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British Jargon/BritSpeak

It seems the Brits have unusual names for sometimes usual things! I hear all sorts of references made on Corrie (Coronation Street)that sometimes I just don't get!
I've heard a few but aren't sure what exactly they are or what they mean?
Could we post a few of these to help avoid embarrasement in certain situations? I don't want to be asking the server to translate the menu for me in a Pub.

Thanks for helping me out on this!

Posted by
4739 posts

British to American English

Bangers and Mash = Sausages and Mashed potatoes,

Jacket Potato = baked potato,

Chicken Mayonnaise sandwich = chicken salad sandwich,

Chicken Salad sandwich = chicken sandwich w/lettuce,

Chips = French Fries,

Crisps = Potato Chips,

Biscuit = Cookie,

Pudding = Dessert,

lemonade = lemon lime soda (like sprite),

mange tout = snow peas,

courgette = zucchini,

mince = usually ground beef,

rocket = arugula,

streaky bacon = american style bacon,

castor sugar = white sugar,

plain chocolate = dark chocolate

Posted by
977 posts

Definitely don't call it a fanny pack in Oz either!!!!!

Posted by
993 posts

Kent, Well remembered. Better still don't even take it with you so you won't make the mistake.

F.A. There are so many. My copy of "British English A to Zed" has over 400 pages, and I know some that aren't even in the book! Marrow is also squash- a kind of oversized zucchini.
Sandwiches are also "sarnies" or "butties" but on menus they are called sandwhiches. No worries there. Pub menus are fairly straight forward. A "Ploughmans lunch" is bread, cheese, butter and pickels, that sort of thing. It's the puddings you have to look out for. For example "Spotted Dick."

"Way out" means exit.
Remember your floors. The American 1st floor is at ground level. The British Ground floor is 1 flight up.

Posted by
389 posts

Always fun! I think a few of my favorites are (
British English) rubber=(American English) eraser;
(AE) pants=(BE) underwear;
(BE) bap= (AE)hamburger bun (sort of);
(AE) [to stand in a] line= queue;
(BE) lay-by = pull out (on the side of the road);
(BE) verge = shoulder of the road.

Of course we could go on and on. By the way, I only made the mistake once to ask a gas station attendant where the bathroom was. He thought I'd lost my mind to look there (try washroom, toilet, or w.c.)

Posted by
390 posts

When I was studying in London I made an fairly embarassing mistake at church one morning - I told one of our British friends that her 3-year old's little suspenders and suit were adorable - apparantly suspenders in Britain means garter belts -whoops! Suspenders are called braces over there. :)

And by the way Spotted Dick is actually a delicious pudding - much like treacle sponge pudding but it has raisins, hence the spotted. Don't ask where the dick came from, I've no clue and my host family couldn't answer it either! However there isn't anything wikipedia can't answer...

Posted by
3580 posts

A "return ticket" is what we call a "round-trip ticket."

"Fanny" refers to female private parts; I think you should refer to that item of clothing as a "waist pack."

A "vest" refers to an undershirt; what we call a vest is probably a "waistcoat."

We all know what "knickers" are.

"Jumper" is BritSpeak for sweater.

They refer to "drink driving" while we call it "drunk driving."

Some of this lingo I've picked up watching British comedies; since they are mostly from the 80's and 90's, the jargon may be out-dated. Some of the expressions common in America now we borrowed from the Brits, like the expression that someone has "gone missing."

Posted by
505 posts

And to make it more confusing, there's a whole different slang up here in Scotland (and then there's Welsh and Scots Gaelic). Scots words often have a basis in Norse languages and Gaelic:

bairn - child
haar - sea fog
hen - woman

hen party - bachelorette party
stag party - bachelor party

bap - roll

Other British terms:

fag - cigarette
knickers (or pants)- underwear

flat - apartment
postie - mailman

toastie - grilled sandwich
black pudding/sausage etc - blood pudding/sausage etc.

courgette - zucchini
aubergine - eggplant

Posted by
1455 posts

If you want a Coke/Pepsi, ask for a soft drink, NOT a Soda. Otherwise you will get soda water.

During breakfast I wanted wheat toast. I pointed to the "wheat" bread and the guy was puzzled. THere's white bread and brown bread. Hence brown must mean wheat

They serve milk with the coffee, so its not cream and sugar.. its milk & sugar

Posted by
993 posts

Wow you people are good!! Spotted Dick is indeed a pudding.. a steamed pudding but contains no treacle -molasses. You can substitute sultanas-raisens for currents-currents. I don't care for it, much preferring Sticky Toffee Pudding.

