10 words Britons should not say in America

Posted on
Feb 21, 2011

Recently, my home has come to resemble a slumber party full of middle school girls. There’s been lots of giggling, and excitement, and jumping around, and yes, it’s because of a boy.

Specifically, this one:

I don't know what they were doing here.

Adorable, ain’t he? Ignore the hair. It just … well, it just is.

The lovely gentleman pictured with my husband is Tom. I have, on occasion, ridiculed his brother on this site, as well as his colleagues, but there’s been sad little mention of Tom himself. Which I intend to rectify. Because this past weekend, Tom arrived in Seattle for the work-equivalent of a foreign exchange program. He’s going to be putting in some time stateside, and, as Rand put it, “making everything better.” Hence the giggling. And the running around. And the general behaving like 12-year-old girls who’ve inhaled a pack of pixie sticks and watched the entire Twilight canon. In short, we are excited.

This cultural exchange of sorts will also mark the longest time Tom has spent in the United States. And since he is a dear and well-behaved lad, I feel that there are a few terms which he, as a Brit, may want to avoid while he’s here. It’s not that they’ll get him into trouble. It’s that no one will understand what he’s talking about. And also, they might get him into trouble.


Diary: In the U.K., a “diary” is what we Americans would call a “calendar” or a “planner”. So, when we told a friend in the U.K that we wanted to have dinner of Thursday, and he replied, “I’m going to put it in my diary,” he was probably not deserving of all the ridicule we dished out. Because here, it’s something teenage girls write in. As in,

“Dear Diary,

Today Tom Critchlow came to town and I have never been happier. I haven’t been this excited since [insert Twilight reference].



(Not an actual excerpt from Rand’s diary, which is sealed with a heart-shaped lock that I can’t bear to pick. A man’s girlish dreams are his alone.)


Front-bottom. Clearly, I must have a weird impression of how Tom’s going to be spending this time in the U.S., if I thought that prolific use of this term might be a problem. But here’s the thing: while across the pond “front-bottom” is a kind way to reference one’s genitalia, over here in the states, well … Well, it doesn’t mean anything. But it does bring to mind having a tiny little butt where your man-bits are supposed to be. Something like this:

This might be the picture that causes Rand to insist I get a job.


Capsicum. I once spent 30 minutes with a jet-lagged Brit trying to figure out this term. It’s absolutely impossible from context alone.

“You know … those vegetables. With the seeds. That come in all the colors.”

“Um … tomatoes?”

It was a rough night. Just say “bell pepper” and spare the ignorant Americans around you a stress headache.


Fag. Just … just don’t, okay?


Biscuits. If you see biscuits on a menu, please know that you will not be getting these:

Photo courtesy of Neil Conway, via flickr.com

No. Instead, you will be getting these:

Photo courtesy of larryjh1234, via flickr.com

They’re a bit savory and kind of like scones. And they’re what we’re talking about any time you see “biscuits and gravy” on a menu. Certainly not cookies and gravy. Although I’ve learned not to underestimate the Cheesecake Factory.


Fanny. Riiiiight. So … this probably falls more in the category of “Things Americans shouldn’t say while in Britain,” but it’s still an important one to note, right? Because in the U.K., it means … um … lady bits. But in the U.S., it’s kind of a cute way to say one’s bum, or, more simply, an antiquated woman’s name. It’s totally innocent – and why we can have candy companies with names like Fanny Farmer.

Which I’m guessing would be akin to having a British candy company called, I don’t know, “Vagina Horticulturist.” Actually, I’m willing to bet there’s a market for that.


Chips. This is just going to confuse everyone, because your chips are our fries, and our chips are your crisps and our fannies are your vaginas and now my brain hurts. One point of note: if you’re in a restaurant, you’ll have to ask your server for vinegar if you want it (it’s not just sitting on the tables). Vinegar on fries is a totally foreign thing here: the only people who do it are Europeans, and hipsters who are trying too hard.

In search of vinegar. For their chips.


Pants. If someone says “pants” in the U.S., they mean trousers. My understanding is that in the U.K., “pants” is actually short for “underpants” – which I have no doubts could lead to some delightful misunderstandings. Like, for example, the time a friend of mine bought waterproof fishing overalls for an upcoming trip. He excitedly told his fellow travelers that he had a great new pair of rubber pants.

They were British. And mortified.



For the Brits:

That's right: it means FRONT-BOTTOM.

For the Americans:

Aw. He IS always on my mind.

So just remember: if an American girl says she loves Willy, you haven’t necessarily sealed the deal. Unless, of course, you actually are Willie Nelson. And in that case? Bravo, good sir. You are a treasure.


