The Best of British

The American's guide to speaking British

Odds & Sods

24 hour clock - 24 hour clock is used quite widely in the UK. Military time, as you call it, ensures there is no confusion between am and pm times, particularly on timetables for planes and trains for example.

999 - 911 to you. I have no idea why we have different emergency service numbers. Just to ensure that foreigners never get help when they REALLY need it I guess!

A-Level - At 18, school kids take around three or four A-Levels (except in Scotland where they have another system of "Highers!). These are the qualifications that will get them into university or not, depending on the results. University entrance in the UK is based solely on merit so these exams are important. Similar to SATs in the US.

Abbatoir - Slaughterhouse to you. Don't mince your words huh?

Advert - Commercial. An advert on the TV (or ad, or advertisement) is what you would call a commercial. We also use the same word for printed ads in magazines and newspapers etc.

Aeroplane - Airplane to you.

AGM - Most clubs, societies and companies hold an Annual General Meeting. In the business sense it is a meeting of the shareholders.

Aluminium - This is aluminum to you. Dunno why they are spelt and pronounced differently. It is pronounced Al-u-min-i-um. Maybe it is to differentiate it from Plat-in-i-um. Just kidding!

American football - What you call football. Now we have it too, we have to give it another name, hence American Football.

At Her Majesty's Pleasure - When you visit the UK you want to avoid being detained at Her Majesty's Pleasure (HMP). Her Maj is our Queeen and she is head of all things Authority. So if you are staying at HMP then you are basically in prison for an indeterminate length of time!

Autocue - I was involved in making a short training film whilst I was in Austin. I realised autocue was not an American word when I asked for one. Everyone just looked at each other then laughed at me. They had no idea I was asking for a teleprompter.

Autumn - The season after summer. Fall is something we do when we get pissed!

B&B - All over England and the rest of the UK you will see signs outside people's houses with B&B on them. These are bed & breakfasts and are the cheapest kind of accommodation available here. Quite the opposite of American B&Bs as I found out in California. I was amazed to find that the house had been done out like a Laura Ashley shop and cost the earth to stay at. In the UK B&B basically consists of a room in someone's house and a good cooked breakfast. Don't forget the black pudding!

Bank holiday - There are about eight bank holidays every year in Blighty. They are the days that everyone has off. They are called bank holidays because the banks close on them, as do most businesses. Here they are; New Years Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, two May Bank Holidays, August Bank Holiday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Now you know!

Bar billiards - There is no equivalent in the US as far as I know. This is great pub game on a pool sized table but it's different. You have seven white balls and a red one. There are no pockets around the table but there are 9 holes in the table surface and three wooden mushrooms. The object is to shoot from one end of the table and get balls into the holes without hitting the mushrooms over, but after hitting another ball. It doesn't sound much but it is brilliant fun, especially after a couple of pints of scrumpy. Don't visit England without trying it at least once. More Info.

BBC English - BBC English is used by many people to mean the proper pronunciation of English words, or a standard accent. Recently, though, the BBC have completely ruined this by employing people with all sorts of regional accents, including cockneys who really don't talk proper at all mate!

Beeb - The Beeb is the nickname for the BBC, the British Broadcasting Corporation, our main TV company. We all pay a licence fee to watch the BBC but it does mean that there are no ads on their channels.

Big dipper - The big dipper is the roller coaster. However by American standards perhaps we should call them "little dippers" as yours are generally a little larger than ours! We also call the "plough" star system the "big dipper".

Big Issue - Walking around London you may well have rough looking people come up to you and shout "Big Issue". Try not to act alarmed - they are normally homeless people who make about a quarter for every issue they sell. You should buy one and help them out. The Big Issue magazine is there to talk about homeless issues and help homeless people make a buck - well a quid actually!

Bill - Don't ask for a check at the end of a meal in the UK - you'll just confuse the waiter or waitress. They won't know whether you want a health check, spell check or a time check! Ask for the bill.

Billiards - A ball game with three balls, one red and two white, played on a table like a pool table but bigger. The original billiards table had no pockets and points were only scored by making cannons - making your white hit both other balls. Today's billiards tables have pockets, so that scores are made by cannons but also by pocketing a ball, after hitting any other ball.

Billion - Amazing isn't it. We have the same word for almost the same thing. In fact a billion in American is a thousand million but in English it is a million million, though recently we have started to use your version so as to avoid over generous tips.

Biro - A ballpoint pen. The most popular brand is Biro and now everyone calls every pen a Biro.

Blighty - Another word for Britain.

Bling - Cheap and tacky fashion accessories. Including rings, medallions and usually metallic.

Blinkers - These are the things that horses wear to stop them seeing anywhere other than straight ahead. You call them blinders.

Blu tac - Blu tac is what you would call poster putty. However, we call all similar objects blu tac, whatever their real name is. Just like you do with xerox machines and we do with hoovers!

Boarding school - These are the schools where kids live as well as learn. Some of them also take day boys and girls.

