Bathroom, where somebody goes to relieve themselves, and may or may not contain a bath or showernote Those which do not contain a shower or bathtub are referred to as "half-bathrooms," which is only really used when discussing real estate. It is also sometimes called a "powder room". "Restroom" is generally reserved for public toilets, though the word "toilet" itself is considered a bit rude in polite society and, at any rate, refers only to the porcelain basin itself, not the room. Nobody uses "water closet" (unless it's necessary to distinguish the small, closet-like room that actually contains a toilet and nothing else from a larger part of a bathroom consisting of more than one room—but even then it's not something you hear every day and many people with WC's may not know the term). In Canada, a public "restroom" is called a "washroom," just a slight difference and even though not common, if you ask where the washroom is in the U.S., people will know you mean the restroom. "Lavatory" (which is pronounced as LAV-uh-tore-ee) is recognized but relatively rare, and "loo" is recognized in context (and giggled at), if the speaker is clearly British/Scottish. People with military experience sometimes use the terms "head" (Navy/Marines) or "latrine" (Army/Air Force). "John," "can," and "crapper" are increasingly harsh cacophemisms that are still mostly acceptable in public (except don't use "crapper" at a fancy dinner party).
Busboy or busser: Nothing to do with public transport. Instead an employee of a restaurant whose duties include dish washing and "bussing" the tables, that is, gathering up the dirty dishes/napkins/etc and wiping the tabletop down.
Cell phones are mobile phones. Both terms are used on both sides of the Atlantic, but "cell" is used much more often than "mobile" in America, vice versa in Britain.
Color is spelled without the U in America, and only in America. Spelling it "color" automatically marks one as being a U.S. citizen. As with rules, there's at least one exception: A reasonable assumption would be a programmer; most if not all higher-programming languages in English uses "color" without the U. Also, be careful of your use of the word "color." If used in the wrong context, people will think you are referring to race/skin color, which is a subject you don't want to breach with someone, especially as a foreigner, unless you know them very, very well. America (justifiably, given its history) is a very racially sensitive place.
Fag in American English is an extremely derogatory and offensive term for a (male) homosexual. In fact, the use or misuse of the word "fag" has been (ahem) the butt of many jokes about Brits over here. Stick with "cigarette," "cig," or "smoke" (i.e. a pack of smokes, bumming a smoke) when visiting the States. ("Fag" is recognized, especially if you have a strong accent, but the joke is irresistible.)
To "bum" means to either beg for something, or to act lazy and without purpose. "Can I bum a cigarette?" and "I just bummed around my house today," are both examples. Of course "bum" as a noun means a hobo, or vagrant. The anatomical definition definitely is known to Americans as well, which makes "bumming a fag" doubly amusing to our 12-year-olds.
Faggot is just as offensive as "fag," and means the same thing to an American. If you want to refer to a lump of pork offal and fillers, call it "scrapple"; if you want to refer to wooden sticks you set on fire, call it either "firewood" or "kindling" please.
Fall through and Go through mean the opposite of one another. If a deal fell through, it means it didn't happen. If a deal went through, it means it did happen.
Fanny is a polite, fastidious word for your rear end. If someone's grandmother or old maiden aunt were talking to a misbehaving five-year-old, she might threaten to "spank him on his little fanny."
Fanny packs are equivalent to bum bags, i.e. a small sealable bag with an integrated belt worn over the top of clothes.
Americans graduate from school/college, they don't refer to having "left school" except as a polite euphemism for having dropped out. Even then "leaving school" most often refers to dropping out of postsecondary studies without qualifications.
Hush Puppies: Little nuggets of fried cornbread, often stuffed with some kind of filling that varies depending upon the cook and usually served with seafood. Occasionally refers to a brand of footwear, but make sure context is clear.
Line is what Americans call a queue. A group of people "line up" or "get in line." Queue is usually reserved for technical jargon, such as a printer queue or a download queue. People in technical fields will almost certainly recognize the term, but J. Random Citizen will most likely know the word, but might be confused as to why it's being used. Additionally, "getting in line" is queuing up. "Getting on line" refers primarily to connecting electronics (usually to the internet).
Important exception: In New York City and nearby regions, queueing is called "getting/standing on line" rather than in line. You can hear this in most New York-set media, from The Godfather to George Carlin's stand-up (a New Yorker born and bred) to Seinfeld.
Pants means trousers, not underwear (A.K.A. underpants), to clear up any confusion regarding descriptions of people dressing up in pants and going out. "Trousers" is recognized, but rarely used, and many people will generally think of more formal dress pants. Superman wears his pants on the outside in both cases.
Another thing not done in the US is starting a sentence with "Only..." after having asked a question, as in "Have you been peckish during the night? Only someone's been at me cheese." An American would probably use "Because..." or "It's just that..." instead. (Among other things.) The "Only..." construction would probably be mildly confusing to someone who hasn't heard it before, but understandable with context clues.
Even the American alphabet is slightly different:
The letter Z, which is pronounced "zee" in the US instead of "zed" (you don't have that thudding missed rhyme in the song anymore). This caused some Americans mild confusion at first when watching Shaun of the Dead. (Oddly, "zed" is occasionally used as verbal shorthand for "zero" – but this should be clear from context. This usage is rare, and probably imported from Canada in any case.)
The somewhat rare letter ash ("Æ") is almost totally out of use. "E" is used instead, or in some cases type out an A followed by an E. "Æsthetic", for example, is "aesthetic" or "esthetic". To type out an "ash" requires the use of the alt codes on U.S. keyboards (alt-145 for lowercase and alt-146 for uppercase, if you were wondering). The same goes for ethel ("œ"). The only place where you will see those two letters (along with the diaeresis) used nowadays is in The New Yorker magazine or some fantasy works (for example, Magic: The Gathering).
Check — the U.S. spelling of cheque — in a restaurant refers to the bill. Hence, Check Please. It can also refer to an actual check, which you fill out to buy something. Thus, you can pay a check with a check.note Assuming the restaurant accepts checks as payment, which few do nowadays.
It's sometimes spelled "cheque" when referring to "traveler's cheques", presumably because Americans often use them to travel to places that spell it with a q. If you do so, most people will know what you mean.
It should also be noted that Americans do not say "check please" nearly as often as foreigners seem to think (and anyone who has ever worked at a hotel or restaurant in an area in which tourism is fairly common will confirm this for you). This phrase is far, far more common in movies than in real life. Most restaurants give the customer the bill without prompting; if they have to ask for it, the implication is that either the customer is really in a hurry or the waiter/waitress is somewhat incompetent.
Bills is the colloquial name for paper money in the US, such as "a one-dollar bill," rather than "notes," which is the technical term used in banks. It's still the word for a list of owed costs, as in "phone bill", so like playing the check with a check, one can pay a bill with a bill (if your utility company accepts paper money, which of course isn't usually sent by mail).
