British words (most) Americans don't know

This is part 2 of an examination of the words that were very country-specific in Brysbaert et al. (2019)'s study of vocabulary prevalence. For more detail on the study, please see part 1, on American words Britons don't tend to know. This half-table shows the words that British survey respondents tended to know and American ones didn't:

All of the terms will be discussed below, but not necessarily in the order given in the table. Instead, I'll group similar cases together. The unknown items from AmE were overrun with food words—that's less true here, though there are some.

Stationery items

The first two items are generici{s/z}ed brand names for office supplies. Tippex is correction fluid, known in AmE by brand names Wite-Out and Liquid Paper. Tippex is used as both noun (for the fluid) and as a verb for the action of covering things over—literally with correction fluid or figuratively. Here are a few examples from the GloWBE corpus that show some range:

  • Her contact details had been TippExed over a number of times. 
  • make-up, hair extensions, fake tan and tippexed teeth
  • But one series of game Tippexed over the old rules   

Biro is an old trade name for a ball-point pen, based on the name of the inventor László Bíró. The first syllable is pronounced like "buy" (not "bee").

 Amusements

Pic from here
A tombola is a kind of raffle, where numbers are pulled out of a revolving drum-type container, and also a name for that container. The game is often found at school fairs, (BrE) village fetes, etc. The OED tells us tombola comes to English "partly from French, partly from Italian", which might mean the French got the game from Italy. The Italian game seems more like bingo. While bingo is called bingo in BrE, you might use a tombola (the drum-thing) for playing it, so it's not surprising that tombola was adopted as the name of a UK-based online bingo company.

Dodgems (or dodg'ems) are (orig. AmE) bumper cars. The BrE has the look of a brand name turned to a generic, though it's unclear to me if that name was ever trademarked. The cars were first called dodgems by their inventors, the Stoeher brothers of Massachusetts. This isn't the first time we've seen an American product name become the generic name for the product type in BrE—but I'll let you sort through the trade names posts for others.

Abseil might not quite belong in the amusement category, as it seems more like hard work, but let's put it here. It's a verb from German for a means of descending a mountain (etc.) using a rope affixed on a higher point. Americans use the French word for the same thing: rappel. The idea comes from the Alps, where both German and French are to be found, so it looks like Americans and Brits might go to different areas of the mountain range. (This is a counterexample to my usual claim that the English will take any opportunity to use a French word.)

Food

Chipolata is a kind of small sausage. They've been mentioned already at the pigs in blankets post. The name comes from French, which got it from the Italian an onion dish.

Plaice is a kind of flatfish that's common at British fish-and-chip shops. The OED says "European flatfish of shallow seas, Pleuronectes platessa (family Pleuronectidae)", but some other fish (esp. outside the UK) are sometimes called plaice. The name came from French long ago. It shows up in *many* punny shop names. 

Korma is a type of very mild curry typically made with a yog(h)urt-based sauce. BrE speakers generally have large vocabularies of the types of curry that are popular at UK Indian take-aways and restaurants, which often have menus with headings based on the curry type, like this at the right. It (orig. BrE) flummoxed me at first when English friends invited me over for a take-away and I was expected to already know this vocabulary and be able tell them what I'd like without reading the fine-print descriptions of the curry ingredients. The OED tells us korma comes from an Urdu word for 'cooked meat', which itself derives from a Turkish word.

Escalope takes us back to French, and the French influence on UK menus. OED defines it as "Thin slices of boneless meat (occasionally of fish), prepared in various ways; esp. a special cut of veal taken from the leg." It's found in menu phrases like veal escalope or an escalope of chicken.
P.S. Thanks to Cathy in the comments we have an AmE equivalent for this, the Italian scallopini. Another case (like courgette/zucchini) of a French-derived food word in BrE and an Italian one in AmE. (The Prodigal Tongue covers this a bit more.)

 

Slang

Yob is an example of back slang. It's the word boy backwards, and it's used particularly for young men/boys who engage in anti-social behavio(u)r. Hooligans, etc.

Naff is a word that's hard to translate exactly, which is why it has been one of my 'untranslatables' in the past. It's an adjective that refers to a certain kind of 'uncool', or as Jonathon Green defines it: "in poor taste, unappealing, unfashionable, bad" and more recently it's also meant "second-rate, workaday".  I've seen Americans get this word very wrong, so best not to attempt it until you've been in the UK for a some time. Some Brits will tell you it stands for 'not available for f***ing', but as with almost all such acronymic slang tales, that is almost certainly false. Green's Dictionary of Slang gives this for etymology:

[? north. dial. naffhead, naffin, naffy, a simpleton; a blockhead; an idiot or niffy-naffy, inconsequential, stupid or Scot. nyaff, a term of contempt for any unpleasant or objectionable person; however note Polari etymologist WS Wilcox in a letter 25/11/99: ‘I have long believed that naff may well derive from Romany naflo, a form of nasvalo – no good, broken, useless. Since several other Parlary words derive from Romany this is not impossible’; in this context note also 16C Ital. gnaffa, a despicable person]

Brolly isn't in the same slang league as the previous examples. It's a kind of (orig. AmE) cutesie way of referring to an umbrella. As I discuss in some detail in The Prodigal Tongue, this is what BrE speakers say instead of (AmE) bumbershoot, an Americanism that Americans often erroneously believe to be British. That bit of my book is excerpted at Humanities magazine. Have a read and if you like it, maybe buy or borrow the book? (Please?)

