LONDON — Americans arriving for the London Olympics will find that the chasm between British and American English can seem as large as the ocean that separates the two nations. Here's a primer:
Brilliant. The land that gave us the poetic cadence of William Shakespeare now places everything into one of two categories: brilliant and rubbish. Shades of gray are not permitted. Brilliant does not mean smart or ingenious. It can mean anything from "OK," "great" or "fun" to "stop asking questions." Each of the 542 British Olympic athletes is likely capable of using the phrase 10 times in a single news conference.
Brolly. Essential British accoutrement also known as an umbrella, carried by men and women alike daily without embarrassment. See weather.
Football. A way of life not related to the American game with helmets. Describing this as "soccer" might get your teeth knocked out in a bar fight (see trollied).
Gutted. An emotion beyond "disappointed" but not quite "suicidal." Unlike fish, British athletes can be gutted more than once.
Kettle. Electric device used to boil water for tea. Also the British police practice of corralling protesters.
The loo. The toilet.
Oy tink. Phrase heard with increasing urgency in bars as the night goes on and the sports debate gets more heated. Alternate spelling: "I think."
Punter. Nothing to do with a fourth down. A bettor in a land where casinos are as common as pharmacies.
Rain. Too many variations to list.
Rubbish. See brilliant. No plural. Conjugate as: "I was rubbish," "we were rubbish," "the ref was rubbish," "the decision to ban me for doping was rubbish." Occasionally also used to mean "garbage."
Trollied. Drunk, as in taking too much from the drinks trolley. Alcohol has fueled so many bar fights in Britain that one firm created a pint glass that doesn't shatter so it can't be used as a weapon.
Weather. See brolly. Also see rubbish.