The English-to-American Dictionary




- A -

abseil v. Abseiling is the art of dangling onesself from a cliff at the end of a rope for "fun" - a pastime which escapes me entirely; give me Scrabble any day (oh, wait, that's clambering around rocks too, isn't it). Americans will know this particular form of sado-masochism better as rapell. I'm told the word is derived from the German "abseilen", meaning simply "to rope down". Not sure where I'm going with this, bear with me.

aerial n. This is... well, ultimately I think it's just a bent bit of wire but I'm sure the manufacturers would curse if they caught me doing that. It's the device that gathers radio waves for your radio or television - Americans call them "antenna" (though I believe "aerial" is in limited use in the US too).

afters n. Pudding (dessert, to save you looking it up). And no, before you ask, we do not call appetizers befores. We call them starters, which now I think about it is just as bad.

Aga n. Another brand name that has slipped into the common vernacular, Aga is a company whose primary product is those giant cooking stoves that are filled with coal and the whole of the top of it gets very hot indeed. They're a bit dated now, but pretty much everyone's granny had one. The US equivalent may be "range", but I may have misremembered that - any help appreciated.

agony aunt n. The newspaper employee who responds publically to readers' empassioned pleas for help on a wide range of issues, but generally sex. Best known in the US as an advice columnist.

aluminium n. Okay, so it's not the most cryptic of language differences, but Americans spell this "aluminum". We pronounce it differently as well; we Brits really do say "ahl-yoo-minny-um". I've had a multitude of mail about this and as usual a lot of it is at odds. I can at least say that Hans Ørsted, the Danish gentleman who discovered it in 1824, had based its name on the Latin word "alumen", denoting the mineral alum. The difference in spelling seems to have originated when very early printed material advertising his talks on the subject contained the two different spellings in error. The general consensus seems to be that he had originally used the "British" spelling (bourne out by International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry's use of it, and the "ium" suffix that already graced many metallic elements at the time) but as he clearly didn't make any efforts to correct anyone, perhaps he didn't care too much.

anorak n. As well as being a waterproof jacket, an anorak is someone who's a little bit too knowledgeable about one subject. Generally a subject like seventeenth century flower pots or steam trains, rather than athletic sexual positions or gunfighting. Americans (and also Brits, as our languages merge ever closer) would call them "geeks". I have a feeling that it's because train-spotters all wear brightly-coloured anoraks, but I've no real basis for thinking that. This is just another example of me foisting my half-thought-out biased views on the general public via the one-way medium of the web. I love this dirty town.

anti-clockwise adv. As the phrase suggests, something which runs anti-clockwise is rotating in a direction which... err... isn't clockwise. Americans will know this better as counter-clockwise. Of course, anyone with half a brain could have worked this out themselves but never let it be said that I'm only paying lip-service to completeness.

anyroad expl. Very much an equivalent of "anyway". I suppose, if you think about it, "any road" pretty much means "any way", erm, anyway.

arse n. What you sit on; very close in meaning to the American ass. The only real way in which they differ is that you could call someone an "arse" without any adjective and without implying that you thought s/he was a donkey of some sort. We also say "can't be arsed" meaning much the same as "can't be bothered".

artic n. An abbreviation for "articulated", this is (in American-speak) an F-off truck or a "semi". The "articulated" part of it refers to the fact that it bends in the middle.

aubergine n. The large purple pear-shaped vegetables that we on this side of the Atlantic know as aubergines what North Americans will recognise as eggplants.

aye expl. Yes. I'm told that this derives from the Norse ei, meaning "ever".



- B -

bagsie v. To bagsie something is to stake your claim for it in the same way that Americans would claim "dibbs" on something. As usual, when my hopeless grasp of the language fails me I shall resort to examples. You'd hear it in sentences like "I bagsie the back seat" or "Bagsie first shot on the dodgems!". It's a rather childlike sentiment; you would be less likely to hear "I bagsie being Financial Director".

bairn n. Scottish. Baby. Has very much the same connotation as bubtion but is used in reference to a slightly younger age range. Bairns really are babies; bubtions could be just underdeveloped toddlers. Bairn is also used more often. I am told that it is derived from the Swedish word "barn", which means both "child" and "children".

bampot n. Scottish. This is a wonderful word. Much as the sound suggests, a bampot is a person who is clumsily idiotic. As with a lot of our less-than-complimentary words, it isn't really offensive - it's used more in goading fun than anything else.

bang v. Banging can be used in the UK to refer to the beautiful act of procreation. A gentleman who is particularly impressed with his lady-friend's abilities in the beautiful act of procreation may use a phrase like "she bangs like a barn door".

bangers n. Sausages. Probably most often heard in the name of the dish "Bangers and mash" (i.e. sausages and mashed potato, but I hope to god you worked that out yourself).

barmy adj. Idiotic, really. You might describe your father's plan to pioneer the first civillian moon landing using nothing but stuff he'd collected from a junkyard as "barmy". Well, of course, unless the junkyard he had in mind was out the back of Cape Kennedy and he had funding from China.

barnet n. Your hair. Anoher example of Cockney Rhyming Slang that's slipped into the common vernacular - "Barnet Fair" / "Hair". Barnet is an area of London.

bash on expl. Okay, I know that this is another phrase sneaking in here. It's my dictionary, damnit. To "bash on" is to press on regardless - to keep struggling in the face of adversity. Nothing to do with hitting people.

beaver v. OK, stop tittering. In British English, to beaver away is to work busily. However, these days you'd have difficulty saying it without a chorus of sniggers from the peanut gallery, as we also all know the American definition. It's the sort of thing your grandmother might say at Christmas dinner that would make the younger generations choke on their soup.

bender n. 1. A big drinking session. 2. Be careful, because this word is also a rather derogatory term for a homosexual. I believe it derives from the phrase "gender-bender", though a contributor points out to me that it could equally easily refer to the, erm, position adopted.

berk n. Another friendly UK "idiot" word and one which implies a degree of clumsiness. I always think (no doubt mistakenly) that these are best explained by example - "Look, you berk, I said to bend it, not bust it". In one of the most enlightening emails I've had since starting the dictionary, I am told that the word originally derives from the rhyming slang "Berkely Hunt" - let's just say that, in the words of my contributor, "it doesn't mean punt".

bespoke adj. Something described as "bespoke" is made especially for a particular client's requirements.. These days it's most likely to be seen used to describe computer software, but it could cover anything from limousines to suits. Americans would probably say "tailor made" or "customized".

bevvy n. Another term for alcoholic drinks. Going out for a bevvy, however, is more likely to involve going out for a large number of alcoholic drinks than just one. You would be more likely to go out for a bevvy after you'd just miraculously survived a huge car accident than if you were nipping out during a working lunch.

Bill n. The Bill (also a popular UK television programme) refers to the police, in the same sort of a way as Plod. I am reliably informed that this is because the original proposal for a UK police service was put forward by a Member of Parliament named William Wilberforce. Never let it be said that this website doesn't provide a good quota of Culture.

bin n. Bin is simply a contraction of dustbin (which means trashcan, to save you going and looking it up).

bint n. Woman, in the loosest sense of the word. One step short of a prostitute, a bint is a bird with less class, less selectivity, more makeup and even more skin. Blokes don't talk to bints unless they've had at least eight pints of beer, which is why bints turn up in free-for-students nightclubs at 2:45am with their faked student ID and dance around their Moschino rucksacks. I am told by a few contributors that the word derives from the Arabic for "daughter of".

bird n. pron. "beud" (London); "burd" (Scotland). Woman. Again. Well, not really. Bird is used when one is looking upon the fairer sex with a slightly more carnal eye. It's not quite at the stage of treating women as objects but the implication is certainly there. Likely to be used in the context "I shagged some random bird last night" (a popular usage) or "hey, Andy, I think those birds over there are looking at us". You'd never describe your grandmother as a bird. It's popular in Scotland to refer to one's girlfriend as "ma burd" but do it in front of her and you'll be choking teeth. About the only thing worse would be to call her "ma bint", which will warrant a foot in the testicles and a loose tongue concerning your sexual prowess. I am told the word itself is derived from the old norse word for "woman". The nearest equivalent to bird in US English is probably chick.

Biro n. The surname of one Hungarian journalist named Ladislo Biro, who invented a way of using thicker, quicker-drying ink in a hand-held pen by replacing the standard drip-stype fountain pen nib with a ball bearing, which rotated and moved ink from the inkwell to the writing surface. It's slipped into the common vernacular in the UK and the rest of Europe as a generic word for a ball-point pen.

biscuit n. What we Brits call a biscuit, Americans call a cookie. An American biscuit is a soft, flakey savoury pastry eaten with gravy or butter.

bitter n. What we Brits might call "proper beer", made with hops and served warm. None of this European/American fizzy lager stuff. Sterling stuff. Don't knock it 'til you've tried it.

blag v. To wheedle something for free, in a context like "I managed to blag a ride to work". Perhaps if I sat for a bit longer I'd think up a better example. Hey ho. It is, I'm told, derived from the French "blague", meaning a tall story.

bleeding adj. This is similar to bloody and is really only used by Cockneys (i.e. in London). I have never in my life heard the trailing "g" actually being pronounced.

blighter adj. Rather outdated now, blighter is a more refined, more upper-class version of bugger.

Blighty n. This is a very antiquated term referring to Britain itself and seen most often these days in war films - "well chaps, I don't mind saying I'll be dashed pleased when we're out of this pickle and back in Blighty". You get the idea. It is derived from the Urdu word "Bilati" meaning "'provincial, removed at some distance" (Concise English Dictionary) and was one of the many words that slipped into English during Indian colonisation.

blimey expl. A nice mild expletive, blimey is (in terms of rudeness) on a par with "wow" or "my goodness". It was originally part of the phrase "cor blimey", which was apparently a contraction of "god blind me" which was in turn an abbreviated version of "may god blind me if it is not so". To prevent alarm, though, it's worth saying that I've used this word a number of times and so far god has made no attempt whatsoever to blind me, whether what I was saying was true or not. Nowadays "cor blimey" is much rarer, but still used.

blinking adj. This is a lesser equivalent to bloody. Slightly old-fashioned but still in widespread use.

bloke n. pron. "blowk" (English); "bloke" (the rest of us). The closest American equivalent is guy, and it is pretty close. A bloke is a joe public, a random punter - any old guy off the street. Where it differs from guy is that it can't apply to your friends. You can't walk up to a group of your mates and say "Hi blokes, what's up?", as they'd all peer at you as if you'd been reading some strange cross-channel dictionary. The most common usage of the word bloke is almost definitely in the phrase "some bloke in the pub".

bloody expl. Damn, another tricky word to define. Bloody is another great British multi-purpose swear word. Most well known as part of the phrase "Bloody hell!" which could best be described as an exclamation of surprise, shock or anger. Bloody can also be used in the middle of sentences for emphasis in a similar way to the ubiquitious f--- word ("And then he had the cheek to call me a bloody liar!") or even with particular audacity in the middle of words ("Who does she think she is, Cinde-bloody-rella?"). I am reliably informed by a contributor that bloody is in fact nothing to do with blood and actually a contraction of the phrase "by Our Lady". Sometimes I wonder whether it's worth putting in all these useful linguistic derivations when in actual fact you only got here because you were wondering what a poof was.

blooming adj. An extremely innocuous expletive, blooming could be seen as a reduced-strength version of bloody. Rather antiquated nowadays.

blow off v. Blowing off in the UK is not at all similar to blowing off in the US. While Americans know it as brushing someone off, British people use it as an alternative term for breaking wind.

bobbie n. A bobbie is a policeman. The word is a straight abbreviation of Robert, after Robert Peel, who was instrumental in creating the police force in the UK. It's a little antiquated these days, but still in use a little.

bodge n., v. To bodge something is to make a bit of a haphazard job of it - likewise a bodge is something that was cobbled together in this fashion. I'm told that a bodger was originally a craftsman who produced green-wood chair legs from a laithe; not entirely sure how it gained its less favourable definition.

boffin n. A boffin is someone who is particularly knowledgeable about his/her subject. Slightly less friendly than expert, calling someone a boffin suggests (much like nerd) that they have body odour and are virgins. Boffins are invariably male.

bog n. One of our more... down-to-earth... words meaning toilet. More likely to be used in the context of "d'y'hear Fat Bob took a kicking in the bogs in Scruffy Murphy's?" rather than "I say, Mrs. Bryce-Waldergard, I'm awfully sorry to trouble you but I was wondering if you could point me in the direction of your bog?".

bog standard n. This is the basic standard version of something. So your bog standard Volkswagen Golf would be one that doesn't have electric windows, power steering or opposable thumbs. Well nowadays a bog standard Golf probably does have two thirds of those things. I should really change the text to include some different example features, but it seems such a waste to delete something you've only just typed, and I can't be arsed. What we refer to as bog standard, Americans will often call "plain vanilla" or just "vanilla", a use of this word that doesn't exist in the UK outside of investment banking. As far as I know the term has nothing to do with our other use of the word bog to mean a toilet.

bogie n. One of the charming little things everyone excavates from their nose now and again but likes to pretend they don't. Americans call them "boogers".

bollocks n. How do I put this delicately... bollocks are testicles. The word is in pretty common use in the UK (not in my house, of course!) and works well as a general "surprise" expletive in a similar way to bugger. The phrase "the dog's bollocks" is used to describe something particularly good (yes, good) - something like "see that car - it's the dog's bollocks, so it is". This in turn gives way to homonym phrases like "the pooch's privates" or "the mutt's nuts" which all generally mean the same thing. Oh, and this beer from Wychwood Brewery. The word has also slipped through the the State of Florida's censors in the wonderful form of this registration plate. We also describe a big telling-off as a bollocking.

bolshie adj. Someone who's a bit of an upstart; a force to be reckoned with. Presumably derived from "Bolshevic", but why I have no idea.

bonk v. In the UK, bonking is, well, the act of reproducing. Well, unless you're using some sort of contraceptive device I suppose. It's the act of practising reproduction, maybe. Oh, hell, you know what I mean. We do also share the US definition (a clunk/bash).

bonnet n. Now, let me try and remember this. Hood. Or was it trunk. No, it was definitely hood. This is the part of a car that covers the engine. Confusion arises in the UK when dealing with rear-engined cars; it's difficult to determine whether to call it a bonnet or, as seems perhaps more logical, a boot, on account of it being at the back. The trials of modern life. Once you have this issue resolved in your mind's eye, do feel free to look up hood in here, because we Brits use it to describe a different part of a car completely.

boot n. Trunk. The boot of a car is the part you keep your belongings in. So called because it was originally known as a "boot locker" - whether it used to be commonplace to drive in one's socks is anyone's guess.

booze n. Alcoholic drinks of some sort. Likewise a booze-up is an event at which many alcoholic drinks are consumed. I'm told that it comes from the Middle English word bousen, meaning to carouse.