Sod. Stateside, it’s pretty exclusively a pile of dirt. Overseas, it’s someone who’s a bit intolerable.

In the U.S.:

Image via perferredsod.com, which is a domain I really wish I owned.

In the U.K.,

I only vaguely know who this is.

In the U.S., you’d likely call someone a douche instead of a sod. As in, “That guy was so douchey, he could have cleaned out an entire Fanny Farmer factory.”


Anywho, that’s about it for today’s lesson. There are other words that don’t translate well from American English to U.K. English (and vice-versa) but these were just the ones I thought were most likely to get you in trouble/deported. Anything else will probably lead to some adorable Hugh-Grant-like foibles, which will likely play really well here. So welcome to the U.S., Tom. Our diaries have never been so interesting.

Leave a Comment

  • I have learned, over the course of the last two years, not to say “pants” when talking about jeans, trousers, etc. I can’t remember what I grew up saying (in New Zealand), but I think “pants” worked there too when one was talking about what one wears over one’s underpants. Needless to say, my first few months here were very amusing for all my my friends, on the occasion that I would mention my pants.

    It should also be noted that your female friends over here aren’t your “girlfriends” unless you are also regularly seeing their fannies.

    My worst experience in completely messing up British English upon my arrival two years ago is summed up nicely by points number three here: http://janecopland.co.uk/2009/03/serial-immigrant/

    • Everywhereist

      Jame – first off, I love the expression “serial immigrant.” Might need to borrow that one. Secondly, I’m shocked to hear that girlfriends isn’t what you call your platonic friends who happen to be girls! My mom always called my friends “girlfriends” and I just assumed it was something she picked up in the U.K.!

      • Haha, yeah, not at all. I always thought it was a really American phrase, as I don’t remember it used in New Zealand either.

  • Fag was the first one to get me and I think Ciaran was the one to tweet about having a Fag. Most of these, if not all have been covered in the Distilled Seattle office. Diary still throws me too. Rob writes in his diary all the time, awwwww. πŸ˜›

    • Go to New Zealand, and a “dairy” (not diary) is a convenience store. In Australia, I believe it’s called a “milk bar.” In the UK, um, we call it a shop.

      That’s right, the land of farm animals calls a corner shop a “dairy.”

      • I am Australian, i’ve lived here for 20 years and in all that time i have never heard the term “milk bar” we call it a corner store/shop.

      • Latent

        In Papua New Guinea it’s called a Lik Lik Stoa.

  • Nicole Jewell

    I love this post – It just made my day!!

  • Rob

    Another one that Brits have to get used to over here: telling the time.

    I told a client that we’d have a meeting at “half four”. He responded “What’s that, like, two o’ clock?”

    For the uninitiated, it isn’t a cryptic way of introducing unnecessary maths into scheduling; it’s short for ‘half past four’, ie: four thirty.

    Oh, yeah: I said MATHS.

    • SaxonChap

      And we would write it in our diary as 16:30

  • I can’t believe how long it was before Rand told me about diary / calendar. How many clients must I have confused / scared with that one?

    Also, we don’t say capsicum (do we?). It’s a pepper.

    We do say fag (but know both meanings fine). We find it amusing when you talk about your pants. Very few brits would say “front bottom”. I’m not one of them.

    I didn’t know they were called biscuits.

    Great post – love this stuff.

    • Hanii Puppy

      Or it’s a Sweet Pepper if differentiating it from a Chilli Pepper.

  • You had me amused all the way until the end, when Piers Morgan cropped up. At that point you broke me, and I was hooting with laughter.


    • Everywhereist

      Oh, phew. I had heard (via reddit) that people didn’t like him, so I just went with it. πŸ™‚ Honestly, cultural references like that are the hardest to capture. πŸ™‚

  • Well next time we’re geotargeting sods, fannies, or front bottoms I’l be sure to look you up lol

  • Mindy

    Ah, I remember fondly telling my British friend all about the cute red pants I had just bought in France a few years ago. This was on a very packed commuter train into London one morning, and pretty much everyone around me was eager to hear the details of these red French pants I liked so much. Couldn’t quite figure out why.

  • Too funny. But I have found the same types of communication break-downs just traveling the US. A guy in in Virginia asked if I could “Carry him,” somewhere and I just told him “To be honest I don’t think I could even lift you.”
    I didn’t find out until later he was just asking for a ride.

    • Everywhereist

      Bwah ha ha ha ha ha ha. Love it.

