sack

v dismiss; fire: Well, I pretty much knew I was getting sacked as soon as they walked in and saw me on the photocopier. Comes from a time when you were given a sack into which to put the contents of your desk. In the U.S., the term “given the sack” is used sporadically, but not the word sack alone as a verb.

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salad cream

n A mixture of mayonnaise and vinegar often put on salads. Perhaps unsurprisingly.

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saloon

n sedan. The cars that, well, aren’t estates or sports cars. The kind your dad and the dentist have. They are called saloons in the U.K. because they usually have wooden swing doors, spittoons and people tend to burst into them waving a gun and saying something about the car not being big enough for two of us. Them. Us. I see why people hate learning English.

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samey

adj similar: We looked at ten flats that afternoon but they were all just a bit samey.

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sarnie

n abbrev sandwich. A little bit slang-ish – you won’t find a “lightly toasted roast beef sarnie served on a fresh bed of rocket” in your average poncy restaurant.

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Sassenach

n Scottish English person. Gaelic, ultimately derived from Latin “Saxones”, meaning “floppy haired twat with silly accent”.

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savoury

n non-dessert food. Food such as potatoes, bread and meat are savouries. Things like ice cream and meringues are “sweets,” which is defined elsewhere in this fine work. Probably further on, as it’s supposed to be in alphabetical order.

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scarper

v run away. Usually from the scene of some sort of unpleasant incident in which you were a part: I saw some kids out the window writing all over my car in spray paint but by the time I got there they’d scarpered. It may be derived from the Cockney rhyming slang “Scappa Flow” / “go.” Scappa Flow is a large natural harbour on an island north of Scotland where the British naval fleet was kept during World War One. All this extra information provided free of charge.

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school

n pre-university education – in the U.K. they call university, well, university.

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schtum

adj pron. “shtoom” silent. Only really used in the phrase “keep schtum,” meaning “keep your mouth shut” in the U.K. It is derived from the German adjective “stumm,” meaning being either unable or unwilling to speak.

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scone

n pron. “sk-awn,” not “sk-own” biscuit. Sort of. A quintessentially British foodstuff, scones are somewhere between a cake and a subsistence food. The British word is creeping into the U.S. via coffee shops. Can a word creep?

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Scotch

a contraction of the word “Scottish,” this is now only used in the context of foodstuffs (and even then really just Scotch eggs), and whisky – Brits refer to anything else as being “Scottish.” So those from Scotland aren’t Scotch people; they are Scottish people. If they were Scotch people, they would be made primarily from whisky. Oh, wait…

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Scotch egg

n a somewhat peculiar delicacy – a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat and coated in breadcrumbs. My mother used to put them in my packed lunch every day for school.

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scouser

n someone from Liverpool. Perhaps more accurately someone with a Liverpool accent. The word comes from “lobscouse,” which was a dish sailors ate, much like Irish Stew – sailors were known as “lobscousers” and the port of Liverpool ended up tagged with the same word. Further back still, the original word may have come from Norway, where today “Lapp Skews” are stewed strips of reindeer meat. Or perhaps it comes from Bangladesh, where “Lump Scouts” is a rare dish made from boy-scouts and served at Christmas. Or from a parallel universe, almost identical to ours, where scousers are people from Birmingham.

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scrap

n, v, adj junk. While Americans have junkyards and put junk on junk-heaps, Brits have scrapyards and scrap-heaps, upon which they put scrap.

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scrote

n scum. Someone generally about as low in one’s esteem as a person could be. It may be an abbreviation of “scrotum” which, now I think about it, could perhaps be the derivation of “scum.” I have a small pain in my sc’um, m’lord.

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scrubber

n another not overly complimentary word for a young lady of loose moral fibre.

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scrummy

adj delicious. I believe that this is a childish amalgamation of “yummy” and “scrumptious”: This jelly and ice-cream is scrummy!

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Scrumpy

n strong alcoholic cider. While traditionally the word refers to home-brewed cider (scrumping being the stealing of apples), it has more recently become associated with a high-alcohol brand named Scrumpy Jack. Don’t go near the stuff. I drank some at university one evening and all sorts of bad things happened.