boozer n. A pub, where one might enjoy consuming some booze.

bounder n. This is a very antiquated word used to describe someone who's generally no good - a "bad egg". It's very old-fashioned - I suspect even Rudyard Kipling would have used it in jest.

box n. This is the item that fits down the front of a bloke's underwear and, in the words of my school cricket master, "protects the crown jewels". Americans will know it as a "cup". Of course, I suspect they're also less bothered about protecting our crown jewels.

braces n. Suspenders. The device used to pull your teeth around the place is called a brace (singular) in the UK. Beware of the cross-definition, though - in the UK, suspenders are something else entirely.

brick n. To call someone a "brick" implies that they are dependable and will remain so in the face of adversity. A largely upper-class term, it is hardly in use nowadays.

brill adj. A popular abbreviation for brilliant.

brilliant adj. While the usual meanings (gifted or luminescent) are common to both the US and the UK, we in the UK also use brilliant to describe something which was particularly good. You might have a "brilliant holiday" or a "brilliant night out". It's a little bit childish - you'd be less likely to refer to a "brilliant board meeting" or a "brilliant shag". Popularly abbreviated to brill.

brolly n. Simply an abbreviation of umbrella.

brush n. This is our equivalent of a US broom. We use the word broom too (we don't talk about witches flying on brushsticks) but not as often.

bubtion n. Scottish. A rather quaint Scottish word for baby. Means exactly the same thing, but has a slightly more cosy, affable air to it. You'd never refer to your baby as a bubtion if it had lately been sick on your three-piece suit and drooled in your cornflakes.

bugger n. adj. v. Another superb multi-purpose Brit word. Buggery is sodomy but the word has far more uses than this. Calling someone a bugger is an inoffensive insult (in a similar way to git) and telling someone to bugger off is a friendlier alternative to the f-word. It can also be used as a stand-alone expletive in a similar way to bollocks - "Oh, bugger!"

bum n. This is the British version of butt. What the Americans call bums we call tramps.

bumf n. Copious amounts of paperwork or literature - you might hear people talk about the stack of bumf that came with their new video-recorder. A contributor tells me it derives from the army and is a contraction of the phrase "bum fodder", meaning toilet paper.

busk v. To busk is to sit in the street playing an instrument and hoping people will give you money for it. I should imagine that it's a fairly unrewarding pursuit although, having said that, a friend of mine made £200 (around $300) busking with a set of bagpipes over two days during the Edinburgh Festival. I think most of the money came from Americans who weren't quite sure what a ten-pound note was worth in dollars.

butty n. A butty is a colloquial name for something served in a chippie inside a roll (or, I'm told, just a sandwich). To the best of my knowledge the most common application is a chip butty but you can also buy bacon or fish butties without seeming strange. I can only presume that the word derives from the fact that there is usually as much butter as roll.



- C -

camp adj. This is a tricky one to define. It basically described a man who is a stereotypically effeminate homosexual. If someone is being camp, you could tell their sexuality from the way they walk, talk, stand, gesture - it's very much on show. If you have heard of an Englishman (and latterly New Yorker) named Quentin Crisp, he was the very epitome of camp. And even if you haven't heard of him, I imagine he still was. Americans will say "flamer" meaning much the same thing.

candy floss n. The revolting foodstuff one can buy at fairgrounds which resembles a giant blob of fibreglass wrapped around a stick. Americans call it "cotton candy".

car park n. The place where you park your vehicle while shopping, working, etc. As far as I am concerned, car park is a far better description than parking lot - the latter sounds as if your car is going to be auctioned while you're in Wal-Mart. Additionally, the large buildings composed of many floors of just parking spaces are called multi-storey car parks in the UK but parking structures or just parking garages in the US.

caravan n. A terrible device which attaches to the back of your car and allows you to take your whole family on holiday at minimal expense and with maximum irritability. I understand that these are known in the US as trailers.

carrier bag n. This is just the plastic bag that you are given your shopping in, which Americans call a shopping bag instead.

casual v. Scottish. A pretty close Scottish equivalent to "yob", with the notable exception that "casuals" will actually refer to themselves as such while yobs certainly would not. Dotted around Edinburgh is graffiti advertising the services of the "Craiglockart Casual Squad". Craiglockart being hardly one of the worst areas of Edinburgh, I can only imagine that they'd turn up and insult your intelligence, or throw truffles through your windows.

central reservation n. Far from being a sought-after restaurant booking, this is in fact what we Brits call the grassy area in the centre of a motorway which is there to stop you colliding with oncoming traffic quite as easily as you might. Americans call it the "median".

chap n. A more upper-crust equivalent to "bloke". Nowadays only really seen in a tongue-in-cheek way or in 1950s Enid Blyton childrens books. It would read something along the lines of "I say chaps, let's go and visit that strange old man with the raincoat at Bog End Cottage and see if he has any more special surprises for us!". Jolly hockeysticks.

cheeky adj. To be cheeky is just short of being rude (in the sense of offensive, not dodgy). You're being cheeky if you make a joke that you can only just get away with without getting into trouble.

cheerio expl. This is a fairly old-fashioned and light-hearted way of saying goodbye. I once made the mistake of writing here that I had no idea what it had to do with the American breakfast cereal of the same name. Well, I was quickly informed that the breakfast cereal was once called "Cheeri Oats" but because that was, well, crap they changed it. More information than you could ever want on the subject at Cheerios own site.

cheers expl. Although traditionally cheers is used as a toast, it has become a substitute for "thank you" in informal conversation.

chemist n. The chemist is where you'd go to buy pharmaceutical drugs. Americans call it a straight drugstore, which implies to Brits that you could just buy Class A narcotics over the counter.

chippie n. Ubiquitous abbreviation of fish-and-chip shop. Also a colloquial name for a carpenter - I can only presume that this derives from the word "chipboard". All a far cry from the US, where apparently a chippie is an attractive young woman for whom (I quote my source) "Intelligence is questionable, but not necessarily in a bad way. More naive than stupid." Strangely similar in a way to our own definition, but you're less likely to find that your husband has run off with a chippie in the UK. Unless he's a Member of Parliament.

chips n. Fries. However, it's lately been popular to call "thin" chips fries (I blame McDonalds) so Brits at least know what fries are these days. Classic chips can be obtained from a chip shop ("chippie") and are a great deal more unhealthy. They also vary quite creatively - if you buy them at nine o'clock in the evening they are hard, black and crunchy (because they've been cooking since 6:30pm when the dinner rush came through) but if you buy them at 3am you will find them very akin to raw potatoes, right down to the green bits in the middle (because they want all of these drunk punters out of the door so they can go home). Since writing this, I have been told by a contributor that British chips are in fact more healthy than fries - something to do with surface area and fat. Trust me, though... the British ones still look pretty gruesome.

chock-a-block adj. Closely packed together. You might use the phrase to describe your dating schedule or your attic, unless you are unforgivably ugly and you live in a flat, in which case you'd have to think up something else to use it on. These examples are provided as-is, they don't necessarily work for everyone. I'm told by one contributor that the word has a quite dark (no pun intended) origin, as it refers to the area where black slaves were once lined up on blocks to be sold. However, I'm told by some more that it's a maritime referring to when a block and tackle were jammed against each other to stop the load moving.

chocolate drops n. Not being a culinary wizard I can't really comment on this one but I am reliably informed that what we Brits call chocolate drops, Americans call chocolate chips. Which is fortunate, because the idea of chocolate chips is enough to turn the stomach.

chuff v. To chuff is to fart. Entirely seperate to the word chuffed so use with care.

chuffed adj. Someone who describes themselves as being chuffed is generally happy with life. You can also get away with saying you are unchuffed or dischuffed if something gets your back up. Make sure you only use this word in the correct tense and familiarise yourself with the meaning of the word chuff too.

clobber n., v. 1. Clothing; vestments. 2. To hit someone or something (it's possible this meaning is international). It's possible one or both of these definitions are of Scottish origins - enlightenment appreciated.

close n. As well as all of the meanings you'd expect, a close, (pronounced in the same way as the close in "close to me", rather than "close the door") is a residential street with no through road; a cul de sac.

coach n. A coach is very much the same as a bus. The word is generally used in the UK for longer-haul buses (50 miles plus). The difference between a coach and a bus is that a coach tends to have a loo, not so much chewing gum attached to the seats and fewer old ladies hacking up phlegm in the back. Coaches make up for these missing comforts ensuring that all travellers have set themselves up as comfortably as they can. This means that there are half as many seats (because everyone has a bag next to them) and all you can hear throughout the journey is a baby that needs burping and some twelve-year-old drug addict's Walkman. We Brits do not use "coach" to refer to economy class seats on an aircraft; that's a peculiarly American thing.

cobblers n. Something (usually a statement) described as cobblers is rubbish; nonsense. It's quite an informal term; you'd be more likely to use it in response to your mate's claims he can down fifteen pints in a sitting than while giving evidence in a murder trial. I am told it is rhyming slang - "cobbler's awls -> balls". This may be true. Who knows.

cock-up n. v. To cock-up is to make a complete mess of something. You'd use it along the lines of "I went to a job interview today and cocked it up completely". It may look like another innocent little Brit phrase that's terribly rude for Americans but I suspec there's a little more to it than that because we also use the phrase "balls-up" meaning the same thing. Although, ironically enough, "balls-up" is seen as a lot less rude.

codswallop n. A rather antiquated but superb word meaning "nonsense". The etymology leads to an English gentleman named Hiram Codd, who in 1872 came up with the idea of putting a marble and a small rubber ring just inside the necks of bottles in order to keep fizzy beer ("wallop", in old English) fizzy. The idea was the the pressure of the fizz would push the marble against the ring, thereby sealing the bottle airtight. Unfortunately, the thing wasn't nearly as natty as he'd hoped and "codd's wallop" slid into the language first as a disparaging comment about flat beer and eventually as a general term of abuse.

cooker n. The cooker is the machine which does the actual cooking of your food - while this is a peculiarly British term, the word oven is used both in the UK and the US to mean exactly the same thing.

cop off v. Copping off with someone is snogging them (usually for the first time). I am told that the phrase is derived from a contraction of "copulate".

copper n. Policeman. I was under the impression that this was due to the copper buttons they originally wore on their uniforms. However, another contributor has told me that the term is derived from the Latin "capere" which means simply "to capture". As both of these sources seem equally viable (and I certainly haven't a clue), I'm leaving them both in here. You would have thought that the American word "cop" derived from this, but I have been told by various different people that it is an acronym for "Constable on Patrol" or "Constable of the Police".

corn n. Following some contributory investigation it seems that the word "corn" refers to just "grain". In the UK this is wheat or oats and in the US it's maize. A bit like "cola" I suppose, but better for your teeth.

cot n. The thing a baby sleeps in. Well, unless your baby sleeps in the garden or something. What Brits call a cot, Americans call a crib.

cotton buds n. These are the little plastic rods with blobs of cotton on either end. They're known better in the US as cotton swabs or Q-Tips (a brand name). When I came back from Tenerife with an ear-infection I deduced had come from swimming in the sea, I got a telling-off from the doctor for attempting to cure myself with the aid of some cotton buds. Apparently you should never poke anything at all into your ears. Medical advice dispensed here at no extra cost.

cotton wool n. The little furry blobs that women use to remove makeup and men use to clean inlet manifolds. Cotton wool is known in the US simply as cotton ball.

courgette n. Although a rather pleasant word, our courgette is more than amply replaced by America's fantastic zucchini. I wonder if there's anything behind the fact that they both look like they ought to be sports cars. I'm sure someone's written a thesis on it somewhere.

court shoes n. These are lightweight heeled women's dress shoes with enclosed toes, known better to Americans as "pumps". I hasten to add that I know this because a contributor told me, and not because I wear them.

cowboy n. I'm not exactly sure how this ended up meaning something different on our side of the Atlantic, but in Britain describing someone as a cowboy means they're a useless fly-by-knight bodger.

crack n. Okay, this is actually spelled "craic" but pronounced "crack". It's a Gaelic (Irish) word describing fun and frolics to be had with other people - the craic might be what makes a particular pub fun, or a wedding bearable.

crikey expl. A general (very British) expression of surprise. It's a rather elderly word and a little esoteric these days - you can most imagine it being used in a context something like "crikey, Eustace - it looks like Cambridge are going to win after all!" I am told it is some sort of derivation from "Christ".

crisps n. Chips. This particular confusion caused me no end of troubles in the US - I've never been so disappointed with a bag of chips in my life (I'd even have preferred the 3am green ones).

crumpet n. Coming from rhyming slang for strumpet (a woman adulterer), crumpet refers to women in a similar (although a little more old-fashioned) way to totty. Suffice to say that if you were out looking for some crumpet of an evening, you wouldn't be intending sleeping alone. In fact, you may not be intending to sleep at all. We Brits do concur with Americans on the "official" meaning of crumpet (a small savoury piece usually eaten with afternoon tea) but it would be difficult to mention it in the UK without someone at the table collapsing in fits of giggles.

curtains n. While we in the UK will call any cloth covering a window curtains, Americans tend to call longer ones drapes.

cushions n. We Brits call the small pillows that one scatters over your living-room chairs "cushions" - Americans will know them as "pillows". We both call the things you put your head on in bed "pillows", for what it's worth.

CV n. A CV is what we Brits call what Americans know as a resumé. CV stands for curriculum vitae and means "life's work" in Latin. And before any Americans mail me saying how ridiculous it is that we named our personal mini-biographies in Latin, I can only mention the fact that yours appear to be named in French. Actually, having put this description up on the site I've had a few mails from indignant Yanks saying that they do have CVs after all. As far as I can gather, an American CV is a list of published work or research done - a sort of more academic version of a resumé.