Buck(s) is a very common slang word for "dollar(s)." There have been any number of other such words ("pictures of the president", "dead presidents"—neither of which are strictlyaccurate—"smackeroos", etc.) but "bucks" the only one you'll need to learn. Think of it as an equivalent of "quid". It comes from a time when you could trade in a buckskin at a local trading outpost for one dollar. Hence one dollar became known among traders for what it was worth in bucks.
To pass the buck means to attribute responsibility for one's own actions to someone else. The supposed origin of the term is from Old West poker games, when a counter would be used to indicate who would deal the cards. Typically, the counter was a knife with a buckhorn handle, so it was referred to as "the buck". Any player who didn't want the responsibility of being dealer would "pass" the buck to the next person, hence the term.
Conveniently for Britons, "fiver" and "tenner" for five- and ten-dollar bills are generally understood, and if they're not generally used, they're not really remarked upon, either. These terms tend to be used regularly only among older Americans, and are seen as being somewhat old fashioned. Also, a ten-dollar bill is sometimes referred to as a sawbuck, which goes back to the Roman numeral "X" on pre-1929 bills resembling a pair of sawhorses.
Jacksons - The most commonly used slang terms for twenty dollar bills, slightly more common than "double sawbuck". By which we mean, "Almost nobody ever uses them." You might hear "Jacksons", "Hamiltons", "Lincolns", or "Washingtons" in jest,note Someone making a crappy wage might joke that they're "bringing in the Washingtons", parodying the saying "bringing in the Benjamins" for "making the big bucks", i.e. a good salary. but that's about it. The most common term for a twenty-dollar bill is just "a twenty." One reason for the $20 bill's prevalence is that it is often the highest (or even only) denomination of paper money routinely dispensed from ATMs; this has resulted in a more recent alternate name, "Yuppie Food Coupon".
Benjamins for one hundred dollar bills. One might refer to the figure on the bill by name in conversation, "Me and my friend, Benjamin Franklin, here, would like to make an offer..."
You may refer to many Benjamins as "Bennies" (which, confusingly, is also an old slang term for benzadrine; as in "popping bennies") or "C-Notes" (after the Roman numeral for 100).
Grand is slang for a thousand dollars. It used to be a popular enough term that you'll hear older movies and TV shows abbreviate it "Gs", as in "This car cost me 50 G's." (Do not confuse this latter abbreviation with mutiples of Earth's gravity pulled by astronauts or fighter pilots. Even if your bank account would black out if you pulled 9 G's.)
Younger generations are more likely to just use the letter K, so "$10K" would mean ten thousand dollars.
Two bits is an antiquated American colloquialism for a quarter dollar (having originated from the Spanish silver dollar commonly used during the colonial period. It was often cut into eight pieces to use as smaller denominations). Still in use by older Americans, it is most used as an insulting adjective describing something of little value (i.e. "My two-bit computer froze up again.") It may also be recognized as the response to Shave And A Hair Cut.
If an American asks you for change, they will often ask if you can break a five/ten/twenty/whatever. What they want the change in will be clarified by context; someone who asks if you can "break a 20" will usually want two tens, but might want four fives, two fives and a ten, etc. They do not want you to physically rupture the money, unless they're going for a cheap pun in sketch comedy.
While $2 bills do exist, they are seldom seen, let alone used. Some younger people have been known to think they're fake. They're quite real. In fact, one particularly convenient way to split up money is: a $1 bill, two $2 bills, a $5 bill, and a $10 bill lets you pay any exact number of dollars from $1 up to $20 with the fewest possible bills (except for a $20 bill of course). The $2 bill is printed at a far lower rate than any other bill, but it's still being printed today.
Ground floor is interchangeable with "first floor" in America, unlike most other places. So the second floor up from the ground is called the second floor, not the first, and so on. But it depends on the building. Typically the ground floor is the bottommost floor that isn't a basement, regardless of function. The first floor is the floor where things like the reception area are, or the commons area or the equivalent for whatever type of building you are in — essentially the floor you are on when you enter the building. They are the same thing in many buildings but not all of them. Hotels and dorms will often have separate ground and first floors, with the ground floor having things other than rooms, but this varies widely. Sometimes the first floor will be called the "lobby" and there won't be a first floor; the elevator will have an "L" button instead of 1, and the next floor above it will be "2".
And it's not uncommon to find that the thirteenth floor is omitted in American buildings.note And by "omitted" we mean the floor still exists, they just don't call it the 13th floor. Sometimes the floor is given a special label like "12A" or "M" (the 13th letter of the Latin alphabet) but most commonly the list simply skips from 12 to 14.
"M" after a number can indicate a mezzanine level (a partial floor between two full floors). Omitted levels in large buildings also often do exist. These are usually available only to staff or other authorized personel.
"Ground floor" can get confusing in hilly areas, when one side of a building is at street level and underground on the other side. If a building has both a ground and first floor, both will usually have a street level entrance, with the ground floor being the lower of the two.
An elevator is a lift that runs indoors. "Lift" is still used for hydraulic outdoor lifts used by construction workers, and is acceptable for lifts used for transporting goods (but more commonly known as "freight elevators" or "service elevators") and possibly dumbwaiters (probably derived from the association with English manors).
And elevators, those things that you put in the back of your shoes, are called "lifts." Unless you are wearing elevator shoes.
Electric steetcars are the equivalent of a "tram" or "trolly"—a bus that runs on rails or wires. They are occasionally thought of as the types of cable cars that run in San Francisco, but that is not the correct term for them. A "tram" is an interchangeable word for either. Tourist trolleys are considered different vehicles, and are called "trolley replicas".
Gasoline or gas is what fuels cars in America, not "petrol." Filling a car's fuel tank is sometimes called "gassing up," and to tell the driver to press down on the accelerator pedal you can say "give 'er the gas" or "step on the gas" (replace "gas" with "juice" if you're driving a purely-electric car, though amusingly another slang term for gasoline is "go-juice"). Confusingly, a car powered by compressed natural gas would also be fuelled by "gas."
[French] fries (No one ever actually called them "freedom fries".) are what people in the UK call "chips". They can be dipped in many things — ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, barbecue sauce, and sometimes horseradish sauce are all fairly common. If you were thinking of asking for vinegar, don't. You'll get red wine vinegar, some very odd looks, and a rather confused waitperson (unless you're on the New England coast). However, malt vinegar can be bought at most grocery stores and at places that serve fish and chips.
[Potato] chips are "crisps" (confused yet?) Fish and chips is generally referred to as fish and chips, however, but otherwise "chips" will always mean "crisps". Or is it the other way round....
And if you get asked "Would you like fries with your fish and chips?" by the waitstaff, feel free to mock them—they should know better. This is not guaranteed to humble them because some places do serve crisps by default.
