Saturday, 10 February 2018

How To Speak British

English is a language that is widely used across the globe in Canada, the United States, Australia and many other places. However, I personally think that in the United Kingdom, where English originated, we have a kind of weird monopoly on crazy sounding words and phrases.

I have been to many English speaking countries on my travels and often been looked at strangely – not because I am a weird looking fella but because sometimes I forget that I am in a foreign country.

For example, in America I used the word “bloke” and received a rather strange look from the person I was talking to. I had to translate the word into American – I used the word “guy” instead. Had I been in Australia or New Zealand I would have been understood because “bloke” is used there too.

Nevertheless, there are some words that are quintessentially British or at least widely used in the United Kingdom and not generally in the rest of the English speaking world.

I thought I would compile a list of some  of these words, so that if you are ever unfortunate enough to meet me, you might actually understand what on Earth I am talking about.

I imagine that some of these words have made it across the pond or traversed the globe to Australia, New Zealand or South Africa – so some of them may sound familiar.

Arse – The equivalent in America is “ass” but in the UK it is used in a slightly different way. For example “I really can’t be arsed” means “I really can’t be bothered”. Also, if you describe somebody as “arseholed” or “rat-arsed” it means they are drunk.

Barmy – Foolish – but in a good way, I think. For example, if somebody I knew was about to go skydiving I would tell him to his face that he was “barmy” and he would laugh. It is also heard at football matches when fans of a team unite in a chant based around the manager of the team  - “Gareth Southgate’s Barmy Army!”

Blimey – An expression of surprise or alarm. “You’re going skydiving? Blimey!”

Bollocks (Dog’s bollocks) – This really refers to a man’s testicles but has become an expression of anger. “Bollocks! I’ve dropped my dinner!”. It is also used as a way of ridiculing something that somebody has said, for example “You are talking utter bollocks!” Conversely, if something is great it becomes “The Dog’s Bollocks!”. I’ve never figured that one out.

Chav – This is the equivalent of “white trash” in America. Chavs are typically lower class and behave badly, swearing all the time and causing trouble whenever they can.

Chin Wag – A conversation. “I’ve just been having a chin wag with my wife!”

Chuffed – Very happy or delighted. “I was really chuffed to have won the lottery!”

Cock Up – A massive mistake. “We lost the bid. What a complete cock up!”

Codswallop – Meaningless nonsense. “Piers Morgan’s speech was a load of old codswallop!”

Dishy – Strangely, this means attractive. “Morena Baccarin is really dishy!”

Faff – A phrase that really means to waste time. “Stop faffing around!”

Fag –I realise that this is a derogatory term for gay people in America but over here it is simply a slang word for a cigarette. Going for a smoke is known as “having a fag”

Gagging – I guess the closest  translation for this word is “desperate” as in “I am gagging for a beer.”

Gobshite – Basically this is a person who “talks bollocks” (see above).  “Piers Morgan is a gobshite!”

Gobsmacked – Astounded or surprised. “I was gobsmacked when the Americans elected Donald Trump”.

Kip – Sleep. “I’m going for a kip! Wake me up in an hour.”

Knackered – Tired. “I’ve just been to the gym and I’m bloody knackered!”

Lurgy – Any illness. “I think I’m coming down with a lurgy.”

Mug – A gullible person. “He conned me out of £10. I’m a right mug.”

Nosh – Food. “Where shall we go for some nosh?”

Numpty – A fool. “Don’t listen to him. He’s a numpty.”

Nutter – A mad person. I’ve mentioned that I am a nutter-magnet before – I seem to attract them. I’m talk about the kind of person who will hurl himself into a weird or dangerous situation without thinking of the consequences or somebody who simply talks gibberish.

On the piss – Getting drunk. “Where’s Dave? Oh – he went out on the piss with his mates. Don’t wait up for him; he’ll be rat-arsed.”

Quid – A pound sterling, our currency. “Can you lend me ten quid?”

Plonker – A clumsy idiot. “How did you manage to fall down the step you plonker?”

Scrump – Steal apples. “The farmer caught me scrumping from his orchard.”

Slapper – A promiscuous young lady. “She’s a right slapper. She’ll sleep with anyone.”

Tara – Goodbye. “See you tomorrow. Tara!”

Thingamajig - Something that you can’t think of the name of. “Pass me the thingamajig!”

Toff – A well-off person. Most members of our Conservative party and the Royal family are toffs.

Wobbler – This is really used to express a temper tantrum. “I told him he was wrong and he threw a wobbler!”

You may have heard of some of these words watching British TV programmes and movies and I recall hearing a couple of them on my visit to Australia. Hopefully, next time you meet a British person and think he’s speaking codswallop you will recall this post and be able to translate his words.

See you for the next post.



jeremy north said...

You've not even scratched the surface Mr PM. Do you fill a form in or out? Do you write something up or down? You cut down a tree then cut it up. Stressed, distressed: isn't it the same? There are too many negatives which don't have the opposite positives and vice versa to mention. I love English for its wonderful chaos and ambiguity yet precision. Elegant it is not but expressive it is.

River said...

I've heard all of these, mostly on TV, but many of them used to be common language here in Oz.
Many have been replaced by Americanisms, for instance 'guy' is now much more common than 'bloke' and 'mate' has been replaced with 'pal'.
A big loss for us in my opinion.
I've no wish to be thought of as American, so I still say 'mate'. Arse is still in use as is knackered, meaning exhausted. After a hard day's work: "I'm knackered, mate". 'Blimey' hasn't been heard in a while, nor has 'crikey', which means the same as blimey.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Jeremy,

Yes - I know. You and I could write a book each in the subject I reckon.




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi River,

I think Australian English shares a lot with British English but you have a whole binch of weird words like dunney, drongo, shonkyand bonzer.

Notice I didn't mention the word Pom!




Along These Lines ... said...

This post is a real little corker

Plastic Mancunian said...


I see what you did there.