n shit: I’ve cacked myself; the club was okay but the music was cack. Well known in the U.K. but perhaps not all that widely used.
clumsy; ineptly executed. Likely derived from a time when the left hand was used for cleaning one’s posterior after movements, and the right hand reserved for anything else. Therefore anything executed with the left hand is perhaps sub-standard. Almost all scatological etymologies are historically false, but they’re more amusing than the polite ones. The sad truth of life is that more of our language derived from the Viking term for “baking tray” than some sort of acronym which spelled “FUCK.”
adj effeminate and homosexual. If you have heard of an Englishman (and latterly New Yorker) named Quentin Crisp, he was the very epitome of camp. And even if you haven’t heard of him, he still was. Americans will say “flaming” or “swishy” to mean much the same thing, though interestingly some Americans do use “campy” to describe old-fashioned or preposterous humour.
n motorised caravan in which you can take your entire family for a horrible holiday. Americans call them “R.V.s,” but the average European camper is significantly smaller than the average American one. Also, the average European is, of course, smaller than the average American, as proven by statistics.
n cotton candy. The revolting foodstuff one can buy at fairgrounds which resembles a giant blob of fibreglass wrapped around a stick.
n merry event where people get together in a field and sell the rubbish from their attic, under the secret suspicion that some part of it might turn out to be splendidly valuable. Not entirely dissimilar to a jumble sale. The term stems no doubt from the fact that this is normally carried out using the boot of your car as a headquarters. This sort of nonsense is now largely replaced by eBay, where you can sell the 1950s engraved brass Hitler moustache replica your father was awarded for twenty years’ service in the post office without actually having to meet the freak who bought it.
n parking lot. The large buildings composed of many floors of just parking spaces are called “multi-storey car parks” in the U.K. but “parking garages” in the U.S.
1 n terrible device which attaches to the back of your car and allows you to take your whole family on holiday at minimal expense and with maximum irritability. They’re more popular in Europe than they are in the U.S., where they’re called “trailers.” Be careful not to confuse a touring caravan (which a family will generally keep outside their house and drag behind their normal car somewhere for a few holidays a year) with a static caravan, which is generally deposited once by a truck and left there. Americans call both of these things “trailers,” and where a distinction is needed they’ll call the touring variants “travel trailers.” The devices that Americans call a “fifth wheel” — caravans which attach to a conventional diesel truck — are pretty much non-existent in the U.K. Another caravan variant common to both sides of the Atlantic is the “trailer tent,” which is like a caravan except the walls and roof fold out like some sort of ghastly mobile puppet theatre. No doubt you’re much less confused now. I could go on about caravans for days. 2 v the act of staying in a caravan: Doris has taken it into her head to go caravanning this weekend.
n abbr cardigan. A common abbreviation, at least for anyone who still wears cardigans.
n Scottish bad egg, nogoodnik. Pretty close Scottish equivalent to “yob,” with the notable exception that casuals will actually refer to themselves as such while yobs certainly would not. Dotted around Edinburgh is graffiti advertising the services of the “Craiglockart Casual Squad.” Craiglockart isn’t one of the worst areas of Edinburgh, so perhaps their modus operandi is to turn up and insult your intelligence, or throw truffles through your windows.
n little reflectors mounted in the centre of the road, amid the white lines. When you’re driving along at night your headlights reflect in them to show where the road goes. When you’re driving like a screaming banshee they gently bounce the car up and down in order to unsettle it, causing you subsequently to lose traction and crash the rented 1.3-litre VW Polo through a fence and into a yard. Everything goes black — your senses are dead but for the faint smell of petrol, and the dim glow of a light coming on in the farmhouse. Somewhere in the distance a big dog barks. As you slowly regain consciousness, you find that you’re in a soft bed, surrounded by candles and with a faint whiff of incense drifting on the breeze from the open window. You see a familiar face peering down at you — could it be Stinky Potter, from down by the cottages? Wasn’t that corner just about where they found poor old Danny’s motorbike? And how does this guy know your name? If you try to run, roll the dice and turn to page seventeen. If you choose to kiss the old man, turn to page twelve.
n median. Far from being a sought-after restaurant booking, this is in fact what Brits call the grassy area in the centre of a motorway which is there to stop you colliding with oncoming traffic quite as easily as you might.
n risk-taker, someone who tends to take the kind of chances that involve things on the greyer side of society — the sort of person who buys random domain names in the hope someone will offer them a pile of money for them, or puts all their money on the rank outsider in the 12:45 at Chepstow.
n upper-crust equivalent of “bloke.” Nowadays only really seen in a tongue-in-cheek way or in 1950s Enid Blyton children’s books. It would read something along the lines of: I say chaps, let’s go and visit that strange old man with the raincoat at Bog End Cottage and see if he has any more special surprises for us! Jolly hockeysticks.
n newish word in the U.K. to describe a range of people much similar to pikeys. From Romany (spoken by the Roma people, i.e. gypsies) for “child.” Used in 1960s London to mean “fuck,” as evinced by the Derek Raymond Factory series of novels.
v make conversation with someone of the opposite sex with the intention of endearing yourself to them: Arthur spent the whole bloody night chatting up some bird in a wig. chat up line an opening gambit intended to attract the opposite sex. Given that opening lines have a near-zero chance of attracting anyone of the opposite sex, it’s a popular pastime amongst British women regurgitating the very worst chat up lines they’ve encountered.