The other confusing thing is: potato crisps are not the same thing as potato chips either. Potato chips are made by slicing potatoes extremely thin and then frying the slices until they're crispy. Potato crisps are made by pressing mashed potatoes wafer-thin and then baking them. For this reason, potato crisps tend to contain less fat than potato chips, and be less greasy to handle. And yes, differentiating one from the other isSerious Business.
Plastered means extremely drunk. Has nothing to do with Band-Aids or setting bones. A joke might be made if you're drunk enough to fall over and injure yourself.
Similar terms (depending on where you are) include smashed, hammered, shmammered (combining the two), and fucked up. All can be interpreted as injured in some way, but most likely mean drunk. Pissed absolutely does not mean drunk and you might get some strange looks if you use it. See that entry further down for more details.
The word "wasted" usually means drunk and/or high these days, but in the past (and sometimes in the present) it means "to be killed/murdered." Can be confusing when watching old movies.
Private school refers schools funded by tuition, donors, or both.
College and university are used interchangeably in most contexts. If someone says "I'm going to college," they mean university. "College" just rolls off the tongue more easily. A typical university has several "colleges" on it (such as College of Arts & Sciences, College of Engineering, etc.), which is the reason for the interchangeability. University is generally reserved for four-year degree schools. Graduate school comes after for anyone that wants to pursue a 2-year graduate degree. State schools are largely taxpayer funded and can vary between 4-year school or community college (often called a CC for short, though they used to be called "junior college" and hence were then abbreviated JC), which is a publicly funded school usually reserved for 2-year associate degrees.
State schools have always charged tuition, and many of the 4-year state schools are vastly more expensive for out-of-state residents than what their British counterparts are allowed to charge. Some of the private ones have price tags of "yes".
On a related note, very few Americans refer to "exams" in a general sense. There are two types of exams in American schools: midterm exams, or "midterms," and final exams, or "finals." Their names are fairly self-explanatory; generally, in high school midterms are delivered at the end of the first semester, with finals at the end of the second and the end of the year. In college, which gives classes by semester rather than by year, midterms come in late fall, and there are often multiple midterms for one class. Finals are given at the end of the semester.
Elementary school or "grade school" is what those in the UK call a "primary school". "Grammar school" is an old-fashioned term for elementary school, the "grammar" in question being English not Latin. Schools with grades 6-8 are called Junior High schools or middle schools.
Grades in America equals Years in Britain minus one (e.g. Year 11 is 10th Grade, the last and second years of high/secondary school respectively).
American Football is simply called football. Association football is only called soccer, though Americans are aware that other countries simply call it "football."
A sandwich made using a whole small loaf of bread cut in half lengthwise could be called one of many things, depending as much on whom you buy it from as where you are. Submarine sandwich, or "sub" for short, is the most universal, but hoagie, hero sandwich (not to be confused with gyros, which are sometimes pronounced phonetically), and other variations (most prominently grinder and poorboy/po'boy) exist. These variations are primarily regional.
Carbonated soft drinks are called by different names depending on the region. Pop and soda are the most common, though "soda" is typically used in conjunction with the flavor when it's part of the name, such as "grape soda" and "creme soda." Some American Southerners use coke to refer to soda in general; the closer you get to Atlanta (where Coca-Cola was invented), the more people use it.
Oh, and if you're at a restaurant and ask for a Coke and get asked "Is Pepsi (or whatever the brand of cola on tap is) okay?", the waitstaff is not being excessively pedantic. Soda brands are registered trademarks for the most part, and the companies can - and have - sued over unauthorized substitutions for requested beverages. Also note that restaurants almost always serve either Coke or Pepsi, not both (there are exceptions, but they're extremely rare). If you ask for one and they offer the other, it's because that's all they have (despite this fact, brand loyalty is taken very seriously by some people, so opine which is better at your own risk).
Cookies refer to what people in England call "biscuits" (i.e. those flat round things that make your belts longer); A biscuit in America is a softer, unsweetened bread made with baking powder instead of yeast, somewhat similar to a British "scone" (but see below). They taste quite delicious with butter, jam, and/or honey, and are usually served as a side with meals. They can be found all over the U.S., but especially in the South (where biscuits are often served with white gravy), up to the point where there are entire restaurant franchises dedicated to them and serving things on them. Other breads served as a side with meals are often called "rolls." Oddly, dog biscuits are still called 'dog biscuits' stateside, even though they're more similar to cookies than American biscuits.
The difference between a "biscuit" and a "roll" can be tricky. In general, a "biscuit◊" appears as though someone took a spoon, dipped it in the dough, and tossed it at the baking sheet, with an uneven surface and no crust at all. A "roll◊," by contrast, will have a smoother surface, as if it was rolled by hand, and may have a bit of a crust on the outside (however, less crust is better).
An American biscuit also isn't the same thing as a scone, a scone is a smallish cake made with butter◊ that regularly contains raisins. Most Americans aren't terribly familiar with scones, and you'll have a devil of a time actually finding one in most parts, though they are better if you bake them yourself anyway. The main difference is biscuits tend to be made with lard or shortening, which gives them a heavier, richer flavor.
American scones, in contrast, tend to be drier, sweeter, and shaped like right triangles, if they have any shape at all. Home-made versions are often just a lump of dough dropped on a sheet and baked. The general American equivalent to a scone is really a muffin, a kind of quick bread◊ that's made with a batter and usually has some sort of chunky ingredient mixed in. The ingredients are generally the same, but scone dough is generally thick enough to retain its own shape and muffin batter isn't. The difference between cupcakes and muffins is another issue, but usually comes down to whether or not frosting/icing is applied.
That isn't necessarily true in some parts of the states, either. While they'll recognize the standard US version as a scone as well, ask for a scone in some parts of the western states, mostly southwest, and you'll be presented with a fried dough (Usually sourdough), generally with a hollow middle. Much more like frybread or sopaipillas than anything else deemed a scone. Usually eaten with either honey and butter or powdered sugar.
Other dry unsweetened biscuits are known as crackers in the west.
Welp at the start of a sentence is just a phonetic-ish way of writing how some Americans pronounce "well"note The interjection, not the adverb, which in many areas of the US has fallen out of use in casual conversation: with the L clipped and with the mouth fully closed before saying the next word. (Think of it as like the last consonant in a French word, perhaps.) It's strictly reserved for conversational writing, though, and has only come into use recently.
The phrase knocked up is slang for pregnant, often specifically denoting an unintended pregnancy resulting from unsafe sex. (Hence, the movie Knocked Up.) Telling someone "I will knock you up," means "I will impregnate you." Say "I'll wake you in the morning," "I'll wake you up," or "I'll come and knock on your door," instead.
A stroller is what the British would call a pram. "Baby buggy" and "baby carriage" are other, less common names.
A piece of hardened mucus pulled from your nose is a booger. A "bogey" refers to a ghost or hobgoblin (rarely used), a score of one above par in golf, Humphrey Bogart, or an unidentified aircraft if you're a jet-fighter pilot (e.g. "Bogey on my six!").