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scupper

v obstruct; stymie: We were planning on having a party but then my folks arrived home early and scuppered that. The term derives from seafaring, where the scupper is a drain designed to allow water to flow overboard from the deck. To be scuppered is to be hit by a wave large enough to knock you into this drain. Of course, it could also derive from the more obvious seafaring source where scuppering something is sinking it, but hey. I make a lot of these up on the spot.

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see a man about a dog

v urinate: Give me a minute, Dave – I’ve got to go and see a man about a dog.

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Sellotape

n Scotch tape. Sellotape (a contraction of “cellophane tape”) is the name of the largest manufacturer of sticky tape in the U.K.

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septic

n American: Hey, did you hear Bob had moved to New York and married a septic? From Cockney rhyming slang “septic tank” / “yank,” where “yank” is in turn used in the U.K. to mean “American.” If you don’t believe me, look it up, but I have to warn you that I also wrote that definition. The Australians use the same term and have further abbreviated septic to “seppo.”

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serviette

n napkin. The thing you put in your lap to block the path of food falling onto your clothes.

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shag

1 v lay (sexual). Usually refers to the act of intercourse itself, except when used by a bloke giving his mates the details about what happened with that tidy bird he pulled in the club the night before. In this case, the term shag should be interpreted to mean anything between a peck on the cheek and a punch in the face. Brits find very amusing the use of the word “shag” in the U.S. to refer to certain dances. 2 adj shagged tired. In much the same way as most other humping words can be used: Spent the whole day hiking and now I’m completely shagged.

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shambolic

adj in complete disarray, unorganised; in shambles. You might use it to refer to your aunt Gertrude’s octogenarian hairdo or the Russian army’s method of ending hostage situations. If I was ever to give one piece of advice to someone wanting independence for their part of the U.S.S.R. or keen to highlight a particular cause to the Russian government, I’d suggest not taking hostages. If you do so, the Russians give you a couple of days of negotiations, throw in a bit of food so you feel you’ve got your money’s worth and then on about day three they massacre you and all of your hostages using some devastating new method they’re trying for the first time.

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shandy

n an alcoholic mix of lager and (British) lemonade. Usually 90% lager and 10% lemonade, and generally drunk by people convinced that they can get as drunk as a skunk on shandy and still be fine to drive the car. Shandy has also given us such retail gems as Top Deck, a canned drink which contains not only the cheapest lemonade money can buy, but rounds it off nicely with a dash of the grottiest beer available west of the Himalaya.

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shark

v, hunt members of the opposite sex, with copulation in mind. The easiest way to spot someone who is sharking is to watch their friends, who will every so often hold one hand just above their head like a fin just to make the point. The difference between sharking and being “on the pull” is that sharking is slightly more proactive. If you’re on the pull you won’t say no; if you’re sharking you won’t take no for an answer. I was once told that “shark” in U.S. slang is, erm, a sexual technique. I then tried and failed to describe the act itself in polite terms, and have subsequently given up.

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shat

n the past-participle of “shit” – this also exists in the U.S. but is in much more common usage in the U.K.: That pigeon just shat on my car!

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shattered

adj extremely tired; emotionally devastated. You could be shattered by the death of your dear mother or a good invigorating jog. Experiencing both simultaneously would leave you shattered in two different ways at once, and probably reasonably angry. Can there really be a God if the world contains this much suffering? No, probably not.

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Shilling

n pre-decimalisation U.K. unit of currency – worth a twentieth of a pound, which was then twelve pence.

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shimmy

n, v deft evasive manoeuvre: The bull went straight for him but Mike shimmied out of the way.

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shirt-lifter

n homosexual man. A slightly archaic term. It may come from a time when shirts had longer tails and, well, posterial access required some lifting. Don’t pretend to me you don’t know what I’m talking about.

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shirty

adj testy; irritable. May have originated in a time when people used to take off their shirts to fight and so “getting shirty” meant that you were preparing to thrash a rotten scoundrel to within an inch of his pitiful life.

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shite

n shit. The only plausible reason I can think of for this word’s existence at all is that it has more rhyming potential for football songs. Perhaps soon we’ll have the word “shitove,” giving Whitney Houston and her cohorts further opportunities to over-use the word “love” in their drivelly good-for-nothing pop songs.

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shonky

adj poorly made; shoddy: I showed mum the Eiffel Tower model I made from matchsticks, and she just said it looked a bit shonky.

