British v. American English

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Pistolenschutze, Apr 15, 2009.

  1. I thought it might be fun to compare British v. American English usage. Perhaps Tranter or Charlie can explain how our English cousins came up with some of these! :D;):p We'll start with words beginning with "A" or "B" only:

    British Words Uncommon in the US

    abseil
    to descend on a rope (US: rappel). From German abseilen
    accountancy
    calculating and tracking financial matters (US: accounting).
    In the UK accounting is the school subject, but accountancy is the professional qualification.
    advert
    advertisement (US and UK also: ad, classified ad, commercial).
    agony aunt
    the author of an agony column – a magazine or newspaper column advising on readers' personal problems. The image presented was originally that of an older woman providing comforting advice and maternal wisdom, hence the name "aunt". Better known to most Americans as a "Dear Abby" column or advice column. Similarly, agony uncle.
    aggro
    aggressive or confrontational behaviour, extreme irritation or exasperation.
    alight
    to exit from a train or bus. (Only used in a formal context: normally "get off". US: disembark or deboard).
    answerphone
    (originally from trademark Ansafone) automated telephone answering device (US and UK also: answering machine).
    anti-clockwise
    direction opposite to clockwise (US: counterclockwise).
    approved school
    school for juvenile delinquents; reform school. Note that such institutions have not been referred to officially as "approved schools" since 1969. Juvenile delinquents, depending on their age and level of malfeasance, may now be sent to Secure Units or YOIs (Young Offender Institutions – a correctional facility for juvenile delinquents). (US: juvenile detention center, juvenile hall, (slang) juvie.)
    Argie
    an Argentinian.
    argy-bargy
    (informal) pushing-and-shoving or outright fighting.
    arse *
    (vulgar; UK and Canada) buttocks (US equivalent: ass), backside or anus, depending on context; to be arsed: to be bothered to do something, most commonly as a negative or conditional (e.g. I can't be arsed, if/when I can be arsed). Sometimes used in the US but only as a noun.
    [to fall] arse over tit
    (vulgar, alternatively arse over tit/tip) [to fall] head over heels. (US: ass over tea kettle).
    artic (lorry)
    (abbreviation of 'articulated lorry') (US: semi, semi-trailer truck, tractor-trailer)
    ashet
    (Scottish) a deep plate or dish.
    aubergine
    a solanaceous plant bearing a fruit of the same name, commonly used as a vegetable in cooking (US: eggplant).
    autocue
    a prompting system for television announcers (genericised trademark, after a leading manufacturer) (US: teleprompter).