Bob - You still hear older folks talking about a couple of bob, meaning a couple of shillings. Nowadays a shilling would be five pence and a couple of bob would be ten pence. My Grandfather used to give me ten bob to buy sweets with. However, he was actually giving me fifty pence but was translating back about 20 years for his own benefit.

Bob-a-job - Even after decimalisation in the UK, bob-a-job lived on for many years. Once a year the cub scouts went around the village or town with their bob-a-job forms with the objective of doing little jobs for people for a bob a go, or 5 pence as it became. The problem with bob-a-job, even when I was a cub, was that the name didn't move with the times and some people took it a bit too literally. There was nothing worse than cleaning two cars, mowing the lawn, washing the windows then being given five pence by some stingy old bloke.

Bonfire night - "Remember, remember the 5th of November. Gunpowder, treason and plot". Although Halloween originated in England, it is not celebrated as wildly here as it is in the US. But a week later, everyone in England lights a huge bonfire and sets off lots of fireworks and eats burgers, baked potatoes, hot dogs, parkin cake and all sorts of other goodies, huddled around the fire. Every community and many companies organise bonfires for those with no garden. It is all in celebration of Guy Fawkes who tried to blow up the houses of parliament. What a great thing to celebrate! A guy is burned on the fire, made by the kids from old clothes and stuffed with straw and paper. A guy is an effigy of a human. May be the forerunner to the famous Texas A&M bonfire!

Booze cruise - Booze is cheaper in France and it is worth the trip just to stock up on alcohol. The cheapest way to do this is to take one of the booze cruises offered by the ferry companies. Basically you and bunch of your buddies take the ferry to France, drinking all the way, stock up on booze in a French hypermarket (still drinking), then jump back on the ferry to England and do some more drinking. Generally sleep is avoided and if you feel unwell the side of the boat is very convenient. To be avoided!

Brackets - Parentheses to you. Or the things that hold shelves up!

Britain - Or Great Britain to use it's proper title, is not to be confused with either England or the United Kingdom, or the British Isles. Britain is the three countries whose borders all touch (ie England, Wales and Scotland). See wikipedia for a very long explanation!

Car boot sale - This has nothing to do with the boots you wear on your feet. A boot sale is where hundreds of people descend on a field with cars full of unwanted wedding presents, clothes and other junk. They set it all out on wallpaper pasting tables for the general public to come and buy. I did my first one recently, selling all my unwanted stuff from the boot of my Explorer - it started at 7:30am on a Sunday and the people were so eager to see what we had they were helping us unpack the boxes - nightmare! Still we made seventy quid from stuff we would have thrown away! It's like an outdoor garage sale.

Carnival - Every winter, thousands of people build floats that are pulled behind tractors, covered in lights, made up into all kinds of weird scenes to take part in the carnival. The event moves from town to town and takes place every night in the dark so that the scenes can be lit up. Tens or hundreds of floats will take part in a carnival. In the US it is called a parade.

Carvery - This is a British wonder. The best Sunday would consist of getting up late, trundling down to a remote country pub and having the carvery. This consists of roast joints of meat. There will be a whole turkey, a leg of pork (with the skin on, scored, salted and roasted HOT so that it turns into crackling), leg of lamb and a big piece of beef. This will all be accompanied by the usual apple sauce (pork), mint sauce (lamb) and Yorkshire pudding (beef) as well as roast potatoes, roast parsnips and other sundry vegetables with a large jug of gravy, made from the meat juices, in the pan it was roasted in. Mmmmmmm.

Cashpoint machine - ATM to you, cashpoint for short. This last year the banks have started to introduce charges to use ATMs from other banks - not a popular move.

Casualty - This is where you go in the hospital when you have an accident. You call it the emergency room. These days you also see A&E on the signs, which is short for Accident and Emergency.

Catapult - Slingshot. I was banned from having one as a child - I think it had to do with the amount of glass that got broken as a result.

Chat show - Talk show to you. Unlike Letterman and Leno, chat show hosts in the UK sometimes let the guests say something too!

Chemist - Don't go looking for a drugstore in England, you won't find one. But you will find a chemist. Most of them are set up just like Eckerds. I once heard a quiz programme on the radio in Austin where they asked what us Brits call a "drugstore". The answer "apothecary" was accepted and the guy got a point. Get out of here! That was centuries ago.

Cheque - How we used to pay our bills in the old days, before electronic banking started. Check in the US. Banks provide them for free in the UK. I was amazed you pay for them in the US, but you do get to choose groovy designs.

Christmas Crackers - These have never really taken off in the US, though I have seen them for sale in speciality shops from time to time. They are brightly decorated paper tubes with a handle at each end. You reach across the table and ask someone to pull the other end. When it breaks, a snapper gives out a loud bang, a party hat drops out along with a small gift and a terrible joke. We make our own - you get better gifts that way.

Chrysanths - We both shorten the word for chrysanthemums. Us to chrysanths and you to mums.

Cinema - Movie theater to you chaps.

