When I Was Joe

Here’s my attempt at translating all those pesky Britishisms into American, compiled with the help of American writer Anne M Leone. We may not have caught them all. So, if there’s a word that needs explaining, let me know and I’ll add it.

A custard cream is a type of biscuit

Canteen – cafeteria.
Custard creams – very nice biscuits. Unless stale. Whoops, sorry…very nice cookies.

These are chips

Biscuits – cookies
Crisps – chips.
Chips – fries
Football – soccer.
Asda – Cheap supermarket.

These are crisps

Tesco – Slightly more expensive supermarket.
Marks and Spencer – shop which sells mostly clothes but also expensive food.
Newsagents – place to buy newspapers, magazines, cigarettes (aka fags) and candy…which we call sweets.
Petrol bomb A very basic explosive device. Petrol is gas.
Flat – apartment.
Soppy – silly, girly, sentimental.
Trousers – what do you mean they don’t have trousers in America? What do they call them? I don’t know… like jeans but not made of denim. Oh hang on! PANTS! Snigger, snigger.
Pants  Underpants.Or if you say something is pants, then it’s rubbish.
Naff – poor quality and a bit stupid
Mobile (phone) – cell phone? Is that what they’re called?
Fry up – lots of fried food altogether on one plate – sausage, bacon, egg, tomato, mushrooms..
Chemist – pharmacist or drugstore
Cheque-book – check book
Open University – fantastic institution in the UK through which you can study for a degree by post.
Fringe – hair that’s over your face. They called them bangs in Anne of Green Gables, so maybe that’s the word still used.

Cheryl Cole, a judge on X Factor with her hair cut into a fringe
Nadine Coyle



Nadine Coyle Singer in Girls Aloud. Big in the UK. Google her.
Girls Aloud – I thought they were universal! Girl band. Google them. Featuring Cheryl Cole who is possibly the most famous person in the UK.
Year eight, year nine….I know this! Grades 7 and 8.
High street – Main street?
Semi – a semi-detatched house – two houses stuck together.
Estate – A council estate is an area of social housing provided by the local government. About to be abolished by current British government as far as I can see. But you can also have an estate of private housing.
Heavies – big scary thugs,
Mates – friends

The loo

Loo – toilet (is that an American word?) Thing that you use when you go to the bathroom, that isn’t a bath.
Reception (at St Luke’s) Pre-K.
Queuing This was the word on Anne’s list that made me fall around laughing…they don’t know what queuing is..hahaha…It’s waiting in line. Ancient British tradition.
Stodgy – full of carbs. Heavy on the stomach.
Athletics squad – track team.
Council – local government. Also about to be abolished by current British government, as far as I can see.
CV – resume
Dodgy – errrr…I need the context, but illegal, criminal, dubious should cover it.
X Factor – British version of Pop Idol. Cheryl Cole of Girls Aloud is a judge.
Bugger – Literally sodomist. Just a mild expletive.
Rubbish tip – errr…garbage dump? Landfill?
Off Licence –  package store
Alcopops – sweet drinks that are surprisingly high in alcohol content.
Solicitor – a kind of lawyer.
Chav – British word for ‘working class person that I despise, even if I am working class myself’
“Grass me up” – tell the police about me.
PSHE – personal, social and health education. Where they teach you about puberty,
Snog – kiss +++
Tossers –literally masturbaters. Means idiots.
Trainers – running shoes.
Chuffed – pleased
Prat – stupid person
Poxy – need context, but generally bad.
Bollocks – literally testicles. Means rubbish.
PE kit – things you wear for sport.
Narked – annoyed.
GCSE – a very important exam you take when you are 16.
Candyfloss – cotton candy
Slapper – promiscuous girl.
Craig David – has-been singer given to wearing hats and shades.
Aggro – aggressiveness.
Telly – television.
“They got no bottle” No bottle = no courage.
Minger Ugly girl. Pronounced to rhyme with singer, not ginger.
Knickers – panties. Is that what Americans call them?
ASBO – Anti-Social Behaviour Order. Given to badly behaved people. About to be abolished by new British government.
Pram-face – Rude name for teenage mother
Git – Just an insult.
GBH -Grievous Bodily Harm. One step down from attempted murder.
Lemon – normally means a sour yellow citrus fruit. But when Ashley says ‘I felt like a lemon’ she means an idiot.
CBeebies – Children’s television channel
Flannel – washcloth