- D -

daft adj. Someone who is described as daft is what we stoic Brits might call "not the full shilling". Daft can range from the absent-minded ("You've forgotten to put petrol in it, daft woman!") to the criminally insane ("Well, once we let him out of the boot he went completely daft!").

dago n. This is a rather uncharitable (and slightly antiquated) term for a Spanish person. So far the best suggestion I've had for its source is that it is a slightly abbreviated "Diego", that being of course a popular Spanish name.

damper n. We're getting awfully technical now. As I'm not 100% sure what this is myself, I hand you across to John Ings, who says that a damper is "What the American calls a shock absorber. The Brit word is in this case is definitely more accurate, for this device does not absorb shocks in any manner. What it does do is dampen what would otherwise be the uncontrollable bouncing of a pneumatic tire." Wait... are they those rubber things on the suspension? I'm going to have to go and look under the car now.

dapper adj. Rather outdated nowadays (I know the feeling), dapper is used to describe someone who is very much the country squire - well-spoken, well-dressed and rather upper-class. Because of the unpopularity of the upper classes in the UK recently, this is almost a mild insult despite once being a complement.

dear adj. As well as all the usual meanings, dear means "expensive" to a Brit. It is a little bit antiquated, but still in pretty widespread use.

demister n. Defroster. These are referred to as demisters in the UK because our devices have precious little chance of getting rid of mist, let alone frost.

diddle v. A sort of minor swindle. A colleague might diddled you out of getting the best seats at the game; you'd be less likely to tell of when your grandparents were diddled out of their fortune, leaving them peniless beggars. I'm told that diddling in the US is, well, wanking to us Brits.

digestive n. As well as having the normal meaning of anything pertaining to the digestion, we Brits use this word to describe a round biscuit that one generally dunks in one's tea. Whether it aids the digestion or not, who can tell.

dinner n. In the North of England, dinner is what the rest of us call lunch (the meal at mid-day). This is a bit of a generalisation - the words "dinner", "tea", "lunch" and "supper" seem to be assigned to meals spattered randomly around the day in both American and English regional dialects.

dither v. A tricky one to explain (for me at least) - dithering is the art of delaying, swithering and generally procrastinating over making definite decisions about something. You may say that the people you'd sold your house to were dithering about over getting the money together.

divvy n. As well as sharing the American meaning (i.e. to divide up), we also use this as yet another of our words for accusing people of being idiots. Likely derived from "divot", meaning "clod". Nice and tame, calling someone a divvy is much on a par with telling them they are a pillock.

doddle adj. Something very easy. You might hear Michael Schumacher use the word to describe Formula One, but you wouldn't hear Brian Blessed using it to describe Mount Everest.

dodgem n. A British dodgem is an American "bumper-car", as you might find at a fairground. Odd that the British name should imply that the aim of the game is quite the opposite of what it is.

dodgy adj. If something or someone is described as dodgy, this means that they are either shady ("I bought it off some dodgy punter in the pub") or sexually suggestive ("The old bloke in the office keeps saying dodgy things to me at the coffee machine").

dog-end n. The stubbed-out end of a cigarette - I'm afraid I haven't the faintest idea from whence this comes.

dogsbody n. Some sort of lowly servant - your dogsbody would likely be the person who polished your shoes, emptied your bins and cleaned your loo. That is, if you were lucky enough to have someone like that. I certainly don't. The etymology is anyone's guess.

dole n. The dole is an allocation of money that the government gives to unemployed people, ostensibly to help them eat and clothe themselves during their fervent search for gainful employment but really for buying fags and lager. American loafers are the beneficiaries of a similar system known as welfare.

dolt n. A good proportion of this dictionary can be summed up in a simple phrase. If, as a foreigner travelling around the UK, you come across a word whose meaning you are unaware of, make the assumption that it means "idiot". Dolt is a prime example.

dosh n. Money. This is a fairly London-based term but was popularised by Harry Enfield's song Loadsamoney.

doss v. To sit about not doing much. You might describe one of your less-producive colleagues as a dosser, because he (or she, I suppose - laziness is not quite confined to males) sits around dossing all the time.

dowdy adj. Dowdy is simply drab and dull - most often used to describe the way someone dresses and used in a similar context to the Australian "daggy". Of course, if you've never heard the context in which Australians use "daggy", this only serves to complicate matters.

dozy adj. Perhaps most kindly represented by the word slow. Someone described as dozy might be a little sluggish at picking things up.

drawing-pin n. A pin with a fairly large flat head - known better to Americans by the slightly more descriptive term "thumb-tack".

dressing gown n. A dressing gown is what Americans call a robe. Not the ceremonial type of robe - the one that you wear when you've come out of the bath to answer the door like attractive young ladies tend to do in coffee advertisements.

dual carriageway n. What we call a dual carriageway the Americans call a divided highway. There is often very little difference between a dual carriageway and a motorway except that learner drivers are not allowed onto motorways.

dummy n. As well as being an insult and a mannekin, in the UK a dummy is one of those teat-things you put in babies' mouths to stop them crying. Americans call them pacifiers.

Durex n. In the UK, Durex is a large (possibly the largest, I'm not sure) manufacurer of condoms. The word "Durex" has therefore slipped into the language (no pun intended) as yet another way for us repressed Brits to avoid actually saying "condom". A very similar thing happened in the US with "Trojan".

dustbin n. What we know as a dustbin, Americans will be more familiar with as a trashcan. How familiar you want to be with a dustbin is entirely up to you.

dustman n. I presume dustwoman is also appropriate in these heady days of sexual equality. Anyway, a dustman is the person who collects your rubbish from outside your house - Americans call them garbagemen.

duvet n. This is the big puffy quilt thing that covers you in bed at night these days, assuming you no longer sleep under old-fashioned sheets. Americans call a duvet a "comforter".

Dux n. Fairly old-fashioned, this is still used (generally in private schools) to denote the "best student" of a class year. I'm told that Americans have "valedictorians" instead, which somehow sounds much grander.

dynamo n. This is the device that takes power from the engine to recharge your battery as you drive along. Or, in the case of my own fine automobile, takes power from the engine and dribbles it lazily into the ether. This is in fact a pretty old-fashioned term - nowadays pretty much everyone calls them "alternators", which is what Americans call them.



- E -

Ecosse n. I am breaking the rules fairly appalingly by including this word. Ecosse is what the French call Scotland. It's in here only because the Sunday Times newspaper uses the word as a section title. The word is also known reasonably widely around the UK - the only Scottish motor-racing team anyone's ever heard of was called "Ecurie Ecosse".

eejit n. It's not out of the question that I've spelled this wrong. No, wait. It's almost inevitable that I've spelled this wrong. Means simply "idiot", and I can only guess that it is derived from something like a phonetic representation of an Irish person saying exactly that.

Elastoplast n. A slightly older word meaning the same as plaster in British English. Much the same as the US "Bandaid", to save you looking it up.

elevenses n. This is a rather old-fashioned word used to describe a mid-morning snack. I can only assume it is derived somehow from eleven o'clock.

engaged adj. Busy. Well, that is to say engaged in a telephone call. Many sit-coms have for years sustained plot lines built around the truly hilarious "engaged in a phone call/engaged to be married" mix-up.

estate n., adj. While most uses of this word are transatlantically the same, we call an estate car what Americans call a station wagon.

estate agent n. The people who deal with the niggly legal aspects of house buying and selling, and generally charge what seems like an unusually large fee for doing so. Americans call them realtors (no doubt among other unmentionable names, as we tend to do here).



- F -

faff v. To faff is to bumble about doing things that aren't quite relevant to the task in hand. You'll often find it used when men are complaining about women faffing around trying on different sets of clothes before going out, using up valuable drinking time.

fag n. Be exceedingly careful with this one. 1. "fag" is a very common (probably the most common) word meaning cigarette. One of the most amusing e-mails I've had concerning this page was from an American who had arrived at her company's UK offices to be told that the person she was looking for was "outside blowing a fag". 2. Almost worse, "fag" was used until recently to describe first year senior-school kids who had to perform menial tasks (cleaning boots, running errands and the like) for the seniors. A contributor tells me that he was met with aghast looks when he told a group of New Yorkers that he "was a fag at school last year". Modern thinking on slavery has seen that the practice of "fagging" has all but died out.

faggot n. In the UK, a faggot is a meatball. In the US, a faggot is a male homosexual. In reality, the American definition is known (if not really used) UK-wide, so most of the jokes involving "faggots in brine" have already been made. I am told that in the US the word also means a small bundle of twigs, so the phrase "toss another faggot on the fire" is not quite the incitement to violence that it might seem.

fancy v. As well as the standard meaning, Brits use the word fancy to refer to being keen on a particular member of the opposite sex. Seen in the contexts of "I really fancy that chap from the coffee shop" or "Hey, Stu, I think that bird over there fancies you!"

fanny n. This is another word which could leave you abroad and in dire straits. In the US, your fanny is your posterior and a fanny pack translates directly to what we Brits call a bum bag. In the UK, however, your fanny is - well, let's just say you only have a fanny if you're a girl; this is a family dictionary. Which does beg the question: what is a fanny pack?

filth n. I ought to mention at this juncture that just because words are in this fine tome doesn't mean to say that I use them regularly. That said... filth is used in the UK as a slightly-less-than-complimentary monicker for our fine police force.

fit adj. To describe someone as fit is very similar to describing them as tidy. A fit bird is a fine specimen of the fairer sex, and one described as "fit as a butcher's dog" might be particularly nice.

fizzy drink n. Our generic term for carbonated drinks - Americans differ across the country but seem to generally say something like "soda" or perhaps "pop".

flannel n. 1. A slightly old-fashioned homonym for "face-cloth". 2. Nonsense. Not sure of the derivation.

flat n. A flat is an appartment or a condominium. Having been enlightened by a contributor, I can tell you that it derives from the Germanic Old English word "flet", meaning "floor" (a flat occupies only one floor of a building).

flatmate n. British flatmates are American roommates.

floater n. I'm afraid there's no delicate way of putting it - in the UK, a "floater" is a poop. It is not, as one of my contributors discovered, an appropriate name for laptop that's shared around various parts of the office.

flog v. Slang term for selling something - a bloke in the pub might flog you a dodgy car stereo, but you're less likely to find Marks and Spencer announcing in the press that from next week they'll be flogging a whole new ladieswear range.

fluke n. A rather fortunate chance win. You might use it to describe the time your little sister beat you at darts. Well, unless your sister was a champion darts player or something. These examples are based upon my own family.

flutter v. A brief, low-stake foray into gambling. Many people have a flutter on the Grand National once a year or the odd boxing match. Anything more regular, and it's just straight gambling.

football n. What we call football Americans call soccer. The game that the Americans have the nerve to call football we call American Football. How anyone could watch a sport that has more players than audience and was designed with commercial breaks in mind is beyond me. I'm not too keen on soccer either, mind you.

fortnight n. A fortnight is a well-used word in the UK meaning two weeks. The word does exist in the US but is not in common use; I am told that using it there would have a similar response to using "a score" to represent twenty.

fringe n. The usual meaning of this word (the edge of something) applies on both sides of the continent but here in the UK we call the bits of hair coming down over your forehead a fringe, whilst Americans generally call them bangs.

frock n. This is a dress. I don't know an enormous amount about women's clothing, so I'll leave it at that.

frog n. I suspect that including racist terms in here is going to start me getting a barrage of abuse. To Brits, I'm afraid to say, "frogs" are French people. Of course, they are also little slimy green amphibians. Frogs, I mean, not French people.

frumpy adj. Calling someone frumpy or a frump is not very nice. Always directed at women, it conjures up an image of someone to whom time and gravity have been less than kind. It implies a middle-aged, dejected, post-menopausal, dowdy housewife. In case this isn't already apparent, it is not a compliment. Got that?

full stop n. The little dot at the end of a sentence - Americans will know it better as a period.

fuzz n. "The fuzz" is yet another euphemism for our fine British Police. Where it comes from, I am not at all sure.



- G -

gaffe n. Rather a London word, your gaff is your home, your place. Not sure of the derivation - any help appreciated. For what it's worth, the shorter word "gaff" (to make a foolish error) is the same in UK and US English.

gaffer n. The bloke in charge - I believe it primarily refers to the foreman of a building site, but can be used reasonably universally. In the film industry the gaffer is the set's chief electrician, in charge of pretty much anything with wires attached to it.

gaffer tape n. The heavy, slightly meshed sticky tape used to silence potential murder victims and to reliably and effectively attach small animals to tables. I had originally defined this as being "duct tape" but I'm told this is eroneous because duct tape melts and welds onto things, while gaffer tape doesn't. As my contributor points out: "seven years of work in the theatre industry has taught me... don't use duct tape on $2400 lights". I am told that our term derives from the film studio, where the gaffer will use the stuff extensively to hold bits and pieces down on set.

gear lever n. A gear lever is what you change gear on a car with, better known to our US cousins as the stick of a stick-shift (manual transmission) car. I'm sure you'll agree that, as ever, ours is a far more appropriate term. Stick shift sounds more like a type of boomerang or a keyboard problem. This applies to cars with manual transmission - we have hardly any automatic cars in the UK.

gearbox n. This is the box of gears that sits between the engine and the prop shaft. While understood by Americans, most call it the transmission which technically includes all sorts of sundries as well as the gearbox itself.

get off v. In the UK, getting off with someone involves snogging them. This must not be confused with the US term "to get someone off", which means, well, rather a lot more.

giddy adj. This is a very subtle difference, but heck. In the UK, giddiniess is dizziness or vertigo, while in the US it is silliness and/or giggling. I pondered for a while about putting this in, as a phrase like "this wine is making me giddy" could fit equally well with either definition and in many ways they're quite similar. However, I was swayed by an American contributor who was asked on his British driving license application whether he was "subject to excessive giddiness".

git n. Tricky one to define. What it doesn't mean is what The Waltons meant when they said it (as in "git outta here, John-Boy"). Git is technically an insult but has a twinge of jealousy to it. You'd call someone a git if they'd won the Readers' Digest Prize Draw, outsmarted you in a battle of wits or been named in Bill Gates' Last Will and Testament because of a spelling mistake. Like sod, it has a friendly tone to it. I'm told it derives from Arabic, where it describes a pregnant female camel, of all things. I'm also told that it is a contraction of the word "illegitimate" - you be the judge.

give over expl. This is a very close British English equivalent to the American "give me a break". I believe that its origins lie in Northern England but I'm not sure.

give way expl. This phrase on a road sign means that at the junction you're approaching, other traffic has the right of way. They are white signs with a red line around then; Americans have instead yellow ones with "Yield" written on them. While on the subject of road signs it's worth mentioning that our "Stop" signs (we have comparatively few of them) really do mean stop and not just "slow down a bit" as the American ones seem to.

glass v. Yes, we do share the same definition when this word is used as a noun. When used as a verb in the UK, however, this describes the act of breaking a glass and shoving the bottom of it into someone's face, thereby causing some degree of distress. My friends and I used to think it was rip-roaring fun to have a few beers on a Friday night and then go around the pubs in town glassing attractive ladies. This is a joke.

gob n., v. Your gob is a rather vulgar definition of your mouth. Almost always used in the context of "shut your gob" or, to be a little more gramatically specific, "shut yer gob". Equally savoury is the verb "gob" which means to spit. It's possible it derives from Gaelic, where it means a bird's beak. More likely perhaps is that it derives from the English navy, where it was used widely to refer to drains and, more specifically, the toilet.

gobshite n. I think this only exists in northern England and Scotland (yes, they are two different places) and in a similar way to the US "bullshit", quite literally means the shite that is coming out of your gob. It can also be used as a noun (hmm, wait, that's a noun too) to describe the person who is emitting said matter.

gobsmacked adj. Nothing to do with punching people in the face (although I'm sure that's where it derives from originally), to describe someone as being gobsmacked means they're very surprised or taken aback.