Coconut shy - This is a side show you'll find at fairs and fetes. You buy some wooden balls and throw them at coconuts on sticks. If you knock one down, you keep it.

College - We use this word to mean university as well as other higher education establishments.

Comprehensive school - If a kid didn't pass the eleven plus exam, they went to a secondary modern school, rather than a grammar school at the grand old age of eleven. I was in the last year of kids who sat the eleven plus. The system changed so that both types of school were replaced with an all encompassing comprehensive school. Same as your high school.

Conkers - This is the name of the horse chestnut and the children's game that uses them. To play conkers you thread your conker onto a shoelace with a knot in the end and take it in turns to hit your friend's conker then let him hit yours. The winner is the one whose conker does not break up. After beating one friend your conker is called a one-er. After beating two friends it is called a two-er, unless his had previously beaten another one in which case yours would be a three-er and so on. Treating your conker with drugs, heat or other secret strengthening tricks is strictly forbidden, punishable by death under UK law.

Cot - Crib. The thing baby sleeps in. Or not in our case!

Counterfoil - If you still use a cheque book in the UK, the bit that stays in the book is called the counterfoil. You might call it a stub.

Course - Apart from describing our sense of humour, a course is what you would call a class. I did a course in business at university.

Cutlery - Knives and Forks. Called flatware or silverware in the US (even if it's plastic!). Apparently there is more cutlery to go round in the UK as you always get clean cutlery after every course in a restaurant.

CV - This is what we call a resumé. It is actually short for the latin, Curriculum Vitae, meaning "the course of life".

Daddy long legs - This has nothing to do with your father. It is what we call a crane fly, though never to their face, of course!

Day boys/girls - These are the kids who attend boarding schools, but rather than live there too, they attend each day just like other schools.

Desmond - A desmond is a lower second class honours degree. Our honours degrees are ranked (from best to worst) as a first class (a first, for short), an upper second (two-one for short), lower second (two-two or desmond for short) and a third. You can also get a non-honours and a pass, but you might not own up to them!! Desmond comes from Desmond Tutu (two-two, get it?).

Direct debit - How utility companies etc take payments direct from our bank accounts with the ability to change the amount. They simply divide your annual spend by twelve and take that amount each month. One reason why we don't need cheques in the UK. Similar to your electronic funds transfer.

Directory enquiries - When you call 192 from a British phone a nice person will welcome you to directory enquiries. They look up phone numbers for you. It would be directory assistance or information in America. Well that was true until recently when the government opened the service to all comers. now 192 has gone and been replaced with 6 digit numbers all starting 118. Sadly nobody can remember most of them and many people still think 192 is the number.

Dirty weekend - These are highly recommended. A dirty weekend is one where you and your partner (or someone else's partner) disappear for a couple of days for rampant sex.

Dodgem cars - Generally shortened to "dodgems", these little electric cars at the fair are called bumper cars in America.

Doodle bug - Both my parents and my grandparents hid from the doodle bugs in the war. They were the flying bombs that Hitler sent over to England during the war. Apparently you called them buzz bombs!

Dosh - This is a fairly common word for money.

Draughts - Checkers to you.

Drawing pin - Thumbtack to you chaps.

Drink up - In a pub, 10 minutes before closing time you will hear the barman shout "last orders please". This tells you to get the last round in before it is too late. When the clock strikes 11pm, they will then shout "time" to tell you it is too late to order any more. You now have 20 minutes to drink up after which time it is illegal to drink. This is called "drinking up time".

Dummy - Pacifier for a baby. Also the mannequin in a clothing shop window or someone who has no brain.

Egg timer - You would call this an hour glass. Presumably your eggs are bigger than ours if they take an hour to cook!

Elastoplast - If you cut yourself you would put a plaster or elastoplast on it. Or to give it it's full name, a sticking plaster. In America you have band aids. Elastoplast is just a brand name that sometimes gets used instead of "plaster".

Eleven plus - This is the name of the exam that eleven year olds used to sit to determine if they went to grammar school or a secondary modern school. Often the first exam a kid ever sat.

Elevenses - Elevenses is an old fashioned habit with us Brits. It consists of stopping work for a cuppa and a bickie at around eleven in the morning, before carrying on till lunch time. Most people don't have time for elevenses any more though.

Eurovision song contest - Every year a terrible thing happens on TV right across Europe. One lucky unknown singer from each country vies for the title. The object is to unite Europe - which it does. Everyone in every country seems to hate it equally.

Fag - Probably the most famous troublesome word for Brits in the USA. I even fell for it myself when I visited my first US supermarket aged 16 and asked how much the fags were. The lady gave me a horrible stare and pretended not to hear me. Little did she know I thought I had found a business opportunity to make money on cigarettes. Fags are expensive here!

Fair - Carnival to you. Swings and roundabouts, big wheels and other rides amongst the hot dog and candyfloss stands. We also have country fairs which are similar to yours with crafts and arts and sometimes animal displays and the like.

