Merchant Banker. On both sides of the Atlantic an honourable
and decent profession. In the UK, cockney rhyming slang for an
onanist (see 'wanker'). Possibly apt.
60) 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.)
61) Please and sorry. In the UK, no sentence is complete with
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
62) English. We speak english in the UK. So do you in the US. But
yet we don't speak the same language...
63) 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?
64) Crusty. In the US the state of a bread roll when it is freshly
baked and smelling yummy. In the UK, as well as this, 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...)
65) Bum. In the UK, the definition of 'buns' (cv) 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 Take That (screaaaaammmmm!) have cute
bums but only one (the scruffy git (cv) with the dreadlocks)
actually looks like one...
66) 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 100 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
67) Pardon. 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 exchanging lawyers' telephone
68) Lorry. 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.
69) Irony. Along with sarcasm, the basis of English humour.
Totally lost on most of our American chums. Saying '...NOT!' is not
70) Easy. 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 of Take That (screaaaaammmmm!) who knows?
71) Bonk. 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
72) Rumpty. 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-Take-That
(screaaaaammmmm!) caught in four in bed rumpty with Divine Brown, OJ
and some ugly Tory Minister who will shortly be resigning'....
73) Suspenders. 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.
74) Aubergine. Frankly foul purple vegetable used in moussaka. You
call them eggplants.
75) Dinky. 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!)...
76) Table. 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 fancied (cv) talking about that one!',
i.e. the motion has been brought up for discussion. How do people
in trans-atlantic companies cope?
77) Twat. In the US, calling someone a twat is unwise since you are
accusing him 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.
78) Swank. 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(cv) 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...
79) Potty. 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
80) Bloody. 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 'f*ck' just as much as you guys, the big
difference being that we can use it on network television after 9pm
in a non-gratutious way, whereas you can only shout 'f*ck' in the
privacy of your own home. So there.
81) Grass. 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 him, 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
'Supergrass' 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 Green Day are called
'Green Day' is uncertain...
82) Policemen. 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 tea leaf (thief) 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 (illgotten gains) in
the sack!' if you are stupid or 'I aint done nuffink copper!' if you
83) 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 confusingly called.
84) Banger. Three meanings in the UK: a sausage, an old car well
past it's prime and a small firework that makes a loud noise. If
you were repulsed by the idea of eating a faggot (cv), 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 breadcrumb, eyes and goolies (male
genitals) content and put meat in instead...
85) Conk. 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
86) Soldiers. On both sides of the Atlantic, members of the
military who run around shooting things while wearing khaki (cv).
Also in the UK, soldiers are pieces of buttered toast or bread that
you dip in your soft boiled egg at breakfast. Yum!
87) Half inch. To you, half an inch or 1.27cm. To us, to borrow
without asking first. The likely activity of a Tea Leaf (cv) in
88) Cock. 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 it's unwanted presence known in an unsuitable
89) Squash. To you a vegetable. To us a fruit drink similar to US
lemonade. Also called 'cordial', though how friendly a bottle of
orange squash can be is open to debate.
90) Mug. 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 (sortened version of mugger I suppose). In otherwords, you
better mug up on how not to be a mug before you are mugged by a mug.
91) 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
Vera Lynns (or Veras) -- skins or tobacco papers (named after a WWII
Mandies -- Mandy Smiths (very young ex wife of ex Rolling Stone Bill
Wyman) or spliffs.
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...
92) Mean. 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 (cv).
93) Autumn. My favourite time of year when the leaves turn orange,
red and yellow. You call it 'Fall'. I prefer Autumn.
94) Candy. We call them sweets. Unless they are American
confectionary, then we call them candy too. I have met quite a few
Americans girls called 'Candy' but never ever an English one called
95) Cutlery. The impliments you eat with. You guys also call them
96) Sucker. 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...
97) Z. 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...)
98) Tire. 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.
99) 99. 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.
100) Centennial. Dull but apt. You call the period lasting a
hundred years a centenary.
There you have it. One hundred definitions and quite a few extra
along the way. If anyone else has any more suggestions please drop
me a line at: firstname.lastname@example.org