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  Mike Todd


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

  These were once sold in Britain as Treets, but now they're also called M&Ms. They were first sold in the US in 1941, and the name comes from the initials of Forrest Mars (the same man behind Mars Bars) and Bruce Murrie. Ironically, Murrie was actually the son of the Hershey Chocolate Company's president, a company that is now Mars' arch rival. The story goes (denied by Mars) that M&Ms themselves were copies (by agreement) of the British Smartie first made by the Rowntree company in 1937.
Mains (BE)
  The term mains for the main electricity or water supply is not known in the US. So, running an appliance off the mains wouldn't be understood. However, you can turn water and electricity off at the main.
  Americans call this corn (a term in BrE that refers to any grain, but sometimes specifically to wheat). However it also has a derogatory connotation, since maize is usually applied to the poorer quality product intended for animal feed. One of the American staples, grits, is specifically made from corn, not maize (since this implies a much inferior product)
Make out
  Snog, or have sex with
Making out in the US is part of the teenage growing up process; a rite of passage. It can sometimes be fairly innocent, where to make out just means to snog (neck in AE), and make-out parties, where early teens might go into a cupboard to kiss, are part of growing up in the US. However, as the young teenager gets older, making out becomes more about foreplay (although there are some who say that the making out ceases as soon as clothing gets removed).
Make over
  Renovate, face lift
can apply to people and homes.
  Shopping centre, usually indoors
The American mall is central to the shopping experience. It is a collection of stores, usually under one roof. Most of the larger malls have common indoor access, although there are malls where the stores all front onto the outside, in which case they're more commonly called strip malls. Most malls have at least one of the major department stores, a food hall with several fast-food outlets, and plenty of car parking space. Although the stores in American malls frequently don't open until 10am, the mall itself will usually open earlier.
Mardi Gras
  Shrove Tuesday
Often marked by a major festival, particularly in New Orleans, Mardi Gras, which literally means fat Tuesday, may also be celebrated as the pre-Lent period before Shrove Tuesday.
Mars Bar
  In the US a Mars Bar isn't anything like a British Mars Bar. It is described as a "chocolate almond bar" (much like the British Topic). If you want a Mars Bar you're going to have to ask for a Milky Way.
Martin Luther King Day (Federal holiday)
  3rd Monday in February
In 1983, Congress set this day aside to celebrate King's life and accomplishments.
For more general information, see American Holidays in the Encyclopedia.
  Central reservation (on motorway/highway or as an island)
Also median strip. You will frequently see signs on American roads saying "keep off median".
  There is no UK equivalent for Medicare. It is a medical insurance scheme run by the US government for retired and disabled people. There is also Medicaid, which is run at state and national level for those who cannot afford insurance.
Memorial Day (Federal holiday)

Last Monday in May (or May 30th)
The formal honouring and of the graves of Civil War soldiers was started, in the South in Columbus, Missouri, and in the North, in Waterloo, New York. Two years later, May 30th was declared as a day for "strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves", and so it became called Decoration Day. It was extended to cover all US war dead, and its name was changed to Memorial Day. In 1971, it was set as a federal holiday to be observed on the last Monday in May, however, some states still observe it on 30th May. It also marks the unofficial start of Summer.
For more general information, see American Holidays

Milky Way
  Mars Bar
This can be confusing - ask for a Milky Way in the US and you'll get what the British would call a Mars Bar! Ask for a Mars Bar (qv) you'll get something you're not used to. If you really want a Milky Way, you're going to have to ask for a Three Musketeers
Miranda rights
  On arrest, a person must be read their basic rights under the fifth amendment. In 1966, the Supreme Court ruled that any evidence obtained by a person who has not been informed of these rights was inadmissible. As a result, in Miranda v Arizona, a convicted rapist, Ernesto Miranda, was freed. He was immediately re-arrested, and read his Miranda Rights and was put back in jail. This gave rise to the rights being referred to as Miranda rights and reading those rights is sometimes known as Mirandizing.
  Minor offence
A misdemeanor is really just any "misdeed", and is applied generally to any minor offence. More serious offences are felonies. This distinction originates in old British common law, where the differentiation has long been abolished. In US criminal law there are basically three degrees of seriousness ... misdemeanor, felony and treason. The general definition of a misdemeanor is a crime for which the penalty is under one year imprisonment in a local jail, or a fine whereas a felony is a crime for which the penalty is imprisonment of not less than one year.
  Very soon, in a moment
This word probably irritates the British pedants more than any other aspect of the American language. The British meaning is temporarily, for an instant or from moment to moment. So, if the British were to say "I'll press the button momentarily", they mean that they're going to press the button briefly - Americans mean they'll press it very soon. It is an incorrect use of the word, first appearing in the US in the 1920s. Yet, one of the meanings of momentarily in 17th century Britain was instantly, and the moment to moment British meaning of the word was conveyed by momently.
Monkey wrench
  Adjustable spanner
The type that has adjustable jaws
  Mononucleosis, glandular fever
Monterey Jack
  A yellow, semi-soft, whole-milk cheese, used in baking. It was first created by Californian David Jacks who, not suprisingly, lived in Monterey.
Mothers Day
  Second Sunday in May
West Virginian school-teacher, Ann Jarvis, persuaded churches in Philadelphia to observe this day in honour of her and all other mothers. This was in 1908, and since 1914 it has been observed as a national holiday
Movie ratings
  In the US, movies are classified according to a ratings system devised and enforced by the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America. It is much the same as in the UK, with the individual ratings being:
G - suitable for all audiences, including children ("General Audience")
PG - suitable for most audiences, but children and young teens must be accompanied by an adult
PG-13 - anyone under 13 must be accompanied by an adult, and such movies are less suitable for younger audiences than PG
R - noone under 17 is admitted without being accompanied by an adult
NC-17 - the most restrictive category (it replaced the X classification in 1990), where no-one under 17 is admitted.
Multiple plug
  Multi-socket mains adapter
  Cake (approx)
An American muffin looks like a cupcake, or fairy cake, made from a leavened dough. It is commonly served for breakfast, but also at other times of day as a snack. Perhaps the most American of all muffins is the blueberry muffin. Note that if you want a muffin that looks like the type we have in the UK, you'll have to ask for an English Muffin, and they're quite popular and readily available
  Exhaust silencer (car)
Occasionally used to refer to the whole exhaust (in BE it is a type of long scarf)

Often worn in ceremonial occasions (such as a homecoming), and in some states worn for funerals.

Murphy bed
  Folding bed
The original Murphy Bed was invented by Californian, William L Murphy (although the term is now sometimes used for any folding bed which can be stored in a cupboard). William Murphy actually got his first patent for a folding bed in 1900, and in the same year he set up the Murphy Door Bed Company". But the bed that most people think of when they think of a Murphy Bed is the "pivot bed", with he invented in 1918, and which pivoted into the doorway of a bedroom cupbiard. Murphy went on to invent further space-saving furniture.