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shop

n store. What Americans call “shops,” the Brits call “workshops” or “garages.”

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shout

n treat; gift: Want to go to the cinema this afternoon? My shout?

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sick

n vomit. Brits call the act of vomiting being sick, and vomit itself sick: Gah! There’s sick all down the back of my shirt! Like Americans they do use the noun to also mean “unwell,” so saying “I am sick” does not translate to “I am vomit.”

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sickie

n a day off work elicited by feigning illness: I’m going to take a sickie tomorrow and go to the zoo!

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skallywag

n rascal. A young tearaway. A bit of an antiquated term.

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skanky

adj disgusting. Describing something or someone as skanky would imply that they haven’t been cleaned in quite some time. Brits do not use the word “skank” to refer to a prostitute.

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skin up

v roll a joint. Most likely derived from the use of the term “skin” to refer to cigarette rolling papers: Do you reckon Cindy’s coming back to work after lunch? / I doubt it, I saw her skinning up in the car.

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skinfull

n the amount of alcohol necessary to make one clearly inebriated. If you have a skinfull at lunch, you’ll be less likely to go back to the office and more likely to see whether you could urinate as high as the top of the “M” in the McDonalds logo.

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skint

adj broke. The position of having no money: Dave refused to give me any petrol money – was moaning on the whole time about how skint he was.

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skip

n dumpster. It’s odd that something as revolting should develop such a pleasant name. The dumpster was invented by a man called Skip Mandible. This is a lie.

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skirting board

n baseboard. The little wooden bit of edging that goes around the bottom of the walls in your house so that when you stub your toe you don’t put your foot through the plasterboard.

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skive

v, n play hookie: We’ve got chemistry this afternoon but I’m just going to skive as I can’t be arsed. Differs from “playing hookie” in that it may also be used as a noun: Our team meetings are basically a complete skive.

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slag

1 v -off have a go at; pick on: We gave Charlie a right slagging off when he turned up four hours late and covered in toothpaste. 2 n slut. A woman with very loose morals: I don’t think much of Derek’s bird… Ian thinks she’s a slag.

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slaphead

n bald person: Have you noticed that Charlie’s becoming something of a slaphead? Lucky for him he’s on the tall side.

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slapper

n slut. Person on the prowl for anything they can get. Anything. The word is applied more often to females, arguably because it is a built-in function of blokes and doesn’t deserve a separate word. Slappers wander around the dance floor looking for the drunkest blokes and then, when they’ve found them, woo them by dancing backwards into them “accidentally.” They are invariably spotted at the end of an evening telling the bouncer how lonely they are and trying to sit on his knee.

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slash

v have a- urinate. Its usage is more appropriate to punters in the pub than middle-aged ladies at a Tupperware party.

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sleeper

n railroad tie. The very large blocks of wood which go between the rails and the ground on a section of railway line.

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sleeping policeman

n speed-bump. The name probably derives from a time when narcoleptic policemen were employed to slow down traffic.

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slip-road

n on-ramp/off-ramp. A road that runs parallel to a major one, allowing you to gain or lose speed safely while joining or leaving the main road.

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Sloane Ranger

n directionless young upper class twit. Financed only by a trust fund, Sloane Rangers spend their time driving around the affluent areas of London talking about horses, or appearing at the birthday parties of C-list celebrities. The term originates from Sloane Square, an expensive area to live in London. And also from the Lone Ranger, but I suspect you knew that unless you are from the fortieth century and this book was somehow the only thing that survived nuclear Armageddon. Even if you are in that very situation, you’re going to have a hard time working out what the Lone Ranger was without a little more context, so I doubt I’ve helped much. Go on, have a guess.

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smart

1 adj well dressed: You’re looking very smart today. Job interview? 2 adj intelligent (universal).

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Smarties

n small sugar-coated chocolate candies, not entirely dissimilar to chocolate M&Ms. Not related at all to the American candy product of the same name, which in the U.K. is known as Fizzers.

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smashing

adj great. Contrary to appearances, something which is smashing is a good thing rather than a bad one: Mum, I had a smashing time playing football in the park! It may be derived from the Gaelic phrase “is math sin,” which means “that’s good.”