Jelly is jello so ask for jam for your toast.

The underground is a pedestrian footpath under a busy street.

Trainers are what we generically call tennis shoes, running shoes etc.
Once I saw a sign over a butchers shop that read "Fleshmonger"..I still see "cheesemonger" and Ironmonger, but for some reason Fleshmonger has gone out of style. hmmm.

Oh yes. Don't forget pissed. It means drunk.

Posted by
993 posts

..or you can just ask for coffee white w/wo sugar..the same for tea. You can still say fag and faggot (meatballs) in polite society. Back bacon is Canadian bacon. And real Devonshire Cream is not the same a clotted cream.

Posted by
3580 posts

Coke Light (or Coca Light in parts of Europe) instead of Diet Coke; the word "diet" does not occur much in England. And wasn't there a joke about Brits asking, "What time do you want me to knock you up?" when they were offering a wake-up call? Sometimes when you're going about your business and someone says, "Can I help you?" they are very politely telling you that you are in the wrong place--maybe on private property.

Posted by
808 posts

Thanks to Laura's post I now know what Castor Sugar is! I searched for a receipe for "Spotted Dick" as mentioned and it calls for it. I went to the Grocery Store tonight and couldn't find anything there by that name! I then went to the bulk food store and the two clerks there couldn't find it either!
I was thinking I'd have to check the local British Food Shop in the morning! Turns out it's just PLAIN OLD WHITE SUGAR! And it was posted here all along! Aren't we saavy?!

Posted by
505 posts

Lemonade - in the UK it's a carbonated soda, sometimes actually lemon flavored, but often just sprite. It's not the lemonade you think of in the US.

Kate

Posted by
45 posts

A servette in Britain is what we call a napkin. A napkin in Britain is what we in the states use during a specific time of month. I kind of had to learn the hard way on this. But, that being said, once Brits who hear my American accent and are accustomed to dealing with us tourists know what we're talking about.

Posted by
993 posts

Jennifer, I'm blushing, you're right.

F.A. Castor sugar is finer than American granulated. I've heard people here refer to it as bar sugar..for around the rims of glasses.

Posted by
389 posts

And for those who want to save time looking for castor sugar, you can run it through your blender or food processor to make it finer. Great help from a cook friend in Scotland.

Posted by
505 posts

It's probably suet, which is often put out for birds to eat. I think it's basically solid fat with other stuff in it. Do a google search to see if there's a substitute.

As to British food...um, not really that different here - a roast or turkey. Or haggis with neaps & tatties (potatoes and turnips). Or Yorkshire pudding. Cranachan (sp?) is a great Scottish desert - oats, raspberries, brown sugar, cream and whiskey. Again Google will probably be your best bet - or search BBC, as they sometimes have recipes for the holidays.

Kate

Posted by
505 posts

Oh, and I wouldn't worry about being traditional, since Thanksgiving doesn't exist on this side of the Atlantic.

Kate

Posted by
808 posts

My receipe for "Spotted Dick" calls for Suewitt (can't spell-receipe not here) and apparently it has been "de-listed" in my area. Whatever that means! They said to try again at Christmas!

I want to make my Family something traditional British for Thanksgiving Dinner Tomorrow. I know they would really like that. ANY SUGGESTIONS? If we can list a few suggestions, I can search the name and get a receipe. Hopefully it will be something simple, I'm not Martha! We have no known food allergies, and believe it or not, my party of 3 Adults will eat just about anything! And probably like it, too!
Thanks, everyone! As of right now I have nothing on the menu for dessert! HELP!!

Posted by
3428 posts

What about Triffle for dessert? Easy to do- layer whiskey or wine soaked lady fingers with jam and sweetened whipped cream. Or maybe Sticky Toffee Pudding- reciepies abound on the net.

Posted by
977 posts

Trifle is also an old fashioned Aussie dessert. However, an Oz trifle uses custard which is layered with the other ingredients and jelly (I think you guys call it Jello.

Posted by
993 posts

C&H puts out Bakers Sugar. It's very fine & used for baking and drinks

Posted by
808 posts

British passengers want "Schweppes" and will not except "Canada Dry Gingerale" as a substitute.
Flights catered in Canada will have "Canada Dry" and flights catered out of the UK will have "Schweppes". They will refer to it only as "Schweppes" and not specify that it is gingerale. Very common.
One Brit became irrate b/c we only had Canada Dry on board on the return portion of his flight. It was explained to him that both are same manufacturer in Canada but that wasn't good enough! He said he only drinks "the champagne of gingerales!"