  • I agree with some of those phrases but I agree with will who’s says capsicum? Also front bottom? I’ve never heard any Brit say that!

    Fag is a funny one because we know both meanings and I would still make a joke out of someone asking for a fag over here, but that’s just me! Pants also is interesting because I think only people from southern England would use that term to mean underpants, on from the north and I say pants for trousers, so it’s not just you guys that find it funny.

    I remember landing in Orlando a while back and we had barely se foot out of the terminal when my dad went and ordered some “chips” not a great start to his first time in the US!

    Great post, I think perhaps us Brits should make one for the Americans, any takers on that task?

    • Everywhereist

      Peter – I promise, I’ve heard both! Though front-bottom was actually on television, so maybe that one doesn’t count?

      • Front-bottom sounds like something you might say to a kid to prevent any embarrassments, maybe that’s where it comes from.

  • Did you know Brits also eat “faggots”? The Doodys love ’em. I’m not making this up, Doodys love faggots: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/2698507.stm

    British English is full of lulz.

  • Just to bring the tone down, “twat” is a bad word rather than a humorous off-the-cuff remark in the US. It made one of our US employees blush and made me buy lunch shortly after.

    • Everywhereist

      Rob, really? That’s kind of adorable, actually. But perhaps not in a work environment, eh?

  • Can I also add a phrase rather than a word?

    I am taking the p*ss means I am joking with you in UK but in US it means you are literally pissing. So guys if you are trying to chat up a girl in the bar using this phrase might not be a good idea! Especially when you both are pretty tipsy πŸ˜›

    • Everywhereist

      Saurav – brilliant addition. Don’t forget that here we also say, “I’m so pissed” when we are really angry. But in the U.K., I think it means one is drunk, right?

      • Ha, it’s actually amazing how many different meanings piss or pissed has over here.

        Taking the piss- joking
        I’m gonna get pissed- I’m gonna get drunk”
        I’m gonna take a piss- urinate
        I’m really pissed off- I’m really annoyed
        Piss off- F off
        piss head- alcoholic

        • Simon

          And an old school one, mostly used in the 80s/90s – “piss artist” …just another way to say someone is a bit of a sod πŸ˜‰

  • I think if you hit the right bar on the right night on Capitol Hill, you will find that “front-bottom” is in use Stateside, too.

  • I think front bottom refers more to girl bits. The fanny issue causes much amusement especially when unsuspecting American ladies sit on wet park benches :-). Thanks for clearing up the biscuit issue though, couldn’t ever figure out why someone would want to ruin biscuits by adding gravy.

  • Jonathan Matthews

    Great list! I find it telling you missed one out however …

    Insurgent, n.

    We didn’t lose. We’re just biding our time.

  • In the U.S., you’d likely call someone a douche instead of a sod.

    Maybe, but potentially dangerous advice. “Sod” is not anywhere near as negative as “douche” in my experience. It’s more an observation of stubbornness or negative behavior than a judgment of the person based on that behavior.

    Someone who’s being stubborn may be “being a sod” or you might call someone who’s silly or missing the point of something a “silly/stupid sod.” I can call my daughter a “little sod” for throwing all of her dinner on the floor, whereas calling her a “douche” would be a pretty offensive term to call a kid to anyone I’m likely to be around.. even in the UK.

    • Everywhereist

      Peter – I, personally, don’t want to live in a country where I can’t call little children “douchebags.”

      Wait, no. That’s not right. What I meant to say is, thank you for the clarification. It is much appreciated (I think I thought “sod” was a much worse insult than it actually is).

    • Andrew

      If you call some a-hole a douche in a bar in the US it is a call to a fist fight. Amongst ‘the guys’ it better be done jokingly. Because your basically calling someone a fag. But in the US we all know that a fag (faggot) can mean a cigarette or a bundle of sticks because fag meant this first, before it meant the other things it now means.

  • I did once say “Can you lend me a fiver, I’m gagging for a fag”. Wondered why I was treated strangely after that.

    My dad’s advice was not to ask to be “knocked up in the morning” but this may be an oldies phrase.

    • Everywhereist

      Tony – that last sentence confused me to no end.

      • Alison Cramer

        β€œknocked up in the morning” = woken up by someone shouting your name or knocking on the bedroom door. Usually pretty early.

        I’m given to understand that “knocked up” in America means you’re pregnant, could be wrong though.

        • Everywhereist

          That is precisely what “knocked up” means. πŸ™‚

    • Andrew

      Actually, in the US we love you Brits so much that we like the British slang. It’s like we’re talking to one of the Rolling Stones or Sean Connory or watching a British movie. So no big deal…talk it up.

