View Full Version : Odds and Sods (and other quaint British expressions/explanations)

September 5th, 2013, 08:19 AM
Part 1

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.

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.

September 6th, 2013, 05:50 AM
Some of these are soooooo funny - just bumping the thread up