abseil

v rappel. To descend from a cliff on a rope. Or from something else. Really it’s just about descending on a rope. Ignore the part about cliffs. I’ll probably take it out later. [Note to self: Take out the stuff about cliffs. Not relevant] The word is apparently derived from the German abseilen, meaning simply “to rope down.” Those crazy Germans and their crazy language.

Learn more
conkers

n a game in which two combatants, each armed with the nut-shaped seed of a horse chestnut tree on a string, take turns to whack the opponent’s nut with theirs until one breaks. Yes, it’s a little odd. Yes, there is very little skill involved. Let me know if you have any other questions.

Learn more
draughts

n pron. “drafts” two-player board game where each player gets sixteen pieces and takes the opponent’s by jumping over them diagonally. I mean the pieces jump diagonally, not the players. Though it’s an interesting point as to whether two people could really jump over one another diagonally, given that the vector is relative to the positions of them both. In the U.S. the game is known as “checkers.”

Learn more
football

n soccer. Americans call a different game “football.” It doesn’t require much involvement from feet, and they don’t have a proper ball. Brits call that “American football.” I have a theory about the relative popularities of soccer in the U.K. and American football in the U.S., upon which I shall now expound. In life in general, British people tend to put up with the status quo and keep their fingers crossed, rather than make any conscious effort towards striving for success. Until success lands miraculously upon their doorstep, Brits will pass the time moaning about how difficult their lives are. Americans, on the other hand, like to feel that they’re entirely in control of their own destiny and can shape it in any way they see fit. Americans will go out actively seeking success, and until it arrives they will mercilessly criticise themselves for not trying hard enough to find it. Bear with me, the point is approaching. Soccer is a game with very low scores – it’s not uncommon for a game to end with no scoring at all by either team. American football, on the other hand, has scoring aplenty. The net result of this is that a fairly poor soccer team can win a game just by being a bit lucky. This proves to Brits that success truly is a random thing, and they just need to keep waiting. A bad American football team will never win a game. This proves to Americans that hard work pays off, and that they should continue to better themselves in whatever way they can.

Learn more
golf buggy

n golf cart. The device intended to remove the only useful part of golf (some exercise) from the sport.

Learn more
good on ya

interj well done: You finally ditched him? Good on ya!

Learn more
googly

n a cricket ball bowled such that it bounces unpredictably when it lands.

Learn more
hill-walking

n hiking. The term “hiking” is also used in the U.K. You didn’t really need to look this up in a dictionary, did you. You really couldn’t work it out? What is this “hill walking” of which you speak? What could it entail?

Learn more
hockey

n field hockey. To a Brit, hockey is played on grass. “Ice hockey” is played on ice.

Learn more
kickabout

n football practice: Mum, Jimmy and I are just going down the park for a kickabout!

Learn more
kit

n sports uniform (e.g. rugby kit, football kit). More generally in the U.K., kit refers to the equipment necessary to perform a particular task – usually, though not always, sporting. The boundary is woolly to such a degree that it’s difficult to generalise – I’ve heard all sorts of things from parachutes to computers referred to as “kit.” nice piece of kit an item particularly good at performing its task in hand. Again it could refer to pretty much anything, though I think you’d be more likely to describe your new camera as a nice piece of kit than, say, your fiancé.

Learn more
pitch

n an area of land. Almost exclusively used in reference to a playing field (Brits say “football pitch” rather than “football field”), but can also mean an area allocated to a trader, e.g. in a market.

Learn more
potholing

n caving; spelunking. The sport that involves leaping down holes in the ground. I’m sure that, in a special way, it’s fun. Brits do still refer to chunks that are missing from the road as potholes, in the same way as Americans.

Learn more