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Dumbledore's Army

Compilation of the "All Things British Thread" at

Compiled by Arabella Figg and PJ Babington

Revision date: September 10, 2002

(Visit the current thread for up to date information, or to ask a question!)

This is a digest of the original ‘All Things British’ thread on EZBoard. We tried to include everything substantive while avoiding repetition, but we apologise if we left out your favourite comments. References to ‘I’ are the comments of the person writing in the original post, not necessarily ours. We don’t have enough space to credit all the many contributors, but we thank you all. You know who you are!


United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Capital City:



English with Gaelic, Welsh, Cornish and Manx in areas


Constitutional Monarchy. Elected Parliament sits at Westminster and there are 4 devolved areas with their own local parliaments (Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Greater London). Other regions have elected local Councils.


Pound Sterling There are 100 pennies in the pound and there are coins for £2, £1, 50p, 20p, 10p, 5p, 2p, and 1p, but none of them have nicknames as far as I'm aware. The £1 coin was occasionally called a 'Thatcher' when it came out, because it was small, brassy and thought it was a sovereign, but that's not a joke I would expect a wizard to know. The 50p and 20p coins are not round but heptagonal and pentagonal respectively. Ron comments on this.

Pounds are often referred to as 'quids', although it wouldn't be unusual to say you have 'five pounds' instead of 'five quid'. A five pound note is a fiver, and a ten pound note is a tenner.

Government and the regions

Basically, the UK is made up of four separate countries, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These are split into counties or metropolitan regions (for the large cities). The rest of Ireland is known as Eire and is a completely separate country, which is NOT part of the UK. The counties just to the north of London are known as the Home Counties. Liverpool and the surrounding area is often called Merseyside.

Not many people call themselves British, unless one is an expat abroad in which case the generic noun is often 'Brit'. The exceptions are those people who are, for example, half Scottish and half English or have other strong links to several of the regions.

Other than the Anglo-Saxon-Norman-miscellaneous-loan-words hodgepodge fondly known as 'English,' the British Isles host most of the extant Celtic languages. This is a family of language of equal age to Latin, but a separate branch of Indo-European. The older branch is Gaelic, and consists of Irish Gaelic, Scots Gaelic, and Manx. Manx was heavily influenced by the Norse seafarers; it currently exists as a reconstructed language, as the last native speaker died quite a while ago. The more recently (as these things go) settled branch is Brythonic, and consists of Welsh, Cornish and Breton. Cornish is another reconstructed language (I think the last native speaker died in the 1860s or so), and Breton developed largely from Welsh, when some Welsh people moved back to the Continent. Those of you who are more into geography might notice that all this Celtic stuff lies across the islands in diagonal bands, roughly, crossing a SE/NW axis. In other words, the Celts kept getting pushed farther away from the rich flatlands now known as England. But sheep can live nearly anywhere.

is generally divided into North Wales and South Wales, 'De Cymru' (never 'Northern' or 'Southern'). The most striking difference in the accents between the two halves is the way the vowel 'u' is pronounced. South Wales pronounces it as an 'ee' sound, so the word for 'sing' (canu) is 'KA-nee'. The Welsh in the north has more of a French-like 'ou' sound, so it's more like 'KA-neu.'

Manchester = Mancunian

Liverpool = Scouse or Liverpudlian

Newcastle = Geordie

Sunderland= Mackem - accent similar to Geordie

Birmingham = Brummie

London = Cockney

Aberdeen = Aberdonian

Glasgow = Glaswegian

Every region in the U.K has it's own dialect. You might go to London and hear them using certain words and phrases, but it will be quite different other cities.

An American tourist last year who asked why the English had stolen all their place names eg Washington, New York [NEW!!!], Manchester etc. In reality the American settlers from the UK took the names across to the US when they settled.

General Living

There is no rabies here in the UK.

It’s called post, people! Yes, not mail! Post! (Post Office, Royal Mail). We have 'post codes' instead of 'zip codes'. Postcodes consist of a letter (or two letters, depending on where you are), a number (which can be a two digit number, but doesn't have to be), a number and then two letters. A (completely made up) postcode for someone in Manchester, for example, could be M21 8PF, while a code for someone in Oxfordshire could be OX9 R55. The county names are used more out of tradition than anything else, you wouldn't NEED to put it on an envelope as an address.

Local phone calls are not free here, as much as many people might wish they were. Cell phones are called mobile phones, or more usually just mobiles. They are much more widespread than in the US.

The measuring system used in the books is called 'imperial' and is feet, inches, yards, miles etc. In the UK we use imperial for things like road signs and so on but 'metric' for technical things. Europe and the European Union use metric for everything and Britain is converting (slowly) from imperial to metric. NB An American gallon is smaller than an Imperial gallon.

The other thing done in feet and inches is height of people. Weight of people is normally in "stone" (one stone is 14 pounds). Everything in schools is metric. Most people are not taught imperial measurement but use it in daily life in preference to metric. Temperature is always in Celsius (sometimes known as Centigrade).

