View Full Version : Odds and Sods - part 2

September 5th, 2013, 08:20 AM
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.

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?

September 6th, 2013, 05:52 AM
Amazing how we don't seem to speak the same language at times!

Sew Perfect
September 6th, 2013, 06:56 AM
Amazing how we don't seem to speak the same language at times!

Jane, the funny thing is that when I was growing up I spent many summers with my Grandmother and Grandfather. My Grandmother would never allow me to use any form of slang, which some of the words you described Americans using would have been considered slang in her book. If I called an insect a "bug", she would correct me. I certainly would have not called "red bug" chiggers because the word chigger was slang for "red bug". If I used a word, such a "hurling" as a meaning of vomit, I would have had a bar of soap in my mouth. No, hurling meant to us...throwing, like to throw a ball - hurl a ball.

Can I go outside to play? She would answer my question with a question - "I don't know, can you?" So I would ask, "May I go outside to play?" She would then say that I may go outdoors to play.

My siblings and I were taught to say Maam and Sir in the great state of Florida and when I came to Kansas, it was considered an insult for some reason. Never the less, I still said it and taught my children to also say it. It's funny, the other night, people were talking about what Coke is called in the different parts of the U.S.. Take for example, I never heard of pop until I came to Kansas. It was Dr. Pepper, A&W or Barqs Root-beer, Pepsi, Coke, 7-Up...you get the drift (idea). (That's another word I would not use in that context as idea because drift mean to float, like drift away or driftwood.) I was one of those girls who did not drink a Coke out of the bottle unless it has peanuts in it.

When DH and I moved to Germany, they said Coke Lite, not Diet Coke. If I wanted ice, they thought I was asking for ice cream. The movie theater was the Kino.

Here's a funny one for you. When I first saw a fly in Germany, I couldn't believe that even Germany had flies! I was so amazed at that fact! And when I came to Kansas, I wouldn't swim in the water because I thought there were creatures in the water that could or would eat people! Growing up in Florida, we had alligators, snakes, sharks and if you go far enough South, salt water crocodiles! LOL...silly girl, I was so sheltered and naive.

September 6th, 2013, 07:32 AM
Jane, love your write up. The only thing that is very outdated is your Las Vegas vision of 3 Cherries. lol Three Arm Bandits have greatly expanded since the 70s - Computerized machines started in the early 80s already. :D Most have been computerized with "Spin" buttons so you can lose your money faster. Hit "max coins", the Casino loves it even better! lol Multi lines of 200 coins at a time! Are you into Star Wars, Duck Dynasty, Wheel of Fortune? We have a machine for you!

Poker, Black Jack, Keno, Slots, Roulette all available on one Multi-Game machine - .25, .50, $1, $5, $10 a coin - Take your pick on your chance to win BIG!

Remember "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" - Chamber of Commerce Slogan for years in commercials, I know that it's promoted in Canada and Mexico. Don't know if it's in Europe...