n cotton swabs, or “Q-Tips.” When I came back from Tenerife with an ear infection I deduced had come from swimming in the sea, I got a telling-off from the doctor for attempting to cure myself with the aid of some cotton buds. According to the doctor, you should “never put anything at all into your ear smaller than your elbow.” Medical advice dispensed here at no extra cost.
n cotton ball — the little furry blob that women use to remove makeup and men use to clean inlet manifolds.
n résumé. C.V. stands for the Latin curriculum vitae, “life’s work.” Brits don’t use “résumé” at all. In North America the term “C.V.” is sometimes used to refer to a fairly regimented timeline of academic achievement.
n decorative wooden track that some people think is nice to have around walls at the height of a chair back. Those people are blithering morons. Brits also know such a thing as a “dado rail;” Americans call it “wainscoating” or “chair rail.” It is, perhaps fittingly, more popular in mobile homes than in normal homes. To confuse things slightly, a dado to an American carpenter is a slot in a piece of wood (usually for fitting shelves or cabinets) which Brits call a “rebate” or “housing.”
n stubbed-out end of a cigarette. More commonly Brits use the international term “butt.”
n money. A fairly London-based term until being popularised by the Harry Enfield pop song “Loadsamoney.”
n pron. “draft” the flap inside the chimney of an open fire which you can open or close to allow more or less air into the hearth. Americans know it better as a “damper,” which is a part of car suspension in the U.K.
n thumb-tack. A pin with a fairly large flat head. So called because they were once used to draw blood during satanic rituals. I just guessed that one, it might be wrong.
1 n pacifier. One of those teat-things you put in babies’ mouths to stop them crying. 2 idiot (universal); mannequin (universal).
n comforter. In the U.K. one sleeps on top of a sheet and directly under the duvet – Brits do not layer sheets underneath it.
1 n cigarette. In very widespread use. One of the most amusing emails I’ve had concerning this word was from an American who had arrived at her company’s U.K. offices to be told that the person she was looking for was “outside blowing a fag.” 2 n first year senior-school kids who have to perform menial tasks (cleaning boots, running errands and the like) for the seniors (slightly antiquated). Another email tells me of a man who was met with aghast looks when he told a group of New Yorkers that he “was a fag at school last year.” Modern thinking on slavery has seen that the practice of fagging all but die out.
n Christmas lights. I’d like to describe these by reading from an entry in a fictional encyclopaedia for aliens: Human beings celebrate Christmas by cutting the top off a tree, moving it to a pot in their living room, covering it with small electrical lights and standing a small model of a woman on its tip. As it dies, they drink alcohol, sing to it and give it gifts.
1 n slightly old-fashioned homonym for “face-cloth,” which is in turn a British term which means “washcloth.” Hope that’s cleared that one up. 2 n nonsense; drivel: I watched the Prime Minister’s statement on telly this morning but it was just a bunch of flannel.
n period. The little dot at the end of a sentence, not the part of the menstrual cycle. Brits also use full stop for emphasis the same way that Americans use “period”: And I says to him, I’m not putting up with this any more, full stop.
n C-clamp. I’d say they look more like ‘G’s. If you’ve no idea what any of this means, don’t worry your pretty little head about it.
n duct tape. Sort of. The heavy, slightly meshed sticky tape used to silence potential murder victims and to reliably and effectively attach small animals to tables. Unlike duct tape, gaffer tape is designed not to melt onto things, and is used extensively in the theatre and film industry. Probably derived from the fact that the Gaffer is the chief electrician on a film set.