When referring to a television program (never "programme", although most Americans will know what you mean if you spell it that way), the actual show is referred to as the series, and the period of time in which there are episodes is called the season. The "series premiere" of a show is the first aired episode ever (not necessarily the pilot). The "series finale" is the last aired episode of the show ever, unless it is Uncanceled. A "season premiere" or "season finale" refers to the first and last show aired that season, respectively.
A small dwelling in a complex is called an apartment if rented or a condo if owned. A "flat" generally refers to a flat tire on a car or bicycle. For this reason, a flatmate is called a "roommate," although "roommate" still also carries the literal meaning, so confusion does sometimes occur.
Hardly anyone calls a condo a "condominium" unless they're being extremely formal.
"Flat" is also a term that's starting to be used Stateside for an apartment in highly urban areas, such as New York or newly constructed residential blocks. This is most likely in an attempt by realtors to sound "modern." For some reason it only tends to be used when describing either extremely small and sparse apartments, or extremely large and lavish ones.
Mate on its own is very rarely used to mean "friend," and even then it's still seen as borrowing British/Australian slang. "Mate" is commonly used on the zoological sense to indicate a sexual pair of animals, or the sexual act itself. It would generally sound odd or archaic to use it in reference to humans. However, it's generally accepted as a form of address; you can say "Hey, mate..." without much trouble, though to some Americans, a male referring to a male friend as a "mate" can have unintended homosexual connotations.
A large stretch of road which allows cars to drive very fast to various destinations is a freeway or highway. If it costs money to get on, it's called a turnpike, or just a toll road. The words motorway or expressway are not used unless they are part of the formal name of a certain road (e.g., the Long Island Expressway). If it's part of the Interstate Highway System, it may also be called "the Interstate".
Although using "freeway" interchangeably with "highway" is not at all unheard of, there is a difference in literal meaning, as not all highways are freeways. Some roads that are not all that different in appearance or width from ordinary roads but which go on for a very long ways from town to town are still called "highways", whereas "freeway" tend to refer to the wide, four-or-more-laned, median-divided roads with road signs all over the place telling you how close you are to the next turn or town.
To the lawyers, the terminology is still more different. Under most states' Vehicle Codes, the term "highway" has the specific legal meaning of any public roadway bigger than an alley. Under California State Law, for example, that little cul-de-sac road out in front of your house is a "highway."
And of course, Americans will park in driveways and drive on parkways.
Expressway is used as a synonym for "highway"/"freeway" in some parts of the country, particularly around Chicago, where several major stretches of highways have the word "Expressway" in their name.
Highways are numbered and can generally be referred to as Route X. Since we have a lot of categories of highway, each with their own number system, it may be necessary to be more specific (I-95 for interstate 95, NY-9 for New York route 9, US-1 for US route 1).
Some legal code numbers have entered American vernacular. Most notable is 187 (pronounced "one-eight-seven," or "one-eighty-seven"), which means murder. Another is 5150, (pronounced "fifty-one-fifty,") which means to be placed in a mental hospital on an involuntary psychiatric hold, or to be sectioned. These are most commonly used in California, where they both originate, but are known throughout the US because of SoCalization.
The TV series Adam-12 also popularized 211 (two-eleven), which means a robbery, and 415 (four-fifteen), which means a public disturbance.
A similar example is a Section 8, US military slang for a crazy person (referring to a discharge for mental illness).note Because of this (and thanks to M*A*S*H), we'll probably know what you mean by the aforementioned "sectioned" It's also an old term for federally subsidized housing.
Speaking of the US military, the various military dialectsnote Each branch of service, and sometimes even specific career fields in each branch, have their own often mutually incomprehensible versions of the language provide some similar terms. To be Article 15'd or NJP'dnote "En-Jay-Peed" is to face Non-Judicial Punishment, where one's commanding officer can dole out punishment for relatively minor offenses without involving a court of law (the military courts are instead reserved for the big screw ups). "Article 15" comes from the portion of the Uniform Code of Military Justice that details the procedures for Non-Judicial Punishment.
Chapter 11 (from Chapter 11 of Title 11 of the United States Code) refers to bankruptcy. Hence, people file Chapter 11. note Curiously, though, Chapter 11 covers the bankruptcy of a business; individuals usually choose between two methods of resolving their debts, described in Chapters 7 (total liquidation) and 13 (reorganization of debts). However, since large corporate bankruptcies often receive nationwide media attention, "Chapter 11" has become the most common term.
420 has become slang for marijuana, although the idea that this has its origin in any particular jurisdiction's legal codes is an urban legend.
People of African racial descent are typically called black without insult. African-American is a very common and politically correct term for American blacks, to the point that Americans will occasionally slip up and use the term to refer to any black person, regardless of where they live (Freema Agyeman, Lenora Crichlow and Lewis Hamilton have been referred to as African-American, despite the obvious problems with that.) The term is generally used only in a racial sense, and it's therefore incorrect to use it for non-black people who immigrated from Africa to America (in fact, many late-night jokes about Charlize Theron being African-American seems to have caused the use of term to fade slightly, since it made people feel like political correctness had gotten a little out of hand and made them realize that not all Africans are black). People of color often refers to all non-white racial groups. The terms colored, negro, mulatto,note usually used to refer to a mixed-race person who has both black and white ancestry and Afro-American are all dated and usually considered insensitive.
The native cultures and races of America are most appropriately called Native Americans. American Indians is also generally acceptable, though it seems slightly dated. Indians by itself is considered somewhat insensitive and also confusing, since it could also refer to people from India.
It is fairly common to simply call Native Americans Natives while using terms like "aboriginals" and "indigenous peoples" to refer to those native to other regions, the exact location is often specified directly especially when not set up by context.
You will find many Native Americans who prefer "Indian" for whatever reason. Some don't like being called Native Americans because it feels possessive, some like Indian because it is supposed to mean "People with God" (from Spanish [gente] en Dios — but this is a folk etymology), some like it because many indigenous groups are clearly different in appearance from one another, and some simply don't care how you refer to them.
Because of the persistence of using "Indian" to mean Native American—the U.S. government has an official department that's still called the Bureau of Indian Affairs to this day—people from India will sometimes have to say that they're "an Indian from India" just to avoid confusion. Or use the old "feather" vs "red dot" imagery.
'Indian' used to be the only term used. It appears in the Constitution (at a couple of places, but notably in what's called the 'Commerce Clause') and numerous old legal codes. As a result, Indian is the most frequently used legal term. (Hence the Bureau of Indian Affairs.)
If you are going to carry conversation or a relationship with a Native American, it is considered acceptable to politely ask their tribe of origin, although many prefer "nation" to "tribe." This is useful because many of the native nations do have animosity with other nations, and calling a member of one nation by another name can be upsetting, rather like referring to a Scot as being from England.
