One man's trashy language is another man's treasure

“Bloody”, “shag”, and “sod” are three words that are innocuous in American English but are off-color expletives in British English. Does there exist any words where the reverse situation is true, i.e., American curse words about which Brits would wonder why the heck they’re considered dirty by the Yanks?

Maybe the word “fag”?

Yes indeedy, that’d be one of them! Amazed I didn’t think of that myself given the threads I’ve been involved with lately. British “fag” = cigarette, American “fag” = pejorative for homosexual male; British “faggot” = bundle of wood, American “faggot” = strong pejorative for homosexual male. Let us also not forget that a British “dyke” is, according to, “a low wall, often of sod, dividing or enclosing lands” whereas the American usage of the word is as a pejorative for a homosexual female.

Are “bastard” and “bitch” wielded as curse words in the same way that they are in the States?

Spunk. In the US, it means the quality of being active, or happy, kind of like “pep.” In the UK, it means semen. “You’re spunky today” takes on a whole new meaning…

struct and surreal, fag [and faggot] has exactly the same meaning in England as the US. Similarly, dyke is also used to refer to lesbians.

I think FDISK hit the mark more accurately.

There’s lotsa folks in the U.S. named Randall or Ransom who go by the shortened form “Randy”… unless they’re in the U.K…

Unless we’re talking about diagonal wire cutters, and the dictionary definition as a retaining wall is understood as well.

Not sure if this is relevant, but as a Brit I smoke about 20 fags a day. I am not some psycho homophobe but enjoy cigarettes (which is considered by some to be even worse). Would this be clear to an American?


Smoking a fag would probably be understood by most Americans who enjoy British TV, movies or books. On the other hand, expressing a desire to bum a fag may well be misinterpreted.

Another US-ok/UK-bad word: fanny. What on earth must Brits think of Fannie Farmer chocolates? :eek:

A little while ago I laid the table. If one of my female friends visits me with a cake I may just have to take her cherry. This is a good game:D

I’m surprised no-one has mentioned “fanny.”

Going the other direction, rubbers.


Americans tend to take a more literal interpretation of bugger as well.

When a Brit “knocks up” a woman, he’s simply visiting her home, not impregnating her, and she might even “have a bun in the oven”.


Okie checking in here…born and raised in central U.S…and “spunk” does in fact mean “ejaculate” (both noun and verb) to anyone under the age of 70. The only people still using “spunk” and “spunky” to mean peppy are the ones who use “gay” to mean happy and “girlfriend” to mean your friend that you go out shopping with, not your date.


Somehow, I don’t think “smoking” twenty fags a day would brand anyone as a homophobe:slight_smile:

The meaning of “smoke” in that context, like a bisexual, could go either way. “Smoke” could mean “to give oral sex” as in “Silent Bob, you cocksmoker!” or it could mean “to murder” as in “Draw your weapon and smoke that son-of-a-bitch.” Which reminds me of another linguistic anomaly: To “off” a guy means to kill him. To “whack” a guy means to kill him. To “whack off” a guy means something completely different.

Fanny: “fanny” is a mild epithet for the gluteus maximus here in the States. Does it have a stronger or different meaning in the UK?

Rubbers: I take it then that “rubbers” is not a euphemism for condoms in the British Isles?

No, a rubber in Australian and British English is an eraser.

Now someone mentioned “bastard”. I know I’m butting in here with an Australian rather than an English or American POV, but anyway.

In Australia, calling someone a bastard straight out is “fightin’ words”. But calling someone an “[insert non-insulting adjective here] bastard” is not usually insulting at all, and the word “bastard” just becomes a gruff term for a man. For example, if I was to call The Loaded Dog a clever bastard, he (as a fellow Australian) would be neither confused (due to the apparent contradiction) nor insulted.

In the UK, fanny is uhh… well, a word for ‘vagina’ - so ‘falling on your fanny’ would be a strange (and probably painful) accident…

Rubber is understood as condom, but is more commonly used to mean ‘eraser’

Of course, because of the huge amount of american TV we get, most people are now familiar with the american meanings of these words, but you’d probably still get a slightly shocked look before someone worked out what you meant…