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smeg

n generic swear word based upon the word “smegma.” Also a popular German kitchen equipment manufacturer, who are no doubt in the process of changing their name. Popularised (and most likely invented) by Rob Naylor, who created the Red Dwarf book and television series.

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Snakes and Ladders

n chutes and ladders. The simple board game in which you roll dice and, depending on which square you land on, you can go whizzing further up the board on ladders or slide down the board on snakes.

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snap

n ditto; me too: Do you know, I think I slept with that guy in my first year of university. / Oh god! Snap!

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snog

v make out; French kiss: I had a couple too many beers and ended up snogging the bouncer.

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soap

n bar of soap. To a Brit, soap is specifically the soap you use to wash yourself in the bath, not something you’d use to wash clothes or dishes.

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sod

1 n, v, adj generic word signifying displeasure. Attached to any word or phrase it has the immediate effect of making it derogatory. Sod off get lost. sod you bite me. sod it damn it; forget it. old sod old git, etc, etc. Use at will – it has a friendly tone to it and is unlikely to get you into trouble. 2 n a lump of turf (universal).

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soldiers

n strips of bread meant for dipping into a boiled egg. And yes, Brits also use the word to describe people who are in the army. To the best of my knowledge this duality of meaning has never caused any enormous problems.

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solicitor

n lawyer. In the U.K. it has nothing (well, on one level at least) to do with prostitutes or door-to-door salesmen.

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Solitaire

n a game played alone on a sort of four-pointed-star board full of pegs in little holes, where the idea is to remove pegs by jumping other pegs over the top of them, ultimately with the intention of ending up with a single peg left on the board in the middle. Traditionally, the Brits refer to card games one plays alone as “patience” rather than “solitaire” but Microsoft has gone a fair way to changing that.

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sorted

adj sorted-out: You’ve got it? Great. Sorted. I am ninety-nine percent sure that this originated in a drugs context, a view only strengthened by the existence of a Pulp song entitled Sorted for ‘E’s and Whiz.

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spanner

1 n wrench. 2 adj A very mild friendly insult: Bob’ll be a bit late; the spanner left his phone in a taxi.

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spare

adj at one’s wits end; mad: I’ve been trying to get this working all morning and it’s driving me spare!

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speedo

n abbreviation for “speedometer.”

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spotted dick

n a suet pudding with raisins in it, often served on festive occasions and with custard. And yes, the Brits do use “dick” to mean the same thing Americans do.

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sprog

n small child. My father used to refer to myself and my brothers as “Sprog One,” “Sprog Two” and “Sprog Three.” Perhaps that says more about my family than the English language. At least I got to be Sprog One. Were my father Australian he might have chosen some different phrasing as to an Aussie “sprog” is what the rest of the world calls semen.

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spunk

1 n semen. 2 someone with a bit of drive (universal).

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square brackets

n brackets. Something went very wrong at some point in history. Nobody knows what it was, but the end result of it was that, to Brits, [these] are square brackets, and (these) are “brackets”. To Americans, [these] are “brackets” and (these) are “parentheses”. Even {these} ended up being “braces” to Americans but “curly braces” to Brits. It’s possible many people have died as a result of these confusions, although I can’t exactly work out how.

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squash

n cordial; diluted fruit drink. It’s a little outdated – you’d be more likely to find your grandmother offering you “lemon squash” than you would your children. The vegetable that Americans call a “squash,” Brits call a “marrow.”

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squiffy

adj pear-shaped. Pretty much anything that’s gone wrong. Often, but not exclusively, used to refer to one’s state of sobriety: Deirdre’s mother was looking a bit squiffy towards the end, it’s a good job we left when we did.

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stabilisers

n training wheels. The little extra set of wheels that your parents put on your bicycle to stop you from falling off all the time when you’re learning to ride. My parents never got any… I think they secretly enjoyed watching me injure myself in the name of learning.

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stag night

n bachelor party. The groom’s pre-wedding lads’-night-out party. It generally involves drinking as much alcohol as possible and trying to do something embarrassing to the husband-to-be. This is great fun for all of the groom’s buddies, but less fun for the groom as he almost inevitably wakes up the next morning completely naked and tied to a lamppost somewhere in a foreign country. Brides secretly like stag nights because it gives them a good excuse for refusing to let their husbands see their friends again.

