United Kingdom English for the American Novice


DAFT AS A BRUSH phrase. 1. Foolish or crazy, as in, "He's DAFT AS A BRUSH".

DEAD ON adj. 1. Exactly (when said of time), as in, "The meeting will start DEAD ON 9:00".

DECKO n. 1. A look, as in, "Have a DECKO and see for yourself".

DEMERARA n. 1. Brown sugar. One usually serves DEMERARA with coffee and sugar with TEA.

DEMIJOHN n. 1. Bottle used in the fermenting step of wine making.

DIARY n. 1. Appointment calendar.

DIGS n. 1. Long term rented accommodation in a private house, often used by university students and itinerant workers. Typical DIGS comprise a bedroom and access to a bathroom and toilet. The bathroom and toilet are normally shared with the family that own the house. The bedroom may be shared with other tenants. Some meals or cooking facilities may be provided. Meals are often shared with the family. Cooking facilities are often masterpieces of miniaturisation beside which the achievements of calculator makers pale into insignificance.

Members of the opposite sex are not allowed in (or even near) DIGS. This rule is strictly enforced by the landlady, invariably a light sleeper with super-acute hearing. Note that DIGS is always plural, as in: "Have you got a FLAT yet? No, I'm still in DIGS." or: "What are your DIGS like? OK, except for the landlady's man-eating ALSATIAN.". Short term or holiday DIGS are never called DIGS, instead they are called BED AND BREAKFAST or B&B. A BEDSIT is a DIGS with an absentee landlady.

DIP v. 1. To lower, as in, "DIP your lights for oncoming traffic".

DIRT n. 1. Filth. This is never dirt (soil) as used for plants.

DIVERSION n. 1. Detour. These are permanent features of most roads in the U.K.

DOLE n. 1. Welfare or Social Security, as in, "He hasn't worked for months - been on the DOLE."

DOLLAR n. 1. Five SHILLINGS or twenty-five PENCE. This has its origins from "Thaler", an Austrian coin of very wide circulation, both in the Mediterranean and elsewhere, from about 1600 on. The word was in comparatively wide circulation in English by about 1720 (a period of great shortage of silver British coinage). Its use in U.K. English predates the decision of the Continental Congress to adopt it as the official name for the U.S. currency.

DOLLY PEGS n. 1. Wooden clothes pins made from one piece of wood (not two pieces of wood with a metal spring between). DOLLY PEGS used to be made into tiny dolls, hence the name.

DORMOBILE n. 1. A small camper bus. This was originally a model name of such a camper.

DOSS AROUND v. 1. To slum. A DOSS house is for vagrants to stay the night at. As in, "I wanted a year off before university, but I also wanted to do something positive and not just DOSS AROUND."

DOUBLE DECKER n. 1. A two-level bus.

DOUBLE GLAZING n. 1. Storm windows. Windows in the U.K. are notoriously poorly designed and seldom close tightly. In an attempt to make them less drafty, DOUBLE GLAZING may be installed on the inside of the window. A dead air pocket is created by installing a thermal glass "door" to the window casing. A rubber seal ensures a close fit with the rest of the casing. Most DOUBLE GLAZING windows slide like a patio door, but some must be opened inwards before the regular window may be opened outwards. During warmer weather the DOUBLE GLAZING may be removed.

DOWNS n. 1. Hills.

DRAUGHTS (drahfts) n. 1. The game of checkers. 2. Wind currents prevented by DOUBLE GLAZING. People who play checkers are DRAUGHTSMEN. Just as surprising, an engineer's drawing is a DRAUGHT and not a draft and he is called a DRAUGHTSMEN.

DRAWING PIN n. 1. Thumb tack.

DRAWING ROOM n. 1. Living room. The term comes from "withdrawing room". This This is the room the ladies would withdraw to while the men drank.

DROP HEAD n. 1. Convertible (automobile).

DRESSING GOWN n. 1. Bathrobe.

DRINKING UP TIME phrase. 1. Period of ten minutes following the end of PUB licensing hours (TIME) allowed for customers to finish their drinks. Anyone who still has a drink after DRINKING UP TIME is breaking the law.

DRIVING LICENCE n. 1. Driver's license. Serious driving offences are recorded directly on your U.K. DRIVING LICENSE and are known as ENDORSEMENTS. Three of these and you're done driving.

DUAL CARRIAGEWAY n. 1. Divided highway.

DUSTBIN n. 1. Trash barrel.

DYNAMO n. 1. Generator.

EARTH adj. 1. Ground (when said of electrical wiring), as in, "To be safe, be certain your appliances always have an EARTH wire".

EIRE (air-ah) n. 1. Ireland. The political country which is composed of the major portion of the island of Ireland (excluding Northern Ireland).

ELASTOPLAST n. 1. Band aid. The term was originally a brand name. The term PLASTER may also be heard. This is taken from the old fashioned PLASTERS used before the days of the band aid.

ELEVENSES n. 1. Morning coffee (TEA) break.

ELIZABETH II n. 1. Englishman's designation for the current queen. PILLAR BOXES in ENGLAND have ER II (Elizabeth Regina) cast on them. ELIZABETH I is the Scotsman's designation for the current queen. PILLAR BOXES in Scotland with ER II on them have been known to be blown up. The discrepancy arises because Mary Queen of Scots ruled Scotland when Elizabeth I ruled England, thus the current Elizabeth is Scotland's first.

ENGAGED adj. 1. Busy. A telephone may be ENGAGED. Similarly, a public toilet may also be ENGAGED.

ENGLAND n. 1. Term commonly used to mean England, Scotland and Wales. Such usage is deeply offensive to many Scots and Welsh and should be avoided (do not be misled by the fact that many English people make the mistake). "British" (i.e. those who live on the islands of Great Britain) seems to be a safer alternative.