Bolshy is an adjective derived from bolshevik, and as such it originally meant 'left-wing, Communist', but these days it's more often used to mean 'uncooperative, obstructive, subversive' (thanks again Mr Green) or 'Left-wing; uncooperative, recalcitrant' (OED). Don't get bolshy in the comments, OK? 

The rest

The other items on the list are just too miscellaneous to fit together under meaningful subheadings.

Gazump (and its sister gazunder) have been treated in an Untranslatables post already, so you can read about it there. It's about underhanded (BrE) property/(AmE) real-estate -buying behavio(u)r.

Kerbside is just (AmE) curbside in BrE spelling. Here's the old post about curb/kerb

Judder is an onomatopoetic verb. Like shudder, but used more often of mechanical things, like engines that aren't working well. Here's an example from the GloWBE corpus: "the bus juddered over potholes".  The OED's first citations of it are in the 1930s, so it came into English long after AmE & BrE separated.

Chiropody is used as AmE (and more and more BrE) would use podiatry, though some specialists try to force a difference in meaning between the two (see this, for example). You'll find other sites telling you there is no difference, and that, for the most part is true. The word podiatry was coined in the US and there covered the same things that chiropody covered in the UK. Chiropody comes from the Greek for 'hands' and 'feet', and you can see the similarity with chiropractor, who uses their hands to treat people. What's a bit funny about chiropody/chiropodist is that the pronunciation is all over the place. Some use the /k/ sound for the ch, following the Greek etymology. That's how dictionaries tend to show it. Others use a 'sh' sound as if it comes from French. You can hear both on YouGlish.

Quango stands for 'quasi-autonomous non-governmental organi{s/z}ation'. I remember learning about non-governmental organi{s/z}ations, or NGOs, when I lived in South Africa in the 90s. Apparently NGO has taken off as a term in the US in the meantime (see comments), but not quango. A quango is an NGO that gets public funds to do something that the government wants and maybe has government participants. Google says the word quango is 'derogatory', but I think that depends a bit on your political persuasion. Here's a BBC fact sheet on quangos.

A pelmet is a decorative window-covering that doesn't cover a window—it covers the top of the window and maybe the curtain rail. It can be a little curtain or a kind of box or board. Here's a selection of those that come up on a Google Image search:


The curtainy type of pelmet would be called a valance in AmE—which we've seen before because it has a bed-related use in BrE. I honestly do not know what the boxy things would be called in AmE. I've never had one in an AmE house, and my efforts to find them on US websites have not (orig. AmE) panned out. If you have the answer, say so in the comments and I'll update this bit.

P.S. Thank you commenters! Grapeson offers cornice as an AmE possibility. Usually (and in BrE too) this is a thing at the joint of the wall and the ceiling (often decorative). But Wikipedia has a little section on 'Cornice as window treatment' that confirms this usage. Then Diane Benjamin offers box valance as an AmE alternative. The Shade Store says this:

The primary difference between a curtain valance and a cornice is that valances are made out of drapery or fabric, while cornices are typically made out of wood.

Thanks to the commenters for helping out!


Finally a chaffinch is a bird species (which didn't come up in the recent bird posts). The Wikipedia map to the right makes it easy to see why Americans didn't recogni{s/z}e the word (the green areas are where chaffinches typically live). Wikipedia does say "It occasionally strays to eastern North America, although some sightings may be escapees."



So, that's that! Words that most British folk know and most Americans don't. If only I'd had Brysbaert et al.'s list when I was trying to make very difficult AmE/BrE quizzes.


120 comments

  1. Pretty sure that drapery element is called a "cornice" in AmE, though it's far from common terminology. https://www.theshadestore.com/blog/window-valances-cornices-choosing-right-style-home/

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    1. Thank you! Will update the post accordingly.

