n small Scottish mammal, known better for the unpleasant-tasting dish it is often made into. There has been a lot of concern in Scotland lately that over-farming may endanger the remaining population – if you want to help, please voice your concerns to The World-Wide Fund for Nature. Make it clear that you’re an American, and that you were made aware of the poor creature’s plight by this fine piece of work.
n trench dug at the edge of one’s garden as a replacement for a fence, so that the view from the garden to the surrounding countryside is unspoiled, but you aren’t going to be deluged by animals or grotty peasants from the village. There seems to be some validity to the idea that they are so-called because of the surprise at coming across one whilst out walking.
n carry-on baggage. Belongings you are intending carrying into an aeroplane rather than checking into the hold.
n emergency brake (on a car). A handbrake operates like a normal brake pedal but only on the rear wheels. Before the days of speed-cameras, Brits used to use the handbrake to slow down when they passed police cars as the brake lights don’t go on and it’s not so obvious you were speeding.
adj tough. A “hard man” is a tough guy, someone who won’t take any flack. This amuses Americans, for obvious reasons.
n shoulder. The poorly-surfaced bit at the side of the road that you’re only supposed to drive on if you’ve broken down, have fallen asleep at the wheel or desperately need to wee.
n deadline. The time at which something must finish: I can come along to your wife-swapping party to start with, but I have a hard stop at eight o’clock.
n pound; octathorp (the symbol ‘#’). As well as various other universal meanings, Brits call the ‘#’ symbol hash.
v Scottish pron. “hay-ver” ramble incoherently: I went to see granny at the weekend but, well, bless her, she’s just havering these days. The word is in common usage, and features in the Proclaimers’ song I’m Gonna Be (500 miles).
v having sex: Did you hear Jackie’s mum’s been having it off with that bald teacher with the limp?
interj extremely nervous: I was having kittens beforehand but once I got in there the director explained the plot and I managed to just get undressed and get on with it.
n Bachelorette Party. The girls-only night out before a wedding. It seems to be a legal requirement that the bride is wearing a wedding dress, some traffic cones and L-plates and that everybody but the bride ends up sleeping with some random bloke, just to annoy her.
adj in disarray; jumbled up. You might use it to describe the garden shed you built when you got home from the pub. The term is a little antiquated but still in use.
n evening meal; dinner. Derives from the fact that the meal was typically eaten at the dinner table (the “high table”) rather than the tea table. This usage has become something antiquated recently and the term “high tea” has morphed to refer to the expensive afternoon teas one can buy at posh hotels in the U.K.
n main street. The main road through somewhere. Nowhere in particular. Could be anywhere. Although, thinking about it, it would probably have to be somewhere in the U.K.
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?
v rent. Americans rent rental-cars; Brits hire hire-cars. In the U.K., the word extends to any other objects you might borrow for a short period of time – bicycles, bulldozers, hookers and such like. Americans will only ever use the word “hire” in connection with hiring a person to perform a task, not a machine.
n rangetop; stovetop. The top bit of a cooker with the burners on it, where you put pans and things.
n field hockey. To a Brit, hockey is played on grass. “Ice hockey” is played on ice.
n ATM. The term derives from a time many years ago when these devices were nothing more than holes in walls, stocked carefully in the mornings by bank employees. Next to the hole was a notepad, upon which customers wrote their names and the amounts of money they had taken. After some years it became apparent that the system was open to a degree of abuse, and a more elaborate one was invented to replace it. This is not true. Brits do not use the American definition of “hole in the wall” to mean a very small store or food vendor. Of course, this might not be true either. You’ve no way of working out whether to trust me or not now.
n vacation. What an American would call a “holiday,” a Brit would call a “public holiday” or a “bank holiday.” Scotland and England have bank holidays on different dates, presumably to stop the Scots and English meeting up and fighting in popular seaside towns.
n convertible top. The part of a convertible car that, well, converts. This only serves to complicate the bonnet/boot confusion. Brits do not use “hood” as an abbreviation of “neighbourhood,” unless they are trying to act like American rap stars. Brits are not very good at that, although it doesn’t stop them trying.
n vacuum cleaner. –ing v vacuuming. The Hoover Company was an early manufacturer of vacuum cleaners, though originally they were invented by a company called British Vacuumation. Where are they now? They could have cleaned up. Sorry.
n sex. Often used in the phrase “a bit of how’s your father” and generally accompanied by a knowing wink. It’s rather antiquated, but well understood.