British English in “A Street Cat Named Bob”

“There’s a famous quote I read somewhere. It says we are all given second chances every day of our lives. They are there for the taking, it’s just that we don’t usually take them.”

from “A Street Cat Named Bob” by James Bowen

“A Street Cat Named Bob” is an amazing true story of one man and his cat, a worldwide bestseller which inspired a film. If you haven’t read the book or watched the film, you might want to do that because the story is so moving and uplifting it will surely touch your heart.

This post will look at British English vocabulary used by the author of the book. We’ll also give the American English counterparts and the extracts which contain the vocabulary. We hope you’ll find the post interesting and useful. Please read on…

British EnglishAmerican English

  • Charity shop (thrift shop) – a shop belonging to a charity that sells things that people have given to it: We were going to eat a cheap takeaway curry and watch a movie on the small black and white television set I’d managed to find in a charity shop round the corner. 
  • Lift (elevator), apartment block/block of flats (apartment building/house): As usual, the lift in the apartment block wasn’t working. There was a camp of travellers (travelers) on some land near my block of flats
  • Ground floor (first floor) – the floor of a building that is at or near the level of the ground: The strip lighting in the hallway was broken and part of the ground floor was swathed in darkness. 
  • Flat (apartment (usually)): I hadn’t seen him around the flats before. 
  • Chap – man (informal): Poor chap, I think he’s a stray. 
  • Mate – friend (informal): Hello, mate. I’ve not seen you before.
  • Bloke – man (informal): The centre (center) was packed with dogs and their owners, most of whom seemed to be young teenage blokes
  • Sod – someone you feel sorry for (impolite): Well, I may think my life is bad, but it could be worse, I could be that poor sod.
  • Sheltered accommodation – a group of houses or flats for people who cannot live in a completely independent way, for example because they are disabled. They can get help from trained staff when they need it: I was a failed musician and recovering drug addict living a hand-to-mouth existence in sheltered accommodation
  • Quid – a pound in money: I was going to once more try and earn a few quid busking. 
  • Tracksuit (sweatsuit) – loose trousers (pants (usually)) and a loose top that you wear especially before or after exercising: He was wearing a T-shirt and a pair of tracksuit bottoms. 
  • Rucksack (backpack/pack (usually)): “OK, mate, you are coming with me,” I said, digging into my rucksack for the box of biscuits (cookies).
  • Telly (TV): Apart from he telly, all I had in there was a second-hand sofa bed and a mattress in the corner of the small bedroom.
  • Cooker (stove (usually)): There was no cooker
  • Curiosity shop – a shop selling unusual items and curios: A friend once called my place the old curiosity shop
  • Lamp post (street lamp/street light (usually)): There was almost always a photocopied appeal for the return of a missing pet plastered on local lamp posts, noticeboards (bulletin boards) and even bus stops. 
  • Moggy – cat: There seemed to be so many missing moggies.
  • Tearaway – a young person who does dangerous, silly, or illegal things that often get them into trouble: I became a tearaway
  • Pain in the arse (pain in the ass) – a very annoying person (impolite): I was a complete pain in the arse
  • Dole office – job center (informal): They wrote the dole office saying I’d quit the job. Dole (unemployment compensation) – money that people who do not have a job get from the government.
  • Squat – a house where people live without permission and without paying the owner: I was leading a nomadic existence, carrying my sleeping bag with me to various flats and squats around London. 
  • Chemist/chemist’s (drugstore) – a shop where drugs and medicines are sold or given out: For a while, the daily trip to the chemist became the focus of my life. 
  • Newsagent/newsagent’s (newsstand) – a shop selling newspapers, magazines, confectionery, etc.: The Abbey Clinic is a small place sandwiched between a newsagent and a medical centre on a parade (a short row of shops, usually set back from the main street) of shops on Dalton Lane
  • Mobile – a mobile phone (cellphone/cellular phone): I didn’t have a working mobile
  • Railway station – train station (railroad station): I decided to take my chances around the nearest railway station
  • Operating theatre (operating room) – a special room in a hospital where surgeons carry out medical operations: I didn’t want to think about Bob in the operating theatre (theater).
  • Lorry (truck) – a large vehicle that is used to transport goods by road: This morning, as usual, cars, lorries and motorbikes (motorcycles) were carving their way along the road. 
  • Kerb (curb) – the edge of a pavement (sidewalk) that is nearest to the road: He focused on the road, nudging himself nearer the edge of the kerb.
  • The tube – the underground railway system in London: I was going to get off at my usual bus stop near Tottenham Court Road tube station.
  • Black cab – a type of taxi in the UK whose drivers are officially tested and organized so that they all provide the same quality of service: He’d have been crushed by one of the buses or black cabs.
  • Holiday/holidays (vacation) – a period of time during which you relax and enjoy yourself away from home: They turned out to be Swedish teenagers on holiday.
  • Fag – cigarette (informal): Office workers unwound after their day’s work with a pint (a pint of beer (informal)) and a fag
  • Piss off – go away (rude): Piss off, you scrounger.
  • Note (bill) – banknote: There were hundreds of coins of all denominations as well as a few notes.
  • Tin (can): I treated myself to a couple of nice tins of lager. 
  • Carrier bag (shopping bag (usually)): I was overwhelmed by the tempting smells coming out from the brown carrier bag
  • Bin (garbage/trash can): He trotted off towards the area where the bins were kept. 
  • Rubbish (trash/garbage (usually)): I wasn’t too happy about him rooting around in the rubbish
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London hadn’t quite shaken off the winter and it was bitingly cold on the streets, especially when the winds blew in off the Thames… (from “A Street Cat Named Bob”)

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