United Kingdom English for the American Novice


GALLON n. 1. A gallon plus 25%. This means a PINT is an enormous 20 ounces. This fact puts a whole new meaning on PINT OF.

GAMMON n. 1. Ham.

GAMP n. 1. Umbrella.

GANNET n. 1. Pig. Someone who eats anything and everything. The term emanates from the Royal Navy. All lower-deck sailors used to refer to a man who ate his rations and everyone else's (if given the chance) as a 'Gannet'. A gannet being a voracious seabird that follows ships at sea waiting for the "Gash" (garbage) to be thrown down the 'gash chute' usually fixed outboard to the stern of the ship.

GARDEN n. 1. Yard. A garden is called a "VEGETABLE GARDEN".

GATEAU (ga-toe) n. 1. Cake.

GEN UP (jen up) v. 1. To acquire knowledge, as in, "To GEN UP on the FALKLANDS". The term is derived from the phrase general information.

GEYSER (gee-zer) n. 1. A notoriously dangerous gas apparatus which was used to provide hot water. This device was mounted at the tap itself and heated the water as it was drawn from the tap. The phrase to PUT THE GEYSER ON means to heat up the water.

GHILLIE (gill-ee) n. 1. Scottish in origin, the term describes a gamekeeper who serves as both a conservationist to protect wild game and as a guide for hunters. Using a GHILLIE has very strong upper class connotations. Only those of the proper class would employ a GHILLIE (even though the GHILLIE is himself a commoner). The GLORIOUS TWELFTH (twelfth of August) starts the upper class hunting season.

GIRL GUIDE n. 1. Girl Scout. The (Girl) Scouts are usually called the GUIDES.

GLASSHOUSE n. 1. Greenhouse.

GOB n. 1. Slang term for mouth. v. 1. To spit. Because of this second term, the British find our use of "gobs of something" as being rather crude. A GOBSTOPPER is a large piece of candy which will last a very long time.

GOOLIES n. 1. Balls. Testicles.

GRAMMAR SCHOOL n. 1. School for 11-18 year olds who are studying for their O-LEVELS and A-LEVELS. (These are now almost extinct.)

GRIT BIN n. 1. Roadside barrel of sand for use when roads are slippery.

GREENGROCER n. 1. A small grocery store which deals only with fruits and vegetables. This type of store will not likely handle any canned items or non-foods like detergents etc.

GROTTY adj. 1. Unpleasant. A dark, dirty damp apartment would be called GROTTY.

GUARD n. 1. A train conductor.

GUBBINS n. 1. A collection of generally worthless items, as in, "Children - pick up these GUBBINS".

GUERNSEY (gansee in northern England) n. 1. A particular style of sweater which was originally worn by people from the island of Guernsey. Similarly, a JERSEY is a different style of sweater which originated on the neighboring island of Jersey. Today these are used interchangeably with "sweater".

GUIDE DOG n. 1. Seeing-eye dog.

GUINEA n. 1. Originally twenty-one SHILLINGS, but now one POUND plus five PENCE. Five percent is the auctioneer's commission. If one bids in GUINEAS, rather than POUNDS, one then has automatically the full price one must pay. A current vicious rumor has it that banks in the United Kingdom use GUINEAS when you must pay (i.e. interest) and POUNDS when they must pay you. There is no substantiation to this.

GYMKHANA n. 1. A very amateur horse competition.

GYMSLIP n. 1. A long pinafore dress worn by school girls (usually as a winter school uniform).

HAD HIS CHIPS phrase. 1. To be finished or done for, as in, "He's HAD HIS CHIPS".

HAIR GRIPS n. 1. Bobby pins.

HALF (aahf) n. 1. English for HALF A PINT (by default, of BITTER). 2. Scots for a single measure of WHISKY. In Scotland, "a PINT and a HALF" means a PINT of HEAVY and a MEASURE of WHISKY; in England it means a PINT of BITTER and a HALF PINT of BITTER.

HALF A CROWN n. 1. Obsolete coin worth 2/6 (pronounced two and six), meaning two SHILLINGS and six old PENCE.

HALF PENNY (hay-pen-ee) n. 1. Half penny. Currently, its only use is to become stuck in corners of purses or pockets.

HALL n. 1. Entry, as in the entry way to a house or other building and not a CORRIDOR. 2. BEDSIT style accommodation provided (for rent) by a university or other higher education institution for resident students. As in, "Are you looking for a FLAT? No, I'm in HALL". See also DIGS.