Americans will probably understand the common Canadian term "First Nations" if they hear it, but few if any Americans use the term themselves.
Special note on Alaska and Hawaii: These groups' lineage is believed to be separate from that of the Native Americans on the mainland. As such, "Native American" or "Indian" are less commonly used in these areas. A good blanket term for these groups is Native Alaskan/Hawaiian or simply "Native." As stated above, the safest path is to ask specifically how he/she identifies. Never, ever, ever call a Native Alaskan an Eskimo. Or an Inuit. Some might not mind the term, but for most, it's considered fighting words.
The Inuit (sing. Inuk) are mostly from Canada and Greenland, and only one subgroup, the Inupiat, live in Alaska. Even though the Inupiat are Inuit by language, culture, and ethnicity, they strongly object to being called "Inuit". It's like assuming all American Indians are Cherokee, say.
Of course, Hawaiians are technically referred to as Pacific Islanders.
England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland's relationship with each other and the UK is similar to that of North American natives: though for some purposes they prefer to organize under a common banner, each nation has its own identity and heritage, and they prefer to keep it that way. A Scot likely wouldn't appreciate it if you referred to him as English, and the term "British", though accurate, is still not appreciated in most cases. The same is true of Native Americans, Alaskans, and Hawaiians; while the Yup'ik people are a subset of the Eskimo people, most Yup'ik prefer the more specific (and less stereotype-tainted) term.
The word plughole is not used. Drain is used instead. Stopper is commonly used for the rubber thing that stops up a drain and not for things that keep bottles shut, although most people will understand what you mean from context. Cork is used for bottles that have an actual cork, and cap for everything else. (Mostly - the glass cork in a cruet might be called a stopper, but how often does that one come up? Most Americans don't even know what a cruet is.)
The term fell off the back of a truck is a euphemism to describe stolen merchandise, as is "fell off the back of a lorry" in British usage. However, fell off the wagon means a recovering alcoholic, ex-smoker, or anyone else with an addiction who has stopped trying to quit and is now drinking/smoking/whatever again. As in: "He fell off the wagon last night when he decided to have one last beer."
Also not to be confused with got on / off the bandwagon. This refers to people who support a team/candidate/band only when they are successful and popular. Dates back to when sports teams and political candidates had parades more often. Jumping on the bandwagon is another term for this.
The term "wanker" is understood, but not usually used (and usually considered more benign than in Britain, being treated as a Foreign Cuss Word). Much more common is jerk-off, or jack-off. This applies to insults as well. "You stupid jack-off!"
A period is the Americanism for the punctuation mark known as a full stop. As an idiom, however, putting the word at the end of a statement means "unconditionally" or "without exception" (as in, "not only applies to race cars, but to cars period"). An equivalent expression would be something like "end of story" or "full stop" (e.g. There shall be no X, full stop).
Then there is "period" in the sense meaning "menstrual cycle," as in "Are you on your period?" (Thus the trope No Periods, Period)
When Americans puts words within apostrophes (" ") they aren't always quoting something, but use them as the British use inverted commas (' ').
The above term "apostrophe" is also an American usage. In Britain those punctuation marks are called "quote marks" or "quotes"; "apostrophe" refers to the single version.
An exclamation mark (Brit.) is an exclamation point (Am.) though it's properly called a bang if you're a typographer (use of "bang" with that meaning in everyday conversation is also an exclusively American trait; in Britain only computer nerds are likely to understand it). Question mark has the same name in both.
The government to an American means the entire ruling body, i.e. the State (a term Americans only use this way in a few particular idioms such as "church and state," for obvious reasons). The President and those under him are usually collectively called "the Administration" or more commonly "the [name of President] Administration."
"Congressmen" literally refers to any member of either the House of Representatives ("the House") or the Senate, both of which are referred to as "Houses" of Congress. Representatives are in the former, and Senators in the latter, but when you refer to a specific Representative or address them by name, you call them a Congressman or Congresswoman (e.g. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, Representative from the 6th District of Minnesota). This has, however, fallen out of favor in recent years, largely thanks to Nancy Pelosi's tenure as Speaker of the House, replaced by "Representative" (e.g. Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Florida's 23rd District). Senators are still referred to as Senators (e.g. Senator Elizabeth Warren). Basically: Congress is shorthand for both the House of Representatives and the Senate combined. A person who holds office in the House is a Congressman/Congresswoman/Congressperson, Representative, or House member, while a person holding office in the Senate is a Senator.
Those three funny letters after any Congressperson's name denote political party and state. For instance, Barbara Boxer (D-CA) is a Democrat from California; John McCain (R-AZ) is a Republican from Arizona; and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is an Independent from Vermont. (Yes, we do have more than two political parties.)
And if you're looking to be pejorative about the elected officials in Washington, "Congresscritter" is often used.
The bonnet of a car is called the hood, and the boot is called the trunk.
A rubber is slang for a condom. Galoshes or rain boots are used to refer to rubber boots slipped over shoes during the rain, and eraser is used to refer to the thing used to remove pencil marks from a piece of paper.
A bender, if not used to indicate "something thatbends things," generally refers to a wild night, or series of nights, spent partying with copious amounts of alcohol or other intoxicating substances. As in: "I had several days off, so I went on a complete three-day bender." This does not imply homosexual (or any sex) acts were committed during the time period, but it might be true anyway.
When the British want to refer to someone as having a less than noble character, they'll use "bent," like a "bent policeman." In America, they have a similar "not straight" term, but crooked is used, like a "crooked cop." It's pronounced in two syllables as well; "crook-ed" instead of one syllable like "looked."
This results in amusing euphemisms. An object such as a stick or a pipe that has been noticeably bent or broken might be called "Crooked as a politician."
Baseball terms are sometimes used in everyday conversation as metaphors. Strike out means to fail, as in: "I went to a bar hoping to meet a girl, but I totally struck out." Home run or out of the park mean to succeed greatly. Strange ideas come out of left field. Inappropriate comments are off base. Foul tip meaning something that ends with neither a complete failure nor a satisfactory outcome. Seventh-inning stretch refers to a brief break from something to stretch your legs, while home stretch refers to something (usually work) being nearly over. Getting to # base refers to sexual activity, with each base coming closer to intercourse. note First base is kissing, second base is feeling up your partner, third base is either touching each other's genitals or oral sex depending on who you ask, and a home run is sex.
When used in response to someone's answer to your question, the phrase Swing, and a miss! indicates their answer was wrong.
American Football metaphors are generally pretty simple. Touchdown!—sometimes accompanied by raising both arms in the air like a football referee—is common as a synonym for success or reaching a goal. Third and long refers to a last chance long-shot, and going for two refers to taking a risky move with a greater reward. By the same token, a Hail Mary is a desperate, usually final, attempt at something. Punting generally means a mediocre effort with limited results, a minor defeat, or passing responsibility on to someone else.