Sex, Alcohol and Drugs – the age of heterosexual consent is SIXTEEN and the age of homosexual consent is eighteen (I believe). You can get married at sixteen with your parents’ consent.

You can be in a pub and buy cigarettes at 16 too. The British tend to be a bit more relaxed about alcohol and drugs (though I’m sure this is a generalisation). You start having alcohol at school functions at about 15/16, which leads to lots of very drunken students doing some very embarrassing things in front of equally drunken teachers. When ordering a drink in a pub, make sure to remember that a pint is the equivalent to 20 ounces. Modest drinkers (like myself) usually opt for a half pint, unless they are planning to nurse the drink a while.

Soft drugs (well cannabis) are not considered to be too bad. Cannabis is in the process of being decriminalised, although it is taking a long time and we are at a halfway stage where the law has many contradictions. Generally, you will not be prosecuted for carrying a small amount for your own use, but the police actively pursue dealers. Heroin, cocaine, Ecstacy, LSD etc are all ‘Class A drugs’ and dealt with much more severely.

Americans are much more ‘professionally polite’ than we are. Shop assistants in England, as a rule, are very grumpy and would not dream of saying, "Have a nice day". As far as I know no one calls their parents "sir" or "ma'am" or anything like that, or their friends' parents. In fact, mostly we call our friends' parents by their first names. Not always, mind you, but mostly, especially our very good friends'.

An educated, left-wing person would probably read the Guardian, while someone like Mr Dursley would read the Daily Mail. A slightly more intellectual right-winger would probably read the Telegraph. There are also plenty of *really* trashy tabloid newspapers, such as the Star, that pretty much only report on alleged sex scandals and celebrity marriages. On the whole, the media here is right-wing, because the owners are right-wing, whereas it’s left-wing in the US.

The country is split on opinions on America and how close we should get to. The right wing, including the Murdoch owned media, are pushing us towards the US, practically wanting us to be the 51st State. The left wing media are more Euro-centric. Our stance on Europe vs America is a source for many conspiracy theories, most of them concerning Murdoch's play for world domination, or Europe’s stifling bureaucracy.

We have five terrestrial TV channels here, BBC1, BBC2, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5. Channel 5, though, has only been around a few years and is generally regarded as complete rubbish and is not completely available all over the country. Terrestrial TV here is seen as being of higher quality than Sky/Cable, which has come in over the last 10 years. This generally has reruns of old terrestrial programs, sport, movies or the major US cable channels (History Channel, Bravo, etc)

The average amount of tax (before National Insurance contributions or VAT) is 22.5%. National Insurance (Social Security) adds another 11% and VAT (Sales Tax, GST) is 17.5%.

Kids on the street would probably end up wards of the state. That means they're the responsibility of the Social Services, and would either live in a care home (generally run by a charitable organisation like Bernard’s) or with a foster family. As for once they're adults, there's menial jobs (supermarket checkouts, etc) they can do. Having GCSEs (Brit version of OWLs) helps, but you can still get jobs without. The only really essential thing to have is an address - even if you don't actually live there, you have to have something to write on the application form, or your chances of a job are practically nil. Same thing for getting benefits (state aid - for example Unemployment Benefit).

RE Markets-- They're an institution that's a bit different from the American version. Most neighbourhoods in London have their own street market. They rarely specialize in food, the way American farmer's markets do; instead, there will be one or two "fruit and veg" stands, and then a large number of stands selling... well, everything, really. Cheap kitchen towels; cd's of uncertain provenance; discontinued brands of telephones; mousetraps; aprons with amusing sex scenes; overcoats; obscure spices necessary for Indian cooking... I live right over the ancient Petticoat Lane market, which has been selling ugly clothes since the seventeenth century. Once it was cheap lace and sackcloth; now it's rayon tube-tops and suspiciously cheap socks.

The stands are generally big metal frames which can be quickly converted into tables, with big plastic awnings to keep off the inevitable rain. They roll on wheels and are stripped and pushed up against the sidewalks at night. Markets are based at the same place-- usually a side street which is closed off to traffic for the day-- and run on a couple of specific days a week-- Tuesdays and Saturdays, say, or Sundays and Thursdays. They range from ones of just half a block with ten stands, to the endless Whitechapel market which runs for about a half a mile I'd say, or the Camden Market which has pretty much taken over the whole town. A normal market is pretty 'cheap and cheerful' as they say, with an air of seediness; and each stall is generally run, at least at my end of town, by oldish Indian men or cockney women who could have stepped out of Dickens. The cockneys are fond of pitching their goods in loud droning voices and actually do call you 'luv' and 'mate'. On a nice day, with the streets thronged with lunchtime punters, it's a pleasant place for a wander around. Some markets have gone upscale however and become kind of posh tourist destinations, most famously the Portobello Road Market which can be seen, in somewhat prettified form, in the movie "Notting Hill". These have moved into the younger, more arts-and-crafty scene I'm used to seeing in a North American market-- wind chimes, incense, pottery, tarot readings, that sort of thing. Also, there are a couple of specialist antique markets, where individual traders bring hundreds of silver salt-cellars for instance, and lay them out on a table. Side note-- there are a very few markets which are based in purpose-built structures, built in the Victorian era as part of a civic project to gentrify the street markets. One of the most beautiful, the Leadenhall Market, can be seen in the HPPS movie-- Hagrid and Harry walk through it before going into the Leaky Cauldron. It's the huge, airy, thing that's not quite a building, with the lovely filigree around the roof. During the day it's a specialist food market with very high-end butchers selling fresh pheasant and rabbit, and a couple of great fish stalls.

