The English-to-American Dictionary:
fag n. Be exceedingly careful with this one. 1. "fag" is a very common (probably the most common) word meaning cigarette. One of the most amusing e-mails I've had concerning this page was from an American who had arrived at her company's UK offices to be told that the person she was looking for was "outside blowing a fag". 2. Almost worse, "fag" was used until recently to describe first year senior-school kids who had to perform menial tasks (cleaning boots, running errands and the like) for the seniors. A contributor tells me that he was met with aghast looks when he told a group of New Yorkers that he "was a fag at school last year". Modern thinking on slavery has seen that the practice of "fagging" has all but died out.
pantomine n. An extremely light-hearted play, usually performed at Christmas and aimed and children, and always featuring a man playing one of the lead female parts (the "pantomime dame"). There are a certain repertoire of standard pantomimes ("Jack and the Beanstalk", "Cinderella", "Aladdin" to name a few) and often reparatory groups will make up their own ones, either off the top of their thespian heads or based on genuine plays. The lead parts are usually played by second-rate soap-opera actors or half-dead theatrical-types. The whole genre is all a bit crap, really. You'd have to be pretty much brain dead to enjoy the damned things. I don't think I even liked them as a kid.
rubber n. Be very, very careful. I got in more trouble using this word in the States than any other. To Brits, a rubber is an eraser. To Americans, however, a rubber is a condom. If you are a Limey and you are called upon to visit the United States, write this on the back of your hand and don't wash until you leave.
shambolic adj. Must say I thought this was universal, but a contributor tells me it isn't. something described as shambolic is in complete disarray, unorganised. You might use it to refer to your aunt Gertrude's octogenarian hairdo or the Russian army's method of ending hostage situations. If I was ever to give one piece of advice to someone wanting independence for their part of the USSR or keen to highlight a particular cause to the Russian government, I'd suggest not taking hostages. If you do so, the Russians give you a couple of days of negotiations, throw in a bit of food so you feel you've got your money's worth and then on about day three they massacre you and all of your hostages using some devastating new method they're trying for the first time.
swizz n. This is a small-scale swindle or con. If you opened your eight-pack of KitKats and there were only seven, you might mutter "that's a bloody swizz". If you discovered that your cleaning lady had been making out large cheques to herself over a ten year period, you'd be inclined to use stronger wording.