Posted by
808 posts

The guy actually sent in a formal letter of complaint to the Airline. They noted his complaint and flagged his passenger profile. The next time he flew with us, a few months later, he was presented with his very own six pack of Schweppes! (Catering out of Canada could not accomodate the company's request to regularily have it stocked on the aircraft. I have no idea WHY?)
Talk about customer satisfaction guarentee! True story! Made the Company newsletter!

Posted by
4555 posts

Flt Att....that's a hoot! Especially considering that it's Canada Dry that used the old saying, "The Champagne of ginger ales." The comment is attributed to Spencer Compton Cavendish, the 8th Duke of Devonshire, shortly after the drink was introduced in 1907 (so this is its 100th birthday). A few months later, he died.

Posted by
808 posts

It seems whenever I stay at the Belfast Hilton, on a week end morning, there's this guy who roams the halls bright and early shouting "Wakey, wakey, eggs and bakey!!".

The reception says it's not anyone from the Restaurant but this happens too often for it NOT to be an employee!! I could absolutely strangle this guy!! Reminds me of all the early mornings my darling Dad would wake us singing the exact same thing!! Grrrrrr!

Posted by
808 posts

Hey Norm, that does make it even funnier! Thanks for that! Too bad that wasn't included in our newsletter!

Posted by
932 posts

Didn't mean to post twice. I didn't realize there were 2 pages and I thought my first one didn't take...

Posted by
473 posts

Regarding the Coke Light reference, Coke Light and Diet Coke are 2 different products. Diet Coke contains aspartame, just like in the US. Coke Light contains cyclamate, a sweetener that's been banned in the US because it caused cancer in lab rats in a study. It's interesting to note that subsequent studies have found no link between cyclamtes and cancer. When in Europe, I go for the Coke Light. It tastes better.

It was interesting in Turkey. They have Coke Light, but if you ask for Coke Light, you'll tend to get a puzzled look. It's referred to as Diet Coke. Go figure.

To add to the list of BritSpeaks, a "cow" in the US is deragatory for a large woman. In Britain, it's even more deragatory. It means a promiscuous woman.

Posted by
993 posts

Coke. It may sound strange but all bottled or canned coke in the UK tastes a bit "off" to me. The only place I can get a coke that tastes like "home" is at McDonalds. Things that make you go "hmmmm". Before I catch any grief, this let me say this is the ONLY thing I expect to taste like home.

Posted by
932 posts

I see my Irish friend every few years, and I have to use context sometimes to understand some of her slang. My husband and I still laugh about the time she called a girl we knew a "narcy whore." And she often used the term "cow."

Posted by
3 posts

Im married to a Brit so I have learned plenty over the years!
in the UK - homely means domestic, not ugly (like in the US), so if a man describes his wife as a homely bird, it is saying she is a domestic type of woman, not that she looks like an ostrich..lol..

Food glorious food!!! Red Sauce is Ketchup, Butty is a sandwich, Bap is a bun, cake is a danish(or donut, they call all soft sweets cakes, it seems) and if you want Pudding in England, ask for custard. If you want Flan, youll get a cake with liquor, not a custard. Cup cakes would be a small trifle (sponge cake with custard, liquor and fruit) so if your kid wants a cupcake, ask for a fairy cake. .

One more, if something is a "bomb" i.e. "My new car is a bomb" it means it is good, as opposed to the US where it means its barely able to start.

Posted by
2349 posts

I remember 20 yrs ago in Scotland. We had shoes that we call pumps, you know, closed toe high heeled shoes. Everyone laughed and said they were called court shoes. "Pumps" were slang for flatulence!

Posted by
8700 posts

If you're a fan of "Keeping Up Appearances," the British comedy shown on Public TV, you'll recognize this conversation between Richard and Hyacinth in their car:

Hyacinth: Watch out for the pedestrian, Richard.

Richard: What pedestrian?

Hyacinth: The one on the pavement.

In BritSpeak, "pavement" means sidewalk, not the street surface.

Posted by
3580 posts

Clotted Cream was a mystery to me until I had some. First taste and I laughed--it tastes exactly like the freshly churned butter that I made once when I lived on a farm. I think that's what it is: butter without all the water liquid removed. Delicious!