ta: interj thank you. Often regarded as a little slovenly. May be derived from the Scandinavian “tak,” meaning much the same thing.
table: v put forward for discussion: I’d like to table this for the end of the meeting. To Americans, “table” means to put aside. Somehow these got separated, much like “momentarily.”
tackle: n male genitalia. From the sailing term “block and tackle.” Use your imagination.
tailback: n traffic jam; back-up: Don’t bother going via the M25, there’s a ten mile tailback.
take-away: n 1 take-out food: I think we’re just going to get take-away. 2 take-out restaurant. A hot food retailer (personally I think in this instance “restaurant” is a little too strong) which only sells things that you can take home and eat or stagger down the street drunkenly stuffing in your mouth and distributing down your shirt. Blimey, that tastes good. Damnit, I’ve left my credit card in the pub again. Where are my keys?
taking the mickey: interj making fun of; laughing at. Essentially a more polite version of “taking the piss.” Your grandmother would be much more likely to use this variant.
taking the piss: n make fun of: Andy fell down the stairs on the way into the pub last night, and everyone spent the entire night taking the piss out of him. This is the most common term in British English to describe making fun of someone. Contrary to what one might assume, it doesn’t involve a complex system of tubes or a bicycle pump.
tannoy: n public address system. The odd name derives rather simply from the fact that a company called Tannoy were among the more prominent early developers of such a device.
tarmac: n blacktop. The stuff that covers roads. Perhaps you’d like to hear some road-making history? Hmm? Or perhaps not. Perhaps you’re sitting in bed naked, waiting for your husband to finish in the shower. Perhaps you’re on a train in a strange foreign country, hoping that this stupid book was going to be much more of a tour guide than it turned out to be. Perhaps you’re having a shit. Well, bucko, whatever you’re doing you’re stuck now, and so you’re going to hear a little bit of road-making history. A long time ago, a Scotsman named John Loudon Macadam invented a way of surfacing roads with gravel, this coating being known as “Macadam” - a term also used in the U.S. “What happens when the road aged?,” I hear you say. Well, I’m so glad you asked. Unfortunately as the road aged the gravel tended to grind to dust and so it was coated with a layer of tar - this being “Tar-Macadam,” which was concatenated to tarmac. Somewhere in the mists of time the Americans ended up using this only to describe airport runways, but the Brits still use it to describe the road surface.
tart: n 1 party-girl, he says, to put it delicately. A girl easier to party on than other girls. Much the same as a “slapper,” but slightly less extreme and a little more unisexual. Tarts spend hours perfecting make-up, hair and clothes before going out and waiting at the side of the dance floor to be pulled. At the end of the evening, there’s a tendency for the tarts to slide towards slapperdom, just to make sure all that lip gloss doesn’t go to waste. The word may or may not be derived from “sweetheart.” 2 small cake with a filling - perhaps jam or fruit. So, when in Alice Through the Looking Glass, the rhyme goes “the knave of hearts, he stole the tarts,” he wasn’t leaping off with his arms full of easy young ladies. 3 sour (universal).
tartan: n, adj plaid. The stripes-and-checkers pattern that Scotsmen use for their kilts but is also used for all sorts of things from throw rugs to tacky seat covers.
tater: n Northern England potato. Not exactly sure how America ended up calling the greasy French-fry derivatives “tater tots.”
tea: n evening meal. At the risk of sounding terrible, it’s just a little “working class.” Maybe that doesn’t sound all that terrible. There are lots of more terrible things I could say. Ask my parole officer.
tea leaf: n thief: When I got to the car park I realised some tea leaf had nicked my hub caps! Cockney rhyming slang – unlikely most other Cockney rhyming slang terms, you cannot use simply “tea” to refer to a thief.
tea-break: n coffee-break. A break away from work, ostensibly to have a cup of tea, but perhaps also to have coffee or a sly fag.
tea-towel: n dish-towel; dish-cloth. The thing you use to dry the dishes if you don’t have a dishwasher. It’s my belief that dishwashers are the most important invention of the twentieth century. Perhaps it’ll be your belief too, now.
telly: n TV. The term “TV” is well used and understood in the U.K., but telly is more common.
terrestrial television: n regular television; cable. Any television that doesn’t come from a satellite. Until recently there was no cable TV in the U.K., so any terrestrial television was beamed over radio waves and received by an aerial. The distinction is a bit hazy these days as the Brits are now fortunate enough to have cable TV. Nowadays, terrestrial television generally refers to the five channels (BBC1, BBC2, ITV, Channel Four and Channel Five) which are transmitted via radio.
tetchy: adj touchy; irritable.
the razz: an evening spent out drinking. Both Americans and Brits use the term “razzing” to describe teasing someone.
thrupney bits: n breasts: She was a bit dull but what a cracking pair of thrupney bits! From Cockney rhyming slang “thrupney bits” / “tits.” The thrupney bit was once a three-pence coin but is no longer in circulation. Although I’ve been doing my best to avoid putting plurals into this piece of work, I have a lot of trouble trying to think of any situation in which you would ever refer to a single thrupney bit. Perhaps someday the terms “thrupney bit implants” or “thrupney bit cancer” will be commonplace, but they aren’t now.