Lotteries: we now have the National Lottery, as several people have already explained, but it didn't begin until the early 1990s. Before that, the most famous way to win large sums of money was the pools, i.e. betting on the results of football (= soccer) matches. (You have to predict which games will end in a draw, so it isn’t easy.) The top prize for the pools was and is comparatively lower than for the lottery, with the pools never going far above a million pounds, whereas the lottery can sometimes go up to twenty million and beyond.

Hardware shops: yes, we have those big warehouse-style stores. The best-known chains are Homebase, B&Q, Do-It-All (now defunct, I think, but big in the 80s!) and there are often independent local ones. We have DIY stores for building supplies, but for serious projects (eg those involving rocks) you would probably go to a builders merchant, which is the same idea but aimed at the professionals. They are much more likely to deliver

Truth or Dare was something we didn't have over here until we copied it from American films, but we do have it now. It generally has the same name, although I have heard of variant names like Truth, Dare, Double Dare, depending on what rules you're using. (Truth, Dare, Double Dare, Love, Kiss or Hate - I think that's another one.)

We have three pin plugs on major appliances, rather than 2 pin, so that Arthur would be unlikely to have a collection of the plugs that are used on this (fab) site to indicate his identity at WAIL. We do have 2 pin plugs, eg electric razor, small food mixer, but the pins themselves are round and not flat. It’s all to do with the different electrical current in the US/UK.


State schools are run and funded by the state (ie - the government, nothing like American states). These are divided into three categories: primary, grammar and comprehensive. Primary is for 4 - 11 year-olds, as previously said. Comprehensive schools are what are around most of the country now - almost all 11 - 16 or 18 year-olds go to these. However, there are still a few grammar schools. These have an entrance exam to get in, and are supposed to only admit the top 15% of the population or so. There really are not many of these about any more. They tend to be single-sex schools.

Infant school consists of Reception, Year One and Year Two. Junior School consists of Years Three to Six - speaking of which, we never say three through six, as I believe some Americans do - and Infant and Junior School are collectively known as Primary School. In Years Two and Six, the SATs (Scholastic Aptitude Tests?) are taken - however, these are completely useless to the actual pupils, and are only used by the schools and the government.

Secondary Education follows, and here things become horribly complicated. Most start at year seven, also known as year one, but a few pupils at private schools only go on to secondary education in year nine, also known as year three. I think that SATs are again taken in Year nine, but not all private schools do this. In year eleven (five) we have the GCSEs. At this point, education is no longer compulsory. HOWEVER, some will go on to colleges, and some schools have "the Sixth form". Most private schools have a sixth form, and almost all at a private school go on to some kind of further education. This lasts two years. Previously, you would spend this time working towards the A-levels at the end, but now these have been broken up into AS (in year 12) and A2 (in year 13). To put this into Hogwarts terminology, Harry is shocked to discover that in the sixth-year there are now exams as important as the OWLs were and the (now non-existent) NEWTs would have been - these NITs (Nasty Inconvenient Tests) are vital for his future, and are followed by the NEW2s in his seventh year. It's true when the newsreader says, "British children are the most over examined children in the world"

Now, independent schools (ie - not run by the government) are either called independent schools, private schools, or public schools. This is where it gets confusing. "Independent" is any school not run by the state. "Private" is almost any of these, primary or secondary. However, there are some "public" schools, such as Eton. These are always secondary schools. They are generally for the rich because it costs between £15-20 thousand a year to educate a child there. They are mostly boarding schools. The oldest public schools (eg Eton, Winchester, Westminster, St Paul’s) were founded in the 13th/14th centuries as charity schools to train choristers for the great cathedrals, but they were taken over by the rich in the eighteenth century. Most of the public schools were founded in the 19th century on the same model, to educate the sons of the middle classes to rule the Empire, so they're not that old at all. There are also independent girls’ secondary schools but they are not usually known as public schools. Unlikely Parents of Hogwarts students pays fees - the Weasleys couldn't afford to go if they did. I suspect tuition and the upkeep of the building are paid for by the Ministry (or maybe the Founders endowed the school, or both) and only uniform, books, etc are bought by the parents. I think there's a Scholarship Fund which helps poorer students such as Tom. They don't seem to have any fund-raising events for it, though, which is unusual.