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    2. Per the never-incorrect-internet: "Cornice. The primary difference between a curtain valance and a cornice is that valances are made out of drapery or fabric, while cornices are typically made out of wood." A marvelous distinction is here: https://www.blindsgalore.com/blog/index.php/exhibitions/difference-cornice-valance/

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    3. You'll see I got the same quote (as you were typing your comment) from another website! :)

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    4. @lynneguist I used to prefer to refer to words derived from onomatopoeia as I no onomatopoetic as well, until I learned that the word is onomatopoeic. (No "t" last time I checked)

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    5. Your checking skills need checking then.
      One word being available doesn't mean another word is wrong.

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  2. I’d call a boxy pelmet a box valence in AmE. Lots of hits for it on Google.

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    1. Thank you! Will update the post.

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    2. Careful with the spelling. A "valance" in the US can also be that boxy thing. ("Google" something like "buy a valance".)

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    3. When I wrote copy for Smith & Noble, a big window-coverings company here in the US, we called the boxy thing a "cornice"--or, in marketing-speak, "the crowning element for your windows." https://www.smithandnoble.com/valances-and-cornices/fabric-cornices

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  3. When I first started corresponding with Americans, some 25 or so years ago now, the type of curry house so familiar to us in the UK appeared to be unknown in the USA, which is maybe why you don't know all the types of curry. We even have a couple of home-grown varieties - baltis (originated in Birmingham) and tikka masalas!

    Tombolas are a standby of British fetes, as are raffles. In both cases, a book of cloakroom tickets is necessary, but in a tombola, the prizes have numbered tickets attached to them, and then all the rest of the tickets are put into the box for punters to draw out - if your ticket matches one on the prizes you win that prize. In a raffle, on the other hand, the prizes are not numbered, and the second half of the ticket is put into the box to be drawn out, and if it matches yours, you have your choice of prizes, so the ideal is to have your ticket drawn early before someone else has bagged the bottle of whisky and you're left with the bath salts you donated three years ago....

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    1. Thanks to Trader Joes, we (AmE) now have easy access to Chicken Balti pies (and as a lover of good British pies, they are really quite (AmE) good).

      Tikka Masala is very well known among AmE millenials and their ilk, at least those who have ever had any Indian food at all. I'd wager that it's the most common curry variety on the menu at most "conventional" US Indian restaurants.

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    2. Balti in a pie?! In a Karahi yes, but in a pie????

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    3. The only variety of curry of which I've heard is Vindaloo curry. That from a Welshman. I was not aware that Tikka Masala was a curry.

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  4. Weird, I definitely hear the term "NGO" used in the US all the time. But not "quango."

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    1. I was going to say this too. As an American, I know the term and use it with other Americans too. It's possible that I have some kind of bias that I'm not recognizing that might explain that, but I don't know what it would be.

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    2. Good to know. When I learned it in South Africa it was the 1990s. I assume the rise in usage has been since then.

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    3. @lynneguist - that's probably true. I learned the term in 2000 when I started working at a company that made software for non-profits. At that time it seemed like industry jargon, but now I hear and see it in general use.

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    4. And just now, as I was doing a NY Times crossword I saw the clue "Amnesty International, e.g., in brief" with the answer "NGO". This was a Monday puzzle, the easiest of the week, so the editor seems to think it's general knowledge.

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    5. "NGO" has been part of American English since at least the 1940s. It was used in the founding documents of the UN.

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  5. Also I'm very familiar with Dodgems, but that's probably from playing a lot of Rollercoaster Tycoon as a kid. (The creator's Scottish.)

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  6. Is there any difference between what BrE calls escalope and what shows up as scallopini on AmE menus?

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    1. Good catch! It's probably about the same thing. Will update the post.

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    2. Also Scalloped potatoes, right? Isn't that from the same word?

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    3. Are these really the same? Below, someone British seems to say that chicken escalope is breaded, and I don't think scaloppini in the US normally is.

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  7. I grew up knowing bumper cars as, well, bumper cars and didn't encounter the name "dodgems" until later, but I spent my childhood in south Wales, so maybe there's a local variance there.

    I remember first encountering the word "quango" during the final months of the Conservative government before Tony Blair's election. Back then it was certainly used in a derogatory fashion by the news, but I suspect that was just typical shark-circling in a government's dying days.

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    1. I think I used both dodgems and bumper cars interchangeably growing up north-east England late fifties/early sixties.

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    2. I grew up in Kent at about the same and also them interchangeably.

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    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    4. Insert “time” and “used” in the appropriate places above. It’s Monday, I’m not awake...

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    5. Yes, sorry, I don't mean to claim that 'bumper car' is unknown in UK, just that 'dodgems' was an unknown term from US. I'll stick an 'orig.' in front of the 'AmE' in the post.

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    6. I grew up in Massachusetts and remember them as dodgems. If, as you say, they were invented here, that makes sense.

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  8. The case of "korma" seems somehow unfair to me. It's not so much a reflection of the word itself, but the fact that so many more British people (and therefore BrE) eat and know about (some subset of) Indian food.

