Learning English

The more time I spend at work, the more [British] words and phrases I learn. Here is a collection (part 1 of many, I hope) of new-to-me words and phrases I have learned while living in England. I have provided the American word(s) that are the equivalent.

AA: the Automobile Association (equivalent to the US version of AAA)

A&E: the accident and emergency department of a hospital (emergency room or ER)

Aggro: aggressive or problematic

Aubergine: a purple vegetable (eggplant)

Bits ‘n bobs: various things; a way of saying “this and that” or “stuff and things”

Blimey: a word used to exclaim surprise (However, I sometimes feel that this is used sarcastically at times.)

Bonnet: the panel on a car that covers the engine (hood)

Boot: the rear storage compartment of a car (trunk).

Bubble and squeak: an English dish with pan-fried leftover vegetables, typically from a roast dinner (or Sunday roast). The main ingredients are usually potatoes and cabbage, but any leftover vegetables are fair game. The dish apparently gets its name because it makes bubbling and squeaking sounds while you’re cooking it.

Bucket loads: a large amount. For example, my co-worker told me, “We have bucket loads of data!”

Bum bag: What Americans call a “fanny pack”

Car hire: car rental

Cheers: a way to say thank you, but it can also be used to say good-bye

Childminder: a person who looks after babies and young children while the parents are working (childcare)

Chips: fried potatoes (steak fries)

Cooker: the kitchen appliance that can be gas or electric used to cook food (stove)

Courgette: the green summer squash (zucchini)

Crisps: thin potato slices that come in a bag (potato chips or chips)

Diary: a book with spaces for each day of the year that one notes appointments or information (Americans would call this a daily organizer or a personal calendar or an agenda book)

Earworm: a piece of music that repeats in a person’s mind, even after it no longer playing (or being sang by your co-worker)

Elephant roll: a roll of paper towels

Fanny: ladies private parts (pro tip: never say fanny pack in the UK)

Flat: apartment

Footpath: the area adjacent to the street where pedestrians walk (sidewalk)

Fringe: the collective strands of hair that cover all or parts of the forehead (Americans call them bangs)

Full stop: the punctuation mark at the end of most sentences (period)

Gherkin: a pickle made from a cucumber (pickle)

Green fingers: to have talent for being able to grow plants (green thumb)

Half-#: thirty minutes after the hour. For example: The seminar begins at half-nine.

Hire: to rent something

Hob: the heating element on a cooker; what Americans call a burner on the stove.

Holiday: vacation

Jacket potato: a baked potato with the skin still on the potato

Jumper: a sweater

Launderette: a self-service place to do laundry (laundromat)

Learnt: past tense of learn (learned)

Lift: elevator

Lorry: a large motor vehicle (truck)

Miffed: annoyed or irritated

MOT: (pronounced as the letters, not the word) a annual safety and “roadworthiness” test required for motor vehicles over 3 years old

Motorway: a controlled-access highway that has a very fast speed limit and a high volume of traffic (freeway, interstate)

Nappy: the adsorbent garment for babies (diapers)

National Insurance: required payments made to the UK government from earnings to pay for welfare benefits, such as the NHS (national health service – the healthcare system in the UK) and the pension fund.

Pants: underwear

Peckish: a little bit hungry

Pelican crossing: pedestrian crosswalk with stop lights controlled by the pedestrians (crosswalk)

Postcode: the alphanumeric code used to identify an address (ZIP Code)

Quid: the informal way of referring to the pound sterling monetary unit. (Note: the plural form remains quid) – similar to referring to the US dollar as a buck.

Rota: a roster of names with a rotation of duties (sometimes referred to as a monitor)

Rubber: a pencil eraser

Rubbish: 1) literally the garbage or 2) something is terrible

Sat Nav: satellite navigation (GPS)

Sellotape: transparent adhesive tape (Scotch tape)

Sleeping policeman: mound in the road used to slow down vehicles (speed bump)

Solicitor: legal representative (lawyer, attorney)

Telly: television

Tinned: canned as in “tinned soup” or “a tin of tomatoes”

Toliet: refers to the room, not the plumbing device (restroom or bathroom) – it can sometimes be referred to as the loo or the water closet, but I’ve mostly seen “toliet”

Toucan crossing: a type of pedestrian crossing that allows pedestrians and cyclists to both cross the street (named because the two can cross together).

Trainers: athletic shoes (sneakers)

Treacle: a thick, refined sugar syrup (molasses)

Uni: short for university

Wellies: short for Wellington boots, which are waterproof rubber boots

Whilst: another way to say “while”

Windscreen: the window part of a car that the driver looks through (windshield)

Zebra crossing: the area of a road with painted stripes, where vehicles are required to stop if a pedestrian is crossing within them. Note: The Beatles Abbey Road album features a zebra crossing. And yes, if you go to the original place to re-create the album cover, the cars are required to stop for you.

Zed: the last letter of the alphabet (in the US, it is pronounced “zee”)