Fancy dress - Fancy dress means dressing up in a costume. Probably to go to a fancy dress party. In America that would be a costume party. In our office we can come to work in casual dress on Fridays. You often hear people saying to each other "Oh I didn't realise it was fancy dress today". That is British humour for you, taking the mickey out of people with loud shirts and wacky clothes.

Fete - Field day. Most schools and villages have a fete in the summer with side-shows, games, races, food and drink and a coconut shy.

Film - We don't go to the movie theatre to see a movie. We go to the pictures (or cinema) to see a film.

Finals - Your finals are the final exams you do at university. Possibly the worst few weeks of your life. We don't have grade points - the result of your degree is generally dependant on the results of your finals. Some courses use continual assessment or coursework to avoid this process but finals do avoid the problem of having people study for hundreds of years collecting points and getting a degree when, frankly, they don't deserve one.

First floor - The lift always starts on the ground floor and goes up to the first floor then the second floor. If you want an upstairs room in an English motel, it may well be on the first floor. I had a huge argument the first time I went to Florida and wanted a ground floor room. When I was told my room was on the first floor I almost hit the guy. I think the feeling was mutual!

Fiver - A fiver is a five pound note. Our notes are all a different colour and different size. This, along with subtle but bold shapes on each note, helps partially sighted people and blind people to handle money as well as the rest of us. It's fun to watch Brits trying to figure out different dollar bills to avoid giving $100 tips!

Flannel - If you ask for a flannel in a British house you will be given a washcloth for your face.

Football - Soccer to you. The national sport. Both on and off the field sadly! At school, usually called footy or footer.

Form - This is the way we describe which grade we are in at school. In a normal school you would start at age eleven in the first form (or the first year). You would finish in the fifth form (or fifth year) and optionally stay on for two more years to do your A levels. These two years are called the lower sixth and the upper sixth. Sixth formers are the ones that study a bit harder because they generally chose to be there!

Fresher's ball - During your first year at university you would be referred to as a "fresher". Every year there is a ball for the freshers to get to know each other. And, of course, the experienced students take the opportunity to check out the new talent!

Fringe - The front of your hair - your bangs! Makes Brits smile for some reason, when you say "bangs"!

Fringe - The fringe in theatre land is the equivalent of off broadway in the USA. The most famous fringe is at the Edinburgh Festival, where some of the finest new acts are to be seen.

Fruit machine - Slot machine to you. The fruit machines in Las Vegas are like the ones we had in the UK about 15 years ago. You pull the handle and watch the reels spin. If you win you win. If you don't you don't. Boring! Since gambling is permitted everywhere in the UK (within certain guidelines), it has developed a lot further than this. In order to keep the gambling public happy, machines now have features galore. It is not enough to match fruit symbols now, there are up nudges, down nudges, combination nudges, additional features to the reels, entire electronic games kicked off by features, held features, win gambles, win swops for features, feature exchanges and so on. Most 10 year olds can work these things and make pocket money by helping grown-ups work out what happened when everything starts flashing and helping them to win. Truly amazing. Makes the Vegas machines seem a bit boring though!

Full stop - Period to you. In English period really only means the thing a woman has every month, which is why Brits snigger when you say it.

Gangway - This is the gap between rows of seats, where one can walk - like in a restaurant. Or it's the thing you walk up onto a ship. Finally if you want a crowd to move out of the way because you are coming through, you would shout "gangway" at the top of your voice - try it outside Buckingham Palace next time you are there.

GCSE - General Certificate of Secondary Education. These are the exams that students in their 5th year of secondary school take when they are 16. After these, students may leave school or go onto the 6th form where they spend two more years studying for their A-levels, which are university entrance exams.

Grammar school - When these existed they were the schools that brighter kids went to at age 11. To get to grammar school meant passing the eleven plus exam.

Guide dog - Seeing eye dog to you chaps. I still don't know why American drive up ATM machines have braille keys. Do seeing eye dogs drive in the USA? In the UK they only walk!

Gum - Gum means glue in the UK. When you want to buy some chewing gum, be careful or you may find yourself sticking your teeth together.

Handbag - A woman carries a handbag. A man will never understand the contents of one. You call them purses, which is confusing for us because a purse is something that goes in the handbag and contains money.

Hen night - The equal and opposite of the stag night. Naturally girls are worse but still manage to blame it all on the chaps. Bachelorette party!

High Street - When I was a kid you always went shopping to the High Street. In fact every town in the country was built around the High Street as the centre of activity and shopping. Today though, the High Streets are quiet and the traders who occupy them are finding it more difficult to stay in business as the supermarkets and other shops are moving out of town.

High Street Shops - This is a term you will hear in the UK which refers to the national chains of shops that you would expect to find in every town's High Street. Sadly these days with the move to out of town shopping centres (Malls) these shops are moving out of the High Streets and leaving them somewhat desolate.

Hole in the wall - Another expression for cashpoint machine or ATM to you chaps.