    Every supermarket in which I across the US will have a pre-made korma curry sauce, sometimes brands shared with the UK (but at multiples of the price), sometimes home-grown. So the word is widely dispersed and present in the US, but not well known because so few Americans eat Indian food.

    In this sense, it's not about the word itself (unlike, say, "naff"), but about broader cultural differences. There's no doubt a lot of Indian-food related terms that would show similar usage patterns - biryani, naan, and vindaloo all come to mind.

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    1. The same was true of the previous list though, English words known more by Americans than Brits. A large number were food words that reflected familiarity with other culture's cuisine. So turnabout is fairplay.

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  9. In my experience of both AmE and BrE, "lame" is a pretty accurate AmE translation of BrE "naff".

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    1. I think you are right. I think one is much, much more likely to encounter “lame” in BrE than “naff” these days (because using “naff” would be really lame) and I think “lame” is a good approximation of how “naff” was used at the height of its popularity (70’s?). Going back a decade or two, however, I would imagine that “naff” was a far more withering put-down coming from the lips of a speaker of Polari.

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  10. I would wager that American recognition of 'plaice' got a small bump in 1989 from its use in the lyrics of the song "Under the Sea" from The Little Mermaid. We may not know anything else about it, but from context it's clearly a fish!

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  11. I had never encountered "podiatrist" (and didn't know how to pronounce it) until I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes five years ago, and sent to one.
    I to regularly for checkups, in a couple of locations, and it is always "podiatry", not "chiropody"

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  12. Re "judder", the New Zealand term for what Brits call sleeping policeman and Australians call speed humps is "judder bar".

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    1. https://youtu.be/MHHunMkTa4A

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    2. I would have called the regular, black and white ones 'speed bumps' and the nasty, black and yellow thin ones 'judder bars'.

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    3. I'd call the thin ones "rumble strips".

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    4. I would use “rumble strips” for the longitudinal ones designed to warn you that you are drifting out of lane into the central reservation / median or verge / shoulder.

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  13. Sticking in a comment so that I can get comment updates. I'm not sure why Blogger won't do this automatically for me anymore!

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  14. I'm intrigued by your comment that in the USA a Quango might be a 'charity'. Charities have a specific legal status here and in England and Wales are supervised by the Charity Commission. I'd somewhere picked up the notion that the term wasn't really used in the US but that the US does use the term 'non-profit' which isn't that prevalent here. As both terms are creatures of the law, I suspect there is only a loose and not a precise overlap.

    On 'chaffinch', I don't think most people here would know what a bobolink or a road-runner are for the same reason. Would a USian know what a hedgehog is, yet alone that a furze-pig is a dialect word for the same species?

    On 'gazump', when that word the first became prevalent in the 1970s, it was thought to have come from the US. Obviously it didn't. The sort of opposite, 'gazunder' only gets its present meaning by analogy. In former times it meant a chamberpot, because it goes under the bed.

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    1. We do use the term "non-profit", but not all non-profits are NGOs or charities. For example: home owners associations, university alumni groups, political campaigns, labor unions are all non-profits that aren't NGOs or charities. Charities are described under section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code, and you can get a tax deduction for giving money to a registered charity, so sometimes these orgs are also called 501c3s. There's certainly a large overlap between charities and NGOs, but I'm reluctant to say that all charities are NGOs or vice versa, even though I can't think of a specific example.

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    2. And yes, people in the U.S. have at least some idea of a hedgehog from "Alice in Wonderland" and other children's lit, though I think most would not recognize the word "furze-pig".

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    3. Also Sonic the Hedgehog, from cartoons, video games, and even a feature film.

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  15. I haven't heard the word QUANGO here for years but its meaning in Australia was certainly not to describe a charity. It was a distanced arm of government, autonomous.

    If you care to go lowbrow, how is the fast food chain McDonalds generally said around the English speaking world? It is said very differently in Australia compared to northern England. I have no idea about southern UK, North America or anywhere else.

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    1. I've lived in south-east England since around 1990 and it's called "Maccy-Dees" by most young people and a lot of older people trying to sound young. ;)

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    2. Hmm, I've lived in the south-east since 1974 and I don't think I've ever heard that.

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    3. Mucky D's for those who don't like it! I like the French "McDos", pronounced Mackdohs, and tend to use that. When my older grandson was small he once reduced me to giggles by asking whether we could have lunch at "Old McDonald's"...

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    4. In the US, "Mickey Dees" as a shorthand diminutive for McDonald's originated, I believe, with black patrons in the American south. I first heard it in the '80s from a girl I was dating who hailed from Florida.

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    5. In the US, "Micky Dee's" is pretty dated slang from the 80s or 90s, I think. (Unless the kids have brought it back again and I didn't know.) It's the kind of thing an out-of-touch, trying-to-be-cool dad would've said to his kids, possibly eliciting eyerolls, circa 1995.

