Brit-pick hints for Sherlock authors
The differences between British and American terminology and culture below are all ones I have seen in Sherlock fic or that are likely to come up in Sherlock fic. It is not exhaustive and I know that I will think of or spot at least 10 more as soon as I post this, but it is a start. If you have read fic set in America written by a Brit you will know that these things jar and spoil the flow quite a lot, so here you go.
There are several official sites with far more comprehensive coverage, but these seem to be most common in Sherlock, especially closet, obligated, gotten and missing prepositions/ands. As there are far fewer Brits than Americans, I imagine it is not always easy to find a Brit-picker. I hope this helps.
Please feel free to save it, link it, copy it, paste it, post it elsewhere, whatever you want. All’s fair in love and high-quality fic. Any things I have missed or got wrong, please let me know in the comments. Thank you :D
• Gotten – ALWAYS use got, never ever ever in the world of EVER do we say gotten. You can global search and replace for them :D But not forgotten – we do have a gotten in there! Also I have seen “I would never have gotten the opportunity” we would say there “I would never have HAD the opportunity”
• apartment - flat
• co-worker - colleague
• gas - petrol or diesel (the fuel; depends on the car which it is) and accelerator (the pedal - 'put yout foot on the accelerator' to go faster, or just 'put your foot down'). Also most cars have manual gear change, not automatics. We drive on the left.
• gas station - petrol station
• cell phone / cell - mobile phone / mobile / quite often now, it's just phone - "get my phone from my pocket, John"
• Elevator - lift
• Ass - arse or bottom; asshole - arsehole. As an insult, use arse for asshole
• Night stand - Bedside table / bedside cabinet
• Sidewalk - pavement
• Stoop – step
• normalcy – normality
• garbage or trash – rubbish
• trash can – bin. Large ones are wheelie bins
• Wager – bet
• Store – shop (or supermarket for the big food shops like Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrison’s)
• Mall – shopping centre (some are now called malls though, but these tend to be large out-of-town-centre places)
• Obligated - obliged
• Momentarily - very soon, in a moment
• curse/cuss – swear ('curse' as a term is mostly reserved for witchy things)
• Washcloth – flannel or facecloth
• Start over - start again
• Trunk (back of car) – boot
• Hood (front of car) – bonnet
• Faucet - tap
• Quit – stop. Quit is only really used for resigning from your job.
• Mom – Mum or Mother
• Pop / Pa – Dad or Father
• Aluminum – aluminium
• Check – cheque (the paper thing for getting money from your bank to someone else’s. The fabric pattern ‘check’ we spell the same)
• Check - bill (the thing that tells you how much to pay at a restaurant). E.g. ”I’ll just ask for the bill”
• Gaol / jail – prison. Temporary police custody is called exactly that or ‘in the cells’
• Cop – policeman. A policeman or woman 'on the beat' is usually a constable; inspectors do the investigating. The Police don't carry guns unless part of an armed response unit. People in general in the UK do not carry guns. There are very, very strict licensing requirements. I presume John's gun is illegally held. If you have a major police role in your fic, get a brit-picker who knows what they are talking about with respect to police procedure here.
• Backyard / yard - Back garden / garden. As long as there is the smallest piece of grass, or a flower bed and no grass, hell, even just a pot of herbs, we would normally call it a garden. Only if it is completely concrete/paved and used to store bikes and bins would be call it a yard. It’s probably a trying-to-be-posh thing. School playgrounds are often called yards.
• Closet – wardrobe. This is usually a piece of furniture here, not a room. If it is a room it is called a walk-in wardrobe or a dressing room. A small room NOT directly off a bedroom is often called a box room – about the size of a single bed or two. These are not uncommon in medium and large Victorian/Edwardian houses. Even smaller built-in rooms are called cupboards, even if floor-ceiling size. Also bed sizes – single, double, king, super-king.
FOOD AND DRINK AND COOKING.
• Candy – sweets
• Soda – use the name of the drink – cola, coke, pepsi, lemonade, 7-up or whatever.
• Take-out - takeaway
• Steep (tea) – brew. Unless it is a herb tea in which case it infuses. More info on tea below.
• Jello – jelly
• Jelly – jam (unless it is quince jelly or another clear jam that has been sieved)
• Broil – grill (a verb and a noun. Apparently most cookers in US have a single oven with a broil setting? We tend to have 2 ovens, a main oven and a grill all as part of a single cooker. We grill steaks or sausages or cheese on toast under it)
See under 'cultural things' for lots more about tea, dairy products, fried potatoes and eggs. In so much detail you may well lose the will to live.
CLOTHES AND GROOMING.
• Bangs - fringe
• Braids – plaits; braiding – plaiting
• Zipper - zip
• panty hose - tights
• panties - knickers
• Plaid – check / checked (general square pattern) or tartan (the colourful Scottish stuff)
• Flannel (in mid-west usage) – shirt! E.g. checked shirt
• Purse - handbag (with phone, tissues lipstick etc in). Women keep money, credit cards, stamps etc in what we call a purse (U.S. wallet?) which lives in their handbag. Men have a wallet the same as in the U.S.
