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The original meaning was "A small plot of land given or sold to farmers for cultivation as an additional source of income prior to World War II." These days allotments are found in cities throughout the UK. Typically they take the form of a small patch of land, perhaps 5 metres by 15 metres, and are rented out by local councils for a nominal fee in order that people can cultivate their own fruit and veg etc.

Link: The Daily Mumble April 2004

Bonfire night

Bonfire Night, or "Guy Fawkes" as it's officially known, is a festival that we celebrate every 4th November thanks to the heroic attempt by Mr. Guy Fawkes a few hundred years back to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London. He smuggled tons of gunpowder into the basement of the building, but was caught shortly before he was to light the fuse. He then endured a most horrendous public death, being hung drawn and quartered or something like that - my history never was that good. Anyhow, nowadays, every November 5th we light huge bonfires in our gardens, on village greens and in other public places. Each fire has a stuffed dummy on top of it representing the late Mr. Fawkes, and as he slowly gets consumed by the flames so the biggest fireworks in the UK are set off, illuminating the night sky for miles around.
Link: The Daily Mumble November 2002

Box, the box

Slang for Television. "Is there anything good on the box?"


There is no letter "L" in the Japanese language, and so it is replaced by the letter "R". Thus "Engrish" means "Japanese English". "Engrish" can be seen all over Japan, in the form of slight spelling mistakes on signs to grammatically correct yet downright ludicrous poetical sayings on anything from post boxes to sweet packets. Want some examples? click here: [a] [b] [c] [d] [e] [f] [g] [h] or check out

Gaijin, gaijin bubble

"gaijin" is Japanese for "foreigner". A Gaijin Bubble is what I lived in between 2000 and 2003, when I was in Switzerland, Italy and Japan. When you are living in a foreign country with an inability to communicate fluently with the local population, you can choose how much you want to plug into reality and how much you want to just be in your own space oblivious to what is really going on around you. This is your protective Gaijin Bubble. Gaijin Bubbles are very comfortable things to live in, as one does not have to worry about the thoughts or opinions of others, leaving one free to do exactly as one desires (actions or words that might usually offend the local population are simply dismissed as either being language-barrier related or as cultural differences).


The Japanese word "Genki" literally translates as "fine" or "well".

"Genki desu ka?" - Are you well?

"Genki desu" - (yes) I'm well

Used by many foreigners in Japan to describe people. A "Genki person" is generally cool, interesting, nice - the kind of person that you'd like to go to the pub with. I like this word a lot - it's useful as we don't really have it in English.

Granny's Hip Syndrome

After I've been dancing for an hour or so my left hip starts to ache, and generally carries on doing so for a couple of days afterwards. A sure sign of getting old, I call it Granny's Hip Syndrome.


Japanese word, literal translation "cute", "sweet". Used by Japanese girls until the age of about 104 to describe anything remotely cute, such as a pussy cat, a fluffy toy, a baby, a plastic spoon witha smiling face on, a paving slab with rounded corners, a snotty hankie with a picture of a flower on, a whip which leaves a distinct lack of skin in the shape of a baby turtle... I think you get the picture



Japanese for Mobile Phone


British slang for broken / tired / exausted / worn out. "My computer's knackered" (my computer's broken). "I'm knackered!" (I'm exausted). Literally (in my book) it means tired due to too much sex, although it's not vulgar and can be used with friends, family and good colleagues.


For you non-Brits: toilet / bog etc. "Loo" is casual and doesn't cause offence unless one has Reed as a surname or has spent too many years on the Australian soap Neighbours. "I need the loo."

O.L. - Office Lady (Japanese-English word)

"An OL is a woman who works in an office, typically as a support staff member handling miscellaneous tasks. Traditionally, those tasks have included making copies, answering the telephone, typing, simple bookkeeping, serving tea, etc. In recent years, the changing work environment brought about by the increased use of computers and evolving attitudes toward working women has transformed the roles of OLs, and the jobs of OLs vary more widely than in the past."


A paternoster or paternoster lift is an elevator which consists of a chain of open compartments (each usually designed for two persons) that move slowly in a loop up and down inside a building without stopping. Passengers who are agile enough can step on or off at each floor.

Paternosters were popular throughout the first half of the 20th century as they could carry more passengers than ordinary elevators. They were more common in Europe, especially in public buildings, and less so in Great Britain.

Today, in many countries new construction of paternosters is not allowed any more because of the high danger of accidents (people tripping or falling over when trying to enter or alight). Also, an increased sensitivity to the needs of the disabled, for instance wheelchair users, has led to the paternoster's gradual demise. Existing ones remain operative until they are dismantled, so there are still some but their number is continually decreasing. As objects that belong to a vanishing world, for some people paternosters have achieved cult status.

An irrational yet common misconception is that it is dangerous to stay on in an upgoing cabin after it has reached the top floor or in a downgoing one after it has passed the ground floor level. However, nothing much happens in such a case, as the compartment remains upright.

The name paternoster ("Our Father") has been taken from the first two words of the Lord's Prayer in Latin. A special bead on a rosary indicates that a Pater Noster is to be said, and from there the whole rosary and, what is more, anything resembling a rosary was referred to as paternoster.


(The reason for the name being what it is seems quite obvious: when you're on you're way up to your next lecture which started 5 minutes ago it's always advisable to pray that the thing doesn't stop!)


British slang for "pound", as in money.


British slang for drunk / plastered / pissed / bladdered etc. "Last night I got completely rat-arsed!"


Traditional Japanese rice wine. A strong drink, it is usually served hot from small eartherware bottles, and drunk out of little legless eggcups.


Japanese for "teacher". Widely used to refer to anyone who is your instructor in educational or medical fields. (You would refer to your doctor as "Sensei"). Also translates as "Sir" or "Miss" as in "Sir, can I go to the toilet please?"


Nickname for the London Underground / Subway / Chikatetsu

Willy, willies

British slang for penis. A childish, unoffensive term.

Window Licker

The kind of person who you find yourself sitting next to on the bus who does the strangest things for no obvious reason (such as licking the window). Plenty of these interesting charcters can be found on the No.12 Stagecoach bus that runs between Torquay and Paington, Devon, UK. "I ended up sitting next to a window licker on the way home."

Yodobashi (Camera)

Yodobashi Camera is Japan's most famous electrical outlet, with stores in almost every big city. Being Gadget-Man, I love the place, and in particular its theme song which is constantly played across all departments. I would sing it for you, but my laptop just wouldn't do my stunning soprano voice justice. Bad luck eh?

For a complete list of British Slang check out

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