      • Andrew

        And Peter is like the one person who doesn’t like Harry Potter…

  • I’m only commenting to tip the favor to the number of Peters commenting as compared to Robs commenting. Personally English (the language, not the cult) annoys me.

  • SaxonChap

    Whilst travelling on business with my American female colleague, we met in the hotel lobby to go off to the foreign office when she suddenly turned to me and said “Hang on, I forgot my fanny pack”. You can imagine tee wonderment of my mind at that stage, but needless to say I was highly relieved when she came back down with what was obviously a bum bag!


  • Curtis

    You’re likely to hear the expression, “That’s PANTS!” when you’re in the UK. Translation: “That’s not very good!”, “That sucks!” or “That’s a bit shit!”… you get the picture.

  • LAlimey

    The one I like is “rubber” here in the US it means condom in UK it means eraser and when I was a kid we used to get given one when we were 12 years old and it had to last us through the whole school time plus it had to be big enough to write your name and address on it ( Care of Jasper Carrot ). This always creates great laughter in the US

  • kathy

    this is the american half of @paul_forcey. here is a list i jotted down really quick:
    bell end

  • kathy

    sorry, forgot the last one: piss

  • I regularly use the term “diary” to refer to Outlook tasks – we diary them ahead to a new due date and also refer to the actual tasks as diaries. This is partly because my bosses are old and partly because at my last job we called them “tickles” and I always found that term a little bit disturbing so I was happy to start saying “diary” when someone else suggested it.

  • MelB

    I had a group of my “girlfriends” in hysterics the first time they heard me say “knickers”. This has led to endless debates about what our respective countries call our undergarments. Apparently it sounds very dirty when I say it in my home counties accent

    • Jen

      “Knickers” in the US generally refer to baggy trousers that are cuffed at the knee. Kind of like what good ol’ George Washington would have worn with some knee socks and buckled shoes. Nobody wears them outside of costuming (for instance, the Cast Members on Main St. USA at Walt Disney World wear them, or you might find some poor 2nd grader wearing them in their Thanksgiving Day Pageant at school.)

  • Simon

    Also highly amusing for us Brits is Donald Trump… and all associated products.

    A trump in the UK is flatulence, so imagine my joy at seeing Trump cologne! πŸ™‚

    • Kay

      That is too funny. So if one passes gas, do you say “I just trumped somethin’ awful”? Or “excuse me, a bit of trump slipped out”. LOL. Too funny. I like “trump”. I may have to use that, not that I trump in front of people or anything. πŸ˜‰

  • Rathead

    Whenever I go to England, I constantly get in trouble for saying, “Blow him off,” as in, “Ignore him/stand him up/whatever.” According to my friend, I’m advocating blow jobs.

  • Biscuits! WTF! Biscuits!

    On our way to your lovely wedding, Sarah and Eric took me to a very cool Portland cafe for brunch. On the menu was something called Biscuits and Gravy. Biscuits. And gravy.

    How does one serve biscuits, with gravy? Sweet, crunchy cookies. With salty gravy? I was intrigued.

    I was not expecting giant pieces of soft dough dunked in rich savory goo. I’m with the British on this one πŸ˜‰

  • Summed up the word “sod” perfectly! They should put a picture of Piers Morgan in the dictionary.

  • Elizabeth

    Love the list and the comments! To add another: I’m trying to break myself of the common American habit of saying “I’m bummed” or “That’s a bummer” when something disappointing happens, because it makes my British friends snicker.

  • Thank you for this. My husband and I are going to London in a month and a half and your guide was very helpful. I might need to print this and bring it with me…

  • Lynn

    Capsicum is an Aussie thing, I believe. I’m allergic to bell peppers so I had to learn to look for capsicum on the menu during my trips to Australia. I don’t remember having that issue when I was in London.

    I also try to avoid saying I’m “rooting for” the red team and try to say “I’m cheering for the red team” since I think in a few countries “rooting” is a sexual act!

    I still love the saying: In England, you put your trunk in the boot. In US, you put your boots in the trunk.