• Vest – waistcoat (our vests are what you, I think, call undershirts – sleeveless tops to wear underneath a shirt in winter). A suit with a waistcoat is called a three-piece suit.
• Undershirt - Vest
• Shorts (underwear) – boxers, y-fronts, or the generic term is underpants, sometimes just pants. ‘It’ is plural for a single pair of underpants – “these underpants need to go in the wash, they are filthy”. When we say underwear it is a generic term for underclothing in general or a collective term (your underwear drawer), not used to refer to a single item of underwear as is common in the U.S.
• Pants – trousers (see above) Sherlock going out in a vest and pants would look very different to what you are thinking, and would probably get him arrested!
• Sneakers – trainers
• Suspenders (suspender belt) = a lacy and/or silky belt and dangly straps arrangement used to hold up women's stockings. The alternative is garters (lacy elastic things that go around the thigh). The things that hold men's trousers up are called braces. This is also the term for orthodontic contraptions to align your teeth. Just to add to the confusion.
Phrases / usage / prepositions
• Couple weeks etc Couple OF weeks etc
• I’ll see you Friday etc – we always have an ON before a day of the week
• Come see etc - come AND see, come AND look etc
• Go get, go see, go grab, go cook etc – go AND get, go TO see, go AND see, go AND make etc etc as above with come.
• Already. We don’t use ‘already’ at the end of a sentence for speeding someone up to do something. Well, it is creeping in a little because it is so ubiquitous in the States, but I don’t think John or Sherlock would use it.
• Is all – we don’t say that as you do in “I’m tired is all”. Probably replace with “it’s just that I’m tired” or whatever
• Off of - off or from. "The smell emanating off of" would be "emanating from", "get off of my roof" would be just "get off my roof"
• Being pissed in the UK means being drunk rather than being annoyed. But 'pissed off' DOES mean annoyed. And the verb to piss is to urinate as it is in the States. Hours of entertainment here. Taking the piss can mean taking the micky (mocking, poking fun) and can mean taking advantage of a person or organisation or system - for example coming in to work 30 minutes late every day. You can only tell by the context. And we would be as or more likely to say wee or pee than piss, but some do say piss, blokes might take a leak or have a slash. I have no idea what John and Sherlock would do!
• I guess – unless we are actually making a quantitative estimate, we would usually say ‘I suppose he thinks...’ or ‘I suppose so’ or ‘I presume so.’
• Dumb – not used for stupid, only used for unable to speak.
• Bathroom – means the room in which we there is a bath, not used for ‘going to the toilet’ in the way you use ‘going to the bathroom’. Some say going to the loo instead of toilet. When out in a pub or restaurant we’d say “I’m going to the ladies” or “I’m going to the gents”. Technically they should have an apostrophe because they are short for Ladies’ room and Gentlemen’s room, but the apostrophe is never used. We don’t use the term washroom or restroom at all. A bathroom/shower room and toilet leading straight off a bedroom or hotel room is usually termed the en suite bathroom or just en suite. A tiled area in an actual bathrooom or shower room is plural - tiles, rather than the American tile.
• We do use 'to line up', but we also use ‘to queue’ as a verb rather that ‘wait in line’, and The queue is a line of people in the bank or wherever.
• We say ‘That’s sorted’ without needing the ‘out’ at the end but it is still correct with an ‘out’
• Herb - we pronounce the h so it is a herb not an herb. Ditto a hotel (unless you are very posh English aristocracy in which case it is an hotel)
• Floors/storeys - U.S 1st floor = UK ground floor; U.S. 2nd floor = U.K. 1st floor etc.
• In the UK, a public school is a very posh aristocracy-ridden fee-paying independent school (Eton, Harrow etc); lesser fee-paying schools are called Independent schools (or private schools, but less so nowadays); and the every-day publicly run schools are state schools. Church schools are mostly voluntary-aided state schools (some extra money and/or control and input from the Church), although there are of course Independent fee-paying Church schools as well.
• From ages 2 1/2 - 4, optional, we go to Nursery / Preschool; from 4 - 11 it is Primary school (sometimes these are separate, 4-7 is an Infant School or Infants and 7-11 is a Junior school or Juniors); 11-18 - High School, Secondary School or Senior School. Their official name is usually High School, but this depends. A few counties still have middle schools to cover upper juniors/lower secondary school. A cohort of pupils is called a year not a grade. We sit GCSEs at 16 and 'A' Levels at 18 before going on to University. Anyone around 40 or older will have done 'O' levels not GCSEs at 16. People born after 31st August 1971 (Martin by 8 days) would have sat GCSEs at 16.
• We did not have 'Proms' when Sherlock and John left High School. They HAVE spread across the Atlantic now though.
• We do not graduate from High School, we just leave. It is almost unheard of for people to be kept back a year, we don't 'pass' or fail a year, and schoolwork is marked not graded. We DO graduate from University. Often University is called College these days to cover a multitude of sins, but John and Sherlock would talk about their time at Uni. If either went to Oxford or Cambridge, they would have had a college as well (Magdalen, Jesus College etc).