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  16. I (AmE) knew biro because over the years I worked with a couple of Scots, a Welshman, and some Englishmen. But the first time I heard one of them talk about a biro, I had no idea what he meant.

    I knew dodgems as bumper cars. Maybe because I lived in the Northeast U.S. till I was 37, I had seen them under their tradename.

    I knew brolly and kerbside maybe from reading English translations of the Tintin books. The rest of the words were a foreign language to me. ;-) A common language? Really? ;-)

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  17. I note the UK slang use of "pelmet" in relation to an incredibly short mini-skirt, one stage before "barely more than a belt" could be employed. Typically used by fathers just before one's daughter leaves for an evening out, notably in sitcoms.

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  18. When I moved to the UK from the US in early 1994, I was puzzled by the word "chuffed". In those pre-Internet days, I found it difficult to deduce whether it meant "pleased" or "annoyed" from the context. It took me 6 months to ask someone what it meant. I am surprised that it's not in your list, as I had never heard it in the US.

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    1. I agree - in the 1970s I heard the word 'chuffed' to mean 'irritated' or annoyed with someone (Lincolnshire and northerly parts) and perhaps the 'smug' or 'pleased' meaning came from southern England and superseded the other.

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    2. And I’ve just remembered that in the 1970s some people emphasised the change in meaning by saying ‘dis-chuffed’ for a person who was very annoyed.

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  19. Coming from a (BrE) military background I am equally familiar with abseil and rappel. However in that environment, the words have a slightly nuanced meanings: an abseil normally refers to the descent down the side of a fixed object (mountain, building etc) in which the person's feet can be used to push the body out and away from the face of the object, for instance to negotiate an overhand on a cliff face, or the parapet of a building. Rappeling is more likely to be used for a free descent, say from a hovering helicopter. The technique and equipment for both is largely the same.

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    1. In American rock climbing, I don't think that distinction is made. The normal word is "rappel," but I think most American climbers are familiar enough with the international climbing scene to know "abseiling" as well.

      Since most climbable cliffs aren't perfectly vertical, it's not uncommon for the descent from a climb to be "rappelling" in your understanding of the word. Or to start as "abseiling" (in your definition) and become "rappelling" (in your definition), so maybe keeping those distinct isn't that useful.

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  20. Reading this post as an email in my inbox I was all set to rush here and comment that I, an American, knew the meaning of bolshy until I noticed it means "uncooperative, obstructive, subversive" and not just plain old big, which is the meaning Anthony Burgess gave to it when he made it part of the Nadsat patois spoken by the yobs (thank you, Lynne) in his novel A Clockwork Orange. (Click the link I've embedded in the name of the novel and, thanks to Google Books, you'll see instances where Burgess uses bolshy.)

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  21. What about kip as in to take a kip?

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  22. As an Australian, I did significantly better with this list (~50%) than the last one (5%). I use words like biro, chipolata, abseil, naff and korma, and I can't say I've used any of the words on the US-but-not-UK list.

    Though I also use podiatry and cornice and never use chiropody and pelmet.

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  23. (British): I'd agree with the others quibbling with the definition of 'quango' here. I'd describe it as a government-created entity which fulfils a usually regulatory or supervisory role. Non-governmental in the sense that it's not part of a Ministry and has its own identity and governance, but not just an NGO which happens to receive government funding, e.g. charities which receive government grants to carry out social services are not quangos, but Ofcom is.

    I'd also agree that it was generally derogatory. I'm quite sympathetic to quangos and might describe something as a quango as a good-natured jest, but I can't imagine an organisation calling itself a quango.

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    1. Do UK folks understand the "government" in NGO to refer to "government" in the UK sense (what Americans would call something like "the current administration")? I think most American's understand "NGO" in terms of our use of the word "government" (more like "state" for you, maybe?).

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    2. Possibly, but it's quite tricky to define. Something "governmental" to contrast against would certainly be made up of Civil Servants who are (at least theoretically) non-political career employees. I would understand the difference to be at the highest level of management - a traditional "Whitehall Department" answers directly to an elected Minister or Secretary of State, while a quango would be organised more like an independent organisation, with unelected managers making most of the decisions.

      I am told by Wikipedia that what I would most immediately identify as "quangos" are more properly called "non-ministerial government departments". A large number of these were set up as various public services were privatised, and have abbreviated names expanding to "Office of" or "Office for": OfWat, OfCom (and one of its predecessors, OfTel), OfGem, OfQual. Whimsical names following this pattern are often invented as a satirical comment on proposed privatisation or regulation.

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    3. Thanks, but I was asking about regular NGO not QUANGO.