    Batty
    London West Indian term for an arse or a homosexual, e.g. "Batty Boy". The word "botty", used by children to refer to the backside, is pronounced "batty" in the West Indian accent. More generalled used to mean "mad" as in crazy.
    balls-up
    (vulgar) error, mistake, (see Cock-up) SNAFU
    bang to rights
    (slang) in the act of committing an offence, red-handed (US: dead to rights)
    banger
    (1) a sausage (from the tendency of sausages to burst during frying), (2) a firework, (3) an old car (allusion to their tendency to back-fire)
    barm cake
    northern usage, a soft white bread roll made with barm as a leavening agent.
    bap
    soft bread roll or a sandwich made from it; in plural, breasts (vulgar slang)
    barmaid *, barman
    a woman or man who serves drinks in a bar. Barman and the originally American bartender appeared within a year of each other (1837 and 1836); barmaid is almost two centuries older (circa 1658).
    barney
    a fight or argument (dialect).
    barrister *
    (UK, Canada) a type of lawyer (one qualified to give specialist legal advice and, traditionally, argue a case in both higher and lower law courts). Sometimes used in US with pejorative connotations.
    beck
    small watercourse; stream; creek (regional, especially Yorkshire and the Lake District)
    bedsit (or bedsitter)
    one-room apartment that serves as a bedroom and a living room (US: see SRO; compare studio apartment, efficiency)
    Belisha beacon
    orange ball containing a flashing light mounted on a post at each end of a zebra crossing (qv); named after the UK Minister of Transport who introduced them in 1934.
    berk
    a mildly derogatory term for a silly person. The word is an abbreviation of either 'Berkshire Hunt' or 'Berkeley Hunt' (it is uncertain which is the original phrase), rhyming slang for cunt. (Note that 'berk' rhymes with 'work', whereas the first syllable of both 'Berkshire' and 'Berkeley' is pronounced 'bark'.)
    bimble
    to wander aimlessly or stroll/walk without urgency to a destination.
    bint
    a derogatory term for a woman. Usage varies with a range of harshness from 'bitch', referring to a disagreeable and domineering woman, to only a slightly derogatory term for a young woman (from the Arabic for a girl).
    biro
    a ballpoint pen. Named after its Hungarian inventor Laszlo Biro (IPA: /ˈbaɪroʊ/)
    bish bash bosh
    emphatic way of stating that something is simple, and will be/has been easy to do.
    black pudding
    (US. Blood Sausage)
    blag
    (slang) to obtain or achieve by deception, to bluff, to scrounge, to rob, robbery, tall story, bluff, deception
    blimey
    (informal) an exclamation of surprise. (Originally gor blimey, a euphemism for God blind me, but has generally lost this connotation.)
    bloke
    (informal) man, fellow
    bloody hell!
    (informal, mildly vulgar) oh my God!, what the hell!.
    blues and twos
    (slang, uncommon) emergency vehicle with lights and sirens (emergency services in the UK generally use blue flashing lights and formerly used a two-tone siren) (US: lights and sirens)
    boardies
    long shorts used for surfing or beachwear (US and UK also: board shorts or swimming trunks)
    bobby
    police officer, named after Sir Robert Peel, the instigator of the world's first organised police force
    Bob's your uncle
    "there you go", "it's that simple".[1] Also used to signify that no further explanation for the situation being described will be forthcoming. Sometimes extended to "Robert's your mother's brother" or "Bob's your uncle, Fanny's your aunt" for emphasis. It derives from the name of a British Prime Minister Arthur Balfour, whose uncle Lord Salisbury (given name Robert), had been his political mentor and also prime minister.
    bobbins
    something of low quality or (more commonly) someone who lacks ability at something, (e.g."Our new striker is bobbins")
    bodge
    a poor job (repair) that just about works. See Bodger.
    boffin
    scientist or engineer, sometimes abbreviated to boff
    bog roll
    (roll of) toilet paper (slang)
    bog-standard
    completely ordinary, run-of-the-mill, unadulterated, unmodified
    boiled sweet
    type of confection (US: hard candy)
    bollocks
    (vulgar; originally ballocks, colloquially also spelled as bollox) testicles; verbal rubbish (as in "you're talking bollocks") (US: bullshit). The somewhat similar bollix is found in American English, but without the anatomical connotations or vulgar sense meaning 'mess up'. The twin pulley blocks at the top of a ship's mast are also known as bollocks, and in the 18th century priests' sermons were colloquially referred to as bollocks; it was by claiming this last usage that the Sex Pistols prevented their album Never Mind the Bollocks from being banned under British obscenity laws. Related phrases include bollocksed, which means either tired ("I'm bollocksed!") or broken beyond repair; bollocks up, meaning to mess up ("He really bollocksed that up"); and [a] bollocking, meaning a stern telling off.
    The dog's bollocks is a fairly common phrase used in British English, although this has the opposite meaning – something described as "The dog's bollocks" or sometimes even just "The bollocks" is something considered to be very good. In mixed company this phrase may be toned down to "The mutt's nuts", or the phrase "The bee's knees" (the business) may be used as a polite substitute. The etmyology of this expression is said by some to derive from printers' slang for the punctuation symbol ':-' when printing involved the use of carved metal blocks to form typesetting.[clarification needed]
    Boot
    the back compartment of a car. (American: trunk)
    bonce : (informal) person's head (mainly used in London and the South East, though said in the North too)

    bone-idle
    lazy
    brass monkeys
    cold – from "cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey". This phrase is often said to derive from cannonballs stowed on a brass triangle named after a "powder monkey" (a boy who runs gunpowder to the ship's guns) spilling due to the frame's contraction in cold weather. However this is doubtful since these were wooden (possibly for this reason) and its more obviously vulgar derivation may be the correct one.
    breve
    (musical) a note of two bar's (or a count of 8) length in 4/4 time
    bristols
    (vulgar, rhyming slang) breasts; from football team Bristol City = titty
    brolly
    (informal) umbrella
    bubble and squeak
    dish of cooked cabbage fried with cooked potatoes and other vegetables. Often made from the remains of the Sunday roast trimmings. (Irish: colcannon)
    bugger all
    little or nothing at all; "I asked for a pay rise and they gave me bugger all"; "I know bugger all about plants"; damn it all. US: zip, jack or (offensive) jack ****.
    building society
    an institution that provides mortgage loans and other financial services (US equivalent: savings and loan association)
    bum bag
    a bag worn on a strap around the waist (US: fanny [DM] pack)
    bumf, bumph
    useless paperwork or documentation; from "bum fodder" toilet paper)
    bureau de change
    an office where money can be exchanged (US: currency exchange)
    burgle *
    (originally colloquial, back-formation from burglar) to commit burglary (in the US, burglarize is overwhelmingly preferred, although burgle is occasionally found).
    busk
    1: * to play live music, perform or otherwise entertain in a public place, usually in the hope of receiving small monetary contributions from spectators and passersby. American English has no exact equivalent, but a busker is a "street musician" or "street performer". Gradually, "busk" (v) and "busker/busking" (n) are becoming increasingly common in US English usage, at least among professional musicians.
    2: used to imply rapid improvisation in a working environment, for example: "we'll have to busk it" (we'll have to make it up as we go along). The latter meaning comes from the former, specifically from the concept of performing without sheet music or script.
    butty
    (North England colloquialism, also understood in the south) a buttered sandwich, sometimes with chips [DM] (chip butty)
    (Northern and Central England) a workmate, and thus an unpowered barge towed by a powered one, such as a narrowboat
    (Welsh English colloquialism) friend, similar to usage of word mate (usually "bwty").
  2. islenos