The whole year system depends on what school you go to. Modern comprehensives have a slightly different system now than it was in 1985.

Reception class- 4/5 year olds

Year 1- 5/6

Year 2- 6/7 (leave infant school, start primary)

year 3- 7/8

year 4- 8/9

year 5- 9/10

year 6- 10/11 (leave primary school, start secondary school)

year 7- 11/12

year 8-12/13

year 9- 13/14

year 10- 14/15

year 11 - 15/16 (Take GCSE’s. School is no longer compulsory)

Sixth form

year 12- 16/17 (Take AS levels)

year 13- 17/18 (Take A levels)

Dropout...Not really. Generally we would just say school-leaver. It's compulsory to remain in education till you're 16 and after that, if you leave your not a dropout, it was just your choice. It's not really a big deal here.

UK holidays vary according to the type of school you go to, but Hogwarts is definitely unusual in not having Easter holidays. State schools have 2 weeks at Christmas, 2 weeks at Easter and about 6 weeks in the summer, with a week's half-term in the middle of each term. Private (boarding) schools have 4 weeks at Christmas, 4 weeks at Easter and about 8 weeks in the summer, with a long weekend as half-term.

Higher education lasts 3 years (4 year courses are extremely rare). Some children take a year off between school and university (the Gap Year) and travel the world doing voluntary work or washing up in bars to subsidise their time lying on a beach. Adults can go back into education. There are further/adult education colleges where you can go back to take GCSE's/A Levels/general classes. The big drawback is that you have to pay a fee, a heavily subsidised one but still a fee. You can also go back to university as a mature student (ie anyone over 25).

British children only graduate from university and we just leave - that is walk out the door - at school. Also, you don't get 'a highschool diploma' here, just your exam certificates (which have your grades etc on). You only get a diploma from University. Another thing, we don't have yearbooks. Although this is starting to come in nowadays

Alternative to Graduation – prize giving

At Most UK School, there was a special assembly (see below for 'assembly'!) at the end of the summer term during which prizes were given out, in front of the whole school. We haven't seen anything like this happen at Hogwarts, but it could be argued for the sake of a fanfic that there is a ceremony of this kind at the end of the final year (possibly involving only the seventh year students, which is why Harry hasn't experienced one yet), and Prizegiving is a nice British name for it. Calling this ceremony Prizegiving (or something else) would remove the "oh that's not how we do it here" frisson British readers get, and would distinguish the Hogwarts tradition from the American tradition in which 'graduation' means more than the ceremony itself.

In the film Ron talked about a potions "final". Exam is what we say around here. You could either take or sit an exam, but take is probably more English. The only word I've ever heard to refer to 'watching over an exam so the students don't cheat' is 'invigilate'.

'Revision' is exactly what it says: looking again at one's notes and past homework to prepare for an exam.

'I'm in a lesson', not 'I'm in class'. In fact, we use lesson instead of 'class' most of the time (when talking about academics, anyway).

5 subjects are more or less compulsory at GCSE if you want to go on to A levels - English (Eng lit+eng lang) you get 2 grades for it, French (or another foreign language), maths, double science (awarded two grades hence the title) and a technology (ie resistant materials which I suppose anyone from the US would call woodshop and metalshop combined, textiles, sewing and all that etc). Many people take a lot more, 12 is not unusual. Schools have league tables which basically tells you which ones are good and which one to tell the neighbours to send the brats next-door to. A levels are much more specialised and most people take 3 although some people take up to 5.

Incidentally, British pupils do maths, not math. (Mathematics in exams)

'Assembly'. In case that is another of these 'huh?' terms,. At some school, we started every day with a brief assemblage of the entire school in the main hall. The headmistress (occasionally another senior teacher - or on particularly hideous occasions some of the pupils - would present assembly) would offer an inspiring thought for the day, we would sing a rousing hymn, notices would be read out, a final prayer, and we'd return to our form rooms and hence whisk ourselves off to lessons. The assemblies on the first and last day of term were a bit more elaborate and involved singing the school song. The only really important bit in all this was the delivering of notices. In Hogwarts, this generally seems to be done at mealtimes, feasts anyway, or else somewhat informally whenever something needs to be announced.

English schools of Hogwarts type never have faculties. This is restricted to higher education. Neville would be a full time or permanent member of staff or teacher. If you are awarded a Professorship, that means that you can now refer to yourself as a Professor. Simply being paid to teach students does not mean you are a Professor - you're a teacher, that's it. Teachers are referred to by students (to their face, at least!) as 'Mr/Miss/Mrs So-and-So', 'Sir' or 'Miss', usually

"Janitor" is purely American. The equivalent in British school is a caretaker.

School discos are rubbish; mate's 'discos' and trying to sneak into clubs are much cooler. I know someone’s already mentioned this, but it must be reinforced! At Hogwarts, I suppose the equivalent would be boozing in Hogsmeade.