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    4. Oh, I see. I don't think most people would have a very clear understanding of what "NGO" meant at all; it's a jargon term that most people would only encounter in news articles, and even if you know what the acronym stands for it doesn't really tell you what they *are*, rather than what they're *not*.

      My general impression is that an NGO is a non-profit organisation doing work that you might expect a government (in the sense of a state) to be doing - UN agencies, international aid charities, that kind of thing.

      We do use "government" in both senses: "the Government" is definitely the current administration, as distinguished from "the Opposition". But if you said something was "government funded", I wouldn't automatically assume it was politically favoured by the current Government, just that it received money from the state.

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  24. BrE, Scot, 60+. I have always been a fan of quirky or clever ways with words, from whatever side of th Atlantic. Examples that have appealed to me from this blog include three-in-the-tree and four-on-the-floor for gear transmission types. So much more expressive than just strings of letters. Quango isn’t the best example in the world, but at least it sounds like a word.

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  25. Your sources for "naff" refer to the adjectival form for anything from "dull" to "tasteless" to socially inappropriate to actively offensive. But there is also a more recent imperative verb form, in the phrase "Naff off!". To the best of my knowledge, this was the creation about 30 years ago of TV sitcom scriptwriters (I think it was "Porridge", set in a prison), to substitute for less family-friendly four-letter words, but it acquired a certain prominence when Princess Anne used it to paparazzi who were disturbing her horse during some equestrian event.

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    1. Porridge was a lot longer ago than thirty years. It ran from 1974-77.

      I also wonder if "naff" was first popularised by the Julian and Sandy Polari sketches on Round the Horne in the sixties.

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    2. I shouldn't be surprised. I have somewhere a book of RtH scripts in which Barry Took lists some Palare (as he spells it) definitions, including 'naph' = bad.

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    3. Although I believe that, whatever its etymology, it did also mean "straight" (as opposed to "gay") in Polari. Certainly Pip Granger uses it to mean such in her novels.

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  26. Judder is also a term of art, used in the motion picture and broadcasting biz (US andUK) to describe the strobe-y effect you get, most noticeable in pan shots, due to lower frame rates that make the series-of-stills nature of film more visible.

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    1. It's so similar to "jitter", both in spelling and meaning, that it seems easy for me to remember.

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  27. I most often come across Escalope as a standard menu item in traditional sandwich shops in London (I wonder how many of them will survive? They are a bit of a dying breed) - usually Chicken Escalope meaning a thin piece of breaded chicken - so also overlaps with Schnitzel in UK English. Does AmE uses Schnitzel as well?

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    1. Yeee-eess, at least sometimes, but not that common in my experience. In my mix of Mid-Atlantic, North, North Central, and West (https://www.researchgate.net/figure/An-overall-view-of-North-American-Dialects-Labov-Ash-and-Boberg-2006146_fig1_333039514), “chicken cutlet” would come to mind, with “breaded” if i needed to be really clear. But a friend from Midwood, Brooklyn would always say “chicken schnitzel.” He grew up Orthodox Jewish and had a German-speaking grandmother, but which of those demographic bits most explains the word choice is hard to say.

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    2. And actually I suspect many Americans nowadays would just say Chick-fil-A, as that Southern chain is quickly going national.

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    3. "Schnitzel" in the US is typically used only for the very specific German-style (or Austrian-style, I guess, since it's "Wiener") thin breaded cutlet. "Milanesa" is something similar served at Mexican restaurants. "Chicken Fried Steak" is thin-pounded beef steak fried similarly but with heavier breading, usually accompanied with white gravy. (Which leads to the probably-very-confusing-for-ousiders "Chicken Fried Chicken," which is a fried chicken cutlet in the "Chicken Fried Steak" style, as opposed to just "fried chicken," which is whole pieces of bone-in chicken.)

      A sandwich with a breaded chicken cutlet would be a "fried chicken sandwich" or even just a "chicken sandwich" (with any other kind of chicken having to be marked, e.g., "grilled chicken sandwich" or "chicken salad sandwich"). The sandwich-sized piece of chicken could be called a "chicken patty."

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    4. Also adding to the confusion is that in the UK, I think, gravy is always brown and if it was white, it wouldn't be called gravy.

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    5. Yes, when I had chicken-fried steak (which, by the way, is delicious) on a visit to the USA, it came with a béchamel sauce which they called "gravy".

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    6. Then there's the US breakfast of biscuits and gravy.

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    7. I have never actually had that; don't know what it is like, but it sounds very odd to my British ears which tend to think of things like chocolate digestives or jammy dodgers when I hear the word "biscuits".... (I do know that they are a type of scone in the USA!).

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    8. Always looks a bit unappetising to me. I tend to go for things like bacon and eggs when I have breakfast in the US.