Holiday - Vacation to you. We usually go on a two-week holiday every summer since the basic holiday entitlement in the UK is 4 or 5 weeks when you start work. We also get several bank holidays.

Hoover - Really a brand of vacuum cleaner but the word "hoover" is used to describe all vacuum cleaners. Like you call all copy machines "Xerox machines". We don't Xerox something, we photocopy it. We use the hoover to do the hoovering.

Hurling - Apparently this one doesn't translate too well into American. Hurling is nothing to do with being sick, it is a sport, played a lot in Ireland which is like a cross between hockey and rugby. The players try to get a hard ball into, or over, a goal with the aid of a stick.

Hypermarket - Just when we thought supermarkets couldn't get any bigger they invented the hypermarket. It is basically a huge supermarket. There are a lot of them on the north coast of France that the Brits visit to buy huge volumes of cheap booze.

Insects - We don't use the word bugs like you do. We either refer to insects by name (Charles, Henry, Elizabeth - no I mean ants, spiders, moths etc) or just call them insects.

Jiggered - If something is jiggered then it is broken. If you hear 'well I'll be jiggered' then that person is surprised and if someone says they are jiggered then they are actually exhausted.

Jasper - Jasper is another word for wasp. You might also call them yellow jackets. They invade picnics in the summertime and usually end their lives in a pot of jam!

Johnny - Short for "rubber johnny", this is a term for a condom. We don't call them rubbers. Those are found on the end of pencils to rub out mistakes!

Kiss gate - If you wander across many of Britain's public footpaths, out in the country, you are likely to come across a kiss gate. These gates are designed to let people through but to keep animals in the fields. Only one person can get through at a time and the man is supposed to go first. In order for the lady to follow, the man has to let the gate go back, but not until he gets a kiss! Cute huh? Excellent excuse on a first date!

Chuck was determined to make friends during his trip to England

Ladybird - Ladybug. Not even closely related to a bird! Does fly though.

Lead - The thing that a British dog uses to drag you along the street behind it. American dogs use a leash!

Leaving do - Another type of do. When someone leaves a company, their colleagues may arrange a leaving do for them. You might call it a going away party or leaving party.

Letter box - This is the mail box - big and red and found loitering on street corners.

Licence fee - In order to watch any TV in the UK you must pay a licence fee to the BBC. It's cheaper than your basic US cable package and gets you our five main channels. It means there are no ads on the BBC channels which is excellent. We also have cable and satellite TV channels at an extra cost and so our TV is getting more like yours, sadly.

Lift - The American elevator. In England we don't talk in the lift, unless we are with close friends or colleagues. Even then, as soon as someone else steps in, all conversation stops! In America, these rules do not apply. Americans in England should attempt to abide by the English lift laws, or may accidentally upset the natives, who will be giving each other strange looks! A lift is also something you get by standing at the side of main roads with your thumb out. Americans hitch-hiking in the UK should avoid asking for a "ride"! This could result in some unplanned sexual activity with someone you have never met before!

Local - Your local is the pub you visit the most. It actually doesn't have to be the one that is nearest to you. So if you hear someone saying that they are "off down the local" you know where they are going.

Lounge bar - When I was a kid, most pubs had a saloon bar and a lounge bar. The price of a pint was a penny or two more in the lounge and, unlike the saloon, it had proper carpets and comfortable seating.

Marigolds - These are actually the brand name for some rubber gloves, used for washing up. However they have adopted the same status as Hoover has for vacuum cleaners.

Marks and Sparks - This is how many people would refer to the country's leading retailer Marks and Spencer. Most people still seem to buy their underwear from M&S. Americans always snigger at the sign for men's briefs!

Marquee - This is the large tent that many people would rent to hold the party after a wedding.

Maths - This is what you call math. It is short for "mathematics", the study of numbers. What I want to know is what you have done with the "s".

Mobile - These days everyone has a mobile. You chaps called them cellular phones. They were originally for talking but nowadays they send e-mails and surf the internet too. Whatever next?

Naughts and crosses - What everyone does in boring classes/meetings etc - tic tac toe in America.

Note - A note is what we call our paper money. We don't call them bills. For example a five pound note is called a fiver and a ten pound note is called a tenner. Strangely a twenty is called a twenty.

O-Level - At 16, school kids used to take around ten O-levels (O for Ordinary). These were the qualifications that got you into the sixth form, where you studied for your A-levels (A for Advanced). O-levels have been replaced by GCSEs which cover a broader range of educational ability (General Certificate of Secondary Education). And in Scotland, they have another system altogether!

Over the moon - If you are over the moon about something it means you are delighted.

Oxbridge - A short way of referring to Oxford and Cambridge universities. When you are at school and planning your university applications you would say you were applying to Oxbridge if you were applying to both. Either way, you are a smart arse!

Pantomime - A Christmas tradition with no American equivalent. A pantomime is a show which takes normally mature, serious actors and actresses and sees them dressing up as members of the opposite sex to amuse children with popular stories. Usually has an evil man, a man dressed in drag as a widow and a dashing young male hero (really a woman in green tights). You spend most of your time shouting "It's behind you" and adults pretend they only go for the kids. A really disorganised event may also be described as something of a pantomime!