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Stanley knife

n box cutter. The small retractable knives used for cutting up cardboard boxes and hijacking aircraft. In the U.K., these are mostly manufactured by a company called Stanley. The knives, not aircraft.

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starter

n appetizer. The dish you eat prior to your main meal.

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steady on

interj whoa; hold your horses. Almost always followed by an exclamation mark: OK, that does it, I’m resigning! / Steady on!

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sterling

adj good/great: That main course was sterling stuff.

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sticking plaster

n Somewhat antiquated version of “plaster.” See “plaster” for definition. I can’t be bothered copy-pasting.

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stockings

n tights. I think. I don’t wear a lot of women’s underwear. Well, there was that one time.

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stodgy

adj sticky; reluctant to change. Could apply equally easily to people (Everyone else was very eager except Bob, who was being decidedly stodgy about it) or substances (the soup looked nice but it turned out to be stodgy as hell).

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stone

1 n unit of measure (14lbs). Only really used when measuring the weight of people. 2 n pit. The large hard seeds inside fruit (peaches, olives and the like).

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stonking

adj enormous: When I finally woke up, I had a stonking hangover and my wallet had vanished. And I appeared not to be in my bed at home, but under a park bench.

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straight away

interj right now: Once you buy our fine credit card, you can start to make purchases with it straight away!

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Strimmer

n Weed-Whacker. A gardening device held at waist level, with a piece of nylon cord near the ground which whips around to slice the stems of errant plants and the toenails of inebriated pensioners.

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stroppy

adj unreasonable; unfairly grumpy. Stroppy people shout at shop assistants who don’t know where the tomato puree is and, because they’re being paid £2/hr, ought not to be expected to.

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struck off

v removed from a registered position of responsibility, usually the General Medical Council: Well, we were pretty sure she’d get struck off after the whole thing with the electric toothbrush and that poor man in the wheelchair. The term gave its name to the BBC radio medical comedy, Struck Off and Die.

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subway

n underground pedestrian walkway. Built to enable you to cross the road safely, urinate or inject heroin. Brits do not call the London underground train system the “subway.” They call it the “underground.”

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suck it and see

v give it a try: We changed the suspension for the last two laps – we’ve no real idea whether it’s going to improve his times so he’s just going to have to suck it and see.

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sultana

n golden raisin. Vine-dried green grape.

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sun cream

n sunscreen.

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supper

n Scottish takeaway meal served with (British) chips. When dish x is served in a Scottish chip shop with chips, it becomes an x supper. What the English call “fish and chips,” the Scots call a fish supper.

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suspenders

n garters. The things used by women to hold up their stockings. They are not used by men to hold up their trousers (Brits call those devices “braces”) or their socks (they call those things, umm, “garters”).

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suss

1 v figure out: I was going to try and put it back without him noticing but he sussed. 2 adj dodgy; suspicious: I really wasn’t interested in buying that car… the whole deal seemed a bit suss.

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swede

n rutabaga.

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sweet

1 n candy: Never take sweets from strangers, or you’ll end up a dismembered corpse, rotting in a ditch like your auntie Jean. 2 n dessert (particularly in restaurants).

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swift half

n a half pint of beer, had swiftly before departing. Although quite often it’s not really that. You might propose having a swift half with some people after work, when in reality you know that it probably won’t be just one swift half, it’ll be sixteen swift halves like last Wednesday, when Ernie ended up breaking his arm and you had sex with that homeless person.

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swimming costume

n abbr “swimming cozzie” bathing suit. One of those women’s swimsuits that covers your midriff – not a bikini. I suppose technically there’s nothing to stop men wearing them either, though that’s perhaps less conventional. You can’t pigeonhole me.

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swish

adj fashionable; stylish. Brits do not share the American meaning of the term (effeminate): I say, you’re looking rather swish today. Job interview?

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swizz

n a small-scale swindle or con. If you opened your eight-pack of KitKats and there were only seven, you might mutter “that’s a bloody swizz.” If you discovered that your cleaning lady had been making out large cheques to herself over a ten year period, you’d be inclined to use stronger wording.

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swot

n one who studies particularly hard, usually at school. swotting cramming. The art of learning your complete course in one evening.

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