United Kingdom English for the American Novice


TA n. 1. Short for thanks

TABLOID n. 1. A term used to describe several of the national newspapers, specifically THE SUN, THE DAILY STAR, THE DAILY MIRROR, THE DAILY EXPRESS, THE MORNING STAR (the socialist paper) and THE DAILY MAIL. A TABLOID'S page is small (being approximately one-half the page size of a standard newspaper). They are characterised by outlandish, sensationalist headlines at the slightest whim of news. The TABLOIDS were especially active during the Falklands crisis (although real news is not a prerequisite for a TABLOID).

The TABLOIDS are very popular and competition is fierce among them for readers. THE SUN and the DAILY STAR sport a bare breasted BIRD to keep the readers attention (should the reader get bored with the shallow amount of information in the rest of the paper). The DAILY MAIL has been distancing itself (in respectability) from the other TABLOIDS and more closely approximates a newspaper. See also PAGE THREE and FLEETSTREET.

The Times:
Read by the people who run the country.
Daily Mirror:
Read by the people who think they run the country.
Read by the people who think they ought to run the country.
Morning Star:
Read by the people who think the country ought to be run by another country.
Daily Mail:
Read by the wives of the people who own the country.
Financial Times:
Read by the people who own the country.
Daily Express:
Read by the people who think that the country ought to be run as it used to be.
Daily Telegraph:
Read by the people who think it still is.
The Sun:
Their readers don't care who runs the country as long as she has big tits.

TAKES THE BISCUIT phrase. 1. Equivalent to "That beats everything".

TANNER n. 1. Obsolete term for six old PENCE.

TANNOY n. 1. A public address system, from Tannoy, a British loudspeaker manufacturer.

v. 1. To page on a public address system, as in, "You ought to 'ave 'im TANNOYED." (To which one pundit thought, "He should've been here, but his crime wasn't so heinous that he should be TANNOYED!")

TARMAC n. 1. Blacktop. The word is derived from an 18th century engineer and road builder by the name of John Macadam.

TART v. 1. To "spruce up", make improvements to, as in, "We just tarted up the place a bit."

TEA n. 1. A very common hot beverage found in the UK. It is usually served with a generous portion of milk to mask the flavor of the TEA. 2. A light meal in the late afternoon at which one drinks TEA or coffee, but not wine or spirits. A meal held later in the evening (e.g. 8 p.m.) is definitely not TEA, regardless of what you drink or how light the meal may be. There is a class connotation attached to this word. The working class tend to call the evening meal TEA, while the middle class call it 'dinner'. The meal taken around midday is called 'lunch' by the middle classes and 'dinner' by the working class.

TEACAKE n. 1. A kind of sweetened bread with raisins, often served toasted. There are lots of CAKES like this: BATH BUNS, CHELSEA BUNS and ECCLES CAKES.

Breads come in many varieties also, such as: BAPS, BRIDGE ROLLS, FINGER ROLLS and COTTAGE LOAF.

TEA TOWEL n. 1. Dish towel.

TEE SHIRT n. 1. Short sleeved sports shirt.

TELLY n. 1. A television, not a telephone.

TERRACE HOUSE n. 1. Row house. Town house.

THEATRE n. 1. An establishment where one may see plays, ballet etc. This is most certainly not a place to see movies.

THE CITY n. 1. London's equivalent to Wall Street. When visiting London avoid routes signposted to THE CITY unless you are trying to get lost.

THREE PENCE (thrup-pen-ss) n. 1. An obsolete coin worth three old PENCE.

TICK MARK n. 1. A small mark made by a teacher along side every correct answer. If your children come home with TICK MARKS all over their papers, its good. Its the X's (crosses) you need to be concerned about.

TIGHTS n. 1. Hosiery, nylons or even tights.

TIMBER YARD n. 1. Lumber yard.

TIME GENTLEMEN PLEASE phrase. 1. Standard request for customers to leave drink up and leave the PUB. Anyone serving or buying a drink after TIME is breaking the law. In liberated PUBS you may hear "TIME LADIES AND GENTLEMEN PLEASE".

