British English words not used in American English

Groovy Mother points to a Wikipedia list of British English words not used in American English.

Since moving to Redmond, I've had to learn some of these the hard way.

Recent examples of words I've used in conversation and got back a blank stare:

  • Fortnight (a period of 14 days (and nights) or two weeks)
  • F**kwit (idiot)
  • Aubergine (eggplant)
  • A*se (ass)
  • Blag ( to obtain or achieve by deception)
  • Boot (trunk of car)
  • Git (mild derogatory)
  • Spiffing (very good)
  • Zebra crossing (pedestrian street crossing)
  • Bugger off (go away)
  • Cock-up (mistake)
  • Yob (lout)
  • W*nker (generic insult)
  • Spawny (lucky)
  • Bloke (guy)
  • Marrow (squash as in the vegetable)
  • Slaphead (bald man)
  • Cul-de-Sac (dead end, french word in fact)
  • to go pear-shaped (to go wrong)

For illustrative purposes, here's what sentence or two might look like using the above.

"Oi, F**kwit.  I've just
blagged this spiffing aubergine off this bloke.  Now, I'm going to
meet the w*nker again in a fortnight by the totally unused zebra
crossing by the cul-de-sac to sell him back a marrow.  Got
it, git? Now, in the meantime, I need you, slaphead, to keep it
safe and sound in your boot, 'cause the spawny a*se might
realise he's just cocked-up and try to get it back. By the
way, that's 'realise' with an 's'.  And it'll all go
pear-shaped then. Anyway, here it is, now bugger off."

Comments (12)
  1. huwdj says:

    I’m not sure you’d come across all these words on a day to day basis. Except perhaps in a Guy Ritchie movie.

  2. Rosyna says:

    Odd, Cul-de-sac is used all the time in the US. Fortnight is used semi-often kind of. And then there’s Wanker…

  3. Garrett says:

    Cul-de-sac is somewhat of an oddity. Some places in the states use it, and some don’t.

    Up here in the Great White North, cul-de-sac is in common usage. Sure beats having signs around that say "dead-end"–which I wouldn’t say is what cul-de-sac is trying to imply. Cul-de-sacs up here tend to be small streets that have a ‘bulb’ in the end, litterally "bottom of the bag".

    Dead-end could be used in places that aren’t cul-de-sacs. (although, ’round here we tend to say "Not a through street")


  4. MSDNArchive says:

    huwdj. You said: " I’m not sure you’d come across all these words on a day to day basis"

    You are right of course in the case of ‘aubergine’ – unless you happen to be intimately involved with aubergines, in which case this might be more frequent.

  5. I’m told that I say "trousers" which is also an infrequently used word of british persuasion. And what about Blimey…co’or!!!

  6. K.E. McFeely says:

    How about "bonnet"…every time they say it on Top Gear (the American version) I think about the little hats, not the hood of a car.

  7. Rick Schaut says:

    They should take "cul-de-sac" off the list, and add "lorie" to it. For that matter, I’d add "busking" as well. When I first saw the word "busking," I had a vague idea of what it meant, but that didn’t ease my fear that the threatened 200 pound fine just might be headed my way were I not careful.

    While this list is, indeed, interesting, you can have more fun with words that have different meanings between the US and the UK. In the UK, you ride a coach, not a bus, from the airport to your hotel. When you stay at a hotel, you’re a resident, not a guest. You get to your room via a lift, not an elevator.

    And I’ll bet the first time you saw a sign that read, "Watch your Step," it threw you just a tad.

    A friend of mine had spent several months in England, when we were sitting in a bar together somewhere in northeastern Wisconsin. We were having a jolly time up to the point where he turned to me and asked, "Could you spot me a fag, old chap?" We beat a hasty retreat.

    Mind the gap.


  8. Rick Scott says:

    F**kwit, wanker, arse and bloke are understood by most here in the states. Fortnight is generally understood but rarely used…its considered more archaic than foreign.

  9. Brit Living in The USA says:

    Your example is contrived and a load of bollocks. You watch too many half rate American actors trying to imitate the Brits. Whom they all think talk like Dick Van Dyke or Mary Poppins.

  10. MSDNArchive says:

    >>Brit living in the USA. – i think you might have taken this a little too seriously….

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