  • Tam

    I can live with a few linguistic idiosyncrasies, but what really got me when I first came to the US was the shopping. Took me a while to learn that:

    coriander = cilantro
    broad beans = fava beans
    chickpeas = garbanzo beans
    peppers (green/red/yellow) = bell peppers (never heard them called capsicum, except maybe by an annoyingly particular sod of a horticulturalist – though they’d probably go the full hog and call it Capsicum annuum)
    rocket = arugula (hence in the UK, Elton John claiming he was a rocket man was very funny)
    swede = rutabaga (you’re just making up funny words, aren’t you?)
    red yam = sweet potato (though there is some overlap here)
    courgette = zucchini squash
    aubergine = eggplant
    celeriac = celery root
    spring onion = green onion
    broccoli florets = broccoli crowns
    cucumber = English cucumber (seriously?)
    white cabbage = green cabbage
    white grapes = green grapes (figures)
    pak choi = bok choy
    mange tout peas = snow peas
    cloudy/not from concentrate apple juice = apple cider (if you ask for cider in the UK, you are going to get pretty pissed… drunk, I mean)

    And that’s just the stuff that at least looks the same (so I could shop by sight). The rest still remains a mystery, or at least a novelty. For example, you’d struggle to find turnips in a regular Sainsbury’s. We just don’t eat that stuff.

    Totally agreed on girlfriends. If I called my British female friends that, they’d either think I was infantilising them, or coming onto them.

    The biscuits were a bit of a surprise. Yes, there are some sweet variations on the theme in the UK (filled biscuits like Jammie Dodgers or fig rolls especially), but traditionally they’d be savoury and served with sharp cheese (cream crackers, digestives, water biscuits). So in all honesty, Seattle’s delightful Biscuit Bitch wasn’t that much of a leap. The fare was slightly doughier, but it was still a biscuit.

    Finally, I’ll always love the stateside confusion caused by the British use of the word ‘fag’ to mean ‘cigarettes’. Especially when we’ve run out of ours and are trying to get you to give us one… Because then, we’re trying to bum a fag. πŸ˜‰

    • Kay

      I’ve never heard English Cucumber. I’ve always known it as a cucumber. It must be a regional thing. Practically every American knows about fags at this point. It was the source of jokes as a child. It gave the kids in school an excuse to say a bad word. LOL. The white grape thing is weird here because when it’s juice it’s white grape juice (as opposed to red grape juice), but they’re called green grapes when they’re in fruit form most the time, though at some stores they are called white grapes. It depends on where you shop I guess. We call garbanzo beans chickpeas as well. They’re interchangeable terms here. You guys really don’t eat turnips? They’re so delicious when they’re mashed. Kind of like potatoes. We have alcoholic cider here, but we call it hard cider. Cider is just a cloudy, non-alcoholic apple juice. Thanks for your contribution. I didn’t know many of the food terms that you wrote down. Very educational for travel.

  • Ali

    A big one is “rubber”

    When us Brits say rubber we mean “eraser” yet I understand it is slang for condom in the States. This could lead to all sorts of potential awkwardness πŸ˜€

  • Karen

    Didn’t leave a note the first time I was doubled over reading this, so I thought I’d drop a line and say I love this! Also, I just found this in The Economist and thought of your hilarious post once again. A list of British euphemisms, with a focus on understatement: http://www.economist.com/blogs/johnson/2011/05/euphemistically_speaking

    • Everywhereist

      Love it! I’ve definitely fallen prey to some British euphemisms, because what I thought was a glowing hotel or restaurant recommendation from a Brit was actually nothing of the sort!

  • Cat

    Fellow Aussie here who’s lived in London. Just confirming that capsicum is indeed an aussie term for pepper/bell pepper. Hope it’s all sorted.

    • Everywhereist

      Cat – my hand to GOD I saw it on a menu in London. Maybe the restaurant was run by Aussies, and they were messing with ALL of us. πŸ™‚

  • Hello everywherist!
    I found your blog from The Time magazine as “the best blog of the year”. CONGRATULATIONS!!!
    Your writing is really cool. ‘When in Rome, do as Romans do’ but how can one do as Romans without knowing how really the Romans do? At this point, your post helps as well as make us entertained.
    I am giving thanks to you and am looking forward to getting such kind of writing.
    Let the peace of almighty be upon you and your hubby.
    PS. I loved the name “EATALY” really! I wish I had a chance to have some food and shouted saying about eataly “it ally(ies)!”

  • Lorne

    I remember once in elementary school we had a new girl in class fresh from the UK. She was asking around the class “Got a rubber?”. Mortified looks on students’ faces! She was asking for an eraser.

  • Dominic

    I had a British friend, he asked if I wanted to do something once and I mentioned I had to put on pants. The expected result was had.

    After that point, it became kind of an in-joke to call them “American pants”.

  • Alex

    The first three are way off. Diary can have either of the two meanings you mention – otherwise we’d have a different name for Anne Frank’s Diary. And I’ve never heard front-bottom or capiscum before. Ever.