TIN n. 1. Can, as in "a TIN of fruit". 2. Pan, as in "a cake TIN".

TIP adj. 1. Mess, as in, "The room was all in a TIP".

n. 1. Dump, as in a "rubbish TIP".

TIPPER LORRY n. 1. Dump truck.

TIPPLE v. 1. To drink, often accompanied with a motion of the wrist to suggest its meaning, as in, "What's your TIPPLE ?".

TISSUE n. 1. Kleenex.


TOGGED UP/OUT v. 1. To be all dressed up, as in, "He was TOGGED OUT in top hat and tails".

TOGS n. 1. Clothes, as in SWIMMING TOGS.

TOMATO SAUCE (toe-mah-toe sah-ss) n. 1. Ketchup.

TOMBOLA (tom-bole-ah) n. 1. A raffle as might be found at a FETE.

TOMMY BAR n. 1. Crow bar. A straight bar used to lever something.

TON n. 1. Twenty HUNDREDWEIGHT (2240 pounds). 2. One hundred. Often 100 mph or 100 POUNDS sterling. Road signs reading "MAX 10 TONS" are however weight limits, not speed limits. To the passive American driver who is accustomed to 55 mph, it seems that the speed limit really is 10 TONS.

TONSILITIS n. 1. Strep throat.

TORCH n. 1. Flash light.

TOTTER n. 1. A refuse collector who picks over collected rubbish for anything which is salable. A now almost extinct version of a TOTTER is a RAG AND BONE MAN. He usually drives a horse and cart and collects household items. Often he would give the children a goldfish or balloon in return for items they would bring to him.

TOTTING UP v. 1. To add up.

TRAFFICATORS n. 1. Directional signals. The term was actually used to describe small "arms" on the outside of a vehicle which would flip out indicating the direction one wished to turn. This term has fallen into disuse since the British car industry has modernized.

TRAMP n. 1. A vagrant. 2. A hooker.

TRANSPORT CAFE (trans-port caff) n. 1. Truck stop.

TREACLE n. 1. A molasses-like sweet syrup. If this is very dark it is known as BLACK TREACLE. Light colored syrup is known as GOLDEN SYRUP.

TREETS n. 1. M and M's which are all the same color.

TRENDY adj. 1. Fashionable, with perhaps a somewhat derogatory connotation. Only people who aren't TRENDY, would use the term.

TRIFLE (try-fle) n. 1. A layered dessert of custard, jello, sherry, fruit and sponge cake.

TROLLEY n. 1. Cart, as in a shopping cart or TEA TROLLEY.

TROUSERS n. 1. Pants.

TUBE n. 1. The London subway system.

TURNING n. 1. Turn (when giving directions) as in, "Its the third TURNING on the right".

TURN-UPS n. 1. Pant cuffs.

TWEE adj. 1. Prissey, as in, a "TWEE hat" or "TWEE joke".

TWO PENCE (tup-pen-ss) n. 1. Not a coin worth two old PENCE, but simply a term for two PENCE.

UNDERGROUND n. 1. Subway.

UNDERTAKE v. 1. Pass on the left. This is illegal in the UK except when passing a car that is turning right. The normal meaning of this is a mortician. UK bumper sticker: "OVERTAKERS to the right. UNDERTAKERS to the left." See OVERTAKE.

UP/DOWN MARKET phrase. 1. Of a higher or lower economic status. As in, "The new 3.5 Rover from British Leyland is definitely UP MARKET".

VACANT adj. 1. The state a lavatory is in when it's not ENGAGED. Curiously this is not used of telephones.

VERGER n. 1. Sober guardians, usually dressed in black, found in many churches. Their principle purpose seems to be to remind tourists to remove their hats in church.

VERGES n. 1. Shoulder of a road as in, "SOFT VERGES".

VEST n. 1. A tee shirt. Undershirt.

