Well, here is a list of all those usages that Brits love to cringe at when they read anything written by an American pretending to be British!
All offenders on PhoenixSong.net will have to answer to me, PrometheanAlchemist, at dawn with weapons of your choice!
Words Never To Be Used:
Gotten, Pants, Date (romantically)
Dating! (PA jumps up and down several times!!)
Brits never ever ever ‘date’ someone, they ‘go out with them’.
Nor do they ‘See them’ or ‘Go steady’
e.g. Is John going out with Jill. Jennifer is going out with Jack tonight.
In the U.K. we have Forms or Years not Grades. i.e first form/first year, second form, third form. For the most part Hogwarts seems to count by ‘Year’. It should be noted that many of the more famous English Public Schools (read private schools and try not to get confused!) have their own system.
i.e At one such school they have Shell, Remove, Hundreds, Lower Sixth, Sixth Form -which is equivalent to First year, second year etc.
We have ‘lessons’ not ‘classes’.
In the U.K. one ‘revises’ for exams rather than ‘studying’. Studying is rarely used for general school related work. ‘I’m going to do my homework’ rather than ‘I’m going to study.’
In the U.K. we only graduate from University, never school. We merely ‘leave school’. There are no graduating ceremonies or anything of the sort for schools (nor proms etc). Occasionally there are school dances/balls. It should be remembered that the boarding schools Hogwarts are based upon were (until the 20th Century) single sex schools (for both boys and girls).
The terms ‘school’ and ‘college’ are never used to describe a University. In other words one never goes to ‘school’ or ‘college’. In fact many of the well known Public Schools such as Eton, Harrow, are in fact properly Eton College etc. The obvious exception is that Oxford and Cambridge are made up of Colleges (ie. Magdalene College, Cambridge) but these are residential colleges.
Sports are often referred to as ‘Games’, which are played on pitches not fields. e.g. What games are you playing this term? I’m playing Quidditch (on a Quidditch pitch).
Always use ‘changing room’ instead of ‘locker room’.
To tell on someone (i.e. to a teacher) is to ‘grass on them’, or ‘grass them up’. This is approximately equivalent to the U.S. term ‘to squeal on someone’ i.e. ‘Malfoy grassed on Ron to Professor Snape.’ It is also a noun, i.e. ‘Malfoy is a grass’.
Terms of address:
‘Ma’am’ is considered extremely formal in the U.K. and is pretty much restricted to the Queen or by ingratiating servants 100 years ago. (e.g. Filch to Umbridge).
If you are female expect to be called ‘love’ or ‘darlin’ by your cheery cockney cabbie. As in ‘Where d’you want to go, love?’. If you are male and lucky enough to deserve some respect you may be addressed as ‘Guv’nor’ by the same cabbie, as in ‘Thanks for the tip Guv’nor’.
Ron’s favourite – ‘Mate’ is definitely common usage, as is the term ‘best mate’ for best friend.
Everyone seems to know that cookies are generally referred to as biscuits. However there are some exceptions. For example chocolate chip cookies would not be renamed chocolate chip biscuits. This is probably because the whole phrase is a name; they originated in America and are still not as ubiquitous in the U.K. as they are in the U.S. Additionally biscuits are almost always hard baked, not the soft chewy cookies most Americans are familiar with.
Sprinkles = hundreds and thousands
e.g. Could I have (some) hundreds and thousands on my ice cream.
Brits never do ‘chores’ they ‘do the housework’ instead.
A vacuum cleaner is a ‘hoover’ in the U.K.
Do the vacuuming = Do the hoovering
Do the washing up is more common than do the dishes – and never ‘clean the dishes’.
‘Do the washing’ instead of ‘do the laundry.’ Generally laundry to refer to dirty clothes is rarely used. Laundry is almost always reserved for a shop that does the laundry or when you have servants to ‘do the laundry’ (about 100 years ago of course!!) e.g. house-elves probably would do the laundry, but Petunia (or Harry!) would do the washing.
The word closet is rarely used in the U.K. Think about using wardrobe (for clothes) or cupboard (for dishes in the kitchen or hoovers/brooms or other nooks and crannies. E.g. airing cupboard).
‘Dressers’ are a particular type of writing desk in England. Use ‘chest of drawers’ for your knickers and socks.
Always use trousers never pants.
A vest is known as a waistcoat in England. A vest is worn under a shirt (wifebeater?).
The classic blue uniformed policeman is colloquially called ‘the Bobby’ as in ‘Bobby on the Beat’ – i.e patrolling policemen. However ‘cop’ is gaining more and more usage as American TV shows proliferate on British TV. These are Police Constables (or PC for short. Hence we have terms such as PC Plod for a generic policeman. The ranks go something like :
PC (or WPC for women) Sergeant, Inspector, Chief Inspector. Each County or metropolitan area will have a Chief Constable.
The other branch – as in the US – are detectives these are plainclothes and Detective Inspector Morse is obvious example.
Ranks are DC, Detective Sergeant, Detective Inspector etc..
Other Random items:
‘Rubbish’ should always be used in place of ‘garbage’ and ‘trash.’ i.e. please take out the rubbish. Throw it in the rubbish bin.
Two weeks = Fortnight. ‘Seen you in a fortnight’ (or as the French say ‘quinze jours’ = 15 days. I’ve never understood that one!)
Santa Claus = Father Christmas
Brits stand in ‘queues’ not ‘lines’. Pushing into a line is known as ‘queue-barging.’
Brits take ‘holidays’ not ‘vacations.’ This is across the board. ie. We have a Summer Holiday. Or I’m going on holiday to … this year. I need a holiday.
The back of the car is the ‘boot’ not the trunk, while the ‘hood’ is known as the bonnet. Also windscreen = windshield.
The large dual carriageways that crisscross Britain are referred to as Motorways. (Aprox equivalent to Interstates) and they are numbered. So the main motorway west from London is the M4. ‘I’m going to take the M4 to Bath’. Smaller main roads (state highways?) are the A roads, which are also numbered. We have no real equivalent to the generic ‘highway’ except Motorway, but motorways are only dual carriageway (usually 3+lanes on each side) and much faster than some highways I’ve driven on in the States.