tick: n 1 check; check-mark. One of those little (usually handwritten) marks people put next to things to show that they’re correct. Not the X (that’s for wrong answers), the other one. 2 moment. A very short space of time, very much equivalent to the way “second” is used in conversation: Try and hold it on for the moment, I’ll be back in a tick once I’ve phoned an ambulance. No doubt derived from clock noises.
ticket tout: n scalper. The people that hang around outside concert venues trying to sell second-hand tickets at vastly inflated prices. Everyone love to hate them, until they need them. To my mind, they perform two useful functions. First off, they create liquidity in the second-hand ticket market. And secondly, they give the rest of us someone to feel superior to in a kind of minor, petty way. It’s win-win.
tickety-boo: adj in a good state; going well: We spent all the weekend on our knees and the garden’s tickety-boo now!
tickover: n idle (of a car engine): It even overheats on tickover! ticking over idling.
tidy: adj a fine example of his/her gender: Did you see the tidy new bloke working in the sweet shop? Blokes rather like this word because it has a definite subtext suggesting dusting and hoovering.
tight: adj 1 drunk: My mother-in-law seemed rather nice the first time I met her, but I could swear she was tight. 2 miserly. I’m too tired to think of an example phrase, you’ll have to make your own up.
tights: n pantyhose. I’m getting rather out of my depth here. Opaque, very thin women’s leggings and generally skin-coloured or black. “Tights” in the U.S. are generally coloured, thicker, more like leggings and rarely worn. All of this makes little difference to me because the only reason I’d ever think about buying either would be if I was considering a career in armed robbery.
till: n cash register. The device at the checkout of a shop upon which the assistant works out how much you have to pay, and which contains the money paid by other customers. That has to be the most long-winded and hapless definition I’ve written lately. The word “till” is used in the U.S. but refers to the removable drawer tray in the machine, not the whole device.
tip: 1 n place in great disarray: Your flat is a complete tip! Derived I think from the British term rubbish tip, where one goes to tip rubbish. 2 a gratuity (universal).
Tippex: n whiteout; Liquid Paper. You know, the stuff that you use to paint over mistakes you’ve made on bits of paper. The stuff that smells good. Fuck, that’s good. Look at the pretty colours. Who wants popcorn?
tipple: n a demure, civilised drink. Usually of sherry, Martini or some other light spirit measure. You grandmother might acquiesce to a tipple before dinner. My grandmother, as it happens, acquiesced to several tipples before dinner, and a few after.
titchy: adj very small; ickle. Perhaps slightly childish, but in common use in the U.K.: Well, the food was very nice, but the helpings were titchy!
tits up: adj awry: As soon as the squirrel escaped the whole thing went tits up. Whilst the term originally referred to something which was dead (presumably derived from the orientation of said tits), it’s evolved to mean anything in a poor shape.
toad in the hole: n a delicacy consisting of sausages in Yorkshire pudding batter, in a sort of pie shape. The etymology is a tough one to guess at, as the dish itself contains no obvious holes and it’s difficult, although not impossible, to confuse sausages and toads.
todger: n penis. “Tadger,” “todge” and “tadge” have been known to slip in too. As it were.
toe-rag: n scumbag. Someone worthy of contempt - scoundrel, rotter, that sort of thing. A rather antiquated word. I am reliably informed that the term derives from weaving, where “tow” refers to short bits of fibre left over after combing the longer flax (“line”). Tow can be used as-is for cleaning guns, lighting fires or strangling small children, or it can be made into “tow cloth”; cheap clothing worn by manual labourers. A “tow rag” is a piece of tow cloth which has finished its useful clothing life and is now being used to stop oil dripping out of the car or such like. I can’t help wondering whether “toe-rag” is the Victorian equivalent of “douchebag”.
toff: n member of the upper classes - someone born with a silver spoon in their mouth, you might say. A rather esoteric working-class term.
tomato sauce: n tomato ketchup. In the U.K. these two terms are interchangeable although “tomato ketchup” is in more common use, as tomato sauce could equally easily refer to the pasta-type sauce in a jar or can.
toodle-pip: interj goodbye; cheerio. Rather old-fashioned. Also toodle-oo. This may be derived from English soldiers attempting to pronounce “a tout ŕ l’heure” (“see you later”) in French during the First World War. Or perhaps toodle-pip is some sort of derivation of that involving the French word “pipe,” which is slang for a blow-job. Whilst this fact is true, the derivation idea is something I’ve just made up off the top of my head right now.
torch: 1 n flashlight. The word originally referred to real burning torches and so ... 2 v ...has also developed into a verb meaning “to set fire to”: Diego’s mate fucked us over with the DVD deal so we torched the place.
tosh: adj rubbish; nonsense: Katie’s new boyfriend was going on about how he works in high finance somewhere - personally, I think it’s all a load of tosh.
toss: v masturbate. To call someone a tosser is to suggest that they are an accomplished onanist. The word was originally in use as tosser or “toss-pot” to describe a drunk (tossing one-too-many drinks back) but, as with most things, has become more gloriously sordid. give a toss give a shit.