Parcel - This is what you call a package. For some strange reason it is always so much more exciting to receive a parcel than a letter.

Pay packet - This is what you get at the end of the week or month with a wodge of money in it. You call it a pay check. These days, of course, many people are paid electronically.

Pay rise - Not something you see very often - you would call this a raise.

Pence - The one hundred pennies that make up a British pound are called pence. The same as you have cents. However, you will often hear people calling them "p". So if you are asked for 50p you are expected to hand over fifty pence.

Penny farthing - I used to see an old chap cycling up and down our village street every day on a penny farthing. They are an amazing sight. You might call them high-wheelers, they are old bicycles with one huge wheel at the front and a tiny one at the back. When our currency had pennies and farthings the name would have made a lot of sense!

Photocopier - Copier or xerox machine to you. If you ask someone where you can Xerox something in England, expect a blank stare - you need to ask where you can make a photocopy.

Pictures - As kids we spent a lot of time at the pictures. It is another word for the cinema or the movie theater.

Pillar box - My Mum always used to send me to the pillar box to post the letter. It is another word for postbox or as you would say, mailbox.

Plaster - If you cut yourself you would put a plaster on it. Or to give it it's full name, a "sticking plaster". In America you have band aids.

Polystyrene - Styrofoam in the US. Same uses in both countries though we do have something against drinking tea or coffee out of polystyrene cups. It's just not cricket!

Polytechnic - This a kind of technical college. If you didn't get the grades to get into university, the second choice was to go to poly or polytechnic. Their degrees were the same as universities, but it was easier to get into them. Most polys are now converted to universities.

Pompey - I went to poly in Pompey. It is the colloquial slang for Portsmouth.

Pontoon - Also known as 21 or blackjack where you have to get 21 to beat the bank.

Post - The mail. The post arrives in the morning in the UK. It drops through your letter box onto your hall carpet. You can read it in bed before you go to work, with a nice cuppa. Very civilised.

Post mortem - Autopsy in American. Not a fun job in either language.

Postbox - Where you post things. They are on street corners as well as at the post office. You'd call them a mailbox.

Postcode - Zipcode to you chaps. Postcodes are in the form RG26 5AN where the first two letters tell you the main postal town (RG=Reading) and the rest narrows down your house to the nearest 6 houses. That means that with just your house number and postcode anything can be delivered anywhere in the UK. Many mail order companies just ask you your house number and postcode - the rest is printed by computer. Clever huh! The new 9 digit US zip codes will achieve the same thing.

Postman - This is the chap who delivers your post on his bike or his little red van. He will sign for stuff that you are supposed to sign for if he misses you and hide it in the garden and leave a note for you! Ours dresses up like Father Christmas at Christmas time.

Pram - Like a big stroller, sometimes the top lifts off the wheels and can be used as a cot. That would then be called a "carry cot". Short for perambulator.

Premium bonds - These are a government savings scheme that pay no interest. No - we're not all completely mad - instead of interest they pay out millions in prize money each month and keep their value exactly the same. In these days where bank interest rates are so low - they suddenly become a much more interesting way of saving! It's like a lottery where each ticket lasts a lifetime or until you cash them in. Cool huh!

Prep school - Short for preparatory school, this is the school that kids go to before they go to public school. Normally from ages eight to thirteen.

Primary school - From the age of 5 until 11, our kids go to primary school.

Property - We generally use the word "property" where you would say real estate. To us - that sounds like the opposite of "pretend estate" - like Disneyworld perhaps!

Pub - The cornerstone of British social life. Every village has a pub, or several. These tend to be friendly sociable places to go for a pie and pint, meet the locals, get a cheap meal and drink some of that nice British beer, we know you like so much. They usually have a beer garden and maybe a skittle alley, pool table and always a fruit machine or two. Town and city pubs come in several varieties. There are the drinking men's pubs, where the guys who leave the missus at home go, to chat to their mates and have a fag. There are the trendy, loud, expensive yuppie pubs. There are the family pubs which have separate rooms where kids can go, and they have lots of food and a playground (yuck!), and then there are the nice ones.

Pub crawl - Not quite as literal as it sounds, a pub crawl consists of drinking a pint at as many different pubs as possible, one after the other. Towards the end of the evening the "crawl" bit starts to take effect. Often followed by a curry! And more pints of course! Similar to your bar hopping.

Public convenience - You may still see "public convenience" signs around England. They are pointing you to the nearest public toilet or restroom.

Public school - Rather oddly, this is the name we give our private schools. For those that can afford to opt out of the state education system, this would be the alternative.

Purse - A woman carries a purse to contain her money - notes and coins. You may call this a wallet. Not to be confused with a handbag.

Pushchair - Stroller in American.

Pylon - This is what we would call a high tension tower which carries 11,000 volts of electricity.

