Do you know where your fanny is?

Anglo-American boySo far, all of the books I’ve had published are set in London, and all of my heroes have been British. In my first novel, Knowing the Score, the heroine is American and learns an important, but embarrassing lesson: her fanny is not where she thinks it is. (You can find out what it is here.)

Since many of my readers are American, my lovely editor Deb Nemeth suggested I include a short glossary of British words at the beginning of my next book, Playing It Close (out on April 14 – preorder now! Sorry, had to get that in somehow!).

I’ve decided to put that short glossary up on my website, too – it might come in handy for any of you who are watching Sherlock or Downton Abbey.

As an American who’s married to a Brit, I can assure you that we two nationalities sometimes speak a very different language – and it can lead to big misunderstandings!

When my husband and I first started going out, I made the rookie girlfriend mistake of offering to do his laundry for him (I’ve been doing it ever since). He gave me an armful of colored clothes but left his whites in a pile on the living room floor (total 25-year-old bachelor). On top of the pile of whites, there was a pair of khaki pants, so I pointed to that pile and said, “Do you want me to wash your khaki pants, too?”

He turned red and said, “Um, if you really want to.”

Then his face cleared, and his Master’s degree in American Lit kicked in. He remembered what “khaki pants” means in American English, and he explained his embarrassment. “In the UK,” he said, “pants are underwear, and, uh, kak means shit.”

Yes, after our first real date, I basically told my future husband, “I’d like to wash your shitty underwear.”

So, to help avoid any other misunderstandings, here’s a link to my British glossary, along with an explanation for my American readers.

Are there any words you would add to my glossary? Any British words you’ve heard that you don’t understand? Do you have any embarrassing stories of British/American mistranslations? Go on – we won’t laugh at you! (Okay, we might.)


Do you know where your fanny is? — 3 Comments

  1. Kat, I’m not sure if this qualifies, but when I was doing research for my WW2 war bride story, I ran across several references to the problems English war brides had with Canadian English in the 1940s. The Canadian government even came up with a glossary of terms for the war brides; for instance, a torch is called a flashlight in Canada, and instead of a ladder you have a run in your hose. The best story I read was about a war bride who was trying to make friends with her new neighbor. She told the neighbor her husband “made a good screw”, which in English slang at the time meant he made a good living. She couldn’t understand why the neighbor went suddenly cold until her husband explained it to her!

  2. LOL. This is funny. My only story like that is one I heard in a restroom in an Irish pub. (To get to the restroom you had to go out the front door and in the back one, but that’s whole nother story.) An American girl who was working there was telling she’d made the mistake of saying “bullshit” and was taken to task for it. The person who was raking her over the coals for using the obscenity dropped the f-bomb several times in the process, but that wasn’t even considered cursing. Different strokes…

  3. Fanny was a fave with my Aussie friends as well. Of course, I also faced a language barrier when I moved from a northern state to the south. The first time I went shopping with a friend down here, she asked me if I needed a buggy. Took a full minute before I grasped the fact that she was asking if I wanted to use a shopping cart. :)

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