Gordon Bennett expl. "Gordon Bennett" is an expletive, used very much in the one-liner context of things like "Bollocks!" or "Jesus Christ!". Its source lies in the mid-19th century at the feet of James Gordon Bennett, son of the founder of the New York Herald and Associated Press (also called Gordon Bennett, in case you thought this was going to be simple). Born with cash to spare, Gordon Jr. became legendary for high-roller stunts and fits of notariety including urinating in his in-laws' fireplace, and burning money in public. His name entered the lexicon as a term of exclamation for anything a bit over the top.

gormless adj. A person who is gormless is someone slightly lacking in the brain department; a bit daft. I understand that the word (as "gaumless") also exists in Scots-derived American English with the same meaning but that it is not in common use.

grammar n. Textbook. Textbook is in my humble opinion a far better choice of word, because not only is calling it a grammar bad grammar, it also opens opportunities for a terrible line of jokes involving the word "grandmother". Thanks to somebody for pointing out that I had put these in the dictionary the wrong way around…

grass n., v. An informer (or the act of informing on someone). Normally used in the context of criminals grassing on each other to the police, but I certainly remember being grassed up at school for going to MacDonalds instead of Modern Studies. If I could remember who it was who squealed, I'd name and shame him but right at this very minute I can't recall.

grotty adj. Something described as grotty is something undesirable in a sort of bit-disgusting way. Your mother might use it to describe your room, or your girlfriend might use it to describe your whole flat. Or maybe you're cleaner than me.

guff v. To guff is to break wind - this word is presumably some sort of derivation of chuff or vice versa. I'm not sure whether it's related or not, but you can also use guff to imply verbiage, in a sense like "I asked him what happened, but he just gave me a load of guff". Not to be confused with gaff.

gutted adj. Whilst also meaning to have one's intestines removed, this is used in the UK to refer to a huge disappointment. You might use it to describe your state of health after your football team were beaten eight nill and you dropped your car keys in a pond.

guv'nor n. A very Cockney term for "the boss". While I've no doubt this derives from the word "governor", I can guarantee that you'll never hear the missing letters being pronounced or even written.

gyp n. A sort of irritating pain. You could equally well refer to your old war-wound or your next door neighbour "giving you gyp".



- H -

haggis n. The Haggis is a small Scottish mammal, unfortunately known better for the unpleasant-tasting dish it is often made into. There has been a lot of concern here lately that over-farming may endanger the remaining population - if you want to help, please voice your concerns to The World-Wide Fund for Nature. Please mention the fact that you're American, and that you were made aware of the poor creature's plight by this fine web page.

halfpint n. A halfpint is an affectionate name for someone who is shorter than average - see pint for the derivation. The term did at one point make it to the US; I am told that the Scots-Irish Canadian Charles "Pa" Ingalls (made famous by the TV show "Little House on the Prairie") referred to his daughter Laura as halfpint.

handbrake n. A handbrake is the equivalent of the American Parking Brake or Emergency Brake (the little handle behind the shifter, not the transmission "P" position). A handbrake operates like a normal brake pedal but only on the rear wheels. Before the days of speed-cameras, Brits used to use the handbrake to slow down when they passed police cars as the brake lights don't go on and it's not so obvious you were speeding.

hand-luggage n. Belongings you are intending carrying into an aeroplane rather than checking into the hold. Americans call this "carry-on baggage".

hard adj. As well as all the usual places, this word is used in the UK to mean "tough". A hard man is a tough guy, someone who won't take any flack. This amuses Americans, for obvious reasons.

haver v. Scottish. To haver is to ramble incoherently. I reckon I've had more mail about this one word than any others because it features in the Proclaimers' song I'm Gonna Be (500 miles).

head boy n. At my school this was synonymous with the Dux - this is the highest-achieving pupil in the school. Usually get are given similar honorous tasks to perform to prefects.

hen-night n. A hen-night is the girls-only night out, centering on the bride, before a wedding. It seems to be a legal requirement that the bride is wearing a wedding dress, some traffic cones and L-plates and that everybody but the bride ends up sleeping with some random bloke, just to annoy her. Yanks (erm, sorry, Americans) call this a "Bachelorette Night". The whole event, I mean, not the sleeping together at the end.

hill-walking n. Much as you'd imagine, this means tramping around over hills. Why anyone bothers, I'm not sure. It's uncomfortable walking up hills and it's uncomfortable walking down them. This is why we invented cars. Anyway, shuold you be keen on that sort of thing, you'd best call it "hiking" in the States.

hire v. Rent. While Americans rent rental-cars, we hire hire-cars.

hob n. The top bit of a cooker with the rings on it, where you put pans and things. I think the American equivalent might be "stove" or "cooktop".

holiday n. I've always wondered about this word and was enlightened by one of my trustworthy contributors. A holiday for a person in the UK is any time taken off work. For Americans, a vacation is time taken off specifically for yourself and a holiday is time that everyone gets off and they're paid for (Christmas, New Year, Easter, etc.). What Americans call holidays, we call public holidays.

homely adj. To describe something as homely in the UK means that it's pleasant and comfortable, like home is supposed to be. Apparently, calling something homely in the US is tantamount to labelling it, in the words of my contributor, "butt-ugly".

hood n. The bit of a convertible car that, well, converts. Americans call it the "convertible top", and unfortunately this discrepancy only serves to complicate the bonnet/boot confusion.

hoover n., v. I took this word out a while ago because it is extensively used in the US, but then put it back in again after people complained. A hoover is a vacuum cleaner, and hoovering is the art of vacuum cleaning. I believe that Hoover were an early, if not the first, manufacturer of such devices.

hyphen n. This is the punctuation character that Americans will know better as a "dash". As per usual, though, the American term is widely recognised in the UK.



- I -

ickle n. One of the few rather sickly British "cutesy" words, ickle just means "very small". It would usually be seen in use regarding "sweet" things i.e. "what an ickle puppy!" rather than "dad - I've just had an ickle accident in your car".

indicator n. Indicators are the little orange lights that flash on the side of the car to show that you're about to frantically try and turn across four lanes of traffic into your drive. These are known in the US as your "blinkers" or "turn signals".

innit expl. A very London-centric contraction of the phrase "isn't it". Nasal pronounciation obligatory.



- J -

jacket potato n. A potato baked in its skin and usually filled with something. Americans (and most Brits) will generally call them baked potatoes.

jam n. This is one of these words I wish I'd never mentioned. Having suggested that British jam is American jelly, I was hit by a deluge of mail saying quite the opposite. As I (now) understand it, what Americans call jelly (the jam without fruity-bits in it), we still call jam. What Americans call jello, we call jelly.

jammy adj. Lucky. Slang - often seen in the phrase "you jammy git", uttered graciously on some sort of defeat.

jam-sandwich n. Also jam-butty - a police car. So called because they are white, with a red stripe down the middle. If you half-close your eyes, squint, stand on your head and recite the Lord's Prayer backwards, they could in some ways be seen as not dissimilar to a jam sandwich.

jelly n. A gelatin-based desert; I know that this word is in use in the 'States but many Americans know it better as jello - a brand name we don't have over here. The jolly nice sweets that Americans call jelly beans, we also have and call the same thing. OK, so they don't really resemble jelly, but I'd say they have precious little in common with beans either.

John Thomas n. "John Thomas" is slang in the UK for one's penis. The term derives from the name the leading man in D.H. Lawrence's novel Lady Chatterley's Lover gave to his own appendage. The book was made famous by the obscenity trial it landed Penguin Books in during the 1950s.

joint n. A large side of meat, like a Sunday roast. It has to be said that joint is, like in the US, also the commonest word here to describe a, erm, herbal cigarette, so you'd be unlikely to get away with referring to your "Sunday joint" without someone giggling these days.

jumble sale n. A wonderful event where people get together in order to sell the revolting tacky rubbish they've accumulated over the years. Americans know them as yard sales.

jumper n. Over here a jumper is what Americans call a sweater. I'm told that in the US, a jumper is a "set of overalls with a skirt instead of trousers" - what what would have once called a "pinafore". I am also told that it is police slang for someone who leaps to their death from a high building or bridge but I suspect this is not related to the British translation.



- K -

kagoul n. A kagoul is a light waterproof jacket, usually one that zips up into an unfeasibly small self-contained package. I understand that the word derives from the French "cagoule" (meaning much the same thing), which in turn comes from the Latin "cuculla", meaning "hood". Americans call this device a "wind breaker" or "poncho".

kecks n. Trousers. Not sure why, if anyone wishes to tell me I'd be delighted.

kerfuffle n. A kerfuffle is a big fuss, a rumpus. Not entirely sure of the derivation.

khasi n. Pronounced "kah-zee", this is a rather... err... coarse word for the toilet. Would be more likely to be seen in the context of "I'm away to the khasi to drain the lizard" rather than "Excuse me, madam - could you direct me to the khasi?" I'm told it is derived from the Arabic. This might not be true. People lie to me all the time.

kip n. "A kip" or "some kip" is just some sleep - I'm not very sure of the derivation.

kit n. A sports kit (rugby kit, football kit, etc.) is what the Americans call a uniform - it's what you wear while you're playing.

Kiwi n. As well as referring to a Kiwi fruit, the word "Kiwi" is used in the UK and Australia to refer to a New Zealander.

knackered adj. To describe yourself as "knackered" means that you are really tired - something along the lines of "beat". However, as usual it has a slightly more dodgy meaning as it technically describes being exhausted after sex. You can get away with it in everyday conversation but bear in mind that everyone knows the true meaning too. The derivation, I understand, is from the time when old, worn out horses were taken to the "knacker's yard" and... well... converted into glue.

knees-up n. A rather antiquated word for a bit of a party. I say "a bit" because any party referred to as such is more likely to involve some post-menopausal ladies singing around a piano than a bunch of bright young things doing lines off the coffee table.

knickers n. Knickers are underpants, specifically women's underpants. In old-fashioned English and American English, knickers (an abbreviation of the Dutch-derived word "knickerbockers") are knee-length trousers most often seen nowadays on golfers. This is apparently where the basketball team the New York Knicks got their name.

knob n. Popular misspelling. See nob.

knock up v. Okay, okay, I know I'm trying to restrict this to words rather than phrases but I've had a lot of mail about this one and as it's potentially dangerous I'm making an exception for it. In UK English, knocking someone up involves banging on their door, generally to get them out of bed. In US English, knocking someone up is getting someone pregnant. However, although most Brits will feign innocence, most of us do know the US connotations of the phrase and it adds greatly to the enjoyment of using it.



- L -

lad n. A word somewhat in vogue at the moment, "lads" are blokes doing blokey things, generally including but not limited to getting pissed; trying to pull birds; making a lot of noise and causing some good wholesome criminal damage. Various derivations have sprung up, with "laddish" covering this type of behaviour and "laddettes" being girls doing much the same thing.

ladder n. In most circumstances, this word means exactly the same in the UK as it does in the US. However, what we in the UK would refer to as a ladder in tights, Americans would know better as a run in pantyhose. Not something I personally experience very often, I hasten to add.

lairy adj. Someone who is being lairy is being somewhat noisy and a bit abusive. As us Brits are shy, reserved types this almost always means someone who has been drinking.

lay-by n. A little parking area off the side of a main road (usually motorway), where people generally stop to have a sandwich, let their children vomit, empty the dog or copulate with their work colleagues. I don't think, however, that this is where the name came from. Americans call these places "truck stops" or "rest areas".

Left Luggage n. A place (usually in a railway station) where you can dump your belongings for a time while you bumble around shopping, or whatever takes your fancy.

lemonade n. In the UK, lemonade is a clear, carbonated drink very similar to Sprite or 7-Up, but with only lemons instead of limes and what have you. In the US (and in the UK, but under the monicker "traditional lemonade") this refers to a variant that, for want of a better description, is a bit more lemoney. It's darker in colour, can be either still or carbonated and often contains bits of lemon.

let v. The act of renting, applying specifically to property. Tenants let flats from landlords, usually through letting agents.

lift n. I thought that we Brits called lifts what the Americans called elevators. I'm reminded by a contributor that the terminology for floor numbering is different between the UK and the US. In the UK, the first level of a building is called the "ground floor" - the one on the ground. The next one up is the first floor. In the US, the level you walk into off the street is the first floor. This conjures up the image of an American high-powered executive, hungry and listless, trapped forever on the first floor of a British office looking for the door. Well, it does for me. A contributor tells me that new American buildings tend to adopt the British floor-numbering system, at least as far as renaming the first floor "ground". Can this be true? I have to admit (I'm not putting it in writing, mind) that I thought the Americans had the right idea here. Oh well.

light n. You thought you knew what this was, didn't you? So did I. Well, it's also a largely obsolete British word describing a car window. Apparently, certain cars used to be called "five lights" on account of their having five windows. Not to be confused with a sparsely equipped Christmas tree. The story doesn't end there, of course. I am told that light is in fact used in the US architecturally to refer to the individual panes of a split window and that the etymology of the term is nautical - apparently small prisms were inserted in the decks of sailing ships to improve visibility below deck, and these themselves became known as "lights".

lodger n. Someone who rents a room in your home. A bit like a flatmate but on a less equal footing ownership-wise.

lolly n. 1. Slang term for money. No idea of the etymology, I'm afraid. 2. A lolly or an "ice lolly" is a sort of frozen sugary flavoured lump wrapped around a small bit of wood and designed specifically to drip all down your front as it defrosts. It's known better in the States as a "popsicle".

loo n. What we call the loo is what Americans very politely call the restroom. I believe that the derivation of this word is from a long time ago when people used to shout "gardez l'eau" (the French equivalent of "look out for the water") and throw their human waste out of the window onto gutters in the street. More amusingly, a contributor tells me that his history professor informed the class that loo was an abbreviation for Louis XIV, one-time king of France. It was, he says, adopted by the British so that every time they went to the bathroom they were symbolically "pissing on France". True or not, it's an interesting thought. On top of all of this is the possibility that in large mansions the toilet was always numbered room one-hundred to save any embarassing confusions. There's a good chance that one of these etymologies is right, so take one you like and tell your friends about it.

lorry n. A lorry is the nearest eqivalent we have to a truck. I say "nearest equivalent" because lorries aren't generally as big as trucks. This has less to do with linguistic differences and more to do with the fact that our roads generally only have lane numbers in single figures.

L-plates n. These are big white square stickers with a red letter "L" in them, which have to be put on the front and back of a car that's being driven by a learner driver (i.e. someone yet to pass their driving test). Americans don't have such a stipulation, perhaps because the legal age for driving an automobile is generally before the point they learn the alphabet. This is a joke.

lurgy n. This is a general diagnosis for any sort of minor sickness which you're not sure of the exact affliction. Could cover anything from the common cold to food poisoning.

luvvie n. A luvvie is a rather overexuberant (and almost invariably gay) thespian. Referring to actors as luvvies or luvvie darlings is rather scornful and demeaning - it's true, though, that a few of the older, camper actors do indeed refer to each other as "luvvie".