Snogging in public at school was not very common, that’s what behind the bike-sheds was for. Boys and girls don't snog in school (in public and the word 'snog' itself is outdated. Now everyone says 'I got off with him/her' or 'I went with him/her'.)

Language/Slang/the Anglo-American dictionary

'Guess', as in 'I guess so'. Not used in Britain at all. Try 'I imagine so', 'I suppose so', 'perhaps'. 'Gotten' is also unknown. 'Got' is often a reasonable substitute.

'Candy' is not eaten, except in 'candy floss' (= cotton candy). Use 'sweets' instead, but 'sweets' implies boiled sugar, chocolate is often specified separately.

Rather than 'write me' we tend to say 'write to me', but we say 'meet me' rather than 'meet with me'

Saying something is 'real nice' is incredibly American. It's 'really nice' here. And also, Brits do not use the word 'swell' to mean nice. Ever.

If you want just an insult, then 'loser' is pretty much all-purpose.

One thing I've noticed in several fics which has only been touched on here - the word "starkers". In England, this means naked. Ron saying that Hermione is starkers is rather different to a Brit than to an American. Barking would be used, or bonkers. The closest thing to it would be "Stark raving mad" -but this is only used to put real emphasis on the insanity.

Yes, we use "loo" for bathroom. It's suitable for most situations. More informal are words like "bog" or "lav". The phrase 'bog standard' means 'basic' or 'run-of-the-mill'.

No Weasley man wears suspenders, they wear braces to hold their trousers up. Suspenders is our word for garter belt. Men only wear vests under their shirts, and waistcoats on top. They wear pants under their trousers too.

In England, if a meeting is "put back" two days, then it is two days further away. If the meeting is "brought forward" two days, then it is two days nearer to where we are now. "Put back" gives you more time; "brought forward" gives you less. In America this is the other way around.

Here things are 'named after' people, not 'named for'

"Inventory" menas 'stock-taking'.

We'd probably use the expression "dumped X for Y", as in "He dumped me for Hermione" or whatever. "Threw me over for" would be understood but sounds a bit too American.

Tomboy is absolutely fine: we don't have another word for it

A punter is just a customer...well, not in a shop. Someone who uses a service. It's only obscene in certain very specific circumstances.

Elevator = lift

Sidewalk = pavement.

Pop/Soda = fizzy drinks (But this is more usually specified directly, such as 'lemonade' or 'coke'. Coke only means Coca Cola.)

Stairwell = stairway (although it might mean just 'stairs'.)

Nappy = diaper.

We don't have 'malls' here; we have shopping centres or precincts. Also, Brits would never call the place you go to see a film a 'theatre'. We'd call that a cinema. A theatre here is where you see live performances, and that's it.

Brits count the floors of building differently too - the first floor to us is the second floor to Americans. We call the bottom floor 'the ground floor' and start numbering from the next floor up. On a related note, we'd say 'cellars' not 'basements', usually.

You wouldn't say 'I'm fancying that boy' or 'I'm crushing on him', always 'I fancy him' or 'I have a crush on him' (but that's very dated).

You could say motorbike or motorcycle, but the people who ride them are always called bikers. Cyclists run on pedal power.

A press is a word for a cupboard that was used to keep clothes in, but I don't think it's been in common use for about 300 years. A wardrobe always has hanging space (and maybe a hat shelf above it) but you could say you are putting your clothes in the cupboard and mean either you are hanging them up, or folding them up and putting them on shelves. 'Closet', as an object, is only used with 'water' in front of it, and then rarely.

British people can say "jolly good" and “frightfully” in an un-ironic context. "Well-fit" means "sexy".

Please don't put the word 'tardy' into the mouth of a British character - the word is 'late'.

One of the PS/SS changes was that the term "Barking" [as in mad] was changed to "Barking Mad" which is perfectly correct but we would usually say "Barking" its an abbreviation.

Another thing: it's not called an eraser, it’s called a rubber. This was amusing when we were about, um, eight.

Oh, that remind me - what Americans call 'pins' or ‘buttons’ (y'know, those usually round metal things you pin on your clothes or bag), we call 'badges'.

Alcohol is drunk by everyone over 15, and quite a lot of the over 13s. Slangy words for being drunk are 'getting pissed', 'getting smashed', 'being ratted', and 'out of it'.

Some Brits say sprog or sproglet instead of child

Pudding club is also (Northern?) slang for being accidentally pregnant, "She's in the pudding club"

Bloody is pretty low on the scale of things. Most everyone uses it, normally coupled up with 'bloody hell', or 'bloody car' or some other, less nice swear word. In fact, bloody isn't even really thought of as a swear word. It's just used as a very mild expletive. I suppose a little kid saying it would be worse, but no one really minds.