  • Kay

    I teach on a Study Abroad prgramme in Oxford. Last term (semester) students embarked on a 27 hour journey to Frankfurt and were genuinely astonished that the “coach” travel did not involve a train. Still, they graduated after 14 weeks cured of saying awsome in class

  • Alexa

    I just had to add this … “Shagging” is a dance that they do in the Carolinas (US). It is also known as “beach dancing” I think. When I was vacationing at the beach in NC, I saw advertisements all over for “shagging lessons” … I don’t know if “shag” in UK still has a sexual connotation, but I know it used to, and everytime I bulletin boards advertising “shagging lessons” I chuckled, thinking about how it might look to a Brit.

    • Hanii Puppy

      It very much still has a sexual connotations. It has no connotations other than those of the sexual persuasion xD

  • Noelle

    I found this blog while looking for the meaning of the terms “capiscum” and ‘rocket” (thank you, commentor who added that one) in a cookbook. So, while some of the commenters said “capiscum” isn’t used as much, it is used in at least one cookbook! πŸ™‚ Thanks for the info!

  • Robyn

    No one says front bottom… No one.

    Also, Americans don’t have to watch out for any of those in the UK. We understand your ignorant usage of English words and, as long as you have an appropriately strong accent, will reply appropriately, albeit with a sigh and a roll of the eyes.

    • Kay

      You don’t have to be rude about it. I watch a lot of British television and movies, so I’m used to most of these terms. American English is a legitimate form of English. We’re not ignorant. These differences are regional, it’s called a dialect. It doesn’t make one ignorant. Most languages have varying dialects. The differences aren’t that profound. They are mostly slang or technological/mechanical terms that were developed after the Americans attained independence from Britain. There’s no need to be nasty about it. As an American, I welcome a British dialect and accent. I like hearing the differences between American and British English. You must also bear in mind that America is a melting pot. Many cultures came together to create our nation and this has most definitely had an impact on our language. For example we in America use “gotten”, which is an old Anglo-Saxon word that died out in Britain, but has lasted in America. Also, “cookies” comes from Dutch, you call them biscuits. We call sweets “candy”, which is a Middle English word. I’m an American and I’m clearly not ignorant in regards to the differences in dialect. Please try not to be so insulting. I love Britain and would never insult your people, language, or country. We’re all Westerners and are VERY similar to each other in the eyes of the rest of the world. We’re supposed to be allies, not enemies.

      • Paul

        We use “gotten” in Britain. For example “ill-gotten gains”, although “got” is more common”.

  • Laine

    I use rubber as the word for eraser, but I’ve heard that in the U.S. it…. well, it means something completely different. So whenever I’m speaking to an American, I make sure to use the word eraser.

    • Samuel

      Rubber is more like a squishy plastic we Americans make soles of shoes out of!

      • Kay

        I think she’s referring to our use of rubber as a slang word, which is a condom. I definitely had a laugh over finding out that Brits call erasers rubbers. I love this type of thing, the differences in our dialects. It’s really funny and also very useful for traveling abroad. Now, I won’t make an ass out of myself when I go to Britain. πŸ™‚

        • Quadra

          Rubbers, long ago in America, was a slang term for galoshes (rubber rain boots).

          • ‘wellies’ in the UK (or more properly ‘Wellington Boots’).

        • Fiona Newcomb-Hicks

          We used to call condoms “rubber johnnie’s”, then just “rubbers” PLURAL . rubber SINGULAR is an an eraser.
          now people mostly say condom, or love glove or cock sock or Johnnies or jimmy’s and so on, very inventive the youth of today πŸ˜€

  • Ruby Love

    This was a delightful article. I especially appreciated that it did not demean British or American speakers. I realize “English” is a complicated language. I have always loved to hear British accents. I would hope they enjoy American’s as well.

  • Joy

    Brillant – another very British phrase

    My favorite “tah” – nothing like it in the US

    I learned all sorts of interesting phrases when I lived in London with my Scottish husband and two school aged children. Our daughter picked up the charming use of “cow” to describe some of her fellow classmates.

    I am off to London in a few days and looking forward to refreshing my British slang.

  • Suzanne

    Suspenders is another one. We call them braces. What we call suspenders I believe American’s call garters.

  • Anne Jones

    Why do Americans feel they have to put -ality onto the ends of words? For example “dysfunctionality”. The word is dysfunction. No need to add -ality onto the end. It just sounds ugly to me.

    • Lynn

      Thank you for the “ality” comment. It is an annoying trend in America to attach “ality” to every word possible and it is driving me crazy and I live in the United States.