- M -

Mac n. An abbreviation for "Macintosh", the Mac is a light waterproof jacket which can usually be squashed up into an impressively small size for packing away. I used to have one that folded into its own pocket and I kept folding it up the wrong way around so the zip didn't close. I digress. I am told that the word is derived from the name of the gentleman who worked out how to infuse rubber and cloth and pointed at a website which provides some further elaboration. Americans will most likely call the same sort of thing a "windbreaker".

mad adj. While describing someone as "mad" in the US means they're pissed off, in the UK it means they're certifiably deranged.

manky adj. Describing something as manky is similar (but perhaps not quite as forceful) to describing it as gross or disgusting. I've had most of my wardrobe described as manky at some point in time.

Marmite n. I knew this should be in here because it exists in the UK (and Australia as Vegemite) and doesn't exist in the US. I did not, however, know exactly what it was until enlightened by a contributor who described it as "the plebian's version of gentleman's relish". It is apparently a spread made from yeast extract and is sharper in taste than Australia's similar Vegemite. It is like a vegetarian version of Bovril, which is made with beef extract.

mate n. Your mates are your good friends; your buddies. I understand that the derivation is maritime (from "shipmate") rather than carnal. I don't know about everyone else but in my case they're probably the last people I'd consider mating with.

mean adj. While in North America "mean" means (ha ha) nasty, in Britain it implies more being cheap or stingy with money. So when a Brit talks about his auntie Enid being mean, he's more likely to mean she's sitting on a million pounds under her mattress rather than she tweaks his ears every time he goes to visit.

mince n., v. 1. To flounce. I'm not sure whether this is in use in the US or not, but in the UK mincing means hamming it up in an over-the-top-gay fashion. 2. Rubbish. Watch out, as this isn't known UK-wide; I'm only including it because I think it's a great word. A bit playground-slangy, you might hear it in a context like "You seen that Starwars Episode 1?" / "Yeah, it's mince."

minge n. This is a rather derogatory word for a lady's front bottom. No idea as to the etymology, perhaps someone can help.

minging adj. Someone (usually a young lady, I'm afraid) who's described as "minging" or "a minger" is quite breathtakingly unattractive. On fire and put out with a shovel, that sort of thing.

mobile phone n. What we Brits call a mobile phone (or just a mobile), Americans know better as a cell phone (or... yeugh... cellie), which to me seems to suggest anything but mobility.

Mole grip n. No, I'm afraid it isn't sexual. A mole grip is one of those fiendishly complicated wrench-type devices which can have its tension adjusted by means of a screw on the handle end. Americans will know them as "vise grips", but it's probably safe to say that if you don't know what I'm talking about on either score then you are not going to live life at a deficit.

momentarily adj. This is quite a small discrepancy, but could be an important one... in the US, momentarily means "in a moment". In the UK, it means "for a moment". I am alerted to this by a British contributor who heard a station announcement in Chicago that his train would be "stopping momentarily at platform 6".

moose n. We don't have wild moose over here; moose is instead put to use in describing rather unattractive women. You'd probably hear it in post-drinking assessments, like: "Yeah, was a great night - we all got completely pissed and Bob ended up snogging a complete moose!"

moreish adj. I wrote that you'd never find this word in a dictionary, but I've had to change it now someone points out to me that it's in the OED. I hate you all. It means something (usually food) which leads you to want more - Jaffa Cakes, Jelly Babies or peanuts would be some good personal examples. It's rather light-hearted; you wouldn't go around describing cocaine as moreish, whether it is or not.

motor n. A motor is an automobile - it's a slightly slang word though. I can only presume that it derives from the time when all cars were known as "motor-cars".

motorway n. A motorway is a freeway. Except that motorways tend to be no more than three lanes to each side and as far as I can tell freeways are often wider than they are long.

mum n. Mom. Among the derivations are mater (very 1920s public-school) and ma (rather Scottish).

munter n. Describing a woman as a munter is one of the least complimentary things you could probably say about her appearance - it's pretty much equivalent to "dog" or "pig". Where the word comes from I have not the first idea; any informed ideas appreciated.

muppet n. Describing someone as a muppet is generally equivalent to calling them a dimwit. As you may have guessed, given that the characters in the puppet series of the same name don't generally come across as erudite intellectuals.



- N -

naff adj. To describe something as "naff" is fairly insulting. It implies that the subject is rather tacky, ineffectual and generally crap. This could be a part of the reason why the French clothing firm Naf Naf recently pulled out of the UK.

nancy n. A rather derogatory term for a man who is either extremely effeminate, or homosexual. Or both. Often conjoined into the term "nancy-boy".

nappy n. A "nappy" is the UK equivalent of a diaper. I'd exercise some degree of caution when using this word because so far I've heard it defined in US English as a napkin, a tablecloth, unkempt clothing or hair, general dirtiness or a derogatory term for an African-American baby.

narked adj. Someone who is narked about something is a bit annoyed, rather grumpy. What we Scots might call "pit oot".

natter n. To have a natter is to engage in idle banter, to chatter. It's a gossipy and rather girly thing - girls phone up their friends for endless hours just nattering while blokes tend to pretend to themselves that their conversations are far more constructive.

nearside n. The side of a car closest to the kerb (the other side being the offside).

nick v. 1. Steal. To nick something is to steal it. Likewise, something you buy from a dodgy bloke over a pint has quite probably been nicked. In a strange paradox, if a person is described as nicked, it means they've been arrested and if a person is in the nick, they're in prison. 2. Condition. Commonly used in the phrase "in good nick", the nick of something is the sort of state of repair it's in. Seen in contexts like "Think I'll buy that car; it seems in pretty good nick".

niggle n., adj. A niggle (or something which niggles) is a nagging problem. You might hear it in a context like "He seemed okay, but I had a niggling doubt."

nip v. 1. TO quickly go and do something, very similar to "pop", in the context of "pop out for a minute" or the like. 2.n. A chill - you might say there was "a nip in the air" or describe the weather as "nippy". And yes, we do also use it to derogatorily refer to Japanese people, so the Pearl Harbour "nip in the air" jokes have probably been covered already.

nippy adj. 1. Very similar to stroppy. Calling someone "nippy" implies that they're being both irritable and irritating. 2. "Cold", in a similar sort of a way to the word chilly.

nob n., v. Your nob (presuming that you're male, of course) is... how could I best describe this... your one-eyed trouser snake. Comprenez? Consequently, to describe someone as a nob is not overly flattering. Using the word as a verb implies active use of said penis and could be be equated to the American slang "bone" or British shag. Amusingly, nob is also used to describe members of the aristocracy or people of importance (a contraction of "nobility"). I'm not making this up. Just in case you thought this word was in use in the 'States, a contributor sent me this photograph of a sign outside an appartment block in Dallas, Texas. There is a Nob Hill in San Francisco; a Bald Knob in Arkansas and even worse, perhaps, is the fact that there is a town sixty miles south of St. Louis, Missouri, called Knob Lick.

nonce n. A nonce is a child-molestor, as featured in the fine "Brasseye" spoof TV programme where popular celebrities were duped into wearing T-shirts advocating "nonce-sense". I am told that the term originates from when sex offenders were admitted as "non-specified offenders" (thereby "non-specified" and thence "nonce") in the hope that they might not get the harsh treatment metered out to such convicts.

nosey parker n. Someone who takes a little bit too much interest in other people's goings on. I have not the faintest idea of the derivation - perhaps someone would like to enlighten me.

nought n. pron. "nawt". The digit zero. I am told by contributors that it is also occasionally used in the US and is an Old English word meaning "nothing" still used in northern regional English. More common in the United States is "ought".

numpty n. Scottish. Calling someone a numpty is a friendly way of calling them an idiot, in a similar sort of a way to "bampot".

nutter n. Someone with a screw loose. This applies to both the "insane" or "reckless" definitions, so a gentleman who scaled the Eiger naked and a chap who ate both of his parents could both validly be nutters, albeit in slightly different ways.



- O -

och expl. Scottish. A very Scottish word of exclamation. Very Scottish. Groundskeep Willie Scottish. Used in a context like "Och, you're joking me!"

off-licence n. In the UK, an off-license is what Americans call a liquor store. The term comes from the fact that the alcohol can be sold on the condition that it may only be drunk off the premises.

offside n. The side of a car furthest from the kerb (the side nearer being the nearside).

omnibus n. This is a quaint word, dating back to the times when buses were open at the rear and had a conductor ready to meet you. An omnibus is generally one step technologically forward of a tram. I am told that the Latin word "omnibus" means simply "for all", which could explain why the concatenated episodes of of television or radio series (typically soap operas) often screened at the weekends (rather than on weekday nights) are known as "omnibus editions".

one-off n. Something that only happens once. You might use it if you were selling your artwork or attempting to apologise for an affair with your secretary.



- P -

pants n. Be exceedingly careful again. Pants as far as us Brits are concerned are underpants, not trousers at all. This word will cause similar misunderstandings to knickers. Pants can also be used as a general "derogatory word" in a similar but more polite way to crap.

parky adj. "Cold", in a very similar way to chilly or nippy. It's also an abbreviation for Park-keeper (possibly in US English too), but despite my cavernous capacity for humour, try as I might I couldn't find any way to tie these in together.

pasty n. This is another one to watch out for. Pasties (pronounced with a short "a", as in "cat") are meat or vegetable-filled pastries in the UK (and also in some parts of the US). These are not to be confused with pasties (long "a", as in "face"), which in the US are a flat pad designed to be put over the nipple to avoid it being too prominent. Or to attach tassles to, depending on your fancy. This information, I hasten to add, came from unnamed contributors rather than firsthand.

pavement n. What we call the pavement, Americans call the sidewalk. This would be fine, but unfortunately Americans call the bit of the road you drive cars on the pavement, rather than Tarmac, as we Brits do. I wonder how many holidaymakers have been run over as a result of this confusion. Well, probably none really. I digress. Interestingly, I am told by a contributor that sidewalk is in fact an old, now-unused English word meaning exactly what the Americans take it to mean.

pear-shaped adj. If something has gone pear-shaped it means it's all gone rather wrong. Usually it's meant in a rather jovial sense, in a similar way to the American expression "out of kilter" or "off kilter". You might see it in contexts like "Well, I was supposed to have a civillised dinner with my mates but we had a few drinks and it all went a bit pear-shaped". You would not see it in contexts like "Well, she went in for the operation but the transplant organ's been rejected and the doctor says it's all gone a bit pear-shaped".

pecker n. A common misconception is that, to Brits, your pecker is your chin - hence the phrase "keep your pecker up". Sorry folks, but over here pecker means exactly the same thing as it does in the US. The phrase "keep your pecker up" is derived, I am told, from a time when pecker was simply a reference to a bird's beak and encouraged keeping your head held high. I understand that the word became a euphamism for "penis" after the poet Catullus used it to refer to his love Lesbia's pet sparrow in a rather suggestive poem which drew some fairly blatant parallels.

peckish adj. Absolutely nothing to do with peckers, a person described as peckish is a little hungry. Only a little hungry, mind, not ravenous - you wouldn't hear people on the news talking about refugees who'd tramped across mountains for two weeks and were as a result a little peckish.

Pelican crossing n. The stripes on the road with the flashing beacons at the side of them, which signify that pedestrians have the right to cross the road at these particular points. In reality they are usually placed straight after junctions or at some other such point where car drivers have difficulty seeing them, so they instead signify the most popular places to be run over on that particular stretch of road. A contraction, I am told, of "PEdestrian LIght CONtrolled crossing".

pensioner n. Quite simply someone who is drawing their pension, i.e. over the age of 65. We also use the acronym OAP, meaning "Old-Aged Pensioner". With characteristic political correctness, Americans tend to call them seniors.

perspex n. This is a sort of plastic equivalent of glass - Americans know it better as "plexiglass". Both are possibly brand names?

petrol n. What we Brits call petrol (petroleum), Americans call gas (gasoline).

phut adj. Something that is described as "gone phut" has breathed its last, expired. It is an ex-something.

pickle n. As well as using it to refer to any sort of pickled cucumber or gherkin, we brits use this word to mean a sort of brown, strongly flavoured blobby mass that people put in sandwiches. I'm really not very sure what it's made of. Pickled something, I can only hope.

pikey n. The nearest thing we Brits have to "white trash". Pikeys can be easily recognised by their track suits, Citroen Saxos with 18-inch wheels and under-car lighting, and their pregnant fifteen-year-old girlfriends.

pillock n. Idiot. You could almost decide having read this dictionary that any unknown British word is most likely to mean "idiot". And you could almost be right. We have so many because different ones sound better in different sentences. On the subject of the word in hand, I am told by a contributor that it's a contraction of the 16th century word "pillicock" (describing the male member) and by another (who admits to not being completely sure) that this may be a male animal with one lone testicle and derived from "bullock". It's funny, even if it's not true...

pinch v. To pinch something is to steal it. A Brit contributor tells me that her father got anything but the reaction he expected when in New Orleans he asked a friend if he could pinch their date for a dance.

pint n. The standard UK measure of beer - apparently equivalent to 0.568 litres in new money. It is possible to buy a half-pint instead but doing so will marr you for life in the eyes of your peers. Drinking half-pints of beer is generally seen as the liquid equivalent of painting your fingernails and mincing. However, it's not quite as bad as drinking American pints of beer. Whilst pretending that a pint really is a pint, Americans managed to get away with putting 16 fluid ounces in theirs while ours contain 20. My source tells me that the issue is compounded further by the fact that an American fluid ounce is also 4% smaller than ours. Ah, but that's never the end of the story, is it. Yet another contributor tells me that the reason American pints are different sizes is actually our fault. Prior to American independence a British king (not sure which one) elected to raise tax on beer but upon discovering that he needed an act of parliament to change the tax, he instead changed the size of the pint (which only required a royal edict).

pips n. The little seeds in the middle of fruit guaranteed to get stuck in your teeth. Americans call them "pits". Difficult to imagine how or when the two words split. Isn't language an interesting thing, unless you've been banging away for umpteen thankless years writing a dictionary about it. Bastards, the lot of you.

pish n., v. Scottish. In reality just a Scottish variant on the word "piss", with the difference that it can be used not only to refer to urine/urination, but also as a mild sort fo swear word, much similar to "crap".

piss-artist n. No, this is not someone who specialises in drawing yellow pictures in the snow. A piss-artist is someone who spends most of their time drinking booze.

pissed adj. Drunk. We do not use it alone as a contraction of "pissed off", which means that Americans saying things like "I was really pissed with my boss at work today" leaves Brits wide-eyed. To go out on the piss is to venture out drinking. In what may well be a throwback to the US' use of the word, we use the phrase taking the piss to mean poking fun at someone.

pitch n. To us Brits, a pitch is an area of land - this is almost exclusively used in reference to a playing field (we say "football pitch" rather than the US "football field") or an area allocated to a trader, e.g. in a market.

plaster n. A British plaster is an American bandage or Band-Aid. In both British and American English, to describe onesself as plastered implies that you are wildly under the influence of alcohol. See? We do share the odd word, after all.