'Posh'-- meaning someone oozing upper-class, with perfect clothes, perfect family background, perfect manners. They use 'frightfully' for 'very' and generally sound exactly like cartoon English people. Draco Malfoy is NOT posh as someone really posh would NEVER mention money, don't you know. Justin Finch-Fletcher, who, I say, was down for Eton, is posh. We do say "rather", but just as you would use "quite". ie - "He's rather annoying." We don't say raaaaather, as shown on American telly.

Naff! There isn't an exact American equivalent but I'd say it's roughly the same as 'lame' but it has overtones of cheapness/tackiness, as in, "That new quiz show's really naff."

'A bit of a lad' or 'laddish'-- a guy's guy, the sort who goes out to the pub and picks up a different girl every night. Usually positive, as implies charming rake. If you can be both a bit of a lad, and posh, the world will fall at your feet (c.f., Hugh Grant). Sirius Black, despite thin textual evidence, is universally looked upon as 'a bit of a lad'.

'Wet'-- the equivalent of 'wimpy'. Neville Longbottom is a bit wet.

'Prat'-- seems closest to 'dork', means idiot

'Weed'-- the thin, pale, spotty, nerdy type, who will usually make millions in some kind of computer field. People seem to restrain themselves from using 'wet weed' as phrase though.

'Tart'-- someone who sleeps around. Sadly, the female equivalent of 'a bit of a lad' is not a positive image, but such is the world. Now however is being applied to men with increasing frequency, as the negative side of laddishness.

'Cow' of course is any woman you don't like, and 'bloke' is any man at all

"Wench" is... like a serving wench. You know! You have these big long wooden tables, with ridiculous food like hog's heads all along it... and all these guys gnawing at chicken legs and throwing the bones to the floor... and you have these young women in rags serving them? They're serving wenches. Like slave-y type things. *Never* call a women "wench" - they will be extremely annoyed! I think it *really* means slave, but as slang... it's just a nasty name for women, said by the kind of bloke who says "I like a women with spirit." You know the type.

'Jolly Hockey Sticks'-- strange but true! A perky, sporty, outgoing schoolgirl, such as could commonly be found foiling smugglers in boarding-school novels. Comes from field hockey, not REAL hockey, as is played in girls' schools.

'Pull' and variations—close to the American, to pick up, as in to pick somebody up in a bar. If you go to a bar specifically to meet potential partners, you are 'on the pull'. I like this phrase as it implies your targets are irrestibly drawn to you via animal magnetism, rather than, as the American phrase has it, physically manhandled.

Wedding Supper - would always be Wedding Breakfast. This is traditional no matter what time of day and I think that the wizarding world of JKR is very traditional.

Fistfuls of liquor - liquor literally translated is alcohol, slang is booze but in this context in UK we would just say drinks.

In UK we never ladies never fix our hair - would be tidy it or sort it out.

Bartender - barman or barmaid

Knapsack - rucksack, backpack or haversack

All set - this is New England holidays. Hermione would be ready to leave.

When reading American fics is when Hermione, for example, talks about 'fall'. Pretty though 'fall' is, it's actually American. We say Autumn. A fall is an unpleasant experience that either involves some sort of stumble, or stocks and shares.

And don't walk into a shop (more usual than 'store') asking for a 'vacuum', you'll be sent to a nuclear physics department. What you want is a 'Hoover'. Everyone calls them "vacuums"! Or "vacuum cleaners" or "Hoovers", yes.

"Going to town" means going to extremes, although it can also just mean someone's going into the city centre

We don't usually say 'store' - the word you're looking for is 'shop', or if you're talking about a huge shop selling everything (like a massive general store) then 'supermarket'. The four major supermarket chains are Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury and Safeway. A shopping mall is called a shopping centre.

"Well" - as in "well cool" - means very, or really. So you could say a film was "really scary" or "very scary" or "well scary". Way can also be used in this way.

'Sorted'-- all set, taken care of. As in: "Yeh, booked the honeymoon an all-- sorted!" or in adverts: "At Selfridges we've got Christmas sorted"

'Dodgy'-- iffy. As in, "I'd stay away from that neighbourhood at night-- it's well dodgy."

Jumpers and sweaters. Jumper was translated to sweaters so that Harry and Ron wouldn't be wearing dresses, but we say jumpers!

Holiday is Vacation


Rank is a brilliant word meaning disgusting. Mank, manky, skanky all mean that aswell.

“I haven't got a sugarquill" and "I don't have a sugarquill" are equally used here, although "I don't have" is better English.

Also, here we use 'Sellotape', not 'Scotch tape'. That's why the fact that wizards use 'Spellotape' is so funny

In UK it is bedside table not night stand

Bollocks - This is an expression of: rage, incredulity, etc. "That's a load of bollocks that!" = "That's a load of rubbish!”.

1st string - 1st team. First 11 comes from the fact that there are 11 people in a football team, and since schools normally have two teams, First Eleven is used to refer to the best one while Second Eleven is the not-so-good team (but still pretty good to be picked for the school).