  • We do have turnips in the UK! We call them swedes in the south, and they’re still turnips up north, particularly in Scotland. I have some friends who get swedes, turnip and parsnip confused entirely. We’ve had debates over Sunday roast whether a parsnip is a parsnip or a swede. I call the white root vegetable slightly bigger than a carrot (but with a much thinner point) a parsnip. A swede is the larger, rounder, more purples vegetable, highly delicious when mashed. Yum.

    • Hanii Puppy

      Turnips in Scots is “Neeps” πŸ˜›

      • Emma

        Turnips and suede are two different vegetables!

        • Kris Howard Âû

          Emma’s right: a swede is large, purple skin above, and yellow flesh; a turnip is much smaller, green skin above, and white flesh.
          The Scots words “neeps” and “tumshies” almost always refer to suedes; turnips are rare in Scotland.

          • Peter Campbell Smith

            An English swede is an American rutabaga or a Scottish turnip. Suede is fuzzy leather.

          • Fiona Newcomb-Hicks

            swede and suede! LOL i

        • Fiona Newcomb-Hicks

          Emma’s definitely right!!! Swede and Turnips are very different!

      • Latent

        Mashed turnip mixed with mashed potato is ‘neeps n tatties’. You can’t really use swede, the taste is quite different. A good turnip has a slight peppery taste.

  • Hanii Puppy

    “Front Bottom” seems fairly self-explanatory o-o But it doesn’t mean the same as “Willy”. Indeed, Having a “Willy” and having a “Front Bottom” are, for the most part, mutually exclusive.

    • Joseph

      Seconded! Those saying that no one uses the term in the UK are speaking from their own, limited experience. My parents used to use it when my siblings and I were children, as a euphemistic term for “fanny” πŸ™‚

      Also, as others have mentioned, a diary can equally be a personal book of your thoughts and feelings.

      • John Smith

        I’ve from the UK and I’ve never heard anyone use the term ‘front bottom’.

  • Now I’m seriously afraid to talk. Maybe I should learn some Spanish. That’d be better πŸ™‚

  • Scojebel

    All I think of when I hear that is Austin Powers. Shagadelic, baby!

  • Scojebel

    Trump has to do with Bridge, too, though. Right?

  • Scojebel

    Oh, geez. It probably sounds like the N word.

  • Richard Wyatt

    I don’t understand why American’s say I could care less, instead of I couldn’t care less.
    Also burglarized is a long-winded way of saying burgled.
    Ps. I see this is an old article. I was just searching to see what American’s call peppers!

    • sam pedigo

      because we don’t use uk english. your terms are to us foreign and not overly used. the only naming i adopt is theatre instead of theater but that’s it. also, i was watching being human last night and if i said gay, would i be slapped?

    • Just a heads up. In america the proper saying is indeed “I couldn’t care less”. It’s just the ignorant ones that mess it up and that leads to confusion. I’ve heard “could care less” a lot in the uk as well though so it’s misused everywhere.

    • tsp1der

      Maybe because if you said I could care less, but I do not because of the effort involved in giving a less of a fuck than you have right now sends a stronger message than not even caring. America. the progressive lazy person

  • SamIAmWithObservationAndProcra

    Well, as long as Fuck is the same in both places, English’ll still be somewhat decent and merciful to its vast-spread users (or abusers. Whichever way one sees it).

  • wideNCawake

    “sod” , now I finally know what the Sex Pistols were saying

  • manny ruiz

    in the States if you were to say to her your bum bag she may have thought your calling her poor or a loser because people say what a bum to people who do nothing, l think bum bag would be worse to say l hope she told you not to say Fag in Public, Gay people would have a fuss over that a can of worms you dont want opened , that is why it’s always good to google what not to do lol

    • Spiritman

      As well as a ‘fag’ being a cigarette, you might be amused to know that we also use the word ‘bum’ in specific phrases like: “Can I bum a fag [off you]?” ( = “can I have a cigarette”)

      • manny ruiz

        Lol ya American people always say can ” l bum a cigarette off you ” too l find it funny because those same people call other people bums as people who do nothing and yet are too tight with their money to pay for their own cigarettes and will gladly be like hey can I bum a cigarette off an act like their entitled to it but you say can l bum a cigarette off them and they act they are doing you a favor take care buddy

    • Fiona Newcomb-Hicks

      Fag was a derogatory term here too in the 50’s + 60’s Luckily it pretty much died out, unluckily other vile terms replaced it πŸ™

  • Latent

    Years ago in the UK the working class couldn’t afford alarm clocks (I suppose most anywhere, also?). Someone with an alarm clock could get work as a ‘knocker-upper’, going around with a long stick knocking on peoples bedroom windows to get them up for work.. They would get maybe a penny a week per house, so it was a bit extra cash for them as they most likely had a job to go to themselves.