HANTS n. 1. The county Hampshire in the United Kingdom. HANTS is a term used by the English to confuse those not in the know (Americans).

HAVE A GO phrase. 1. To take a turn, as in, "Dad, can I HAVE A GO on my new Space Invaders Game". 2. To attempt to make a citizen's arrest. This phrase is popular in newspaper headlines, such as "Police congratulate HAVE A GO hero."

HEAD MASTER n. 1. Principal of a school. These also may be known as HEAD MISTRESS or HEAD TEACHER.

HEAVY n. 1. A Scottish beer which is sweet and nothing like BITTER. One might also see HEAVY referring to the strength and price of beer (other terms in this context are LIGHT and EXPORT). HEAVY is the medium grade and is often called 70 SHILLING which referred to an old price per keg.

HEAVY PLANT CROSSING n. 1. As seen on a road sign, it means 'heavy cross traffic'. It conjures up the most amazing image!

HIRE adj. 1. Rent, as in "a HIRE car" instead of a rental car. Note that HIRE cars will normally have a manual transmission unless an automatic is specifically requested. One may also see a HIRE LORRY, HIRE TIPPER or even a HIRE ANORAK.

One of the largest firms dealing in rental clothes is Moss Brothers (usually abbreviated Moss Bros.). This firm is so commonly known that MOSS BROS is used to mean a HIRED suit (or whatever). As in, "I've got my MOSS BROS on".

HOARDING n. 1. Bill board.

HOB n. 1. A single cooking ring that one cooks upon. 2. A collection of cooking rings. There seems to be no agreement on this.

HOLIDAY n. 1. Vacation. 2. National holidays when the banks are not open known as BANK HOLIDAYS. These days are distinguished from the other days when banks are not open.

HOMELY adj. 1. Plain. Unpretentious. Having a pleasant quality. An English girl would not mind being called HOMELY.

HOOKER n. 1. Not a prostitute, but a member of a RUGBY scrum.

HOOTER n. 1. A horn. 2. A derogatory term for the nose, as in, "He's got quite a HOOTER".

HOOVER n. 1. Vacuum cleaner. This may or may not be made by the Hoover Vacuum Cleaner Company.

v. 1. To clean using a vacuum cleaner, as in, "I HOOVERED the carpets today."

HUGGER-MUGGER (hug-ah mug-ah) phrase. 1. All in turmoil, as in, "After the storm hit, everything was HUGGER-MUGGER".

HUMP v. 1. To carry something that is very heavy, to lug. As in, "I was HUMPING it all over the place".

n. 1. To be upset about something, as in, "He's got the HUMP over his last job appraisal".

HUNDREDWEIGHT n. 1. Eight STONE (112 pounds), abbreviated CWT.

ICE LOLLY n. 1. Popsicle. The term ICED LOLLY may also be used.

IN A PADDY phrase. 1. To be angry, as in, "Crestfallen Charlie stomped off the field IN A PADDY yesterday after his team were trounced at Windsor. But Di soon had him smiling again."

INDIAN n. 1. Indian food 2. An Indian restaurant. As in, "I'm going to eat an INDIAN tonight".

INDICATORS n. 1. Directional signals (as on a car). Blinkers.

INTERVAL n. 1. The break time between parts of a performance, as in, "The play is in three acts, the INTERVAL coming after the second act."

IN THE (PUDDING) CLUB phrase. 1. To be pregnant. Also, to have a BUN IN THE OVEN.

IMPERIAL UNITS n. 1. The adjective IMPERIAL here is used to describe the English or standard system of measurement (as opposed to the metric system of measurement). The IMPERIAL system of measurement uses the terms miles, yards, feet, gallons, quarts etc.

IRISH JOKES n. 1. Polish jokes.

IRONMONGER n. 1. Hardware store.

JCB n. 1. Back hoe digger. The name is derived from a company that makes back hoe diggers in the UK.

JELLY n. 1. Jello. Jelly is referred to as "SEEDLESS JAM". Actually, SEEDLESS JAM is often called JELLY too.

JODHPURS n. 1. Riding breeches with a tight extension to the ankle.

JOHN ARLOTT n. 1. The Howard Cosell of English sports commentators.

JOINT n. 1. Piece of meat. Roast. A "Sunday JOINT" is the roast you have with your Sunday dinner.

JOLLY adv. 1. Very, as in, "It's JOLLY hard work".

JUGGED HARE n. 1. Rabbit preserved in some sort of blood sauce or pudding.