Plod n. The Police in general. You'd find it used in a context like "you climb over the fence and I'll keep an eye out for Plod". That's a made-up context, by the way - I'm not drawing from personal experience here. I am told that the word derives from a character in Enid Blyton's Noddy books named PC Plod.

plonker adj. Yet another word for calling someone an idiot. I'm tempted to write a Dictionary of British Insults. This is also (rarely) used to refer to one's penis (or someone else's, if you don't have one). I'm tempted to also write a Dictionary of British Words For Penis. A future bestseller; keep an eye out. Not that eye.

plus-fours n. This is an awful item of clothing which consists of sort-of-dungarees which stop at the knee. Whilst popular in pre-World-War Britain, plus-fours these days are firmly in the realms of brightly-colours golfers or inbreds.

po-faced adj. To describe someone as po-faced means that they're somewhat glum - in many ways similar to long-faced. I have been informed that this is because po is an abbreviation for chamber pot (an old-fashioned bed-pan).

polo-neck n., adj. This is a style of jumper in which the neck runs right up to the chin; far enough up to cover even the most adventurous of love-bites. Americans call them "turtle-necks". While I could attempt to have a pop at this by saying a turtle's neck doesn't even faintly resemble one, I don't have much of a cultural leg to stand on as I'm not sure they are overly reminiscent of polo mints either.

polythene n. The plastic-type stuff that plastic bags are made of. Americans call it "polyethylene".

ponce n. 1. A man who is pretentious in an effeminite manner. Ponces (quite often referred to using the phrase perfume ponce) tend to grown their hair quite long and talk loudly into their mobile phone while sitting at the traffic lights in their convertible Porsche. Describing a place as "poncy" would imply that these sorts of punters made up the bulk of its clientele. 2. To scrounge - i.e. "can I ponce a cigarette off you?". I'm told that the word originally meant living off the earnings of prostitution.

pong n. A bad smell. My maths teacher at school, Mr Benzies, also taught my uncle, who was fifteen or so years older than me. My uncle told me that in his day Mr Benzies was known unanimously as "Pongo Benzies" because "wherever he goes, the pong goes". If you're reading this, Mr Benzies, please remember that I'm just relating what my uncle said, and I didn't necessarily actually call you that, or try and get the rest of the year to call you it too.

poof n. This is a mildly derogatory term for a homosexual (I say mildly primarily because the rest are even worse).

poofter n. A simple derivation of poof, with exactly the same meaning.

porkies n. Another bit of cockney rhyming slang that's made it into the mainstream language, "porkies" come from "porky pies" - "lies".

post n., v. This is the UK equivalent of the American word mail. We don't mail things, we post them; we wait for the post in the morning when it's delivered by the postman (one word).

postgraduate n. Someone who's finished their university degree and, on the sudden realisation that they might have to actually get a job, has instead leapt enthusiastically into a PhD, a Masters, or some such other form of extended lunch-break. Americans know them better as "graduates", whilst we Brits reserve that term for people who have actually managed to leave.

potholing v. This is a sport better known in the USA as caving or spelunking - simply put it involves leaping down holes in the ground. I'm sure that, in a special way, it's fun.

potplant n. This is a plant in a pot. Not, as one contributor found out to her dismay, a cannabis plant.

potty adj. A fairly lighthearted term for someone who's losing their marbles a bit. Much on a par with "loopy" or "nuts".

poxy adj. Anything described as poxy is generally crappy and third-rate. Presumably derived in some way from when horrible things were described as being ridden with a pox.

pram n. An abbreviation for the esoteric "perambulator", this is the rather old-fashioned wheeled device used to carry one's offspring around - known in the US as a baby carriage.

prat n. To call somebody a prat is rather similar to calling them an idiot. It's often meant to mean someone's general attitude than concerning one particular incident - "I met my sister's boyfriend the other day and he seems like a complete prat". Derived, I believe, from a time when the word was slang for your posterior (in a similar way to the more contemporaneous arse) and interestingly from that came the peculiarly American word pratfall, a fall on one's behind.

prawn n. The least powerful piece on a chess board. OK, I lied. "A prawn" to a Brit is a "shrimp" to an American.

prefect n. Prefects are school-children who, having done particularly well academically or on the sports field, are allowed to perform such glorious tasks as making sure everyone behaves properly in the lunch queue, tidying up after school events and showing new pupils around at the weekends. As you may have guessed, I was never a prefect. Bitter? Me?

pub n. This is an abbrevation for "public house" and best equates to what Americans call a bar. However, in my experience, British pubs are generally far more sociable than American bars. While you would go into a pub to have a pleasant lunch with your family or one or two sociable beers with a couple of friends, you'd only go into a bar in order to get blind drunk and start a fight.

public school n. Ah, the joys of confusion. Contrary to what one might imagine, a public school is not one that's open to all and sundry, it's a fee-paying school. Schools funded by the government are known as "grammar schools", "state schools" or "elementaries". To, erm, add to the muddle, public schools are called "private schools" in Scotland.

pudding n. This is an interesting one. While we still use the word pudding in the same sense as Americans do (Christmas pudding, rice pudding, etc) it is also treated here as an equivalent to the rarely-used dessert. To complicate things further, we have main meal dishes which are described as pudding - black pudding and white pudding. Some time ago I asked if anyone knew exactly what was in these dishes, but I almost regret it. Apparently, "a black or white pudding is made with offal, ground oatmeal, dried pork and general kitchen slops". Lovely. Even worse, the difference is that "the black one is blackened by soaking it in the pig's blood before it is either fried or grilled". Something to steer clear of, if you ask me.

pukka expl. I almost put this in the "food and drink" category because it has been so popularised lately by Jamie Oliver, British TV's "Naked Chef". Something described as pukka is the genuine article; good stuff. It is derived from the Hindi word "pakka", meaning "substantial", and made it to the UK via the Colonies.

pull v. The art of distracting the opposite sex. Pulling is conceptually very similar to hooking up. To be on the pull is a less proactive version of sharking. Single males and females are almost all on the pull but will deny it fervently and pretend to be terribly surprised when eventually it pays off.

puncture n. The normal meaning of this word (i.e. an infarction) applies on both sides of the pond, but here in the UK we describe a flat tyre as a puncture. Americans simply call it a flat.

punter n. The nearest equivalent to an omnisex version of bloke. A punter is usually a customer of some sort, but this need not be the case. I believe that originally a punter was someone placing bets at a racecourse. However, as the language developed natural progression decreed that, as the greater proportion of the British public were susceptible to a flutter, it described almost all of us. However, because of the word's gambling roots, punters are regarded slightly warily and shouldn't be taken at face value. In the US, the punter is the member of an American Football team charged with punting the ball a decent distance.

purse n. A purse in the US is a small handbag, and therefore applies exclusively to women. Here in the UK, a money-purse is a wallet.

pushchair n. A device not dissimilar to a pram, in which a small child is pushed along by an obliging parent. Whilst prams are generally for babies, as far as I can see pushchairs are for children who could have walked perfectly well themselves years ago, and half the time end up pushing the damned things themselves. Known in the US as a baby buggy or stroller (which is oddly similar to perambulator).



- Q -

queue n. v. pron. "cue". A queue is a line. This doesn't really help the definition at all, as a line could be any number of things. A pencil line? A railway line? A line of Charlie? A line dancer? As a result of this potentially dangerous confusion, a word was developed to separate this particular line from all the others and the Americans decided not to use it. A queue is a line of people. A line of blokes, birds and bubtions if you will. To queue is to be one of those queueing in the queue; I am told that the word itself is derived from the French for tail, which is used in French in the same context.

quid n. A "quid" is British slang for one unit of our own currency, the Pound. Very similar in use to the American "buck", the word is very widely recognised and quite socially acceptable but not formal - you could quite easily say "well, they offered me 10,000 quid for the car" but you wouldn't hear any BBC announcers reporting "the government today authorised a ten million quid increase in health service funding". This perhaps says more about the BBC than this one particular word, but I digress.



- R -

randy adj. One way of ensuring that Brits laugh at American sitcoms is to put someone in the program called Randy. This is because randy in UK English translates very well as horny in US English and, because we all have such a simple sense of humour, sentences such as "Hello, I'm Randy" have us doubled up on the sofa.

rat-arsed adj. A popular expression for being exceedingly drunk. Also abbreviated as simply "ratted". Where on earth it comes from I have no idea. Perhaps a rat's arse is just an unusually unpleasant thing?

rawl plug n. I wish I'd never gotten into this. This particular definition has caused me no end of headaches. I was assured by one of my contributors that a rawl plug was actually a moly bolt. I mistakenly made some joke along the lines of "what the hell's a rawl plug anyway?" A few days later I received mail from one David Henry. "As I recall it, a rawlplug was a trade name for a wooden plug you bash into a hole you just drilled into cement, concrete or brick so you could then insert a screw to fasten something to the wall with. Later they developed the same things made out of plastic, with sprigs sticking out of them so they really stayed in place. After that came ones made of soft metal, like lead, for heavier loadings. None of these is to be confused with a molly bolt, which is designed to provide a fixing point on wallboard (plasterboard in the UK). It works in a clever way such that once you screwed in the screw, you deform the back of the molly so that it can't be pulled out of the hole. Ingenious gadgets." I then got another e-mail telling me that a rawl plug was lead, not wood. This was followed by yet another telling me that wallboard was in fact more commonly known as sheetrock. I DON'T CARE! However, never let it be said that this isn't a comprehensive language guide.

razz v. Another top-quality term for vomiting. Example would be something like "Well, yeah, we were having a great time until Phil razzed down the back of the sofa and they made us all go home". Both Americans and Brits use the term "razzing" to describe teasing someone, and somewhat delightfully the razz is UK slang for an evening spent out drinking.

return adj. Don't worry - this means the same worldwide in most contexts. However, what we in the UK call a return ticket is known in North America as a round-trip ticket. As you probably know, it just means that you're planning on coming home again.

reverse charges n. v. Call Collect. Nothing to do with cars.

revise v. As well as the universal use of this word (to read over and make changes to), Brits use the term "revising" to mean studying for exams.

ring v. To phone someone up. Translates nicely into American as call. A relic from the days when telephones actually rang and didn't bleep, vibrate or send you e-mail.

rocket n. While we do also use the word to describe an explosive propulsion device, rocket to a British chef will be the green herb arugula to an American one.

rodger v. Yes, verb. And I know it's a name, but then so's Randy. As this is a family dictionary and I'm a repressed Brit I'm going to tread gingerly around the meaning. Rodgering is, well shagging. I realise that this is not going to help much if you don't know what that is either.

romp v. Having a romp is yet another term for the loving act of procreation. It's a bit rough-and-ready - you would be much more likely to have a romp with your secretary on top of the photocopier than you would with your wife of thirty years in the marital bed. Not you personally, these are just examples.

ropey adj. A bit of a general word, "ropey" is used to describe pretty much anything which isn't in as good as state as it might be. It might be you with a hangover; your ex-girlfriend or the car you bought from someone in the pub last week.

roundabout n. Roundabouts are devices put into the road as a snare for learner drivers and foreigners. Everyone has to drive around in a circle until they see their selected exit road, at which point they must fight through the other traffic on the roundabout in a vague attempt to leave it. While you're far more likely to see a four-way-stop than a roundabout In the US, I'm told the ones that do exist (predominantly in Massachusetts) are known either as traffic circles or rotaries.

row n. Pronounced like "cow" rather than like "sew". This is an argument - more likely a domestic argument than a fight outside a pub. Unless you have an unusually vicious spouse or a girly pub.

rozzer n. Policeman. Even more esoteric than the good old English bobby, most British people will never have heard of this term. It says a lot that the contributor who suggested it mentioned that it had come from a P. G. Wodehouse book.

rubber n. Be very, very careful. I got in more trouble using this word in the States than any other. To Brits, a rubber is an eraser. To Americans, however, a rubber is a condom. If you are a Limey and you are called upon to visit the United States, write this on the back of your hand and don't wash until you leave.

rubbish n. Everyday waste - better known in the US as trash or garbage (neither of which are used much in the UK).

rucksack n. One of those bags you wear over your shoulder on two straps (or one, if you want to look misguidedly fashionable). Americans call them "backpacks".



- S -

samey adj. As you might guess, to describe something as "samey" means that it's pretty similar to a lot of other things.

sarnie n. Quite simply an abbreviation for "sandwich". A little bit slang-ish... you won't find a lightly toasted roast beef sarnie being servered on a fresh bed of rocket in your average poncy restaurant.

scarper v. To run away, usually from the scene of some sort of unpleasant incident in which you were a part. You'd see it in a context something like "I saw some kids out the window writing all over my car in spray paint but by the time I got there they'd scarpered". I'm told that it is derived from the Cockney rhyming slang "Scappa Flow / go".

school n. In the UK, school only applies to junior and senior schools (what Americans call "high school"), and never to universities.

schtum adj. Pron. "shtoom". Only really used in the context "keep schtum", this means "keep your mouth shut" in the UK. It is derived from the German adjective "stumm", meaning being either unable or unwilling to speak.

scone n. Pron. "skawn". A quintessentially British foodstuff, scones are somewhere between a cake and a subsistence food. The closest US equivalent is biscuit.

scotch n. Scotch is a contraction of the word "Scottish" but is now only used in the context of whisky - we refer to anything else as being "Scottish". So we aren't Scotch people; we are Scottish people. If we were Scotch people, we would be made primarily from whisky. Oh, wait…

scrote n. Someone generally about as low in one's esteem as a person could be. The people Brits refer to as scrotes are pretty much the same as those Americans call "scum".

scrummy adj. I believe that this is an amalgamation of "yummy" and "scrumptious". It's a fairly childlike way of describing something as delicious ("This jelly and ice-cream is scrummy!").

Scrumpy n. While traditionally the word refers to strong home-brewed cider ("scrumping" being stealing apples), it has more recently become associated with a high-alcohol brand named Scrumpy Jack. Don't go near the stuff. I haven't drunk it for four years, following a nasty vomiting incident.

