The Best of British

The American's guide to speaking British


Anorak - A very untrendy kind of waterproof, padded coat with a zip. The sort of thing your mother made you wear when you were 10 and you still haven't forgiven her for it! Especially if she made you put the hood up when it rained. Possibly called a slicker in American. The worst thing about my anorak was that my Mum had tied my gloves together by passing a piece of string through the arms of the anorak. This would have been quite sensible if the big boys hadn't taken great delight in pulling one glove really hard and watching me punch myself in the face with the other hand!

Balaclava - This is what you call a ski mask. You know - the knitted woollen thing that covers your whole head - with little holes for your eyes, nose and mouth. Not sexy for a first date - but damned useful for robbing banks.

Boiler suit - An all-in-one coverall that protects clothes from oil and filth in dirty working conditions. Originally used my men working in boiler rooms.

Boob tube - One of the more descriptive articles of ladies clothing, the boob tube is an elasticated tube that covers the boobs. In the US some people call the TV a boob tube. Wearing a boob tube would take on a whole new meaning! Watching boob tubes in the UK can get you arrested! I heard them called tube tops in the US.

Brace - The metal thing you wear on your teeth to make them nicer when you grow up. Not to be confused with braces.

Braces - The things you call suspenders, our braces hold our trousers up.

Bum bag - Fanny pack in American. Watch the Brits snigger whenever you mention a fanny pack! It translates particularly badly - see fanny.

Cagoule - A thin, windproof jacket. I used to have one that folded up into itself, which was just as well because it was yellow, so the smaller the better in my view. Used in outside pursuits because they take up almost no space when wrapped up. Mentioned in the British TV series "Absolutely Fabulous" - yes this is what they are talking about.

Cardie - Cardigan. Sweater with buttons down the front like a shirt. Very popular with trainspotters but nobody else.

Cozzy - Grab your cozzy - we're going swimming. It is short for your swimming costume, or bathing suit.

Daps - See Pumps.

Dinner jacket - Tuxedo. We usually refer to it as our DJ. Not to be confused with a Disc Jockey - we definitely don't wear them!

Dressing gown - Robe to you.

Dungarees - Overalls to you. Fine on kids but whatever you call them, grown men look ridiculous in them!

Frock - This is the word for dress, though generally only used by older people. Your posh frock would be your best dress.

Jersey - As well as being the name of an island near here it is also what we call a Sweater.

Jim Jams - This is an easy one - it's your pyjamas. Time for bed!

Jumper - Another word for sweater.

Knickers - This is what we call a ladies' panties. Not to their face, of course!

Mac - Short for Macintosh, the Mac is a raincoat invented by a Mr Macintosh. Most likely heard in reference to dirty old men, or flashers, who are stereotyped as wearing Macs!

Muffler - Don't worry if someone asks you if you would like to wear a muffler. They are not suggesting you wear an old car part round your shoulders. It's actually a big fluffy scarf.

Nappy - Diaper to you.

Pants - Don't make a comment about an Englishman's pants - they are his underwear! Same for ladies too, though knickers would be more common. We were in a pub in England one day when two attractive American girls walked in wearing quite short skirts and one loudly said to the other that she was cold and that she should have worn pants! Needless to say she instantly had the attention of every Englishman in the place, who thought there was nothing under her skirt!

Pinafore - A pinafore dress is what you might call a jumper.

Pinny - Mrs Tiggywinkle - the well beloved hedgehog from my childhood, always wore a pinny. Actually childish slang for pinafore. You might call it an apron, to protect the clothes from washing and cooking. It originates from "pin - afore". In other words you would "pin" it "afore" (in front of) your dress.

Plimsolls - See Pumps.

Polo neck - I can't believe they've come back into fashion - they look so stupid, like you are trying to hide a love bite. You call them turtle necks.

Pullover - Yet another word for sweater. Hey it's cold here - we need several names for them!

Pumps (Plimsolls, Daps) - You'd probably call them sneakers, but pumps were usually black and elasticated and you wore them during P.E. (Physical Education). They were also called plimsolls as they were invented by the same guy who invented the plimsoll line on ships. These days I'm sure kids wear the latest Nike or Reebok fashion shoes but pumps or plimsolls was what I wore and I was proud of them! By the way, pumps were what one family I used to know, used as the polite word for farts. Very strange - who pumped?

Suspenders - This one is a bit worrying. Suspenders in English are the things that hold up a lady's (hopefully!) stockings. The first time a male American friend told me he was wearing suspenders to a party I thought it was a Rocky Horror Show party - so I wore suspenders too! Whoops! You call them garter belts.

Swimming costume - This is what you wear to go swimming, obviously! You might call it a bathing suit. We also say swimsuit and cozzy.

Tights - What you call pantyhose! Also a way that kids remember the difference between stalagmites and stalactites. The tights come down and the mites go up!!! Typical of the British education system.

Trainers - Short for training shoes. You would call them sneakers.

Trousers - What you call pants! Confused yet? My suspenders friend also told me that he would be wearing pants with his suspenders. Kinky!

Undies - Your underwear. Normally your pants rather than any other item.

Vest - Worn by old men and anyone who is nesh (a wimp!), a vest is worn under your shirt to keep you warm. Comes in string vest or plain. You call them undershirts.

Waistcoat - Worn under your dinner jacket, the waistcoat is called a vest in America.

Wellies - Wellington Boots, named after the Duke of Wellington. Called galoshes in America.