Things You Should Know When Visiting London

Check back occasionally. I’ll update this post whenever I discover something nifty.

England, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom do not mean the same thing.

You see that picture of the Clock Tower? Yeah, that's were I am.

You see that picture of the Clock Tower? Yeah, that’s were I am.

England, Scotland and Wales are three separate regions on the largest British Isle. England is the biggest region; London is located there. Scotland is up north, and is home to Sean Connery and something much less frightening that lives in Loch Ness. Wales is to the west and gave us singer Tom Jones, and actress Catherine Zeta Jones. Only refer to England if you mean the region England. Do not refer to the entire island as “England” or you’ll be punched in the face by a Scotsman. I understand they’ll do that.

Great Britain refers to the island home to England, Scotland and Wales. You should not be punched by anyone for saying this, unless you say something nice about Great Britain while in the Republic of Ireland.

United Kingdom includes Great Britain, and Northern Ireland on the neighboring (I mean neighbouring) island of Ireland. The Republic of Ireland, which makes up about five-sixths of the island, is a sovereign nation that’s never been happy with Great Britain (something to do with the northern bit), which is why you might want to duck.

Different Terms for Common Things

(In no particular order, especially NOT alphabetical.)

Salt and Malt Vinegar Crisps. Yummy.

Salt and Malt Vinegar Crisps. Yummy.

Crisps – potato chips.

Chips – French fries.

Biscuits – cookies.

Loo – bathroom.

Lorry – large truck.

Lad’s Mags – magazines with pictures of naked women.

Football – soccer.

Flat – apartment.

Block – apartment building.

Queue – a line.

Bottom Burp – fart.

Fry-up – a meal of fried foods.

Car Park – parking lot/garage.

Crossing – cross walk.

The Underground or Tube – A rapid transit system that’s surprisingly easy to navigate.

Way Out – exit.

Punter – gambler.

Lift – elevator.

Pissed – drunk.

Tenner – 10-pound note.

Tuppence – two pence.

Mobile – cellular telephone.

Mind the Gap – said on the Tube, meaning pay attention to the space between the train car and platform, or it might get a bit messy.

Taxi – I’m messing with you. It means taxi everywhere.


(I’ll discuss why the British and Americans pronounce words differently in an upcoming entry, “Down at the Pub, Again.” Of course, the fellow who told me had had a few pints, so it might not be entirely accurate.)

Aluminum – Al-u-minium.

Borough – Burah.

Gloucester (city in England and the name of a road in London) – Glosster.

Advertisement – Ad-VERT-iss-ment.

Thames (the River Thames. Longest river that flows only in England. Runs through central London) – Tims.

Things that are different you might not expect

Supermarkets in England are the same as back home. However, checkers will not unload hand-held wire baskets. If you don’t automatically unload your own basket then stow it in the proper place, they will ask you to.

Spotted what? And it's microwaveable?

Spotted what? And it’s microwaveable? Is that even legal?

Interesting food. In the supermarket you can purchase a can containing eight hotdogs in brine, Oxtail Soup, and a can of Spotted Dick (a steamed pudding with currants).

QWERTY keyboarding is the same as in the States, however on the keyboard the shift keys are in different positions, and your quote mark will be an @. The quote mark is shift-2. Also, there are not only keys for the pound and Euro, there’s a key for the dollar.

Big Ben is not the name of the clock tower at the Palace of Westminster. Big Ben is the name of the clock tower bell.

Building floors. My flat is on the second floor meaning it’s three floors up. In England, the ground floor of a multi-story building is counted as zero.

Machines talk to you, like the lift in my building: “Doors opening.” “Doors closing.” “Going up.” And on the Tube: “This tube is for Cockfoster (real place). Next stop Westminster. Alight for Westminster Abby and Parliament Square. Mind the Gap.”

English Muffins. A number of years ago I asked a Canadian friend what Canadians call Canadian bacon. He said, “ham.” Buying English muffins in the supermarket, they were simply labeled “muffins.”


About sjasonoffutt

Jason Offutt is a syndicated columnist, author, and college journalism instructor. His books are available at Jason is available for interviews, speaking engagements and beer festivals. E-mail all serious inquiries to:
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One Response to Things You Should Know When Visiting London

  1. zdickson says:

    Do people ever buy unspotted dick? For health reasons, that would seem the more logical choice?

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