Sellotape n. Ironically enough, what we call sellotape (derived from "cellophane tape"), Americans call Scotch tape (a brand name of 3M Corporation). The company Sellotape is (unless I am very much mistaken) the largest manufacturer of sticky tape in the UK.

septic n. This is one of those Cockney-rhyming-slang words which has made it into general Brit-speak - "septic tank" = "yank".

settee n. Just another word for the plain old "couch" or "sofa". Not sure why, as usual if anyone wants to mail me their own half-arsed ideas that they made up on the spot, I'll include them as if this was some sort of well-informed work of reference.

shag v. Used in very similar contexts to the US term lay, shagging usually refers to the act of intercourse itself, except when used by a bloke giving his mates the details about what happened with that tidy bird he pulled in the club the night before. In this instance, shag can be interpreted to mean anything between a peck on the cheek and a punch in the face. As American readers will know, the Carolina Shag is a dance and this amusing contradiction provides endless hours of simplistic amusement to us Brits. Even more amusing for UK residents, I am told that running for catches on the sports field is commonly known in the US as shagging balls and that the phrase "go shag some balls" is not uncommon. And yes, we in the UK do have "shag carpet". And I'm pretty sure that all available jokes have already been made.

shandy n. A shandy is a mix of lager and lemonade. In my experience it is 90% lager and 10% lemonade, and generally drunk by people convinced that they can get as drunk as a skunk on shandy and still be alright to drive the car. Shandy has also given us such retail gems as Top Deck, a canned drink which contains not only the cheapest lemonade money can buy, but rounds it off nicely with a dash of the grottiest beer this side of China.

shark v. Although the word is shark, the usage is more often sharking. A person who is Sharking is a person actively seeking the intimate company of a member of the opposite sex - probably any member of the opposite sex. The easiest way to spot someone who is sharking is to watch their friends, who will every so often hold one hand just above their head like a fin just to make the point. The difference between sharking and being on the pull is that sharking is slightly more proactive. If you're on the pull you won't say no; if you're sharking you won't take no for an answer. I am told that shark in US slang has some unfortunate racial consequences - white women who prefer black men are apparently known as mud-sharks. Forewarned is forearmed!

shattered adj. The word "shattered" in the UK can mean either extremely tired or emotionally devastated. You could be shattered by the death of your dear mother or a good invigorating jog. Experiencing both simultaneously would leave you shattered in two different ways at once, and probably reasonably cross.

shirty adj. Testy or irritable. I'm told that it derives from a time when people used to take off their shirts to fight and so "getting shirty" meant that you were preparing to give a rotten scoundrel a good thrashing.

shite n. Exactly the same in meaning as shit. The only plausible reason I can think of for this word's existence at all is that it has more rhyming potential for football songs. And it's nice and short, too, so they can all remember it.

shop n. A shop in UK English is a store in US English. We call the shops where you get your car fixed garages.

sick v. While we do still use the noun (i.e. to be unwell) the same as Americans do, we Brits call the act of vomiting "being sick", and vomit itself "sick". Mercifully the American slang "sick" meaning "good" has not made it over here yet.

skallywag n. Something much akin to a rascal - a young tearaway of sorts. A bit antiquated.

skanky adj. Disgusting. Describing something or someone as skanky would imply that they haven't been cleaned in quite some time. We in the UK do not use the word "skank" which in American describes a woman with lose morals and bad personal hygiene.

skint adj. The position of having no money. I often find myself completely skint, which puzzles me. I spent a lot of my own time writing this dictionary primarily for Americans who, as the rest of the world knows, have money positively dripping off them. However, at the time of writing, nobody has offered me even a small motor-vehicle in reward. Don't believe what you read about dot-coms.

skip n. The noun, not the verb. A skip is more commonly known in the US as a dumpster or a trash bin. It's odd that something as revolting should develop such a pleasant name; there must be a story behind it.

skirting board n. The little wooden bit of edging that goes around the bottom of the walls in your house so that when you stub your toe you don't put your foot through the plasterboard. I'm told that Americans call this "baseboard".

skive v.,n. Unauthorised absence - this is a slang term equivalent to the American phrase "playing hookie". Skivers are those who mysteriously appear never to be somewhere they're obliged to be and something regarded as time well wasted might be seen as a skive.

slag v. 1. To slag someone (or in more common usage, to slag them off) is to "have a go" or pick on them. This is in pretty wide usage in the UK. 2. A woman with very loose morals, very much on a par with "slut".

slapper n. British equivalents of American "ho"s, Slappers are people who are on the pull for anything they can get. Anything. The word is applied more often to females (arguably because it is a built-in function of blokes and doesn't deserve a separate word). Slappers wander around the dance floor looking for the drunkest blokes and then, when they've found them, woo them by dancing backwards into them "accidentally". The are invariably spotted at the end of an evening telling the bouncer how lonely they are and trying to sit on his knee.

slash v. Nothing to do with violence at all, having a slash is the art of urinating. Its usage is more appropriate to punters in the pub than middle-aged ladies at a Tupperware party.

sleeping policeman n. This is an odd one. A sleeping policeman is, would you believe, a speed-bump. I sincerely hope that its name is not derived from someone's keenness to flatten members of the constabulary.

smart adj. As well as the standard meanings of the word which we all share, Brits will describe as smart things which are well-presented or (more recently) just generally "cool". Your grandmother might tell you you look very smart in your nice new suit, while your cousin Bob might tell you your new motor was "smart as figs". He wouldn't really have said "figs", I just changed it to save me having to write "fuck".

smashing adj. Contrary to appearances, something which is "smashing" is a good thing rather than a bad one. When a British sprog comes home saying he had a smashing time playing football in the park, he doesn't mean he was breaking car windows.

Snakes and Ladders n. This is a pretty simple board game in which you roll dice and, depending on which square you land on, you can go whizzing further up the board on ladders or slide down the board on snakes. Americans (not Canadians, note) call it chutes and ladders, no doubt because some toy-shop thought that involving snakes in a board game was far too nasty for children.

snog v. This may or may not be a verb, depending on who you are snogging. The closest equivalent to snogging is making out, which is a terrible phrase and as far as I can see describes anything on the sexual scale which can be performed on a couch. Snogging translates to playground-speak as kissing-with-tongues and I suppose is French-kissing, which is another appalling phrase.

sod n. v. adj. And just about any other use. Sod is a glorious word. Attached to any word or phrase it has the immediate effect of making it derogatory. Prime examples include "Sod off" (get lost), "sod you" (nearest US equivalent is probably "bite me"), "sod it" (damn/forget it), "old sod" (old git), etc, etc. Use at will - it has a friendly tone to it and is unlikely to get you into trouble. Were you to look in a proper dictionary, you'd discover that sod is also a lump of turf - I'm told that there is a road in Halifax (Yorkshire, not Nova Scotia) called Sod House Green.

solicitor n. Beware! In the UK, a solicitor is a lawyer. It has nothing (well, on one level at least) to do with prostitutes or door-to-door salesmen.

sorted adj. Reasonably recent slang denoting that everything has been "sorted out". I am ninety-nine percent sure that this originated in a drugs context, a view only strengthened by the existence of a Pulp song "Sorted for 'E's and Whiz".

spanner n. 1. Monkey wrench. 2. adj. A very mild friendly insult. If you've seen Only Fools and Horses, it's the kind of thing Del Boy would say to Rodney. Of course, if you haven't seen Only Fools and Horses, it's still the kind of thing Del Boy would say to Rodney but you won't know what I'm talking about. It's a good programme, rent the video.

spare adj. Somebody who is described as spare is at their wits end, tearing their hair out. You'd probably find it in a context like "I've been trying to get this working all morning and it's driving me spare!".

sprog n. Another affectionate word for a small child. My father used to refer to myself and my brothers as "Sprog One", "Sprog Two" and "Sprog Three". Perhaps that says more about my family than the English language. At least I got to be Sprog One. Were my father Australian he might have chosen some different phrasing as to an Ausie "sprog" is what we brits call spunk.

spud n. A spud is a potato. Named after, I'm told, the long-handled cultivating device with a wedge on the end which is used to get them out of the ground.

spunk n. As well as having the universal meaning of someone with a bit of drive, in British English "spunk" is semen. Australians even use it as a noun, which causes endless hilarity whilst watching soap-operas, when the girlies have a conversation like "Hey, whatcha think of Brad, Laurie?" / "Yeah, he's a real spunk!".

squash n., v. In the UK, squash is either the act of being squeezed, or a diluted fruit drink. As with many of the words listed here, it's a bit outdated - you'd be more likely to find your grandmother offering you "lemon squash" than you would your children. In the US, a squash is what we in the civillised world call a marrow.

stabilisers n. I realise that this word refers to all sorts of things, but one specific use differs between the US and the UK. Here in the UK, stabilisers are the little extra set of wheels that your parents put on your bicycle to stop you from falling off all the time when you're learning to ride - known much better to Americans as training wheels. My parents never got any... I think they secretly enjoyed watching me injure myself in the name of learning.

stag night n. The groom's pre-wedding lads'-night-out party. It generally involves drinking as much alcohol as possible and trying to do something embarassing to the husband-to-be. This is great fun for all of the groom's buddies, but less fun for the groom. He almost inevitably wakes up the next morning completely naked and tied to a lampost somewhere in a foreign country. Brides secretly like stag nights because it gives them a good excuse for refusing to let their husbands see their friends again. The phrase is beginning to creep into American English but remaining more common is the phrase "bachelor party".

starter n. The dish you eat prior to your main meal - known in the US as an appetizer. In my experience, they only really turn up in restaurants - if you came to dinner at my house you'd be lucky to get a main course, let alone a starter.

steady on expl. Almost always followed by an exclamation mark, "steady on!" equates to something like "whoa!" or "hold your horses!" or the like.

stilettos n. Pumps/high heels. Shoes that are designed with a glorious disregard for practicality and, thank goodness, female buyers in mind.

stock n. While we share the normal definitions of this word, Brits also use "stock" to mean what "inventory" - we talk about shops having a particular product "in stock".

stone n. While we share the normal definition (i.e. small rocks), we Brits use "stone" as a unit of weight measure (I'm going to write another page about the differences in weights and measures at some juncture) and also to describe the large hard seeds inside fruit (peaches, olives and the like). Americans know these as "pits".

stonking adj. Describing something as stonking means it's, well, great. It has to be said that you're more likely to hear it from a fourteen-year-old describing a skateboard than from your mum about a special offer on King Edward potatos.

straight away adj. This simply means right now.

stroppy adj. A person who is being stroppy is someone who is being unreasonable and unfairly grumpy. Stroppy people shout at shop assistants who don't know where the tomato puree is and, because they're being paid £2/hr, ought not to be expected to.

sultana n. What we Brits call sultanas, Americans will know better as "yellow raisins", i.e. vine-dried green grapes.

supper n. Scottish. When food is served in a chip shop with chips, it becomes a supper. What the English call fish and chips, we Scots call a fish supper.

suspenders n. In the UK, suspenders are things used by women to hold up their stockings. They are not used by men to hold up their trousers.

suss v. This is a difficult word to define, not least because I don't really know what it means. To suss is to realise (e.g. "I was going to try and put it back without him noticing but he sussed"). We do use "suss out" in the same context as Americans. However, again peculiar to British English, to describe something as suss is similar to describing it as dodgy - I can only presume that in this instance it's an abbreviation of suspicious.

sweet n. What Americans call candy, we call sweets. Desserts are also commonly known as sweets, particularly in restaurants.

swizz n. This is a small-scale swindle or con. If you opened your eight-pack of KitKats and there were only seven, you might mutter "that's a bloody swizz". If you discovered that your cleaning lady had been making out large cheques to herself over a ten year period, you'd be inclined to use stronger wording.

swot n. Someone who studies particularly hard, usually at school. Similarly, swotting, or swotting up, is the art of learning your complete course in one evening (what Americans call "cramming").



- T -

ta expl. Possibly the most concise abbreviation of "thank you" one is likely to come across. Often regarded as rather slovenly. A contributor suggests that it may be derived from the Scandinavian "tak" (meaning much the same thing) and who am I to disagree.

take-away n. A hot food retailer (I think in this instance "restaurant" is a little too much) which only sells things that you can take home and eat or (as is more likely) stagger down the street drunkenly stuffing in your mouth. Americans refer to them as "take-outs".

taking the piss n. This is the most common term we have in British English to describe taking the mickey out of someone, e.g. "Andy fell down the stairs on the way into the pub last night, and everyone spent the entire night taking the piss out of him". Contrary to what one might assume, it doesn't involve a complex system of tubes or a bicycle pump.

tannoy n. A tannoy is a public address system. The odd name derives rather simply from the fact that a company called Tannoy were among the more prominent early developers of such a device.

Tarmac n. The stuff that covers roads. Some road-making history for you. A long time ago, a Scotsman named John Loudon Macadam invented a way of surfacing roads with gravel, this coating being known as "Macadam" - a term also used in the US. Unfortunately as the road aged the gravel tended to grind to dust and so it was coated with a layer of tar - this being "Tar-Macadam", which was concatenated to Tarmac. Somehow in the mists of time the Americans ended up using this only to describe airport runways, but we Brits still use it to describe the road surface. Well, except all these bloody motorways that are now covered in concrete in order to stop you listening to the radio, or having a conversation, or falling asleep at the wheel.

tart n. A tart is much the same as a slapper, but is slightly less extreme and a little more omnisexual. Tarts spend hours perfecting make-up, hair, clothes, etc. before going out and waiting at the side of the dance floor to be pulled. Be warned, though - at the end of the evening, tarts tend to turn into slappers, just to make sure all that lip gloss doesn't go to waste. Back, erm, on a more literary tack, the word may or may not be derived from "sweetheart".

tartan n., adj. This is the stripes-and-checkers pattern that we Scotsmen use for our kilts but is also used for all sorts of things from throw rugs to tacky seat covers. Americans, I'm told, call it "checkered".

tea c Ah, yes, you thought you knew what this meant too, didn't you. Well, throughout the UK, your evening meal is known as your tea (at the risk of sounding terrible, it's just a little "working class").

tea-break n. To add to the general "tea" confusion, a tea-break is a break away from work, ostensibly to have a cup of tea. Americans (and most Brits these days) have coffee-breaks instead.

telly n. The device known as a TV in the US is more commonly referred to over here as a telly. TV is well used and understood, though.

tick n. 1. One of those little (usually handwritten) marks people put next to things to show that they're correct. You know what I mean. Americans call them "check marks" or just "checks". 2. A very short space of time, very much equivalent to "sec", as in something like "Try and hold it on for the moment, I'll be back in a tick once I've phoned an ambulance".

tidy adj. A fine example of his/her gender. 99% of the time, though, it applies to females rather than males. Tidy is a fantastic word and, unlike almost any other adjective used by males, is regarded by females as a compliment. It's never used directly in conversation; the way a female will discover she is tidy is through her best friend who was told by a bloke who knew she'd pass it on. Blokes rather like this word because it has a definite subtext suggesting dusting and hoovering.

tights n. I'm getting rather out of my depth here but I understand (from other people!) that what we call tights Americans generally call panty-hose. Apparently tights in the US are more like child's coloured thin leggings and rarely worn. Makes little difference to me because the only reason I'd ever think about buying either would be if I was considering a career in armed robbery.

tip n. A place (usually an errant child's room, or my flat) which is in a state of horrendous disarray. Derived I think from our term "rubbish tip", where one goes to tip rubbish into.