• If any of this education information is important to your fic, get a brit picker, it is another minefield and very different to your education system
• Snow – very rare in central London. Urban heat island and all that. If it does fall, it usually melts very quickly.
• British insults – bastard, bitch, wanker, moron, arse, git, bloody/fucking idiot. Bitch is quite a severe insult here, exclusively used for women, not yet reclaimed to the certain extent as it has been in the States. We tend not to use motherfucker or son of a bitch. See comments section below for more options and a link
• Kettles are electric and are almost exclusively used, we rarely use stove top whistling ones and we don’t make tea by heating water in a microwave.
• Toasters – for toasting bread. Everyone has them. We make toast like there is no tomorrow.
• The smallest note we have is £5. We use pound sterling not Euros, and pounds are coins. We also have £2 coins. Pence is the unit, 100 pence to a pound like your cents.
• Drugstores have we none! We have 'chemists' which are shops that sell shampoo etc, and within them is a pharmacy part that dispenses prescriptions, with a pharmacist in charge of the dispensing. The whole shop is often called a pharmacy. There are also pharmacy counters in Supermarkets.
• TEA: made with boiling water from an electric kettle, usually with milk, served hot in mugs. Usually made with tea bags, occasionally leaf tea. Nowadays most people would make 2 mugs of tea rather than a pot, but Sherlock and John might make a pot. They would never drink Lipton’s or other instant tea. Instant tea is very rare here, as is iced tea. Hot tea drinking is as common or more so than coffee drinking, especially at home. Often called a cuppa, though J & S probably would mostly say tea, or mug of tea or cup of tea (even if served in a mug!)
• MILK: skimmed, semi-skimmed and full fat/whole. Semi-skimmed is the most popular. Sadly, the milkman and his reusable glass botles are on their way out. John and Sherlock buy their milk from a shop so it will not be in a glass bottle but in a plastic container. We don't say 'bottle of milk' in the fridge, we just say 'get the milk from the fridge'. CREAM: Single (for pouring), double (thicker) and whipping cream. Yes really... And once the whipping cream (which is runny) has BEEN whisked it becomes whipped cream.
• MEALS: Breakfast, lunch and tea/dinner/supper - depending on circumstances and class.
EGGS. My GOD, the drama of eggs.
• Fried eggs are made in frying a pan with hot fat, cooked only on one side.
• Boiled eggs are served in their shells with a spoon to bash the top or a knife to slice it. They come in egg cups, and are often soft boiled. You eat them by scooping spoonfuls of egg out of the shell with a spoon. Any Adam Lambert fans who follow his brother Neil will know about the boiled egg fiasco on twitter. It was massively entertaining. I had no idea soft boiled eggs served in their shells in eggcups could cause the collapse of international relations.
• If they are dropped into boiling water without their shells or cooked over water in little hemispherical dishes/pans, they are called poached eggs.
• Scrambled eggs are the ones beaten with milk and stirred as they cook to make a yellow mess that looks like cottage cheese, and finally
• Omelettes in the UK are spelt like that – double t and an e on the end. They are usually served with salad as a light meal, not for breakfast.
• A large breakfast including eggs, bacon, sausage, black pudding, fried bread etc is called a fry-up colloquially or a cooked breakfast or full English breakfast if being posher. Hash browns are an American import becoming very popular but fried bread is the more traditional thing to use in their place. Often served with baked beans, which I understand are different to yours - in a tomoato sauce not a sweeter browner sauce.
• We eat baked beans ALL THE TIME! – often on toast. Look up Heinz Baked Beans to see. Can be used for the sort of lunch even Sherlock can cook. Once he has taken the eyeballs out of the microwave. ETA: - John even suggests, just before the pool incident, that Sherlock should buy some milk and perhaps beans. He means baked beans not green beans, runner beans or Mexican jumping beans ;p
The potato in all its fried manifestations
• In the UK, Chips = deep fried thick cut potato batons. Called steak fries and possibly home fries in the US? When bought form a chip shop, they are usually served with salt and vinegar. Often dipped in ketchup, sometimes mayo or brown sauce (HP sauce)
• UK Fries = deep fried thin cut potato julienne. Think Macdonalds... Same as in the US?
• UK Crisps - deep fried thin cut potato slices, long shelf life, bought in packets. Called chips in the US I believe. Things like Doritos and Quavers and Wotsits also count as crisps - they can be potato or corn/maize based.
• UK Specials/Scallops (depending on region) - thick cut potato slices, battered and deep fried. Found in most chip shops along with chips
• If John ever does manage to get Sherlock in the Underground, look it all up – ticketing via oysters, which lines run where – it’s a minefield. Easier to stick to taxis (cabs). Use the Transport For London website tfl.gov.uk
• Talking of which, Black cabs (taxis) can pick you up anywhere. They have 5 seats in the back, three facing the front in a bench seat, and two flip-up ones facing backwards. Mini-cabs can be saloons (sedans) or hatchbacks and have to be phoned for in advance and requested to pick you up at a certain location.
Also if there is porn involved, both sides of the Atlantic, it is coming and come never cum. Though not many Sherlock authors do that – you are all far too lovely :D Also, most British men are not circumcised. Just sayin' ;p