  • Latent

    Years ago, visiting New Zealand, a delightful young thing invited me to a beach barby. She said it’ll be fun as she wanted to get screwed. I mentioned this in awe to my pal, thinking I was well in. He fell about laughing. At that time (maybe even now?) it meant getting drunk.

  • Latent

    Yams and sweet potatoes are different vegetables. There are varieties of yam and varieties of sweet potato and some look quite similar, but they’re not.
    A bit like there are varieties of plantain and varieties of banana.

  • Latent

    To be ‘bummed’ in the UK is to have a penis in your anus, not necessarily a bad thing. But to ‘have a bum at the door’ means a bailiff or sheriff has come to collect a debt.

  • Latent

    Kids tend to use the word ‘trump’ where adults would usually say ‘fart’.
    In a group, if a quiet on out was slipped out, someone would exclaim in disgust, “Whose is that”? The reply would be , “Yours if you want it”. Or, “Everyone take deep breaths, it goes quicker”!

    • Fiona Newcomb-Hicks

      Or ‘farty pops’ when the kids are about! trump is also used in polite explanation. “Oh, sorry, can’t eat sprouts, they make me trump something terrible!”

  • Latent

    I always say ‘capsicum’ and I’m slowly teaching the staff of UK branches of Subway what they are! I got the habit from Aussies, when I was in Papua New Guinea.

  • Yoni Ariel

    You missed so many wonderful ones. In the US, being pissed means being angry, in Britspeak it means drunk. In Britain an eraser is called a rubber, and a rubber is a condom (this leads to hilarious situations). A nappy is a diaper, and a US napkin is a serviette. In the UK you walk on a pavement, not a sidewalk. Someone who is bonkers is a bit nuts, however bonking means having sex, as does shagging. A dogsbody is what in the US would be called a gopher. The loo of course is the toilet.

  • David McKendrick

    Parts of a car are not interchangeable either. Hood, bonnet, boot, trunk, petrol, gas etc. In fact they don’t even have cars – just autos or automobiles. And lorry’s are trucks.

  • Except that a shag is also a bird and a piece of carpet technology ‘shag-pile carpet’. So whilst ‘shagging’ is clear, ‘a shag’ can be rather less so.

    • Spiritman

      And there’s shag tobacco, too.

      • Fiona Newcomb-Hicks

        And “I’m so shagged”, as in exhausted!

  • That’s a very handy list. I was only aware of about half of those (never having had to do shopping for cooking beyond ‘heat it up when camping’ grade).

    So what do they call cider in the US? Or does it just not exist (it’s certainly very rare, which is a great disappointment to me). I’ve been given soda and apple juice when trying to ask for some.

  • And half four in German is 3:30 (half _to_ four). Much amusement/aggravation.

    I’m surprised at a Brit that wasn’t familiar with ‘half four’. We do usually say ‘half past four’, but the abbreviation is hardly uncommon.

  • dav dan

    Spanish has 21 countries with different dialects, the disparities are even greater – as is the comedy.

  • Southern US accents are among my favourite accents from anywhere.

  • Fiona Newcomb-Hicks

    I agree, front bottom is the uk fanny!

    • J Harris

      So…. if your girly bits are a “front bottom”, does that mean that your “bum” could be… a “back fanny”? British colloquialisms are so odd.

      • Gus Flannagan

        To be honest the term “front bottom” isn’t all that widely used. It’s just a jokey expression used very occasionally because it uses completely acceptable childlike language. It’s almost too obscure to bother including in this blog really.

  • Fiona Newcomb-Hicks

    MOstly it’s just old dears who use it now, which is kinda sad πŸ™

  • Fiona Newcomb-Hicks

    Love this Post, makes me laugh, I love the tone of your humour! x

  • J Harris

    A trump is slang for “trumpet”… and flatulence being referred to as “trumpeting” or a “trump” is just slang. The man’s name is likely in reference to his ancestors being in service to the king as a instrumental heralder.

  • Gus Flannagan

    Most Brits would say “I farted” or “I dropped one” or, politely, “I passed wind”

  • Gus Flannagan

    All except the most naive Brits know that Americans say “pants” for our trousers. Those Brits who were “mortified” at the thought of rubber pants must’ve never watched any American TV.

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