Pissed = drunk. NOT angry. 'Pissed off' means annoyed though

'Out of your head' is another drunk phrase. So is 'hammered'.

'Hallways' are generally referred to as 'corridors', in my experience at least. A hall is a large, usually high-roofed room, or the first room you enter on walking through someone's front door (that has other rooms leading off it).

It's 'trainers' not 'sneakers' or 'tennis shoes'.

'Back yard' is also American, we'd generally say 'back garden'.

The neutral term would be 'shop assistant' or possibly 'sales assistant'.

The British equivalent of 'busted' is 'you've been nicked' - 'the nick' being a slang expression for jail.

Marrows are a separate vegetable, though they're related to courgettes (zucchini in the States, isn't it?). They're a kind of squash, only bigger, longer, and green

Stoops are steps that have enough of a porch-quality to them that you could sit with three friends but not enough to be used for putting anything but maybe one or two potted plants on.

Yonks = donkey's years = a long time

narks = annoys

miffed = annoyed too.

Cloth-head = idiot


In the books they all seem to eat these huge breakfasts, kippers, porridge etc. Cooked breakfasts are not common these days, most people just have cereal or toast and that’s it.

A lot of things Americans would consider breakfast foods are eaten at teatime here. Pancakes to us means crepes, but American pancakes are what we call drop scones, or Scotch pancakes. A UK scone is closest to an American biscuit but it is eaten with jam and butter (or clotted cream), not gravy; our biscuits are cookies (and live in a biscuit tin, if they are not in the packet). No one eats waffles except in theme restaurants (as a pudding) and they are revolting frozen things. Maple syrup is not native, of course, not eaten often and certainly not with bacon. The only muffins we have are what Americans would call 'English muffins'; their muffins are closest to jumbo fairy cakes and would also be teatime food.

Few grown-ups eat cooked breakfasts, but some people try and cook for their children in the morning. The choice is usually between toast and cereal. Hogwarts has house-elves to do the work, and I'm sure Molly wouldn't dream of letting her boys out of the door without a proper breakfast inside them.

Marmalade is just orange jam.

Getting food delivered I think is another difference. Get a pizza delivered is not a problem, but if you want a Chinese or Indian take-away you have to go get it yourself (except in London). And it’s take-away not take-out.

Curry is now our national dish and you can get it delivered in London, but you can get most things delivered in London. Indians and Pakistanis are by far the largest non-European group in the British Isles. The range of ethnic food is not quite as good in London as in New York, but any small town in Britain should have an Indian, a Chinese and, possibly, a Thai restaurant as well as the standard Italian and French types. You should find a fish and chip shop as well. I can confirm there are no Mexican restaurants in London (TGI Friday's Tex-Mex is about as close as we get, but then we have no Mexicans. We have pretty much everything else though (including various flavours of Middle East and African)

Actually, the main kind of fast food here appears to be sandwiches. There's about 10 sandwich shops for every burger joint, in my scientific opinion. Much healthier!

We have themed Irish pubs and also pubs where the clientele is almost exclusively Irish; they're rather different.

Pies are not the ultimate test of baking skill. Pies are as often savoury as sweet and Molly would be more likely to boast about her cakes (to be eaten at tea again) than her apple pie.

Also we don't have mad cow disease and it is safe to eat the meat!

We don't always refrigerate eggs.

Marmite - It's a kind of salty yeast extract you use on bread/toast like jam. (Which Americans would call Jelly, btw. Brittish jelly is more like 'jell-O' - it's kid's party food!)

Treacle is liquid sugar. 'Black treacle' is molasses and is made with unrefined sugar. Treacle or golden syrup is the exact same thing made with refined sugar

Pud = pudding, meaning desert.

I thought I'd explain what trifle is. It's a pudding (desert!), made with fruit, stale cake, jelly (jell-o) and cream and/or custard. It can also have other little sweets put in it. It's generally eaten either outdoors in the summer or at kids' parties.

A fairy cake looks like a small (American) muffin and comes in a paper case, but it is ordinary sponge cake, with no additions to the mix. It is often iced with a cherry on top. Like all other cakes, it is eaten at tea time.

Faggot and spotted dick are school pudding type desserts and are not as rude as you might think.

When planning dinner and no house elves are around, reach for a tin (not a can!) if you're worried about those eggs not having been properly cooled.

Cooking is EXTREMELY fashionable now and TV is crawling with celebrity yuppie chefs. This has led to "kitchen anxiety" where people have dinner parties with ambitious menus and then collapse into shivering neurotic wrecks

Cookies = biscuits, except, for some odd reason, when saying 'chocolate chip cookies'.

Chips are ‘fries’ ie hot and bendy fried potato, usually eaten with salt (and vinegar!) as in "fish and chips”. The crispy ones you get in packets are "crisps".

eggplant=aubergine, zucchini=courgette, arugula=rocket.

Oh, and what we call coriander is cilantro in North America.

