United Kingdom English for the American Novice


ABATTOIR n. 1. A slaughter house which processes meat for human consumption.

ABBREVIATION Abbreviations form their own subset of a language. Examples of some of the more common abbreviations are given here.

AGA (ah-gah) 1. Brand name of a particular type of stove which is often found in farm houses. The stove will use a variety of things as its fuel. An AGA resembles a Franklin wood burning stove.

AGM 1. Newspaper headline abbreviation for Annual General Meeting.

B&B 1. Bed and Breakfast. Wherever B&B is seen, it means there is a bedroom available for the night, be it only one spare bedroom in a house or ten in an inn. Typical prices in 1982 range from five to ten POUNDS per night. A generous breakfast of cereal, eggs, toast and some type of meat is served in the morning.


DIY 1. Do It Yourself. TIMBER YARDS would probably have DIY prominently displayed outside.

GBH 1. Grievous Bodily Harm. This is police term popular with television shows when they are trying to be realistic.

GC 1. Newspaper advertisement abbreviation meaning Good Condition. This is usually in lower case (gc). VGC is used so extensively that when one sees GC, it serves as a warning that the item is probably pretty GROTTY.

HGV 1. Heavy Goods Vehicle.

HP 1. Standing for HIRE Purchase meaning to buy something in installments. As in, "Everything he has is on H.P."

MEP 1. Member of the European Parliament.

MOT 1. A form of legalised robbery that works as follows: Every year you are obliged by law to obtain a certificate of roadworthiness (MOT) for your three year old (or older) car. Only a garage is allowed to issue an MOT. A garage will not issue a certified MOT until you agree to various expensive "repairs". If you don't believe that a particular part needs replacement you can always try another garage, but you must pay a fee (five POUNDS) to the first garage in any case. (In all fairness I must admit that I was not charged any pseudo-repair fees when getting my last MOT.) 2. Ministry Of Transport (there is no such ministry now. What was the MOT is now the Department of Transport).

MP 1. Member of Parliament. 2. Military Policeman. 3. (now rare) Metropolitan (i.e. London) Policeman. Except where clearly indicated by context, MP normally means (1) above.

N.B. 1. Officially in American, but almost never understood, this term means "Nota Bene" (note well).

OAP 1. Old Age Pensioner (i.e. a retired person).

OFFO 1. Abbreviation for OFF LICENCE (I don't know how they get the last "O" either).

ONO 1. Newspaper advertisement abbreviation for Or Nearest Offer. This is usually in lower case (ono).

OVNO 1. Newspaper advertisement abbreviation for Or Very Nearest Offer. This is usually in lower case (ovno).

P 1. One new PENNY. The term PENNY or its plural, PENCE, is not often heard. One usually refers to the price of something as simply "24 P". This is usually written as a lower case "p".

PM 1. The Prime Minister, Margaret (MAGGIE) Thatcher.

PTO 1. Please Turn Over, commonly found at the bottom of forms.

SOTON 1. Southampton. In an effort to economize and reduce the excessive amount of information on roadsigns, this city's name was abbreviated to SOTON (sometimes lengthened to SO'TON). Since SOTON is a major city in HANTS, the uninitiated will find that seemingly all roads in HANTS lead to SOTON.

The UK abounds in such abbreviations such as BERKS = BERKSHIRE (in general 'SHIRE' is shortened to 'S'). Several counties in the UK have been abolished by law but the law has been widely ignored. Hence MIDDX = MIDDLESEX and RUTLAND are still used as names of areas. One of the biggest offenders of this law is the Post Office itself. Letters addressed to MIDDX will arrive (eventually) and those "properly" addressed will be lost!

ST 1. SANITARY TOWEL. This is often seen in toilets.

VGC 1. Newspaper advertisement abbreviation for Very Good Condition. This is usually in lower case (vgc) and may mean anything from "like new" to "used, but still looks good".

WC 1. Some tell me it is "Water Convenience", others "Water Closet". In any case it's a toilet.

ADAM'S ALE n. 1. Water.

AIRER n. 1. A collapsible outside clothes line apparatus for drying clothes. A CLOTHES HORSE is a kind of drying rack.

AIRSCREW n. 1. Propeller.

A-LEVELS n. 1. An exam which is the second part of the General Certificate of Education needed in order to attend the university. These are generally taken at age 18.

ALLOTMENT n. 1. A vegetable garden plot. These are typically owned by some sort of government authority and citizens may simply apply to use one. As in, "We've an ALLOTMENT over on Garden CLOSE". These are also called "cooperatives".

ALLOTMENTS have been available for a very long time. For example, residents of the village of Colden Common, HANTS, could obtain an ALLOTMENT in 1855 for a fee of three POUNDS a year. These same ALLOTMENTS are used today and cost four POUNDS yearly.

ALSATIAN n. 1. German shepherd dog.

AMBER n. 1. Yellow (when said of traffic lights). In Britain all traffic lights go: Green, AMBER, red, red and AMBER, green. Note: An AMBER GAMBLER is one who is yellow/green color-blind (taken from road safety advertisement).

AMERICAN DINNER n. 1. A potluck dinner.

ANORAK n. 1. Hooded coat. Parka.

APPROVED SCHOOL n. 1. Now known as COMMUNITY SCHOOLS, this is a place where children who are removed from the custody of their parents are brought.

ARBROATH SMOKIES n. 1. Haddock which has been smoked over a hardwood fire, as opposed to, for instance, a KIPPER - which is typically herring that have been "kippered" (a salting-and-cold-smoking process). A BLOATER is similar, but is smoked whole and has a more "gamey" taste.

ARROWS n. 1. Darts, as in, "How about a game of ARROWS ?".

ARTICULATED LORRY n. 1. A semi truck. This is almost always shortened to ARTIC (pronounced AR-TICK with the emphasis on the second syllable).

ATHLETICS n. 1. Track and field.

AUBERGINE (o-ber-jean) n. 1. Eggplant.

AUNT SALLY n. 1. A person at a carnival game that you throw sponges etc. at. This is often generalized to be anyone that is commonly castigated or insulted. To quote a BBC radio broadcaster: "Well, you know, the Post Office is everyone's AUNT SALLY".

At a local village FETE the HEAD MASTER was an AUNT SALLY in a booth to raise money for the school. The children paid 10P to throw three wet sponges at him. He raised 350 POUNDS.