Year Three  – Grade Two
Dressing gowns –  robes
Metropolitan Police – the police force which covers London.
Snappy Snaps – Chain of photo-processing shops
Radio Four  – BBC radio station which mainly features middle class presenters and announcers.
Lidl  – Discount supermarket
Nightie – Nightdress
Manchester United  -Top British football club. It would be considered a little bit odd to be a Londoner and support them, like Ty (and many others).
John Lewis  -British chain of department stores. A byword for quality and dependability. A middle class institution.

Wayne Rooney and Sir Alex Ferguson

Highgate  -Posh bit of north London.
A levels – Very important exams taken at 18.
118 number. -Directory enquiries.
Eton  – Very expensive and posh boarding school.
Private School – fee-paying school
Wayne Rooney – one of Manchester United’s star players.
Sir Alex Ferguson –  Manchester United’s legendary manager.

Played a blinder –  played very well
Champions’ League – competition involving top European football clubs.
A-Z   – Map of London
Eurostar – train from London to France. It goes through the Eurotunnel, which goes under the sea.

Dimitar Berbatov pictured after missing an easy chance

Smarties – multi-coloured sweets..I mean candy..
Losing her marbles – developing dementia
Shanked   –  stabbed
Berbatov –  Dimitar Berbatov is a Manchester United player. Brilliant but erratic. Ty is being harsh though, I’m sure he’d never miss five open goals against Chelsea.
Premiership – top football league.
Lucozade – revolting sugary drink they give you when you are ill.
After Eight  –  delicious chocolate mint
High-rise – tall block of public sector apartments
Birmingham – city in the middle of England. Not the kind of place that would appeal to Ty.
Jonathan Ross and Johnny Vaughan  Ross is a TV presenter and Vaughan is a radio presenter for a London radio station called Capital. They are both funny (Vaughan more than Ross, I think) but they both make other people the object of their humour.

Ally Pally on the hill

Ally Pally – Alexandra Palace. Big building in the middle of a park on a hill in north London. Not really a palace.  Usually there is a big fireworks display at Ally Pally on Bonfire Night (November 5th, Ty’s birthday) In 2010  it was cancelled because the UK has run out of money.
Hanky –  Kleenex is the nearest, according to my American friends, but we’d call Kleenex ’tissues’ and a hanky is a cloth handkerchief.
Pavement – sidewalk.
Strictly Come Dancing –  Dancing with the Stars generally known in the UK as Strictly.
Bruce Forsyth –  ancient presenter of Strictly.
Craig – Ty and Claire mean Craig Revel Horwood, notoriously harsh judge on Strictly.
Stella  – Stella Artois,a popular brand of beer.
Git – Rude word for someone you don’t like
Poofter –  Homophobic insult.

Oyster Card –  a pre-paid card used to travel on buses and the underground in London.
I’m a Celebrity Get me Out of Here   – reality show in which various Z-list celebrities camp out in the jungle and are tortured for public entertainment.
Ant and Dec – smirking presenters of I’m a Celebrity
Tumble dryer   –  clothes dryer.
Page 191 I don’t use the phrase, but what’s happening here is known as ‘Stop and search’ and was one of the policies introduced to try and combat knife crime in the UK. The policemen are allowed to search people they suspect may be about to commit a crime. It is often criticised as racist, because more black people are stopped and searched than white ones.
Boozercould be a person who drinks, but in this case is another word for a pub.

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