'Liquor' is only used to refer to liquors, otherwise it'd be alcohol, booze (the slang term) or, more usually, drink. Also, if you wanted to say you didn't drink alcohol, you'd say 'I don't drink'. A shop selling mainly alcohol is an off licence, or (more slangy) 'the offie'.

Turkish Delight is a kind of gelatine sweet. The proper stuff comes in large cube-ish lumps nestled in icing sugar, and is likely to be flavoured with lemon, orange or rose. Basically sugar and gelatine, I suspect, though 'real' Turkish Delight may have more to it than that. There's also a 'candy bar' called Fry's Turkish Delight, which has a strange jelly-like (that's English jelly, btw) substance encased in a thin layer of chocolate. It isn't authentic but is strangely compelling... it's what always came into my mind when I read the Narnia books, though I expect CS Lewis meant the un-chocolated lumps.

A milkman works for the local dairy (which are all owned by large corporations these days). They deliver milk (and bread, yoghurt, orange juice, etc) early in the morning on electric floats, at about the same time as the postman comes round. They are slowly dying out these days, due to the rise of home freezers, as the major supermarket chains can sell milk much more cheaply at their superstores. I have no idea how much they get paid, but it is certainly an unskilled job. They start loading the floats very early (4am?) but I would think they are finished by lunch, unless they also do other jobs back at the depot which I don't know about.


We have the National Health System, which was set up in 1948. All UK citizens and anyone who pays National Insurance (a special UK tax) and EU citizens can use it. In practice, you will be treated if you turn up at any A&E dept. Most General Practitioners (GPs = family doctors) and most hospitals belong to it and treatment is more or less free. However (a) more and more treatments are not being covered by the NHS, particularly the very specialist ones; (b) the waiting lists get longer and longer (3 years for a hip replacement operation); (c) the standard of care gets worse and worse (old ladies left in A&E on trolleys for 2 days because there is no bed for them). It's a lot like Medicaid, but everyone is entitled to it.

Everyone registers with a local doctor (a GP, ie General Practitioner), and visits to the GP are free (by which I suppose I mean, free at point of use). The GP will treat you or refer you to a hospital if necessary. Treatment in a hospital is also free. Medicines (etc) may be prescribed by the GP: these are free for under-16s and pensioners and certain other categories of patient, while other people have to pay for the prescription items. Contraceptives are free on prescription.

There is also what we call the 'private sector'. It is possible to pay for treatments, operations etc; treatment is unlikely to be *better* than on the NHS (it is frequently performed by the same surgeons) but it is likely to be available more quickly and in more pleasant surroundings. There are waiting lists for most things in the NHS system. [To give an example, a friend of my grandmother had cataract surgery on both eyes. She had to wait several months to have one eye done on the NHS, ie free, and in the interim, paid £1,000 to have the other eye done privately.] There are some procedures which are not carried out under the NHS - eg you can't get free cosmetic surgery unless you have compelling medical need for it. Some people do have private health insurance; it doesn't exempt them from paying the portion of their taxes that goes to the NHS, but is expected to provide them with swifter attention if they need it. People can get this individually but normally through their work or union because collective policies are so much cheaper. The private sector does not cover any really acute medicine (no A&E, no intensive care), so real emergencies are always transferred to the NHS.


Here you only ever get around by bus, tram and train. It's pretty cheap when you use them a lot, as you can get passes for a month or whatever that work out a lot cheaper than paying every time. Our rail system may be going to pot recently, with a student pass (young persons railcard) it's not expensive at all and it's so nice to sit back and read or stare out of the window at the countryside flashing past. Eg Elgin to Birmingham = £55.00 and it is around 10 hours and well over 400 miles.

It is definitely quicker to fly from London to Scotland but people rarely fly shorter distances. It takes roughly an hour to get to any London airport, you have to be there an hour before takeoff for security checks and you have to get into town from the airport at the other end, so it is doesn’t save much time for anything under a 5 hour journey. Until recently, it was also very expensive.

Just to clarify, trams are rare in the UK. Manchester is one of the few places to have a Metrolink system, and that's only happened recently.

Although the Weasley's car seemed to run on magic (until Ron and Harry landed in the Whomping Willow), normal cars in Britain run on petrol or diesel, as opposed to the North American gasoline. They roll on tyres, not tires.

Of course, it is the Underground in London, not a subway.

Cars – you can take your driving test and own a car at 17 but you will pay penal insurance rates until you are over 25. If we want to get at the engine in a car, we lift the "bonnet", and we put luggage in the "boot". As far as I know, that's what they do in the UK, but in America the parts are referred to as "hood" and "trunk". We also have bumpers, not fenders.

Lorries: to drive one, you need to be 21 or over and hold an LGV licence: it stands for Large Goods Vehicle. Note: these were officially called HGV licences (Heavy Goods Vehicle) until about ten years ago, and often still are in casual parlance.

The Sugar Quill was created by Zsenya and Arabella. For questions, please send us an Owl!

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