    islenos New Member

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    It's a shame how the Brits have screwed up the English language:D
  3. Well, they DID invent it, but it was up to us Colonials to really get it working right. ::::::ducking:::::: :D;):p At least we got rid of all those unnecessary double vowels, like in "colour," and "honour," and words that have a "z" sound in them actually use a "z" instead of an "s." ;)
  4. TranterUK

    TranterUK Guest

    Yes, sorry about that old boy, what were we thinking. And while on the subject Pistol its Zed, not Zee.

    Actually if you want to go into it American English contains some words that go back much further in history, and are no longer used over here. Fall for Autumn for example.

    Pistols list is very good, as a casual student of naval history it has always fascinated me how many words in English have a naval root. Lea way, for how much spare room is there, Shove off, go away, learn the ropes, three square meals a day and many more. I am curious how many of these are used in the US?
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 15, 2009
  5. islenos

    islenos New Member

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    I still use Colours, Tyres, Fork Gattors, Silencers and Petrol. Comes from all those years working on Brit Bikes.

    The three position Lucas switch - Dim, Flicker and Off
  6. TranterUK

    TranterUK Guest

    Good man. My first M/Bike was a BSA C15 250. Stayed Jap after that, but for a short and stormy relationship with a WW2 era BSA 500cc single. Never again.

    By the way Pistol, list not 100% correct, but close...Example, Bumph, not useless, but often useful, I got it second hand but it came with all the bumph (paperwork). I am considering a new rifle, picked up some bumph on the latest models.

    You will now understand why we laughed when a TV ad recently announced Buy One Get One Free, and showed the word BOGOFF!!!!
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 15, 2009
  7. islenos

    islenos New Member

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    I presently have a 1977 Bonneville "Silver Jubilee"
    and a basket case '68 chopper

    I have had an Enfield, BSA, Norton, Ariel Square Four but have always wanted a Vincent Black Shadow. You never see Japs around here for some reason.
  8. Marlin

    Marlin *TFF Admin Staff Chief Counselor*

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    My first five years in school, back in the dark ages, were under a fine British lady.

    You might have, if you've been around here for a while, noticed some of my unorthodox spellings, i.e. colour, Defence, metre, theatre, calibre and petrol. Miss Marsh taught us well and the early learned habits don't ever die..... :)
  9. islenos

    islenos New Member

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    errr...scratch that


    Tranter, do you happen to have a good wrecking yard with old rovers about?
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2009
  10. TranterUK

    TranterUK Guest

    Unorthodox you say Marlin? I simply took you to be a well educated and cultured man of the world.

    Much as wot I am.

    Islenos, let me know what you need. I am often at the Birmingham Motorcycle Museum, halls full of nothing but British M/cycles...Even met TFF member Charlie the sniper there for a cuppa.

    For you http://www.nationalmotorcyclemuseum...ufacturer=AJS&vyear=Select a Year&Submit=Find

    Click on exhibits and go for your favourites.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 15, 2009
  11. islenos

    islenos New Member

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    Not working on a bike right now but a RHD '68 Rover 109" 2 door with a crumpled left side bed. Nobody in the states seems to have one at this time.
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2009
  12. bcj1755

    bcj1755 New Member

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    "autocue a prompting system for television announcers (genericised trademark, after a leading manufacturer) (US: teleprompter)."

    Maybe we should start calling this one a "Barry":p:D
  13. The term "three sheets to the wind" comes to mind. :D;)
  14. bcj1755

    bcj1755 New Member

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    That's a good one that reminds me of my childhood. I come form a Navy family, grew up in a Navy town, and took Navy JROTC in high school so I heard that term, and variations on it, a lot. (Note, after all that exposure to the Navy as a child, I ended up joining the Air Force:eek:)
  15. Marlin

    Marlin *TFF Admin Staff Chief Counselor*

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    I was using the term "unorthodox" with regard to the average citizen of the US of A, Tranter. I have always been a believer in the polished "King's English", as were my parents both educators all their lives.

    At one time I took quite a lot of kidding from several sources but they learned that this is the way it is going to be. I use the European way of stating items WRT the calendar as well as growing up with all time referenced to GMT. Several of my teachers often indicated that they though me weird. I just told them thanks and let it go at that.

    Part of my growing up years were spent in Maine on the border with New Brunswick and none thought it weird up there. I even went to school across the border a couple years because the Canadian school was closer !!!!
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