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Last update:
  21-Jan-2004
1996-2004
  Mike Todd

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Where it's not obvious: BE = British English, AE=American English and ext-link indicatorindicates an external link

Jambalaya
  A Cajun rice dish, usually cooked with shellfish or ham, and common in Louisiana. The origin of the name is uncertain, but may come from French jambon (ham).
Jay Walking
  If you cross a street without paying attention, or cross against a DON'T WALK sign, then you are jay walking. In some cities, this is an offence, and you can be fined.
Jell-o
  Jelly (dessert)
A trade name for a gelatin dessert which first appeared in the 1920s, made by the company that is now General Foods. It is what the British would normally call a jelly which, in the US, is a word usually reserved for a clear jam-like spread made from fruit juices (as opposed to jam which has whole fruit in it). If you ask for Jell-o Americans will know exactly what you mean, although if it isn't made by General Foods it will probably be more properly called a gelatin fruit dessert.
Jelly
 

Jam (approx)
When you're having breakfast in the US, there'll probably be various jellies available. Grape jelly, strawberry jelly and raspberry jelly are all relatively common. They're made from fruit juice and are clear, just like a spreadable jelly. So, if you ask for jelly you'll get a jelly-like fruit spread for your bread (or to mix with your peanut butter).
If you want a jelly dessert, you ask for Jell-o, the trade name that has almost become generic for a gelatin dessert.

It's a widely-perpetuated myth that jam is not known in the US. Far from it, in fact. Jam is available as preserve and is readily available.

Jerk off
  Wank or masturbate
Jigger
  1.5 fluid ounces
A jigger is a small glass for drinking whiskey from, and consequently a measure for cocktails of the same capacity. As a glass, a jigger will usually hold between 1 and 2 fluid ounces of whiskey, but as a measure it is usually taken as 1.5 fluid ounces. A jigger is also a small horse-drawn street car on rails.
Jock
  College athlete
In the US, the term is often used to denote someone who is very macho and sporty, and in some contexts may be a derisory comment, suggesting someone who has sporting, but no academic, talent. It is believed to derive from jockstrap. In the UK, a jock is a slang, and usually derogatory, terms for a Scotsman.
Jog
  Dog leg in a road
John
  Toilet
Although it now refers to any toilet, John once referred to a public toilet for men, with Jane being the women's equivalent. It is distinctly slang, and sometimes considered a bit uncouth. The word also means a prostitute's client, and so is probably best avoided.
John Hancock
  Signature
A relatively common slang expression for signature, which derives from the name of the first signatory of the Declaration of Independence. The story goes that as president of the Continental Congress he was given the honour of being the first to sign, and he did so with such a huge flourish that George III could not fail to see it, even without his spectacles. Sometimes John Henry is also used to mean signature, and he was a black American folk hero.
Joint BE
  Roast or Penis (AmE)
Don't ask your hosts if they're "doing a joint" for Sunday dinner! The American use of joint usually means a marijuana cigarette, but is also slang for penis.. You should be asking about a roast.
Jumper
  Pinafore dress, child's coverall, workmen's blouse or jacket
The word has a number of meanings, but these are the main ones used in the US. The BE meaning of a sweater is also known.
Junior
  3rd year student
A 1st-year student is a freshman, a 2nd-year student is a sophomore and a 4th-year student is a senior

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