There are so many British English words you should know before visiting the UK. Knowing them can help you get what you want or need without sounding silly.
You might already know familiar BrE terms like “chips” (french fries), “loo” (bathroom) and “nappy” (diaper), but before you head to the other side of the pond, here are a few eye-brow-raising British English words you should know before visiting the UK, that if you learn them now, will help you avoid confusion and embarrassment.
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In American English (AmE), a fag is a derogatory term for a homosexual, but in the UK, it’s a simple slang word for “cigarette.”
Fancy means to like or prefer. Combining these first two words, if a UK national happens to ask if you fancy a fag, you’ll know right away to reply to the offer to have a smoke. No need to frantically run away to report a potential sex offender to the nearest bobby (policeman).
Fanny, to Americans, is our butt, or “bum” as Brits call it. However, to the English, fanny actually refers to the female genitalia. If you’re a tourist wearing a waistline pouch that Americans call a fanny-pack, well…I guess I wouldn’t mention on a crowded London street how your fanny-pack is uncomfortable when you sit down.
Pants or Trousers
Shopping can be an adventure. Don’t make the mistake of entering a department store asking the sales associate if you can try on some pants. She’ll give you a queer look and walk you to the underwear section of the men’s department. Pants, in BrE, is exactly that. Men’s underwear. You could take some pants into the fitting room just to mess with the sales person, but that could potentially earn you a place on the UK tourist black list. After clarifying what it is you want to try on by pointing to the ones you’re wearing, the sales person will ask if you mean “trousers.”
If you forgot to pack underwear and need to purchase some, ask the sales associate to point you in the direction of knickers. You will find yourself in the undies section of the lingerie department, just as you should be.
What if you want to buy a nice Scottish wool sweater for your hubby or significant other? In that case, you would ask the sales person to show you jumpers. And, what if you want to purchase an AmE jumper for your elementary-aged daughter. In that case, ask to see shifts, of course.
If you’re in England on business, a co-worker from the London office might offer to knock you up at a certain time. Say what?? That is, they will pick you up at your hotel or wherever at the designated time, for say, an evening out. While you’re enjoying the pubs, your host might think you’re getting a little pissed, or, as we say in AmE, drunk, sauced, plowed, etc.
By the next day, you might feel really knackered. Hopefully, that would be the day you return to the USA to sleep off that exhaustion on the long flight home while dreaming of your next overseas, language challenged adventure.
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