daddy long-legs: n crane fly. Not to be confused with the American “daddy long-legs,” which refers to a whole order, Opiliones, also called harvestmen on both sides of the Atlantic.
dado: n decorative wooden track that some people think is nice to have around walls at the height of a chair back. Those people are blithering morons. Brits also know such a thing as a “dado rail;” Americans call it “wainscoating” or “chair rail.” It is, perhaps fittingly, more popular in mobile homes than in normal homes. To confuse things slightly, a dado to an American carpenter is a slot in a piece of wood (usually for fitting shelves or cabinets) which Brits call a “rebate” or “housing.”
daft: adj not in possession of, well, “the full shilling.” Daft can range from the absent-minded: You’ve forgotten to put petrol in it, daft woman! to the criminally insane: Well, once we let him out of the car boot he went completely daft!
dago: n Spanish person (rather uncharitable and slightly antiquated). I mean the term is uncharitable and antiquated, not the Spanish person in question. There are two possible etymologies: One is that it is a slightly abbreviated “Diego,” that being of course a popular Spanish name. It may also be a contraction of the town name San Diego (named after Santiago, a.k.a. St. James, the patron saint of Spain). The term is in use in the U.S. but, rather perversely, refers to Italians.
damp: n (yes, noun) wet rot. You might hear it in a phrase such as: Bob’s moved out of his house as it’s been practically destroyed by damp.
damper: n shock absorber. The part of a vehicle’s suspension system that stops the suspension from bouncing (rather than actually absorbing any shock).
dapper: adj as befitting someone who is very much the country squire — well-spoken, well-dressed and rather upper-class. Despite once having been a compliment, the recent unpopularity of the upper classes in the U.K. has made this a mild insult.
daylight robbery: n highway robbery. A swindle so blatant that its very audacity takes you by surprise: Twenty percent a year? That’s bloody daylight robbery!
dead arm: n an arm which has been disabled via a punch to the tricep. A popular form of entertainment amongst school bullies or inebriated university students.
dear: adj expensive. While a little bit antiquated, it’s still in more widespread use in the United Kingdom than it is in the U.S.
demister: n defroster. The little network of electrical wires that weave around your car’s rear window and are intended to remove frost. They are perhaps referred to as such in the U.K. because any devices attached to British-built cars have precious little chance of getting rid of frost, and, indeed, don’t stand much of a chance against mist, either.
deplane: v disembark from an aeroplane. A very antiquated term, it’d be met with a vacant stare by most Brits under forty, as would its antonym, “enplane.”
dicky: v dodgy; iffy. Not quite right. Usually used in reference to digestive health: I can’t come into work today, I’ve got a bit of a dicky stomach.
diddle: v swindle mildly. A colleague might diddle you out of getting the best seats at the game; you’d be less likely to tell of when your grandparents were diddled out of their fortune, leaving them penniless beggars working the streets for cash. Brits do not use the term to refer to onanism.
digestive: n round biscuit that one generally dunks in one’s tea. Whether it aids the digestion or not, who can tell?
dinner: n Northern English mid-day meal. This is a bit of a generalisation — the words dinner, “tea,” “lunch” and “supper” seem to be assigned to meals spattered randomly around the day in both American and English regional dialects.
dischuffed: adj unhappy: When I got the car back from the garage I was dischuffed to say the least.
disused: adj unused: In the end we took him to a disused warehouse and beat the living daylights out of him. Not sure if it’ll stop him, but it certainly made your mother and I feel a lot better.
divvy: 1 n idiot. Likely derived from “divot,” meaning “clod.” Calling someone a divvy is pretty tame, much on a par with telling them they are a “dimwit.” 2 divide up (universal).
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.
doddle: n something very easy.
dodgem: n bumper-car. Once used in U.S. English too, but now chiefly British. Odd that it should imply an aim to the game that is quite the opposite of what it is.
dodgy: adj something either shady: I bought it off some dodgy punter in the pub, sexually suggestive: The old bloke in the office keeps saying dodgy things to me at the coffee machine, or simply not quite as things should be: I got rid of that car; the suspension felt dodgy. What appalling sentence structure. Fuck it.
dog-end: n stubbed-out end of a cigarette. More commonly Brits use the international term “butt.”
dogsbody: n lowly servant; gopher. Your dogsbody would be the person who polished your shoes, emptied your bins and cleaned your loo. That is, if you were lucky enough to have someone like that. The term may originate from a dried pea-based foodstuff used in the Royal Navy, which sailors called “dog’s body”. Perhaps the first person to be called a dogsbody closely resembled a dried pea.