Tippex n. Another brand name, what is Tippex to us Brits is whiteout to Americans. You know, the stuff that you use to paint over mistakes you've made on bits of paper. The stuff that smells goooooood, mmmmmm... sorry; lost my track there briefly.

tipple n. A "tipple" is a demure, civillised drink, usually of sherry, Martini or some other light spirit measure. Just the one. You grandmother might acquiesce to a tipple before dinner.

titchy adj. Very small. Perhaps slightly childish, but in common use in the UK. You might see it in a context like "well, the food was very nice, but the helpings were absolutely titchy!".

todger n. Yep, another euphemism for "penis". The derivatives "tadger", "todge" and "tadge" have been known to slip in too. As it were.

toe-rag n. Another rather antiquated word more likely to be found in Enid Blyton than Irvine Welsh, a "toe-rag" is someone worthy of contempt - scoundrel, rotter, that sort of thing.

toff n. Although itself a rather esoteric working-class term, a toff is a member of the upper classes - someone born with a silver spoon in his mouth, you might say.

toilet n. In the UK, the toilet isn't just the device you expel into. It's the whole room, in the same way as "restroom" is in the US. Brits abroad make note that saying things like "where's the toilet" in the US might get you the response "in the restroom".

toodle-pip expl. This is cheerful (and rather old-fashioned) way of saying "goodbye", in a very similar vein to "cheerio". Where on earth it comes from, I'd like to know.

torch n. Flashlight. The word originally referred to real burning torches and so has also developed into a verb meaning "to set fire to".

toss v. "Tossing" in the UK is masturbating. Coincidentally, to call someone a "tosser" is to suggest that they have an overly intimate relationship with Pam and her five sisters. The word was originally in use as "tosser" or "toss-pot" to describe a drunk (tossing one-too-many drinks back) but, as with most things, has become more gloriously sordid.

totty n. I'm not very sure whether this is a collective noun or not. Totty is really a word referring to fit birds in general - you'd catch it in a phrase like "Well, I'm definitely going there again. Wall-to-wall totty." Not said by me, of course.

trainers n. Training shoes - the equivalent of the American sneakers or running shoes.

trainspotter n. These are people whose hobby is to, well, spot trains. They stand in railway stations or on bridges and (I think) note down the types and serial numbers of any trains that go past. I was fortunate enough to be in Reading Station one afternoon while a train-spotting convention was in town; the place was a sea of bright yellow reflective jackets and they had video cameras set up on each platform. Well, it's fashionable to knock the hobby but to be entirely honest I wasn't sure in what way it was fun. Perhaps it's a social thing. Anyway, the term was made a household one by Irvine Welsh's excellent book, Trainspotting, which has nothing to do with spotting trains. Go figure, as Americans might say.

tram n. A tram is very much like a train except it generally runs on tracks built on top of normal roads (the traffic has to be careful to avoid them) and is often powered electrically by high-strung cables (I mean ones on poles, not ones of an excitable dispisition). Trams were very big earlier this century but as far as I know the only ones left in the UK now are in Blackpool, which is tacky enough to get away with it, and Manchester, where they can't afford anything newer. Strangely, there are still trams dotted around in the US (notably San Francisco), where they call them streetcars or trolleys.

treacle n. What we in the UK call treacle, Americans call molasses. I prefer "treacle" - "molasses" makes it sound as if the stuff is made out of the rear ends of small animals.

trolley n. A trolley is the device in which you put your shopping while going around the supermarket. Americans call it a shopping cart, which sounds a lot more fun.

trollop n. This is a somewhat antiquated equivalent of "tart", and one would use it to refer to women of loose morals. I'm told it was sixteenth-century slang for a prostitute.

trousers n. Pants. In the UK, pants are underpants. Here, being "caught with your pants down" has even more graphic connotations.

truncheon n. The baton used by policemen to... umm... quieten people down a little. This reminds me of a story (which might be an urban myth) told to me - at exactly the same time as one US police force lost the nightstick because it was regarded as overly violent, they were all issued with full-sie MagLite torches.

Tube n. The tube is what Brits generally call the London Underground railway. Londoners are clearly not as inspired as Glaswegians, who call theirs the Clockwork Orange.

twat adj., n. This is a synonym for... err... female genitalia. Not to be used in overly-polite company. It is also slang for hitting something and (as a noun again) an insult, generally directed at blokes. A suitably confusing example would read "some twat in the pub accused me of having been near his bird's twat, so I twatted him".

twee adj. Labelling something twee in the UK is vaguely similar to calling it "kitsch" in the States. As I'm not particularly bright, I shall resort as ever to examples. Old ladies' front rooms, tartan cloth jackets and pleasant little sleepy retirement towns are twee. Maralyn Manson, drive-by-shootings and herpes are not twee. Now I think about it, it's nothing like "kitsch" and I don't think I've cleared up any misunderstanding at all. One thing I want people to remember as they browse this useful tome is that it's free, goddamnit, so they can't start complaining when it doesn't deliver the goods.

twig v. To catch on; realise that something is up. Used in a context like "Bob just poured the contents of the ashtray into Fred's pint but he's so pissed I doubt he'll twig". I am told it comes from Gaelic.

twit n. A mild insult, much akin to "twerp" or "nitwit". Made famous by Roald Dahl's book "The Twits", about a rather obnoxious couple of them.

twonk n. Yet another of our friendly words meaning something like idiot. There seem to be more ways of politely describing your friends as mentally deficient in British English than anything else.



- U -

umbrella n. abbrev. "brolly" I'm told that this word is in common use in the States, but I'm leaving it in. Why? Because the two most fantastic words I've had as UK-to-US translations are bumbershoot and humblebootch. The word "umbrella" is strange enough, but "humblebootch" takes the biscuit. I am told that umbrella is derived from the Italian word for shade. The word is often abbreviated to just brolly.

underlay n. Some of the greatest enjoyment I have derived from this dictionary is learning of words which I shall probably never, ever have to use. What we in the UK call underlay, Americans call a carpet pad. Which sounds, if you ask me, more like some sort of cleaning device. As far as Americans are concerned, the underlay is the wood that lies underneath the carpet pad.



- V -

verge n. The edge of the road, populated by hitch-hikers, frogs and children urinating. That's "frogs" and "children urinating", not "(frogs and children) urinating". Glad I could clear that up. Americans call it the "shoulder". The edge of the road, I mean, nothing to do with frogs, children or urination.

vest n. The vest is worn under your shirt, hence the somewhat sensible American name undershirt. In the US, a vest is what we in the UK call a waistcoat. Confused? So am I... I'm sure I got at least one of those definitions muddled up.

vet v. It's quite a tricky word to define but in the UK, to vet is to inspect something or (more often) someone with a view to filtering out undesirables. You might see it in the context of a school headmaster vetting pupils or your mother vetting your girlfriends (a practice which would have undoubtedly left me celibate). Not content with all of this, we also use the word in the standard context to mean a doctor for animals.

video n., v. This is one instance in which I'm willing to admit that the Americans have got it right. In the UK, we call our VCRs videos. And yes, we do call the tapes videos too. Oh yes, and also we use it as a verb in the sort of context like "don't forget to video Eastenders". And yes, it does cause more than a little confusion.



- W -

waffle n. Banal or rambling conversation. You might describe your CEO's yearly speech to the employees as nothing more than "waffle", and likewise you could accuse him of "waffling". We in the UK do describe those cross-hatched potato things as "waffles", but we don't really eat them all that much.

waistcoat n. A waistcoat is an odd sort of article of clothing worn over your shirt but under your jacket, usually with a bow-tie. In the US this is known as a vest but be careful - in the UK, vest means something else, as usual.

wally n. A wally is somewhere between an idiot and a dunce. It's used in a friendly sort of a way, though. You'd never leap out of your car after someone's smashed into the back of it and shout "you complete wally!".

wanker n. To wank is to masturbate and to call someone a wanker is not, as you might expect, altogether complimentary. It's really pretty rude in the UK which made me rather surprised when Adam Clayton of U2 said it at the end of a Simpsons episode. If you don't believe me, listen up.

washing up v. This has nothing to do with personal hygiene (well, I guess it does, but in a slightly more indirect way). In the UK, washing up means washing the dishes.

waster n. Someone who just sits around watching television and spending their income support on dope. Okay, I don't think this is the Oxford English Dictionary definition, but hey ho. Presumably derived in some way from "time-waster"?

wazzack n. After I originally spelled this "wazzak", I received emails variously informing me that it was spelled "wazzock" or "wuzzock". However, I then received one from a chap who claimed to have invented the word in South Somerset when he was seven and that "wazzack" was in fact the correct spelling. Who am I to argue. Anyway, in a similar way to prat, pillock and wally, describing someone as a wazzack is a friendly way of telling them they're an idiot.

WC n. Not to be confused with a WPC (Woman Police Constable), A WC are toilets. It stands for "water closet" in a rather antiquated fashion.

wean n. Scottish. Child. Derived, I am told, from the colloquial Scots "wee 'un" (little one).

wee adj. Scottish. This is a wonderful light-hearted Scottish word (but usable throughout the UK) meaning "small". In a loose sense it could also be interpreted as meaning "cute" in the "cute and cuddly" sense. You could tell someone they had a "nice wee dog", but might meet with more curious glances if you used it in a more serious scenario e.g. "well, Mrs. Brown, I'm sad to tell you that you have a wee tumour on your cerebral cortex". It is (the word, that is, not Mrs. Brown's cerebral cortex), used UK-wide meaning urinate.

wellingtons n. More correctly referred to as Wellington boots (and more often as wellies), Americans will know these as rubber boots or galoshes. Named after the Duke of the same name (you know, the one with the smelly feet).

welly adv. 1. A single wellington boot. 2. (Scot) Mostly related to driving automobiles, the word "welly" is used (most commonly in the context "give it some welly") to urge a bit more bravado on the accelerator pedal. This may or may not be related to the "wellington boot" definition.

whinge v. To whinge can best be described as to whine. Likewise, someone particularly partial to whinging is known as a whinger.

whip round n. A whip round is a collection of money - usually a somewhat impromptu and informal one. You might have a whip round for Big Mike's bus-fare home but you probably wouldn't have one for his triple heart bypass.

whoops-a-daisy expl. This is one of those odd terms that could only really be translated as an ever-so-refined and rather camp equivalent of "oops!". A contributor tells me that it dates from the days of the Black Death - flowers would be put around the bodies of those who had recently died in order to keep the smell away and a daisy became something to steer clear of.

willie n. In the UK, willie is a rather childlike word for penis. The film Free Willie no doubt attracted large optimistic female audiences when it was released over here.

windscreen n. Windshield. Windscreen also means one of those things that you put up on a beach that stops the sand from blowing in and stops those inside from noticing that the tide is coming in. Mercifully, any potential problem with this particular dual meaning is becoming steadily more unlikely as our beaches become steadily more uninhabitable.

wing n. The metal part of a car that covers the front wheel and joins onto the bonnet. Americans call wings fenders. Perhaps it derives from the time when cars were made which could fly. I made that up.

wizard adj. I have to emphasise here that just because words are in the dictionary doesn't mean to say I use them on a regular basis. Wizard, usually used on its own and followed by an exclamation mark, could best be equated to "cool", "neat" or "awesome". However, as far as I'm concerned it has a similar aura to "Bitchin'!".

wonky adj. Possibly best described as a lighthearted way of saying "not quite right". You might say "My plans for the evening went a bit wonky"; you would not say "I'm sorry to tell you, Mr. Jones, but your wife's cardiac operation has gone a bit wonky".

wotcher expl. A form of greeting, rather more familiar to Victorian schoolboys than anyone more contemporary. Harks back to a time when "cock" meant something like "mate", but nowadays marching into a bar and greeting someone with "wotcher, cock!" is unlikely to make you more popular.



- Y -

yank n., adj. To a Brit, a Yank is anyone of American descent. It's not altogether complimentary and conjures up an image of Stetsons, oil wells, Cadillacs and overweight children. It was once popular to call large American automobiles Yank tanks - a description one might regard as unfair to the humble tank. I'm told by a contributor that the word is derived from Yankee and I'm told by another that, among other things, Yankee was an Indian word referring to those from Connecticut and, later, New England. You'd think that this was plenty to say about one fairly short word, but no. I am told by yet another of my little elves that Yankee was a derogatory term for northerners dating back to the American Civil War and is in fact an amalgamation of two common Dutch names - "Jan" and "Kees". Various others tell me it's from the War of Independence and as if that lot wasn't enough, I get about two mails a week from Americans defining a Yank as being someone from another part of the US. Well, as far as I'm concerned it refers to Americans. It's my dictionary, and that's that. Nobody said this was democratic. Pick a definition and run with it, that's what I say. When Americans stop calling anyone British "English", I'll stop calling y'all yanks.

yard n. A yard is the bit of land outside your house. In America this can be pretty much anything, but in Britain as soon as there's as much as a patch of grass in the corner of it, we call it a garden.

yardie n. A rather London term for a person involved in organised crime. I'm told it is derived from Jamaica, where drug barons lived in downtown Kingston in homes build inside high-walled yards.

yobbo n. A yobbo is a hooligan or general "bad egg" - the word is usually seen in the context of upper-middle-class people referring to working-class ones - you might hear it in a situation like "Well, yes, Mildred - my Jeremy used to be such a sensible boy but now he's got mixed up with this awful crowd of yobbos!" The derivation of the word is apparently modified back-slang - the monicker "boyo" became "yobbo".

yonks n. Quite simply, a long time. Not a specific length of time at all; it could be minutes or decades. Good examples would be "Where have you been? I've been waiting here for yonks!" or "Met a friend from school the other day who I haven't seen for yonks."



- Z -

zebra crossing n. Slightly usurped by the less exciting term "pedestrian crossing", these are the black-and-white striped pathways drawn across roads where pedestrians have right of way and motorists have to stop if anyone is waiting by them. While this very concept of "it's alright, on you go, the cars all have to stop" is dangerous enough, a great deal of them are positioned straight after roundabouts where motorists are least likely to be ready for them. I swear these things are part of some sort of population control policy.

zed n. The letter that the Americans pronounce "zee", we pronounce "zed". Products with the super-snappy prefix "EZ" added to their names don't tend do quite so well here.

Zimmer n. A Zimmer (or Zimmer frame) is one of those four-legged devices that the elderly use in order to help them get around the place. Americans know them better as a walker. I am told that Zimmer is the brand name of a manufacturer of these things.


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