Queue - Brits have never stood in line. But they have queued - at the post office, the deli, in traffic. We like to queue almost as much as you like to stand in line.

RAF - The Royal Air Force - our answer to Top Gun!

Railway - We refer to the railroad as a railway.

Rates - Rates are local taxes. Currently based on the value of your property, they are generally lower than your property tax and are payable monthly. For some strange reason this is the only bill payment that is only paid in 10 months of the year - maybe the council find dividing by twelve too difficult! Rates are now called "council tax" here in the UK.

Reception - This is the area in a hotel or business that you would call the front desk or the lobby.

Return - When you want to buy a round trip ticket, when visiting England, ask for a return.

Revise - Before an exam, we would revise the subject. I remember spending many unhappy hours revising for my A Levels. You might review your subjects in a similar situation or simply study.

Rise - You call this a raise. Not a common occurrence in either place, sadly! Also called a payrise.

Rounders - This is a game that kids play, which has almost exactly the same rules as baseball.

Rubber - In England you would never hesitate to borrow an old rubber from a good friend, or even a stranger, for that matter. They would probably have one on the end of their pencil. Most kids chew their rubbers then break them into pieces and throw them at each other. You call them erasers! This caused me immense embarrassment the first time I tried to borrow one in the US.

Rubber Johnny - This is a term for a condom. Usually shortened to just "Johnny".

Rubbish - Trash to you. Someone could be talking rubbish, or you might put the rubbish in the bin!

Saloon - When I was a kid, most pubs had a saloon bar and a lounge bar. The price of a pint was cheaper in the saloon and the decor was more your spit and sawdust style. The labourers drank in the saloon. These days both bars have been knocked into one and everyone shares everything.

School - This is either primary school (ages 5 to 11) or secondary school (ages 11 to 18).

Secondary school - Short for "secondary modern school", this is what you call high school. In the UK, if you failed your eleven plus exam, this is the kind of school you would go to instead of a grammar school. After this system changed to the current one, both these kinds of schools were replaced by comprehensive schools.

Sellotape - This is a brand of scotch tape, but we use it to describe all sticky tapes.

Semi - Short for a semi-detached house or a duplex in the US. If someone is being a bit dim you might also say they are semi-detached.

Serviette - Or "servie-what"? as I once heard in a Texas restaurant! I should have asked for a napkin!

Set down - You may see signs around London saying "set down only". This means you may only stop the car momentarily to drop off your passengers. No parking is allowed.

Shares - Stocks in a company are called shares.

Shop - Store. We go shopping, presumably you go storing? We will go to the shops the same way you will go to the mall. We don't have many malls, though they are beginning to appear. Some of them are created by putting a roof over an entire town centre - like the one in Camberley.

Shopping trolley - Shopping cart. These are used for collecting your shopping as you go around the supermarket. They also have another use, which to this day, is still unexplained. They have a habit of turning up in rivers. In fact, anywhere there is a large or medium amount of water, there will be a shopping trolley. Nobody knows why. They are usually many miles from the nearest supermarket. I'm not sure if the same phenomenon has reached America yet. What is the difference between a shopping trolley and a policeman? (or whoever else you like). Answer: the shopping trolley has a mind of it's own!

Shove-halfpenny - Pronounced "shove hape-knee", this is a an old pub game where you push polished coins, old halfpennies, along a polished board to score points. Still around in a few pubs but mostly replaced by newer games that take your money quicker.

Skip - What do you call a Skoda with a sunroof? Answer - a skip! In the UK, Skoda used to be the car to laugh about, cheap, ugly and nobody would be seen dead in one. A skip is a dumpster so now maybe the joke makes sense.

Skipping rope - Jump rope - no sane person would use one!.

Sledge - This what you would call a sled. We go sledging when you go sledding.

Snooker - Also played on a large table, with pockets. There are 15 reds and 6 other coloured balls, each with a different value. Players take it in turns to use the white to pocket a red, then a colour then a red and so on. Once the reds are all gone, the colours have to be pocketed one by one in the order yellow (2), green (3), brown (4), blue (5), pink (6) and black (7). Highest break is 147. Pool is also played but mainly in pubs.

Spondulicks - Another word for your money. This one dates back to the last century but the origin remains unknown. Some people say "spondulies".

Stag night - Before you get married, you and your buddies go out on a stag night, or a stag weekend. The object being to get as drunk as possible before the happy day, hoping to meet a bunch of girlies on a hen night! You call it a bachelor party.

Stand for election - This is what we do when you run for office.

Standing order - How utility companies etc take payments direct from our accounts without being able to change the amount. Cheques are not used much in England any more, just for giving your friends money. You may call it an electronic funds transfer or EFT.

Stone - When I told the man in the driving licence office I was 13 stone 10, he said that it must be close to a boulder! Very funny! A stone is 14 pounds which makes me about 192 pounds. Big enough to hit him!