totty: n attractive members of the opposite sex: Well, I’m definitely going there again. Wall-to-wall totty. Not said by me, of course.
trailer tent: n pop-up camper. A sort of folding-up caravan. It starts off as an average-sized trailer and then unfolds into a sort of crappy shed when you reach a campsite.
train-spotter: 1 n a person whose hobby is to, well, spot trains. They stand in railway stations or on bridges and note down the types and serial numbers of any trains that go past. I was fortunate enough to be in Reading Station one afternoon while a train-spotting convention was in town; the place was a sea of bright yellow reflective jackets and they had video cameras set up on each platform. Perhaps it’s a social thing. Anyway, the term was made a household one by Irvine Welsh’s excellent book, Trainspotting, which is not about spotting trains. 2 n nerd. Stemming directly from the prior definition, this word has come to mean anyone who is a little too engrossed in one particular none-too-interesting subject, and probably a virgin.
trainers: n sneakers; running shoes.
tram: n streetcar; trolley. A device very much like a train except it generally runs on tracks built on top of normal roads and is often powered electrically by high-strung cables (I mean ones on poles, not ones of an excitable disposition). Trams are making something of a comeback in Europe generally, with new systems springing up in the U.K.
tramp: n bum; homeless person. Brits don’t use the term “bum” in this context.
treacle: n 1 molasses. 2 darling; honey, An affectionate and familiar term of address, not necessarily implying that there’s a sexual relationship going on, but sort of hinting that one might be plausible: Afternoon treacle! Haven’t seen you since that party at Mike’s house.
trilby: n a men’s felt-type hat (generally brown). The hat inherited its name from the 1894 George du Maurier novel, Trilby. The novel was not about hats, and if it even mentioned a hat it was only really in passing. However, during the first stage adaptation of the novel, one of the main characters wore a hat of an as-yet-unnamed type. Someone evidently thought that this was a good a time as any to name the hat, and so it was.
trolley: n 1 shopping cart. The device in which you put your shopping while going around the supermarket. 2 refreshment cart, as seen on trains, planes, in offices and such like. What Americans call “trolleys,” the Brits call “trams.”
trolley dolly: n air stewardess. I’m sure you’ll work it out.
trolleyed: adj extremely drunk. Perhaps the term came from something to do with ending up in hospital. No idea.
trollop: n woman of loose morals. This is a somewhat antiquated equivalent of “tart,” and was sixteenth-century slang for a prostitute.
trouble and strife: n wife. Cockney rhyming slang: Phil’s gone home to try and cheer up the trouble and strife after that whole embarrassing business with the surprise birthday party.
trousers: n pants. In the U.K., “pants” are underpants, and so being “caught with your pants down” has even more graphic connotations.
truncheon: n The baton used by policemen to quieten down rowdy charges. The Brits still have sticks, whilst many American police forces have replaced them with unusually heavy flashlights.
Tube: n the London Underground railway. Londoners are clearly not as inspired as Glaswegians, who call theirs the “Clockwork Orange.” In the U.S., these sorts of rail systems are known as “subways” which, no doubt in order to cause confusion, is what the Brits call the walkways which go underneath roads, where tramps live and drunk people urinate.
tuck in: v eat enthusiastically; dig in: Well, come on, tuck in before it gets cold! This is probably related to the term “tuck shop”, which similarly uses the word “tuck”. Also it might not be related at all.
tuck shop: n candy store. Derived from the word “shop,” which means “store.” And also the word “tuck.”
twat: 1 n female genitalia. Not to be used in overly-polite company. The word, I mean. 2 v thump; hit: I don’t remember anything after the boom swung around and I got twatted. 3 n idiot. Generally directed at blokes. A suitably confusing example would read “some twat in the pub accused me of having been near his bird’s twat, so I twatted him.” On the female genitalia front, so to speak, the poet Robert Browning once read a rather vulgar protestant polemic which referred to an “old nun’s twat,” and subsequently mentioned a nun’s “cowl and twat” in one of his poems, under the mistaken impression that it was a part of her clothing.
twee: adj kitsch. Old ladies’ front rooms, tartan cloth jackets and pleasant little sleepy retirement towns are twee. Marilyn Manson, drive-by-shootings and herpes are not.
twig: v catch on; realise that something is up: Bob just poured the contents of the ashtray into Fred’s pint but he’s so pissed I doubt he’ll twig. It may come from the Gaelic word “tig,” meaning “understand.”
twit: n twerp; nitwit. Made famous by Roald Dahl’s book The Twits, about a rather obnoxious couple of them.
two up, two down: n a house with two rooms upstairs and two downstairs. A one-up, one-down is an even smaller house.
twonk: n idiot. There seem to be more ways of politely describing your friends as mentally deficient in British English than anything else.
tyke: n rascal; tearaway. Normally used to describe children who are doing something a bit mischievous but not particularly awful. You’d be much more likely to hear “Quit spraying me with the hose, you wee tyke!” than you would “Run, the little tyke’s got a bomb!”
tyre: n tire. The black rubber things around the wheels of your car. The British spelling in this particular instance is, well, curious.