British roots: 25 Things we wish the U.S. didn't leave behind

Jul 2, 2013 at 7:00 a.m. ET

Ever try talking with a British accent? You probably sounded ridiculous! There are some things we Americans wish we could borrow from the British.

Our British roots

American flag and UK flag

Ever try talking with a British accent? You probably sounded ridiculous!
There are some things we Americans wish we could borrow from the British.


We love our freedom, but there are things our British cousins say, do and play that we sometimes wish came over across the pond. Check out some of the fun things that are truly, totally British!

Words and phrases

Sign for a lift

Even if you don't have an Uncle Bob, the phrase "Bob's your uncle" is used in Great Britain as a way to express the sentiment, "And there you have it."

Wouldn't you love it if Americans used the word "blimey" when they were surprised? As in, "She got that promotion? Blimey!"

"Instead of getting the promotion, Jessica was made redundant." Huh? That's the equivalent of being fired from a job.

Saying "bloody" in Great Britain is more on the mild side of swearing (think of the word "damn"). You may remember hearing it in the movie My Fair Lady ("Not bloody likely").

Who doesn't love a word with multiple meanings? Friends in Great Britain say "cheers" to each other to mean goodbye or thank you, making it more colloquial in nature.

If your friend Steven was at the pub chatting up a pretty blonde, he was flirting with her.

You've been instructed to "Take the lift to the 25th floor." Look for the elevator.

If you're driving and your passenger tells you to look out for the lorry, they mean the truck up ahead.

Food and drinks

Fish and chips

When you order fish and chips in Great Britain and expect to find potato chips on the side, you'll be surprised. The "chips" are actually french fries.

If what you really want are potato chips, ask for a packet of "crisps."

When you're served tea and biscuits, you'll get tea and what Americans recognize as cookies (like the shortbread variety).

Meeting friends for a pint at the end of the workday? Enjoy your beer! "Pint" is a generic term for beer and refers to the pint-sized glasses it's served in.

Instead of sitting down to dinner at a restaurant, Brits might order takeaway. That would be like placing a to-go order in the U.S.

If you order lemonade in Great Britain you'll get a soda along the lines of Sprite or 7-Up.

Games and sport


Cricket is the national sport of England. It's a bat-and-ball game between two teams of 11 players each (players always wear polo shirts and long pants).

Meeting friends to watch football at the pub means you might see David Beckham running down the field instead of Tom Brady. The British call soccer "football."

Who wouldn't love a day outdoors watching guys briskly riding horses and trying to score goals? Polo is a British sport, but it actually began in Persia.

A game at the pub in Great Britain might include playing snooker, which is similar to the American game of pool.


Bonfire Night

Boxing Day is a public holiday celebrated the day after Christmas. Traditionally, it's when servants and tradesmen received their Christmas box from their employers.

Guy Fawkes Day or Bonfire Night is celebrated on November 5 to commemorate the failed attempt of dissident Guy Fawkes to blow up King James I of England during the opening of Parliament.

May Day is a British public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in May, set to welcome the first day of summer.

Sights and written words

double-decker bus

What could seem more British than double-decker buses and vibrant red telephone booths?

The British are so good about queuing up for the Tube (or lining up in an orderly manner to get on the subway)!

Look up to Big Ben to check if you're late in London!

Where would we be without writers like William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, J.R.R. Tolkien and J.K. Rowling?

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