      But the talk of chocolate digestives served with gravy reminds me of a hotel I stayed in in Spokane about 5 years ago. The hotel had opened only the month before and there were still bugs in the system. (The first night it took me ages to work out the curtains wouldn't close and there was a hidden button on the wall to operate the window blinds.)

      First morning I ordered the All-American breakfast, a choice of meats, eggs hash browns and toast or English muffins. When it arrived there were two identical white china pots with identical red substances inside. One was strawberry jam, the other tomato ketchup. If you looked very closely, you could see a strawberry in the jam. Somehow, the week I was there I never confused the two and put strawberry jam on my hash browns.

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    9. It is indeed a bit unappetizing-looking but I highly recommend it -- even though I suspect that every aspect must be confusing for BrE speakers.

      The biscuits are, of course, close relatives of British scones, with the best being buttermilk. Split them in half, then pour over sausage gravy.

      Further confusion: the sausage will be ground sausage meat, not in a casing but crumbled up and browned. This is poor-people food, designed to stretch a small amount of meat for a whole family.

      Into the sausage, flour and then milk are added to create a white gravy/sauce. IME, that's a regional difference within the US, with "gravy" used more in the south and "sauce" more in the north. "Bechamel," for the few who would recognize the word, would likely be viewed as a failed attempt to add a zero to the price.

      The whole thing is a nutritional abomination unless, as it was for my grandfather, it is served to you as fuel for a few hours of picking cotton before the schoolday begins.

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    10. Indeed, any large cooked breakfast I find good enough to last me through to dinner in the evening.

      On the matter of white sauces, a horror story a friend told me about her department's Christmas dinner one year. It started with fish in white sauce. Everyone thought the sauce was a bit bland. Turkey with all the trimming followed, and that was OK. Then came the Christmas pudding, which was supposed to have brandy sauce. There was a collective "yuk" as they tucked in. It was fish sauce, not brandy sauce. And the fish had been served with the base for the brandy sauce.

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    11. On the subject of gravy: Friends of mine from Arkansas used to say that they were "going north of the Gravy Line" when they traveled to Iowa. White gravy is a Southern thing, brown gravy is Northern...

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    12. Is the gravy train a known phrase in the US? Might even be an Americanism originally for all I know.

      Chambers defines it as "A job or scheme which offers high rewards for little effort".

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    13. The biscuits with gravy sound rather nice once in awhile, but I quite see that one wouldn't want them every day! Maybe I can find an American restaurant in London that serves them....

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    14. Paul Dormer: Yes, gravy train is known here. But it might be considered old fashioned, and more people might know it as a brand of dry dog food (kibble).

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    15. White gravy may be Southern, but brown gravy is universal in the United States. Gravy type is contextual; generally a milk/cream-based gravy wouldn't be served with a beef roast or roast turkey/chicken anywhere that I'm aware of.

      Mrs Redboots, sausage gravy may be one of the easiest possible recipes, so you could make it yourself. It's only three ingredients: loose/de-cased pork sausage, flour, and milk/cream. You'd have to find a metric recipe. Tesco seems to have pork sausage that resembles American breakfast sausage, which is primarily spiced with sage and black pepper.

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    16. In the UK, we distinguish between sausages, which are cased, and sausage meat, uncased. Or at least that was so when my mother used to make sausage rolls back in the sixties. I've never tried to buy sausage meat, but I presume you still can.

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    17. I would be surprised if you couldn't, because it is often used in making stuffing, as well as sausage rolls. I haven't actually looked for it for a long time.

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    18. Yes, of course, stuffing. I remember my mother using sausage meat stuffing. But, living on my own, I'm not likely to need to stuff a whole chicken or turkey.

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    19. Me neither - there are only two of us. We are having a roast chicken this weekend, but it will merely have a lemon cut up and put in its inside with loads of garlic!

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    20. In the US we have can but both cased sausages and sausage meat, but the phase "sausage meat" seems a bit awkward. I think we would normally distinguish by using count ("a sausage," "some sausages") versus non-count ("a pound of sausage") constructions.

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    21. I think even if it was in the singular - 500g of sausage - I'd still assume it was sausages in casings. It'd have to be 500g of sausage meat to be unambiguous.

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    22. Incidentally, here is the BBC recipe for sausage rolls, where they distinguish between sausages and sausagemeat (sic):

      https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/mini-sausage-rolls

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  28. US American here. I recognized three of these (biro, abseil, and kerbside). I would've recognized "chiropodist" because it was used in a Seinfeld episode and I looked it up, but sadly I didn't catch "chiropody."

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  29. Your "please?" worked! I just bought your book :-) I am an American living in Italy and I frequently share your blog posts with my students (I teach English to businesspeople) & discuss them with my UK friends. Thanks for your work and creativity!!

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  30. Please? Oh, please.