JUGGERNAUT n. 1. A very large LORRY, probably from the CONTINENT. The difference between a LORRY and a JUGGERNAUT will be immediately apparent if you should meet each of them on a narrow road. Note: JUGGERNAUT is an INDIAN (i.e. from India) god.

JUMBLE SALE n. 1. Garage sale. This is typically not held in a garage since the garage would be too small. Oddly enough, one finds these are often held in church halls.

JUMPER n. 1. Sweater.

KEEP YOUR HAIR ON phrase. 1. Phrase used to calm someone down, similar to "Keep your shirt on".

KEEP YOUR PECKER UP phrase. 1. Keep smiling, be happy (Honest folks, its true!).

KIT n. 1. Gear. Equipment or baggage necessary for a task or trip (particularly sports equipment). As in, "Sure I'll help you fix your car. I'll fetch me KIT".

KNACKER adj. 1. Tired out, as in, "I'm KNACKERED".

n. 1. As in KNACKER'S YARD, which is a slaughter house which processes meat that is not to be used for human consumption. 2. Balls. Testicles.

KNICKERS n. 1. Women's panties.

A KNICKERBOCKER GLORY is an ice cream concoction similar to a giant banana split. The phrase "Don't get your KNICKERS in a twist" is a plea not to get upset about something.

KNOCK UP v. 1. This is a tennis term. It means to warm up by volleying before actually commencing a game. I'll leave you to imagine the reaction an IBMer's wife got when, after arriving for her fist game of tennis in the U.S., she innocently asked when they "were going to KNOCK UP". 2. Another use of this term is to ask someone "to KNOCK me UP in the morning". This is used to ask someone to wake you in the morning.

LADY'S FINGERS n. 1. Okra.

LAGER n. 1. Name for a type of non-British (i.e. CONTINENTAL) beer that is commonly available. This is closer to what an American will recognize taste-wise as beer. It is, however, substantially stronger than that to be found in the United States.

LARDER n. 1. Pantry.

LAVER BREAD (lavah bred) n. 1. An edible seaweed (originally from Wales). LAVER means seaweed.

LAY-BY n. 1. Roadside rest area.

L-DRIVER n. 1. A learner-driver. By law one who is learning to drive must warn others by posting a sign on his car with a large red "L" on a white background. This sign may also be used in situations to warn others a novice is to be found. At a local folk festival, one of the dancers prominently displayed an "L" on his hat.

LEMONADE n. 1. A general term for pop. This is likely to be SPRITE (7 UP is fairly rare in the UK). This is not COCA-COLA and should never be confused with lemonade.

LEMON CURD n. 1. A soft paste made from lemon, eggs and butter used as a spread on bread. This may also be known as LEMON CHEESE.

LIFT n. 1. Elevator.

LIKE THE CLAPPERS phrase. 1. Fast, as in, "It goes LIKE THE CLAPPERS".

LINCTUS n. 1. A syrup-like medicine. Cough medicine would be called LINCTUS.

LOAD OF CODSWALLOP n. 1. Verbal rubbish, as in, "Oh, that's a LOAD OF CODSWALLOP".

LOCAL n. 1. The PUB one normally frequents, as in, "Meet you at the LOCAL at lunch for some ARROWS".

LOFT n. 1. Attic of a house.

LOLLIPOP LADY/MAN n. 1. School crossing guard.

LOLLY n. 1. Money. 2. Popsicle.

LONG DRINK n. 1. Tall drink.

LOO n. 1. Toilet. In some hotels the toilettes may be numbered "00" to distinguish them from the actual bedrooms.

LORRY n. 1. Truck.

LOUD HAILER n. 1. Megaphone.


LOUNGE BAR n. 1. A bar found in a PUB which is typically much better furnished than the PUBLIC BAR and is therefore a bit more expensive for the same brew. This portion of the PUB will probably have carpeting and chairs. Historically, this was reserved for the upper class. This may also be known as a SALOON BAR.

LOVE n. 1. A term used to refer to a person. It is quite commonly used by working class women. Oddly enough, this is a very neutral term and does not imply the speaker has any great affection for you. It is mildly disturbing to an American to have total strangers (be they BIRDS or not) calling him "LOVE", as in, "That'll be 25P, LOVE". DUCK, DUCKS or DUCKIE may also be used like LOVE. The Scots may use HEN for LOVE.

LUCKY DIP n. 1. A grab bag. This is often featured at a FETE.