Pissed in America means "angry," not "drunk", which is why "piss drunk" can sound redundant. Sometimes, people will say pissed off, which means the same thing ("angry"). Pissing the night away, however, will generally be understood as a long drinking session, though some places use it as a rude way of saying someone's wasting time. Go on a pisser means the same thing. A pisser can also refer to a fun or amusing person or event (in contrast to British usage where it means exactly the opposite). Or a urinal.
On that note, pissing or taking a piss means to urinate, as does taking a leak. Thus, you can get pissed off at getting pissed on by a piss drunk.
Americans do understand and may occasionally use piss off as in "Leave me alone", but you don't want to "piss off" someone else, which is just getting them angry. "Pissed off" as in someone has left already is not likely to be in the lexicon of most Americans however.
Also, "taking the piss" is not used in America, and likely to cause confusion. (Although taking a piss is occasionally heard as a euphemism for urinating.) Though "taking the piss out of something" is used in some regions.
Asphalt, pavement, and blacktop are all used to describe tarmac. The popularity of each depends on the region, but generally all will be perfectly understood. "Tarmac" is only used to describe paved runways. The term "bitumen" is completely unknown except as an obscure technical term.
Pavement, meanwhile, can also refer not only to the concrete or flagstones that a sidewalk is made of, but also the sidewalk lining a road. Pavement is in most locations, a collective word, meaning an entire stretch of paved (usually in concrete) area. Adele's song "Chasing Pavements" sounds weird to Americans, as as most Americans would say 'Chasing Pavement,' if they'd use that phrase at all.
A buzzard refers to a vulture, not a hawk. While we're on the subject, vulture can be used to describe someone who behaves in a predatory manner. (e.g. "Those vultures from the local news.") It also applies to people who stop their cars in parking lots who wait for you to leave the space.
As noted on the American Accents page, in the South and Texas you'll hear y'all quite a bit. "Y'all" is a contraction of "you all" and is used as a second-person plural pronoun. Depending on where exactly one listens in, "y'all" will be pronounced as one syllable, rhyming with the American pronunciation of "ball," or two, so it sounds almost like the German "Jawohl!," without the harsh inflection. Though almost everyone in America will understand what "y'all" means, it is not used in common conversation in all parts of the country, and can earn you some ribbing if you use it too far north.
In some places, especially Texas, one will also hear the phrase all y'all. This functions essentially the same as "y'all," with the caveat that "all y'all" is used to refer to a large group of people, with whom the speaker may not immediately be interacting, especially in cases where they are trying to get their attention. For example, if a man at a dinner party is conversing with the people at his table, they might use "y'all"; if they stand up to make a toast he would refer to the entire room as "all y'all."
Another use of "all y'all" is to make sure every last member of the party being spoken to is being addressed. For example, "Are y'all going to the movies?" is asking if the group in question is going to a movie theater, but "Are all y'all going to the movies?" wonders if all the people in that group are going to the movies.
An equivalent word used in New York and Philadelphia (and possibly other parts of the East Coast) is youse or youse guys. In Jersey, it tends to be just you guys.
In the South, one can also hear a few unique phrases such as might could for "might be able to" or fixing to for "about to." "Fixing to" is sometimes compressed to "Fit'nta" or "Finta" - either of these is stereotypically an urban black term but that's not strictly true anymore.
"Fixing to" as heard in the state of Georgia: "Fisin' to".
You may also hear "finna" or "fitna" among African-Americans (which is also short for "fixing to"), as in "I'm finna go to the store".
There is also the phrase bless his/her heart, which is sometimes half-jokingly referred to as "the worst of all Southern curses." It is usually spoken by women, and be aware that it means you are likely being pitied and thought of as a bit slow.
"Bless her heart" is basically a term that Southern women use to get away with any amount of insult or condescension (behind someone's back), as if adding a blessing makes the statement any more benevolent or sounds sincere ("Bless her heart, that is the ugliest baby I've ever seen"). A joke is that the more complex and seemingly benign the blessing is ("God bless his pure, sweet heart..."), the more the speaker hates whomever she's referring to.
Another peculiar Southernism is using like to in place of "nearly" or "almost", as in "I like to caught that fish, but he got away." Also used figuratively: "I like to died when I heard what he did."
Pudding in British English can refer to any sweet eaten after the main meal, while American English prefers the term "dessert." A British pudding can also be a thick, rich food like Christmas pudding. In the US, "Pudding" refers only to soft, custardlike sweet foods. While there are certain foods which both US and UK individuals would recognize as "pudding" (like rice pudding which is eaten in both), your average US speaker would probably not refer to a meat-based pudding as such. Similarly, the pudding commonly eaten in the US would probably be recognized by a British person as a custard or blancmange.
In most places, tea is usually used to refer to hot tea, though occasionally you will have to specify "hot tea" to contrast with "ice/iced tea." In many places in the south, if you don't want the super-sugary "sweet tea" popular there, you'll have to specify "unsweetened tea." Elsewhere, ordering iced tea in a restaurant will prompt the question, "Sweet or unsweet [sic]?"
If you say pie to an American, they tend to picture a sweet dessert pie, such as apple or blueberry. They have savory pies made with meat (chicken pot pie and shepherds' pie are both perfectly common), but it's not the first thing they think of.
"Pie" is also shorthand for "pizza pie" in some places, most notably in the vicinity of New York City.
The term "pie" is also used to describe a cymbal, in drumming lingo.
Americans usually use jelly in the context of a fruit or fruit-like spread on sandwiches, often with peanut butter; "jam" is recognized but not particularly common (it's more likely to be used in the context of being stuck—e.g., a traffic jam—or music—e.g., a jam session). What those in Britain refer to as "jelly" is normally Jell-O in the United States. It's a brand-name but has fallen into generic usage.
Americans use the term collect generally to refer to things. If you say you're going to "collect" someone, it has a connotation that they have no choice in the matter, like they're being taken into custody. Normally, you'd say, "I'll pick you up" or "I'll come get you." Picking up (eg. "Let's pick up chicks, man") also refers to flirting with women, but it's a different context.
In the context of telephony it denotes what in Britain is called a "reverse charge" call.
Making out means kissing. [Playing] tonsil hockey is used similarly.
"Making out" can also be used in the sense of "doing", as in, "How have you been doing?" ("How are you making out?")
Related: hooking up refers to any romantic activity that's more intimate than kissing, up to and include sexual intercourse, and usually carries a connotation of being casual and without greater commitment, i.e. "We hooked up once at a party, but I wouldn't date her." Sometimes you can "hook up" with friends without there being any sexual meaning to the phrase; it just means meeting up. The term is intentionally vague so that you can tell your buddies "I hooked up with Jenna" so they will overestimate what was done when in actuality all that happened was some heavy petting and then out for ice cream.
