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Last update:
  21-Jan-2004
1996-2004
  Mike Todd

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Where it's not obvious: BE = British English, AE=American English and ext-link indicatorindicates an external link

Fag
  Homosexual
It is short for faggot and is usually a derogatory term. Beware! The BE use of fag for a cigarette is all but unknown in the US and common British expressions like "I'm desperate for a fag" are guaranteed to raise an eyebrow or two
Fall
  Autumn
The use of autumn in the US is not unknown, but is rare. Fall is, in some ways, a much better word than autumn since it is Saxon, like the other three seasons, clear in its meaning, and short ... and was used very commonly in England at one time. Eventually, the British adopted autumn from the French.
Fanny
  Bum, backside
Although relatively innocuous in AE, particularly in phrases like fanny-pack (a bum-bag), in BE it can be extremely vulgar in some contexts, as it is slang for the female genitalia (it carries much the same caution as the AE snatch).
Father's Day
  Third Sunday in June
Observed as an occasional holiday since the 1860s, after a certain Mrs. John Bruce suggested it in memory of her own father. It became a national holiday in 1927.
Faucet
  Tap
The word faucet was once known in BE, and was usually applied to the tap on the side of a cask or barrel for drawing off liquor. AE does use the word tap, but usually in the sense of a plug with a tap on it (as might be used on a barrel), or a tap outside a building.
Fava bean
  Broad bean
Favor (to)
  Look like (someone)
A mainly southern-American expression, the expression he favors his father means he looks like his father.
Fender
  Wing (on a car), or mudguard
It is frequently assumed that fender is a bumper. It isn't - it is a car's wing. The commonest road accidents is a fender bender, an accident which just involves denting the wing, but which usually implies that the only damage is to the bodywork. The Americans usually call a bumper a bumper. However, just to complicate matters, a fender on a train or street-car is the device at the front designed to minimise injury to animals and pedestrians in a collision, and is sometimes also applied to the same device on large vehicles.
Ferris wheel
  Big wheel
Named after George Washington Gale Ferris, who designed the 250ft prototype that was seen at the 1893 Chicago World's Columbian Exposition.
Fig Newton
  Fig roll
The classic fig roll is of Eastern origin, where a spiced fig is wrapped in a pastry. However, the Fig Newton consists of a fig jam, wrapped in a biscuit-type of dough. It was invented by a biscuit maker in Ohio, called Charles Roser, who sold the recipe on to the Kennedy Biscuit Works (which later became The National Biscuit Company, or Nabisco). The company used a special invention to feed the jam inside the "tube" of dough, and in the same way that they named their other products after towns near Boston, they named it the Newton. It quickly became a great hit, with the fig jam being singled out for special praise - and so the biscuit was renamed the Fig Newton Cookie. The fig roll that the British now enjoy is basically an import of the same thing.
Fifth (Constitution)
  Fifth amendment
There are ten amendments to the American Constitution, usually referred to as the Bill of Rights, and the fifth allows a person who would otherwise be obliged to answer questions to refuse to do so if the answers might incriminate them. For further information, see the Encyclopedia entry on The US Constitution.
Fifth (drinking)
  Fifth-of-a-gallon
The size of a bottle of spirits, equivalent to 1.6 US pints, or about 26 US fluid ounces. That's just under 1.3 British pints.
First floor (in a building)
  Ground floor
American buildings start at the first floor. This can be confusing, especially when some American buildings also do not have a 13th floor.
555-
  You'll nearly always see and hear telephone numbers on TV and in films that start with 555. There are only a few special service numbers that begin 555, so they won't run the risk of publicising a real number. 555-1212 is the US equivalent of directory enquiries (although for Long Distance calls, with 411 for local information), except that to call it you must first prefix it with the area code. In other countries, "dummy" numbers are available from the phone companies to avoid the destruction of the mood of a film by the use of the contrived number.
Fixings (food)
  Trimmings
"Turkey will all the fixings" is what you might have for Thanksgiving, particularly in the southern parts of the US (where it's usually pronounced fixins)
Flapjack
  Pancake
In the UK, a flapjack is a chewy, syrupy biscuit made from oats. In the US it is very different, and basically just another name for a pancake (American pancakes are thick, more like Scotch pancakes than the more traditional British pancake, which the Americans call crepes)
Flatware
  Cutlery or tableware (approx)
What you put on the table is divided into flatware and hollowware. The flatware is basically everything that doesn't have any depth to it, so includes cutlery.
Fluid ounce
  The a gallon in the US is about 83% of the UK gallon (and, since there are 8 pints in a gallon on both sides of the Atlantic, the pint differs by the same amount), but there are 16 (US) fluid ounces to a (US) pint, but 20 (UK) fluid ounces to a (UK) pint. That makes the fluid ounce very roughly the same. In fact a UK fluid ounce is actually slightly smaller (96%) of a US fluid ounce. For more detail see American Weights and Measures in the Encyclopedia.
Football
  American football
No self-respecting American ever calls soccer, football - it is always soccer and the great American game is always called football, never American football. The game itself was initially a version of the British game of Rugby and was first played, with somewhat haphazard rules, in 1869, as a college game. Professional football started in 1895, but didn't take off until the National Football League was formed in the 1920s.
Fourth
  Quarter
Although not unknown, quarter is less often used than fourth.
Fraternity
  A male social group in university
These are organisations, started in 1776 with the honorary fraternity Phi Beta Kappa, whose function is to promote fellowship, community service, social connections ... and partying. Later, social fraternities were introduced with Kappa Alpha in 1851. But these days, such houses are considered discriminatory and there is frequently heated debate about them. On some campuses they are banned, but others still have an active frat. Some got a bad reputation for their dangerous or humiliating initiation rites, called hazing. They are also known as the Greek system, because they use Greek-letter names. The female equivalent is a sorority.
Freeway
  Motorway
French Fries (or fries)
  Chips
To an American, chips are thin slices of potato, fried and served cold from a bag - what we call crisps. The British idea of chips, the Americans fall French Fries, although they're usually very thin and you don't see thick-cut chips very often
Freshman
  1st year student
A 2nd-year student is a sophomore, a 3rd-year student is a junior and a 4th-year student is a senior
Frogging
  Jabbing or punching with a fist where the middle knuckle of the hand is extended. A bit like noogies.
Frosting
  Icing (on a cake etc)

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