dog’s bollocks: n See “bollocks.” I’m not writing it twice.
dog’s breakfast: n something which has been made a complete mess of: When we finally got his tax return through it turned out it was a dog’s breakfast. Why the dog should have any worse breakfast than the rest of us, I have no idea.
dog’s dinner: n same as “dog’s breakfast” (marginally more common).
dole: n welfare. An allocation of money that the government gives to unemployed people, ostensibly to help them eat and clothe themselves during their fervent search for gainful employment but really for buying fags and lager. on the dole receiving welfare: Bob’s been on the dole since his accident.
donkey’s years: n ages; a very long time: That shop’s been there for donkey’s years. The term originates from the fact that donkeys are larger than human beings, and so if we were all planets then years would be longer on the donkey-planet than they would on the human-planet. This is certainly the most likely explanation.
dosh: n money. A fairly London-based term until being popularised by the Harry Enfield pop song “Loadsamoney.”
doss: v sit about not doing much. You might describe one of your less-productive colleagues as a dosser, because he (or she, I suppose — laziness is not quite confined to males) sits around dossing all the time instead of working.
double fisting: v holding two drinks at once. The double-entendre is not entirely lost on the Brits and so it’s best not used in overly polite company.
double-barrelled: adj surname which consists of two hyphenated names, such as “Rhys-Jones” or “Fox-Kelton.”
dozy: adj perhaps most kindly characterised as “slow.” Someone described as dozy might be a little sluggish in understanding things.
draught: n pron. “draft” the flap inside the chimney of an open fire which you can open or close to allow more or less air into the hearth. Americans know it better as a “damper,” which is a part of car suspension in the U.K.
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.”
drawing-pin: n thumb-tack. A pin with a fairly large flat head. So called because they were once used to draw blood during satanic rituals. I just guessed that one, it might be wrong.
dressing gown: n bathrobe; the outfit that you wear if you’re an attractive young lady coming out of the bath to answer the door in a coffee advertisement. Or if you’re Hugh Heffner. Ah, the great contradictions of modern life.
drink driving: n drunk driving. The art of driving a car whilst intoxicated: Sarah’s stuck at home right now, she got done for drink driving last week. Why the Brits chose a phrase that doesn’t make linguistic sense, I am not entirely sure.
dual carriageway: n divided highway. There is generally very little difference between a dual carriageway and a motorway except that learner drivers are not allowed onto motorways.
duff: adj useless; crap: Hey, what happened to that new magical TV multi-remote thing you got? / Oh, I sent it back. It turned out to be a bit duff.
duffer: n idiot; simpleton. Often related to a particular task: We had to fire Brian – he turned out to be a complete duffer.
dummy: 1 n pacifier. One of those teat-things you put in babies’ mouths to stop them crying. 2 idiot (universal); mannequin (universal).
Durex: n condom. In the U.K., Durex is a large (possibly the largest, I’m not sure) manufacturer of condoms, and the brand name once slipped into the language (no pun intended). The term is actually becoming less common these days. A very similar thing happened in the U.S. with “Trojan.” As an aside, Durex, to an Australian, is sticky-tape (a.k.a. Scotch tape). I don’t know if they use it as a contraceptive, and I don’t wish to think about it any further.
dustbin: n trashcan. Can’t think of anything particularly witty to add.
dustman: n garbage man, trash collector. I presume “dustwoman” is also appropriate in these heady days of sexual equality.
duvet: n comforter. In the U.K. one sleeps on top of a sheet and directly under the duvet – Brits do not layer sheets underneath it.
Dux: n “best student” of a class year. Fairly old-fashioned, this is now only used in private schools. I’m told that Americans have “valedictorians” instead, which somehow sounds much grander.
dynamo: n generator. Usually on a car or bicycle, this is a device intended to take power from the engine to recharge your battery as you drive along (or power the lights, in the case of a bicycle). Or, in the case of my own fine automobile, take power from the engine and dribble it lazily into the ether. These days, dynamos on cars have been replaced by alternators. Alternators run on alternating current as opposed to direct current and are more effective at charging the battery at low revs. Why, you might wonder, do some of the parts of this book that relate to cars appear to have a lot more effort put into them than other parts? Well, I’m a car person. I’m much more interested in car words than I am in words that mean “sheetrock” or “faucet.” If you’re a sheetrock person then I’m sure there’s a book out there somewhere for you.