Similar term with a different meaning: Hooking someone up is slang for providing them with something they wouldn't ordinarily be able to get. (e.g. "Hey man, can you hook me up with some concert tickets?") This generally implies that you have special access to the item in question.
Mathematics (both generally and specifically the field of study in school) is called math, not "maths". Saying "maths" immediately marks you as British.
Sporting events and recreational activities are referred to as sports, not "sport". If you refer to something as "sport" then we'll think you're talking about hunting.
That said, a single specific type of event is still called a sport.
And a sport can also mean a player in context of sportsmanship such as "he's a good sport", "he's a poor sport", or just "he's a sport" with the assumption being good sport. Similarly sport can be used to mean the competitive spirit of enjoying a challenge as in "where's the sport in that?"
Vacation is what Americans might call a "holiday", this break from school/work is called a "vacation" or a "break." A recreational trip somewhere is also called a "vacation." Holiday is used only to refer to special days that generally get people out of work or school, such as Christmas or the Fourth of July. Using "holiday" to mean "vacation" is recognized, but rare.
When something is the shit, then it is great. Something that is just shit is the opposite. (Brits should think of the difference between "the dog's bollocks" and just "bollocks.")
If someone is in deep shit then they're in serious trouble. You may occasionally hear in the shit from military personnel, which generally means in a combat zone, and often means being actively in combat.
Guy (pronounced the standard, non-French way, so as to rhyme with "fry") is what Americans say instead of "bloke". It means exactly the same. The plural, "guys," can mean a group of males or a mixed-gender group, but never a group of females (except in the Jersey/Midwest "you guys" sense). "Guy" also has a negative connotation in the military, in particular the Army, whose non-commissioned officers often use it as a substitute for other vivid language in an attempt to cast a more 'professional' image. May often be used at civilians' expense or as a jest between junior enlisted.
Dude is also used commonly, despite the surfer-and-valley-girl connotations the word has. You can just as easily refer to a man as "dude" than "guy", and there will be no problem. Referring to a group of people as "dudes" is also acceptable, even if the group has girls in it.
However, using "dudette" to refer to a girl makes you sound like you walked out of a bad 60s surfer movie.
Solicitors are people who are trying to sell you something (with the connotation of being annoying; many businesses and some homes will have signs saying "No Soliciting" or "No Solicitors" out front for the very purpose of trying to dissuade them). Someone who practices law is a lawyer or attorney, used interchangeably. Jurist is also used for someone who practices law but doesn't make court appearances, but only in law school. If you're talking about the solicitor as in the kind that handles estate matters, then you want an executor (pronounced "ex-EGG-yu-tor". Yes, like the Pokemon).
The U.S. does make a distinction with what we call types of lawyers. Trial lawyers, whom most Brits might call barristers (Scots call them advocates), are counselors-at-law—hence why you often hear "Counselor" used as a title on Law & Order. A lawyer dealing with non-court legal matters—wills, articles of incorporation, etc.—are known as attorneys-at-law rather than solicitors. In short, if you want some advice on how stupid what you're planning is, you want to see an attorney. After you did the stupid thing and you need someone to represent you in court to help you get out of the legal hot water your stupidity put you in, you'll want a counselor. This distinction is rapidly disappearing in many areas of the US, however, with a fused legal profession fulfilling all responsibilities.
The game noughts and crosses is almost universally known in America as tic-tac-toe, and using the former will probably incite at least a little confusion.
Checkers are, likewise, what you might call 'draughts' in the United States. And some Americans might struggle with how to pronounce 'draughts'. Drafts can refer to beer, wayward wind currents ("Do you feel a draft?"), military conscription, the first version of a piece of writing, or driving very close behind another car.
Shit-eating grin is a mischievous smile done in contemplation of doing some dastardly or naughty deed. Similar in meaning to "grinning like the cat that ate the canary". It can also mean a very forced smile given by someone who is obviously not happy but is trying to hide it.
Mom is used instead of "mum". Mama and Ma are generally used by children, but it's not entirely unheard of to hear an adult say them. Mommy is the exclusive domain of children and sometimes younger women, and any male above ten or so using it is likely to be ridiculed or he's just being silly (or they're just scared silly).
Teams are treated as singular nouns. In other words, to an American, when you talk about a team, you are talking about the team as a whole, not the individual members. You can still talk about the team members, but to do so requires stating so. This also applies to companies, political parties, or any other group of people.
But if the team name is itself plural (this is the case for most sports teams, but not usually, for example, companies), you use a plural verb anyway. In other words, the verb agrees with the actual name of the group, rather than parts versus whole. Thus, for example, if the Oakland Raiders win a game, you might say "Oakland has won," or "the Raiders have won." Similarly, a political news story could include a sentence like "The Democrats have called for legislation but Congress hasn't acted."
And if you support and are cheering on a specific team, you are said to root for them. There is no sexual connotation at all with the word, in contrast to its antipodean usage - they use the term barrack to refer to supporting a team. (The song "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" probably sounds very amusing to Australians due to this.)
The syntax for a job title is not title name for whatever, it's title nameofwhatever. What this says about leadership philosophies on opposite sides of the pond belongs on a different page.
Line power is the American term for what Commonwealth countries call mains power. And you'll rarely hear an American use the term, either - this is mainly due to the fact that Americans don't wire their buildings in a massive loop circuit directly connected to the the powerline. Instead, the powerline comes into a central control panel—technically called a service, but usually referred to as a fusebox or breaker box, where it's stepped down (excepting certain high-draw appliance lines) and split out into independent circuits.
Americans use cord in many contexts where Brits would use "cable", "wire" or "lead" (rhymes with "feed"). An American line cord is a British "mains lead". "Cable" and "wire" in this context might be understood by an American, but "lead" probably won't.
In the DC metropolitan area, if you hear the initialism "DMV," it's very likely that whomever is not referring to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Over the last several years, more and more people have been referring to this area as the D(C)M(aryland)V(irginia). In Maryland it's not called the DMV, it's called the MVA (Maryland Vehicle Association).
Of course, most DCers just call it "The DC metroplex", "the DC metropolitan area", or "the tri-state area". Or "I live in DC, ok? You want my house number, too?" Delmarva (DELaware, MARyland, VA (the state code for Virginia)" refers to the area of southeastern Virginia, Delaware, and Maryland's eastern shore.
Cunt is extremely offensive—possibly, barring racial slurs, one of the most offensive words you can use, and one almost exclusively aimed at people (if it's not referring to the vagina itself). (You won't hear anyone over here saying "I had a cunt of a day.") Almost always applied to women, though if you want to truly insult a man, you could call him one. It's seen as extremely sexist and degrading. Either way, don't be surprised if you get punched or kicked in the balls for it. Of course, if you're using the term to refer to a vagina, then it's just considered dirty and rude. For example, if you say "My girl is going to the gynecologist to get her cunt checked out", then it'd be considered rude, but not offensive. It's only offensive when referring to women, as in "She's a cunt". This is why people were so shocked when certain pundits started using the C-word to describe Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton. The implication is that a cunt is an uppity, man-hating harpy of a woman. If you say "He's a cunt", people might be confused, because men don't have cunts! But don't risk it, anyway.