VOLLEY n. 1. A term used in tennis or squash meaning to strike the ball with your racket without allowing it to bounce on the ground. The also leads to the term HALF-VOLLEY which occurs when you do not properly VOLLEY the ball, but rather strike it on the short hop.

V-SIGN n. 1. Clenched fist with the index and first finger raised to form a V shape (meaning "victory"). 2. Clenched fist with the index and first finger raised to form a V shape (being a rude insult to the audience).

These two forms are distinguished by the direction of the knuckles: knuckles toward audience being an insult (2) and knuckles toward the gesticulator meaning victory (1). Winston Churchill was much given to getting these confused. Use of form (2) to indicate the number two may result in unexpected GBH.

WAIST COAT n. 1. Vest.

WALLY n. 1. An idiot. Someone who is so dumb, he doesn't even know he is dumb.

WANK v. 1. To masturbate.

WASH UP v. 1. To wash pots, pans, knives, forks etc. It does not mean to wash hands and face.

WASTE BIN n. 1. Waste paper basket.

WAY OUT n. 1. Exit. This phrase will be found in place of "exit" signs in buildings in the United Kingdom.

WELLIES n. 1. WELLINGTONS. Rubber boots. The Duke of Wellington invented rubber boots, hence the name.

WHACKED adj. 1. Tired. Exhausted. As in, "Went to a party on Saturday and I'm still WHACKED".

WHISKY n. 1. Unless otherwise specified, this means Scotch whisky. See WHISKEY.

WHISKEY n. 1. Irish whiskey. Since the pronunciation is identical to WHISKY, it's safer to ask for IRISH WHISKEY if that is what you want.

The word WHISKEY has its origins in the Gaelic (Irish) word UISCE BEATHA (ish-ka bah-ah) which means "water of life".

WIDEBOY n. 1. Shady operator. SPIV.

WILLIE n. 1. School boy's term for a penis.

WINDSCREEN n. 1. Car windshield.

WING n. 1. Fender of a car.

WINKERS n. 1. Directional signals (as on a car). Since one blinks with two eyes and winks with one eye, directional signals should be WINKERS and not blinkers.

WITH THE GREATEST RESPECT phrase. 1. Phrase used when discussing matters with your superiors. The phrase is emphasized when you have no respect for the person you are speaking to. This is a safe way of saying he doesn't have any idea what he is talking about.

WOOD LICE n. 1. Potato bugs.

YORKSHIRE PUDDING n. 1. Not a dessert but a kind of baked batter mix usually eaten with roast beef.

YOU LOT n. 1. You. This phrase is used exactly as y'all is used in the South. As in, "If YOU LOT think I'm going to wait till you come back from the PUB, you're DAFT."

ZEBRA CROSSING (zeb-rah not zee-bra) n. 1. One of several types of pedestrian crossings, so named because of the distinctive black and white stripes which mark the road where the pedestrian is to cross.

ZEBRA CROSSINGS are important because pedestrians have the right of way at all times -- one foot on the crossing is enough to stop approaching vehicles (PIGS MIGHT FLY too!). Apart from being highly illegal, running down pedestrians on ZEBRA CROSSINGS is considered NOT CRICKET. A ZEBRA CROSSING can be distinguished from other pedestrian crossings by means of the BELISHA BEACONS at each end. .

Note: Although you are required to stop if you are about to hit a pedestrian on this type of crossing, other drivers may not stop if you are the pedestrian. If you are run down by a passing motorist, be sure to check his accent; if this reveals a PUBLIC SCHOOL education then prosecution is unlikely to be successful against the motorist (you may of course be sued for 'contributory negligence' or some such).

ZED n. 1. The letter "Z".

ZED BED n. 1. A type of fold away bed.

ZED BEND n. 1. A double bend in the road (similar to an S-curve). After driving the narrow winding roads of England (especially in the South West), an American would feel that the ZED BEND is a particularly appropriate term to use. Roads that only "S" curve are considered to be minor variations of a straight road. A ZED BEND actually does resemble the shape of the letter "Z".