L-plates: n big white square stickers with a red letter “L” in them, which have to be put on the front and back of a car that’s being driven by a learner driver (i.e. someone on a provisional license). There’s no real American equivalent.
lad: n 1 young boy. 2 bloke doing blokey things, generally including but not limited to getting pissed (in the U.K. sense); trying to pull birds; making a lot of noise and causing some good wholesome criminal damage. Various derivations have sprung up, with “laddish” covering this type of behaviour and “laddettes” being girls doing much the same thing.
ladder: n run. In the sense of a “ladder in your tights” being the British equivalent of a “run in your pantyhose.” In all other circumstances, this word means exactly the same in the U.K. as it does in the U.S.
ladybird: n ladybug. Probably nothing to do with Lyndon Johnson’s wife, but who can tell.
lairy: adj noisy, and perhaps a bit abusive: It was all going fine until Ian’s cousin had a couple of drinks too many and started getting lairy. As usual when it comes to Brits being noisy, it generally involves drinking. They’re pretty quiet the rest of the time.
lay-by: n rest area. A little parking area off the side of a main road (usually a motorway), where people generally stop to have a sandwich, let their children vomit, empty the dog or copulate with their work colleagues. Perhaps this is where the name came from.
Left Luggage: n a place (usually in a railway station) where you can dump your belongings for a time while you bumble around shopping, or whatever takes your fancy.
leg it: v run away; beat it: By the time we got outside the little bastard had legged it. I tell you, the next time he does that I’m going to take the thing around to his father’s house in a box and empty it on his front garden.
leg over: n sex: Bob’s off to the local again this evening for a few drinks - I think he’s still trying to get his leg over with the barmaid who works Thursdays.
lemonade: n a clear, carbonated drink very similar to Sprite or 7-Up, but with only lemons instead of limes. In the U.S. (and in the U.K., but under the moniker “traditional lemonade”) the word “lemonade” refers to a variant that, for want of a better description, is a bit more lemony. It’s darker in colour, not carbonated and often contains bits of lemon. Nowadays young drinkers on street corners in both the U.K. and the U.S. enjoy alcopop lemonade (“hard lemonade”), which is carbonated on both sides of the Atlantic. By that I don’t mean it’s carbonated on one side of the Atlantic, then flown over and carbonated on the other prior to sale. But you knew that.
lie-in: n the act of staying in bed longer than you normally would. Very similar to “sleeping in,” though it implies something a little more deliberate. “Sorry, I was having a lie-in” would be as bad an excuse for being late for work as “sorry, I couldn’t be arsed getting up.”
lift: n elevator. The word derives from when the devices were once called “lifting rooms.”
light: n car window. Largely obsolete - most seen in modern English inside the term “quarterlights,” which is used to refer to those small windows a little ahead of the front door windows, near where the mirrors are attached. “Light” is used in the U.S. architecturally to refer to the individual panes of a split window. The etymology of the term is nautical - small prisms were inserted in the decks of sailing ships to improve visibility below deck, and these themselves became known as “lights.”
lodger: n renter. A person who rents a room in your home. They help pay the bills, provide a little human company on those long, lonely evenings and are a perfect vehicle for your perverted sexual fantasies. A bit like a flatmate but on a less equal footing ownership-wise.
loft: n attic. The small space in the rafters of your house where you keep letters from your ex-lovers and all of your school books, just in case they might ever come in handy again. The word “attic” is also used in the U.K.
lolly: n 1 money. 2 ice- popsicle. A sort of frozen sugary flavoured lump wrapped around a small bit of wood and designed specifically to drip all down your front as it defrosts.
loo: n restroom. The derivation comes from a long time ago. As derivations often do, now I think about it. What a lot of nonsense there is in here. Anyway, back then people used to shout “gardez l’eau” (the French equivalent of “look out for the water”) and throw their human waste out of the window onto gutters in the street. Of course, it wasn’t water at all, but perhaps we were all a bit too posh to shout “gardez le merde.” Another almost definitely spurious etymology is that in large mansions the toilet was always numbered room one-hundred to save any embarrassing confusions.
lorry: n truck. Not a pick-up truck (which barely exist in the U.K.); more of a goods truck.
lurgy: n a general diagnosis for any sort of minor sickness which you’re not sure of the exact affliction. Could cover anything from the common cold to food poisoning. Or streptococcal meningitis, if you’re particularly poor at self-diagnosis. It can also be used as a substitute for the American “cooties.”
luv: n honey; darlin’. A term of endearing address used predominantly by shop staff. You’d hear “that’ll be four fifty, luv” in very similar circumstances to those in which you’d hear “that’ll be four fifty, honey” in the U.S. It doesn’t mean they love you, in either case.
luvvie: n rather over exuberant (and almost invariably gay) thespian. Referring to actors as “luvvies” or “luvvie darlings” is rather scornful and demeaning - it’s true, though, that a few of the older, camper actors do indeed refer to each other as “luvvie.”