Yankee or Yank applies to people from the northeastern states. Use of the word 'Yank' rather than 'Yankee' is extremely uncommon, and will likely mark you as a foreigner. Never, ever call someone from the Deep South a Yankee; they will likely be willing to kill over this. Those from other parts of the U.S. may not appreciate it, either. Of course, if you're clearly British and refer to us as Yanks, and you're not doing it in a pejorative way, most people will be fine with it and find it amusing. As EB White summed it up:
To foreigners, a Yankee is an American. To Americans, a Yankee is a Northerner. To Northerners, a Yankee is a Northeasterner. To Northeasterners, a Yankee is a New Englander. To New Englanders, a Yankee is a Vermonter. And in Vermont, a Yankee is somebody who eats pie for breakfastnote see above comment about pie referring typically to sweet, rather than savory, pies
As a side note, if you hear someone talking about "the Yankees" or "the Yanks" in America, there's a good chance that they're referring to New York's baseball team rather than any of the above.
Shotgun can refer to either a gun or the passenger seat in a car: if someone wants to ride as the front passenger, they might say "I call shotgun" or "I'm riding shotgun". (The term dates from the Wild West era, when stagecoaches frequently required an armed guard; he would sit out on top of the coach to the right of the horses' driver.)
Tramp. Although it can mean a homeless person or person down on his luck which is still remembered for Charlie Chaplin's character "Little Tramp", it's a term mostly known for a woman of loose morals. Calling someone a tramp, especially a woman, would be rather insulting. The closest equivalent "strumpet". Someone being referred to as a tramp may also have a tramp stamp, which is a tattoo on the lower back, just above the ass.
A truck is what we call it instead of a "lorry". A lorry to us is a type of bird.
A similar term is semi (pronounced SEM-eye), which refers specifically to large trailer-trucks of the sort used to haul freight cross-country.
A parakeet is what we call "budgerigars" or "budgies", though the latter is accepted. This term has most ornithologists tearing their hair out because budgies are not parakeets. Parakeets are a completely separate genus. No one knows how the terms got crossed.
We don't say to let, because that verb doesn't mean "rent" here. We say for rent or for lease instead. Many Americans are tempted to graffiti such signs with an "i" to make it say "toilet". (And some do just that.) If you say it, we'll know what you mean, but we'll still find it archaic and slightly amusing.
Trailer for sale or rent / rooms to let, fifty cents
Likewise, you rent a car, or a steam cleaner or any other piece of equipment you plan to use for only a brief period of time; such equipment is referred to as a rental. Hire is used only in the sense of paid employment of humans.
Exception: The term "let" is sometimes used by lawyers in the law of landlord and tenant.
Geezer is not just any person in general. In America, this specifically is an insulting term for an old man, implying senility, feebleness, and being old-fashioned in general. Speaking of which...
Old man as a slang term refers to one's father. You'll see this in gangster movies as "Eh, so's yer old man", which is equivalent to "Yo momma". One might also ask politely and sincerely "So, how's your old man doing?". On the other hand, old lady, as in "your old lady", refers to one's wife. No, this doesn't make sense. Especially when talking about your old man's old lady.
Also a slang term in the Navy for a ship's captain, generally used in an affectionate way, and it exclusively refers to the captain of the ship the sailor is from (Eg. "The old man said to..."). It probably derives from captains traditionally being old(er) men than most of the rest of the crew.
The ol' ball and chain is a disparaging way to refer to one's spouse, usually in reference to the wife. The implication is that you're stuck in a stale marriage and that means you're restricted from having fun due to obligations now that you have a family, as if the bachelors are out having more fun. So the idea is that being stuck in a marriage is like being stuck in prison (prisons used to attach men to heavy balls chained to their legs to prevent escape). This is why the term is almost always used around a bunch of men. Never say this phrase to a married woman. She won't like it.
Americans all know that the season between summer and winter is called autumn, but you will also hear us refer to it as fall, a term long obsolete on the other side of the Atlantic. (Hence the Kenny Chesney song "The Boys of Fall", about high school football players, who play in the autumn.)
SATs are what the Americans complete at the end of high school, and need to get into their chosen university. Also, be noted that they do have an option of taking the ACT instead, and neither test is required to graduate high school unless you're hoping to enter college. Some colleges (mostly private ones) are becoming "test-optional", meaning that you can apply without having taken either the SAT or ACT and you can be accepted based on other factors, although if you do submit test scores, they will be taken into account. This is still quite rare, however, and most schools require at least one of the major tests.
Short bus rider is an insulting term for a mentally challenged person (comparable to the British "window licker" who rides the "special bus"). The term comes from the smaller school buses used to transport special-needs students (including those were were physically handicapped) to and from school and their particular learning/developmental centers; they carried fewer people on the trips and stopped at each house (rather than once on each street), making a smaller bus more convenient. Riding the short bus is a related phrase used to describe when someone is carrying the Idiot Ball.
"Smartest kid on the short bus" is a backhanded insult for someone who is the "best of a bad bunch." It's a slightly more insulting way of saying that someone is the "biggest fish in a small pond."
Son of a bitch, although still rather vulgar, can counter-intuitively be used in sympathetic ("that poor son of a bitch") or positive (see Forrest Gump: "That son of a bitch can run!") contexts, akin to "cunt" in British English. It can also be used as an expletive, as in "Son of a bitch, that's gotta be the fifth time!"
Flashlights are what you shine into dark rooms as opposed to torches (sometimes called electric torches, but not often in the UK.), which is usually used to refer exclusively to rods with a flammable cloth wrapped around one end in the US.
In some areas of the US, particularly in the Midwest and northern Appalachia, anymore can be used in a positive context as well as a negative one, where most other dialects would use "now[adays]" or "these days." Thus, a speaker from one of these areas would say, "It's hard to get a job around here anymore" or "Most people anymore are using their computers all day." This construction can be confusing to someone who's not familiar with the construction, as they may assume they simply didn't hear the "not" and assume they mean the opposite of what they're actually trying to say.
A van can be an enclosed cargo vehicle as in Britain, or a windowed passenger carrier of either the type known as a minibus or a family people-mover type, but never a commercial vehicle with an open loadspace; pickups, flatbeds and stakebeds share the "truck" designation with bigger haulers.
Senior citizen (old-age pensioner), college senior (person in the final year of undergraduate studies) and high school senior (person in the final year of secondary school) all commonly shorten to just "senior(s)" leaving just how old the person or demographic referred to dependent on context.