ESTATE AGENT n. 1. Realtor. The British version is as well respected and loved as the American.

ESTATE CAR n. 1. Station wagon.

EXCESS n. 1. An insurance-related term meaning deductible.

FAG n. 1. Cigarette. This term has no sexual preference connotations. Imagine the reaction an Englishman gets on HOLIDAY in the United States when he innocently asks for a FAG. 2. A schoolboy forced to do menial tasks for another. 3. Hard work, as in, "I can't be bothered to do that. It's too much of a FAG".

adj. 1. Tired, as in, "He worked all day and is all FAGGED OUT".

FAGGOT n. 1. A sausage-like meat. These are also known as SAVOURY DUCKS in some areas of Britain. To be authentic these should contain seaweed.

adj. 1. An insult applied to women, as in, "She's an old FAGGOT".

FANNY n. 1. The female pudenda, not the posterior. This word is not in common use in polite British society.

FETE (fate) n. 1. A festival. It is common for British villages to hold a FETE in celebration for not having drowned during the rains of the previous winter. Some theorise these FETES have their origins as early Druid rites.

FILLET (fill-it) n. 1. Filet, as in "a FILLET of cod".

FISH FINGERS n. 1. Fish sticks. In either language they taste pretty awful.

FISHMONGER n. 1. A person that sells fish.

FIZZ n. 1. Soft drinks. Also known as FIZZY DRINKS.

FLANNEL n. 1. Face cloth. 2. A type of cloth used for making trousers. This is not the towelling used for making face cloths. FLANNELS (trousers) are made of FLANNEL. (Confusion is avoided since TROUSERS are not used to wipe the face in the UK).

v. 1. To talk without meaning as in, "I don't know what to say. NEVERMIND, I'll just FLANNEL".

FLAP JACKS n. 1. A thin cake made in a pan from oats and eaten at TEA. GOLDEN SYRUP is often used in making these.

FLASH adj. 1. Expensive looking and suggesting the owner wishes to flaunt it, as in a "FLASH car".

n. 1. Exposure of the genitals, as in, "I was just waiting for me BUS, when this BLOKE comes up and gives me a quick FLASH".

FLAT n. 1. Apartment, whether rented or owned (condominium).

FLEET STREET n. 1. A phrase used to refer collectively to the national newspapers of England. FLEET STREET in London is where all the national newspaper offices are to be found. As in, "FLEET STREET today reported that Prime Minister Thatcher ...".

National newspapers are something unfamiliar to most Americans. There are a number of newspapers which are available over the entire nation and deal almost exclusively with news of national interest. These are all morning papers and are extensively read. Local newspapers are usually evening papers (some with two editions) and deal with local events. They seldom have much national news. Typically one will get two or more newspapers a day in England.

The national newspapers are of two basic types, TABLOIDS and (real) newspapers. THE SUN consistently leads the TABLOIDS in outrageous taste. It may be instructive to note that the TABLOIDS have the largest circulation of all the national newspapers in the United Kingdom.

THE FINANCIAL TIMES is the equivalent of the Wall Street Journal and deals only in business news. This paper is printed on faded pink paper so everyone will know the reader is a member of the business community and will be impressed. THE GUARDIAN is a liberal newspaper that more closely resembles a magazine in format, rather than a newspaper. THE TIMES is the establishment newspaper, taking a basically middle-of-the-road view. THE TELEGRAPH is an extreme right wing newspaper and is read mostly by the conservative element. See also PAGE THREE and TABLOID.

FLEX n. 1. Extension cord. A CABLE is the stiff wire used to wire your house (i.e. from the MAINS to your plug).

FLYOVER n. 1. Overpass.

FLOOR n. 1. The British (and Europeans as well) start counting floors of a building with zero. The first floor is the GROUND FLOOR, the second is the FIRST FLOOR etc.

FOOTBALL n. 1. Soccer. Football is looked upon as dull and mystical.

FORTNIGHT n. 1. Two weeks. This term is used quite commonly. The term has its origins in the phrase "fourteen nights". Armed with this knowledge you will not be surprised to learn that SEVNIGHT is also used in English and means ... (guess).

FREE HOUSE n. 1. Not the greatest land deal since the Indians sold Manhattan, but a PUB which is actually owned by the PUBLICAN. Most PUBS are owned by a brewery whose name will be found on the outside of the building in large letters (e.g. COURAGE or WHITBREAD). A brewery-owned PUB will serve only their own brand of drink. A FREE HOUSE has no such restriction and will probably offer several different brands.

In a similar context there are also FREE OFF LICENCE shops to be found.

FREE RANGE EGGS n. 1. Not eggs that are given away, but eggs layed by uncooped chickens. Hens which are cooped are referred to as BATTERY HENS.

FRENCH DRESSING n. 1. Italian dressing. The English have no equivalent of the American's French dressing.

FRENCH LETTER n. 1. A prophylactic. A rubber. Curiously the French term for the same item is "Capote Anglaise" (English overcoat). Grafiti found on a contraceptive machine: "Not available during French postal strike".

FRIGHTFULLY FRIGHTFULLY (frah-flly frah-flly) adj. 1. Describing someone who is attempting to act ever so very proper. As in, "He was just FRIGHTFULLY FRIGHTFULLY". The origin of this stems from the overuse of the word when people are acting in this manner. See also COUNTY.

FRINGE n. 1. Hair bangs.

FRUIT MACHINE n. 1. One armed bandit. Slot machine. The modern electric variety are common features in many PUBS.

FULL STOP n. 1. A period. The thing at the end of this sentence.