George Bernard Shaw would have declared that most British English is untranslatable into American English but, having spoken both languages with a reasonable degree of fluency for the past five years, I'm not sure that's entirely the case anymore. With pop culture crossing the Atlantic faster than a speeding tweet, BrE has permeated AmE and visa versa. (That being said, I still think that this New York Times piece is an embarrassment to, you know, actual journalism.) You're more likely to find subtitles in an American reality TV show - ahem, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo - than an English period drama that's made its way to US screens. And, even when Americans have their own words or phrases that equate to British ones, most on both side of the pond will recognize either.
But there are some words in each language that don't have a direct translation. I took to Facebook to ask for suggestions of BrE that don't have an AmE equivalent; my friend Louise especially enjoyed the challenge, though I suspect she made some of these words up...
My brilliant friends also submitted a few delicious phrases, like "dodgy prawn," "taking the piss," "for England," and "that's not cricket," but there's enough there for a second blog post! Here are some of the other word suggestions I got:
faff (noun) - a mess, a chaotic situation
faff (verb) - to mess around
moreish (adjective) - so good that you want lots of it; usually used to describe food or drink
fancy (verb) - to like someone romantically
tea (noun) - a meal that comes in late afternoon; sometimes referring to a young child's early dinner
fuddle (verb) - to explore without looking for anything in particular
snaffle (verb) - to steal without malicious intent
Can you come up with any more, dear readers? Gesci pointed out that Lynne Murphy has a fantastic series about untranslatable words on her blog, though I didn't let myself read it until I'd finished this post, and I definitely recommend you follow her on Twitter if you're into this sort of thing. But I know you have ideas of your own of either AmE or BrE untranslatable words! Leave them in the comments, please - I'd love to hear what you've got.