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  31. Quango and NGO have quite different flavo[u]rs. "NGO" mostly refers to independent nonprofit (often - usually? - charitable/benevolent, depending on what local legislation allows, but not all charities are NGOs, looking at you, Eton College) organizsations set up and acting on their own initiative, whether or not they end up handing public funds. Quangos are just agencies set up by central (usually) government which do not answer directly to a government department.

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  32. Interesting that “dodgems” seems to suggest that the object of the ride is to avoid your fellow drivers, and “bumper cars” seems to suggest the idea is to bump into them!

    “Naff all” is a popular use of “naff”, at least in my part of the UK. Used interchangeably with “bugger all” or “f**k all” to mean nothing.

    “Dodgy” seems to be a word that doesn’t appear in predictive text (which sometimes infers its exclusively BrE. Opinions please?

    Finally, as matter of interest, how would an American go about ordering a curry? Differently from a Brit? I don’t know all of the names of popular curries but experience has taught me that “korma“ or “kurma” is normally one of the mildest options, as I’m not a lover of overly spicy foods.

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    1. I'm a Brit but I was on holiday in San Francisco a couple of years ago and went into an Indian restaurant and it was no different to one in the UK. The names of the dishes were the same.

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    2. The difference is that you have to go to San Francisco to go to an Indian restaurant. (Or other big cosmopolitan place)

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    4. It's been a long while since I did bumper cars, but the general idea was to bump others but not get bumped yourself, so both names would make sense.

      For curry in America, my city has one restaurant that bills itself as "British-style" Indian, so at least some folks here think that British Indian food is different that "real" Indian food. I'm not really sure what this means since I don't eat either regularly. (I won't name the restaurant, but the restaurant also has a pretty ill-conceived colonialism theme.)

      It might also be noted that Americans are probably just as likely to get "curry" in a Thai restaurant or Chinese restaurant or "Asian fusion" restaurant (which for us would mean some combination of Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, but not Indian/Pakistani), and these often only barely resemble what Brits would think of as curry. The curry options at the mostly Chinese restaurant near my office are red, yellow, green, massamun, and panang.

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    5. Not to belabor this point, but I think a typical American is likely to order curry the same way a Brit might order Mexican: they may understand it vaguely but they don't know all of the options or all of the lingo.

      Case in point, the Chipotle UK has menu items "Braised Beef (Barbacoa)" and "Braised Pork (Carnitas)," but Chipotle US just has "Barbacoa" and "Carnitas" because Americans know what those words mean.

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    6. On the matter of colonialism themes for Indian restaurants, there was a snippet on the radio this morning about a museum in Birmingham - it's museum week in the UK, apparently.

      The museum has the interior of the now shut Koh-i-nor Indian restaurant, complete with decor of the Raj. The person describing this was the person who arranged for the museum to get it, and is of Asian descent. He said that immigrants of his parent's generation would go to lengths to recreate this decor. Asians of his generation however, would more likely go to IKEA to get the furniture for their restaurants.

      I was reminded of Huddersfield, where I used to go to annual music festival. There were two rather good Indian restaurants in the town. One had dark fabric wallpaper, heavy furniture, and the stuff all dressed up like extras from Carry on Up the Khyber. Very old school. The other was bright with plain walls, light-weight chairs, and the staff all young.

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    7. It was the staff who were dressed, not the stuff, of course.

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    8. British Indian food *is* different to Indian Indian food, in the same way that both Americans and Britons have left their own mark on Chinese and Italian food. Here in the UK we know, and enjoy, Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Singapore curries, but if we go to, or order from, an Indian restaurant we know what we expect! Although, to be fair, many restaurants do offer their own specialities as well as the traditional tikka masala, vindaloo, madras, etc.

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    9. Incidentally, on the matter of Brits ordering Mexican food, I think the first time I had Mexican food was in Denver in 1981. I was with a party of friends, some British some American.

      I ordered something at random, not knowing what to expect. The waitress asked me a question in a thick accent which to my ears sounded something like, "Do you want Pedro's mother?" I had no idea what she'd actually said so one of my companions translated. "Do you want your tacos smothered?" Still had no idea what it meant, though.

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    10. I *think*, but I could be wrong, it means covered in melted cheese, or substance passing for that in the USA.

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  33. "Dodgy" has been heard a lot more recently in the US. Rachel Maddow (MSNBC news commentator) drops it in now and then. It's a good word that fills a void.

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    1. "Dodgy" always makes me think of the British comedian Norman Vaughan who used it as a catchphrase in the sixties.

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    2. "Dodgy" was the 2014 UK-to-US word for the year: https://separatedbyacommonlanguage.blogspot.com/2014/12/2014-uk-to-us-co-word-of-year-dodgy.html

      I've personally taken to using it in the time since.

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AmE = American English
BrE = British English
OED = Oxford English Dictionary (online)