Where it's not obvious:
BE = British English, AE=American English and indicates
an external link
the US movie rating system, G is the lowest and most general classification
- that is, suitable for all audiences, including children.
0.833 (approx) gallons
The American gallon
is smaller than the British gallon by about a fifth. So, when you see petrol at
$1.20 a gallon, in British terms that's really about $1.44 a gallon. The US gallon
is smaller simply because the Americans stuck with the Queen Anne wine gallon
they first adopted (defined as the volume of a cylinder of 7inches diameter and
6 inches long, or 231 cubic inches), whereas the British eventually adopted the
Imperial gallon, which was defined as the volume of 10 pounds of water. As an
aside, despite what some people in the UK seem to believe, American measures of
distance are the same as the British. For more detail see American
Weights and Measures in the Encyclopedia.
A bit like a car boot
sale, but at home and in the garage
want to clear out their homes, they will frequently hold a garage sale
(also sometimes called a yard-sale, and in New England, a red-tag sale).
Here an individual household (or sometimes a group of households) will put their
unwanted clothes and household items on display for anyone to see and buy. Sometimes
there are great bargains to be had.
All Americans refer to the liquid that is used to fuel cars as gas (short,
of course, for "gasolene"). BE only ever refers to this as petrol
(short for "petroleum"). Gas, in BE is what is burned in
an gas oven or gas fire.
Surprisingly, the word actually started in 16th centruy BE, where (as
geck or geke) it meant a fool or simpleton. In the early part of the 20th
century it was applied to a certain type of carnival performer, but by the end of
the 20th century it was being applied to someone who had little or no social life,
and who was particularly studious. It was also applied to those who buried their
heads in computers.
||There wasn't just
one Gold Rush. In reality there were three major gold rushes in US history.
The first, and most famous, was the discovery of gold at John Sutter's California
sawmill in 1848, which led to the great gold rush of 1849 (hence the term forty-niners).
The second gold rush was in 1858 in Denver and was responsible, following three
years of fortune hunters arriving, for making Colorado a US territory. The third
was in 1897, and was located in Canada's Klondike.
Not exactly a very common term, but it is sometimes heard. It comes from an
African word for the peanut, nguba.
is the Grand Old Party, a nickname for the Republican Party. It first appeared
in the 1880s, although nobody is too sure where it came from, other than it is likely
to have been modelled on GOM, which was the Grand Old Man the British
nickname for Prime Minister Gladstone
There is probably no other
so-called Americanism that rankles some British speakers than gotten. Yet
the word has its roots in proper British English, and this past participle of
"get" is most definitely not an Americanism. The
Oxford English Dictionary traces the use back to the 4th century, and Shakespeare
used it a number times. For example, Henry VI, Part 3, Act 3, Scene 3 ...
Oxford, how haps it, in this smooth discourse,
You told not how Henry the Sixth hath lost
All that which Henry Fifth had gotten?
So, it is certainly no Americanism,
although these days its use is more or less confined to the USA, and even some
Americans despise its use, arguing that it is "ugly". Despite this,
the construction remains in begotten, forgotten and in the more directly linked
ill-gotten. For a bit more on this, see my page on
the subject over in my "encyclopedia".
Elementary, or Primary
school (occasionally also any school arranged by grades)
As in Britain,
American children start school at 5- or 6-years-old, although they may have attended
kindergarten or pre-school. Grade school is their first proper
school, and schooling thereafter is reckoned by grade. They start at first
grade, and work there way up (kindergarten is sometimes called K-grade).
They will usually leave grade school after the sixth grade (at age 11/12)
and move on to junior high school for grades 7-9, and then on to high
school for 10-12. However, there is some variation in the way that different
school districts handle this and there have been many changes in recent years.
Occasionally, grade school may also refer to secondary schools, up to 12th
Biscuits made from
Graham flour, a whole-meal flour named after Sylvester Graham, who promoted good
health in the mid-1800s, and who saw meat, alcohol, sex and white flour as a major
health threat. They are similar to the British digestive biscuit, and are
often used in making biscuit bases for flans etc in much the same way as the digestive
||There is no direct
UK equivalent. A grand jury sounds very "mighty", but in fact it
is simply a jury of at least 12 people (but no more than 23) which will hear the
facts of a case and decide whether or not there are sufficient to justify bringing
the case to a full criminal trial. The name comes from the fact the jury can be
12-25 people, whereas a normal criminal or civil trial has a petty jury (from
the French, petit, meaning small) of between 6 and 12 jurors.
This is a breakfast cereal, made from mixed grains and nuts. Although it was first
sold in the 19th century (probably as Granula, sold in the 1830s as part
of the Sylvester Graham, of Graham Crackers fame, following), and was taken up by
John Harvey Kellogg (who introduced it at his spa in Battle Creek), it didn't achieve
great popularity until the 1970s. It is now also available as a Granola Bar.
common side-dish for breakfast, particularly in the southern states.
It is basically corn kernels, hulled and ground. Similar in texture
to semolina and very close to polenta, it has relatively little taste
so that salt, butter or sugar may be added at the table. Hominy
grits are similar, but the word hominy refers to corn that
has been soaked in a caustic solution and then washed (the result
being called hominy and the grits that are then prepared from
it are called hominy grits)
Arising from many European superstitions, Groundhog Day marks the day that
determines whether or not winter will continue for a further six weeks. The story
goes that, if the groundhog emerges on February 2nd and sees its own shadow, it
goes back underground, and winter will continue for six more weeks. However, if
there is no shadow, the groundhog stays out and spring is just around the corner.
The particular custom in the US derives specifically from German farmers who settles
in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where their custom of spotting the badger failed,
because there were no badgers here - so they adjusted their folklore to match the
|| A soup, usually
thickened with okra pods, with vegetables and also containing meat or seafood. Filé
Gumbo is the same, but is thickened with the leaves of the sassafras tree.
Basically, a table or stretcher on wheels used in hospitals to transport patients.
|| A pita-bread
sandwich, with beef or lamb. A bit like you might get at a British kebab