The most common British words or British English terms used to describe events of one sort or another, endorsed by the Queen herself. The list is endorsed by the Queen, not the events. Well, actually, between you and me, the list isn't either.
autumn: n season between summer and winter. Americans call it “fall.” Americans, of course, also call it “autumn” which might have you wondering why it’s in here at all. Well, my furry friend, it is in here because Brits never call it “fall.” Think of this entry not so much as “autumn,” but more as “not fall.”
bank holiday: n any public holiday for which the public have forgotten the original purpose. You know, that holiday on the fourth Monday in June. It was something to do with Saint Swithen, I think. He was born maybe. Or was he beheaded?
bomb: n splendid success: Our party went off like a bomb. Unlike Americans, Brits do not use this word as an adjective or verb to indicate that something went badly.
Boxing Day: n holiday that follows Christmas Day (December 26). A public holiday in the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and Canada, and various other countries that the U.K. once owned. More properly known as St. Stephen’s Day. Takes its name, rather disappointingly, from the fact that employers used to celebrate it by giving their employees gifts. In boxes. I was going to make something up here but my mind went blank.
do: n party – you might have a drinks do to celebrate a new job: Pat and Jim are having a do to celebrate their fiftieth anniversary. stag do Bachelor Party.
fancy dress: n costume (as in costume party). To an American, fancy dress means a jacket and tie. To a Brit, fancy dress means a cravat, a strap-on wooden leg and a plastic parrot.
fly tipping: v unauthorised waste disposal – most often seen in signs declaring “no fly tipping” which have been hastily erected next to popular sites for dumping stuff. Originates from a time when houseflies were employed to remove garbage from the house, which they did using tiny little bags strapped to their legs. They would then fly in convoy to the fly tipping site and simultaneously unload their cargo, the whole event looking like a strange miniature reconstruction of the firebombing of Dresden. This, obviously, is a wholly incorrect etymology, but I can’t be bothered checking it. “But,” I hear you say, “The internet is just over there. Why don’t you just look?” Well, my web browser is closed. And my boss is coming.
gardening leave: n a period of time, paid for by your previous employer, during which you are contractually obliged not to start any other job. Popularised by the banking industry, this is time you are intended to spend looking after your garden and forgetting intellectual property of your prior employer. Should be called “skiing leave” or “coke and hookers leave” in my personal opinion.
hen-night: 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.
holiday: 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.
interval: n intermission. The break in a stage performance where the audience can go off to have a pee and get some more beers in. At a stretch it could refer to the period of time in which advertisements are shown on television, though Brits more commonly refer to that as the “break.”
jumble sale: n garage sale; yard sale. The wonderful event where people get together in order to sell the revolting tacky rubbish they’ve accumulated over the years.
knees-up: n party. A rather antiquated word. A knees-up is more likely to involve some post-menopausal ladies singing around a piano than a bunch of bright young things doing lines off the coffee table.
pantomime: n light-hearted play, usually performed at Christmas and aimed at children. Pantomimes traditionally feature a man playing one of the lead female parts (the “pantomime dame”). There is a certain repertory of standard pantomimes (Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, Aladdin to name a few) and often reparatory groups will make up their own ones, either off the top of their thespian heads or based on other plays. The lead parts are usually played by second-rate soap-opera actors or half-dead theatrical-types. The whole genre is pretty crap, and essentially only exists so that children with special needs can feel normal.
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.
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.
washing up: n washing the dishes: Let me help with the washing up! washing up liquid dish soap.