Strimmer - Weed eater or trimmer in the US. A weed eater in the UK would be something like a cow or a goat! My American friend's house rental contract obliged him to "Weed eat the yard on a regular basis". In English this would cause stomach ache and possibly other illnesses!

Surgery - Apart from what happens in an operating theatre, we also call the local doctor's office, the surgery. Also, when members of parliament hold meetings for members of the public to raise questions with them, they often call them surgeries.

Swimming baths - We say we are off to the swimming baths when we are going to the swimming pool. We use both expressions to mean the same thing.

Telephone box - That lovely old red thing you see on every British street corner. Or DID until they were mostly replaced by modern phone booths. BT sold them off at a hundred quid each - now they are collectors items. Most drunks miss them as somewhere to pee after the curry! Called phone booths in America.

Telephone directory - We don't use the expression white pages like you do. We just refer to the telephone directory. However, we do talk about yellow pages in the same way as you.

Tenner - A tenner is a ten pound note. Our notes are all a different colour and different size. This, along with subtle but bold shapes on each note, helps partially sighted people and blind people to handle money as well as the rest of us. So if you are asked for a tenner in England - get out your dosh, not a fat man with a good singing voice!

Tick - When we fill in forms we are asked to tick the boxes. You check the boxes. When putting a tick in the box - be careful not to confuse this with the little biting insect, which is also called a tick!

Timber - Don't ask for lumber in England. Lumber is either a lolloping walk or the lower part of your back. Timber is any kind of treated wood. It is also something a lumberjack shouts when the tree starts to topple.

Time - The word "time" is the same in both countries. However the way we tell it is different. When I was first asked the time in a shopping mall in Austin I said it was "half ten". The very confused guy just looked at me and said "What, five o'clock?". We say "half ten" for ten thirty. We say "quarter past ten" when you would say quarter after ten or, more likely ten fifteen. We say "quarter to ten" when you would say quarter of ten.

Tippex - This is another brand name for a correction fluid. However, we generally say "tippex" in the same way that you say white out, which is your equivalent. Ours is a little thicker in texture.

Tire - Something you do when you are worn out or knackered. Best thing to do is to go to bed.

Torch - We uses torches when we go camping to see in the dark, in our tents. My American friends didn't believe we would do anything so dangerous. But that's because we were talking about flashlights, not a flaming stick!

Trolley - When you arrive at the airport the first thing you'll need is a trolley. Don't be tempted to ask for a cart.

Tube - The London underground system is called the tube. You have a subway in New York. In England it is also called the underground.

TV licence - These are the licences we buy in order to watch TV legally in the UK. There are detector vans that roam the country looking for TVs that are switched on at addresses that have not purchased a TV licence. If you are caught - you are made to watch TV commercials - because the licence fee means we don't have commercials on the BBC. Yippee!

TV programme - This is what we call a TV show, though you will hear both phrases used here these days.

Tyre - The rubber based thing that goes on a wheel. It is illegal to guarantee 50,000 mile usage in the UK as these tyres contain less rubber and more nylon. Nylon doesn't stick to wet roads, hence the usual pile-ups on I35 when it rains. Tire to you.

UK - The United Kingdon (UK) is not to be confused with either England, Britain or the British Isles. The UK is the three countries of Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland), plus Northern Ireland. See wikipedia for a very long explanation!

Underground - The underground is another word for the subway or as we like to call it, the tube.

University - Age 18 to 21 or so. You say school. Basically still free, entry being based on merit and exam results, rather than money. However, the government is gradually sneaking in more costs for students and it is unlikely to remain free for much longer, I fear.

VAT - Value added tax or sales tax in the US. The main difference is ours is included in the price you see, so nothing gets added at the till.

Wad - If you had a big fat wad, you would have loads of money.

Wallet - When I was 16 I had my wallet stolen in Boston airport. I was worried when the announcement on the plane was about a missing pocket book. But no. That's what you call a wallet. I also heard it called a bill fold.

Wash up - We do this after dinner and you do it before. We are talking about doing the dishes whereas you are talking about your hands!

Way out - I had to laugh recently when I was at the pictures with an American friend. She asked me what was outside that was so "way out"! There was a door with "way out" illuminated above it. It actually means exit, not that there is something groovy and way out through there.

WC - I'm often asked by my American chums about the good old WC. It is never said but often seen on signs, not just in England but all across Europe. It is short for "water closet" and simply means the loo, toilet or restroom.

Wedge - Your wedge, like your wad is another expression for your money.

White horse - Around Wiltshire there are a number of white horses. They are cut into the hillside and are visible from miles around. In fact, if you are visiting Stonehenge there is a leaflet there that describes a three hour driving tour of about 6 or 7 local white horses. Worth a visit on a sunny day. The reason they are white is that below the top soil the area is made of white chalk.

Wonga - Your wonga is your wad, or in other words your money.

Year - At school we refer to the grades as forms or years. We call the first year, "the first year". Cryptic huh? We also call it the "first form". We also use years to describe our progress through university. counter

© 2020 Effingpot Productions Ltd