UK Slang 🇬🇧

I saw this mentioned in another thread and didn’t want to derail it :wink:

Reading what @sprout wrote reminded me of a funny story.

I would hear that particular saying and “getting pissed” a lot when I was close to a dear UK’er back many moons ago. With most slang I can usually figure it out after a while, but not this one. Were they mad? Were they in need of a bathroom? Did someone get peed on? Needless to say, I never asked as I didn’t want to sound stupid or appear rude. Finally one day I couldn’t take it anymore and I asked my friend what’s with all the pee pee talk? Well needless to say I thought he was going to die from laughter. Once he was able to breathe again he explained that the first was just slang for making a joke at someone’s expense and the second was getting drunk. I imagine there were a few jokes made at my expense after that :wink:

I’ve always been curious about how different slang originates and why sometimes it makes no sense to me. I remember being told what Fanny meant and then seeing one of the biggest songs was Fanny (be tender with my love) from the BeeGees. And all I could think of was why? LOL :stuck_out_tongue: And how are people not laughing hysterically when it’s sung? I know it was making me giggle!

Took me a while to figure out “Bob’s your uncle” as well. Who is Bob? and why are you saying he is my uncle? :rofl:

So there is my little funny from ages ago. :smiley:

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Mrs. Just-B’s vocabulary consists of all kinds of slang that she just makes up. It’s not swearing slang — just words she’s invented as shorthand for longer phrases. Over the years, she’s almost invented her own language. I’ve learned to understand what she says, but I’ve been in situations where I’ve noticed people listening to her with blank, puzzled looks on their faces and not knowing what’s she’s talking about.

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lmao … my sister in law does that too. I just go along with it now after all these years … but sometimes I still don’t know what she means. She just makes words up when she can’t remember I think :wink:

One that got me for a long time was ‘‘Lordy Esther Care’’. She always loved the stuff … I never knew what she was talking about until one day she said it in front of her sister and I guess she saw my blank, puzzled look and said “she means Estée Lauder”


We say “That little bugger, right there” when we’re pointing at some tiny pest like an ant or mosquito or cat where it oughtn’t be. In the UK…yeah not so much. And when someone from over there asks you for a rubber, they mean an eraser, not a condom…don’t ask me how I know that…

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A few years ago, we were interviewing a guy for a graphic designer job at the ad agency where I was working. One of the applicants was an English guy who had just arrived in the states.

I asked him how he found out about the job. He replied that a friend told him about it and that it would be a good idea to “knock up” our receptionist, which he wasted no time in doing. After about five seconds of dead silence, everybody in the room burst into hysterical laughter.


More excellent examples PD and Just B :smiley:

One that annoys me greatly is arse. I’m not sure why. I guess it’s just my brain thinking it’s being said wrong.

I wonder what we say that drives Brits batty? I hope they chime in :smiley:

It drives me batty too – Football.

… and it was always “arse” to me.

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Where do I start? What drives Brits batty? Well, pretty much everything! We are a nation of morally-indignant moaners. Ah, no, hang on, that could just be me!

You may well be sorry you asked. I can bore for Britain on language, grammar and syntax.

But, before I do, I hate to say it, but ‘Ass’ gets right up my arse! It’s a donkey, not a profanity!

As Shaw said, ‘We are two nations divided by a common language.’.

When it comes to the subject of US English, many of us Brits pull ourselves up to our full, terribly-Brittish, patronising, pompous, imperialistic, supercilious, land-of-hope-and-glory, tea-and-scones, height, because there is a sense here that much of the Chicago Manual of Style school of English is just bastardised ‘proper’ English.

In reality, much as it pains many of us to hear, it is far less bastardised than our own version. Apparently, it is closer to 17th Century English than current UK English. Contrary to popular belief, you didn’t remove the ‘U’s from many words. Instead, we added them (I blame Napoleon). That said, at the time of the Mayflower, English spelling was only just becoming standardised in Britain, so it was not an exacting science anyway.

As an aside; we appear to be returning to those less-exacting times again, as general levels of spelling and grammar have declined hugely, on both sides of the pond, in the last couple of decades. I don’t mind language evolving, I despise it being used poorly or lazily – don’t get me started on ‘LOL’ used to punctuate every other sentence.

So, pomposity aside, the things that really ‘get my goat’ (I’m guessing that’s not a commonly-used phrase there?) … For me, swearing is not really one of them. I love profanity in all forms. UK English, US English and Italian. The more colo[u]rful, the better. Actually, part of me would love to have the time study it seriously; how culture affects the way we swear. It would make a fantastic Masters thesis. You’d be able to legitimately pepper your academic research with potty-mouthed idioms. I’d have such fun.

So … what do I loathe? Starting a sentence with ‘So’. That is becoming more and more common here. It gets right up my nose – especially combined with that up-intonation at the end of a sentence, so favoured in Californian and Australia, making everything sound like a question. The other thing that has come over fairly recently, driven by TV ads, is use of the phrase, ‘Two times as many…’ Three times, Seven times, Forty-Eight times, I have no problem with at all, but ‘two times’ drives me to apoplexy. Until recently, we used ‘Twice as many…’ here. Far more succinct and efficient. However ‘Thrice as many…’ just sounds ridiculous, when not too long ago, although not common, it was still used. It all goes to show how flexible language is. Aside from little things, I don’t really get too pissed [off] at differences in language any more. (‘You’d never bloody know it’ I can hear my friends opine, given my penchant for fairly regular Facebook rants about abandoned possessive apostrophes and such-like).

Overall, language is exciting and colourful (well, at least, it is in my case after a couple of pints). Over the years I’ve done enough books that have been either Americanis[z]ed from Bringlish, or visa versa, that it doesn’t really bother me too much (though I am still happy to take this piss out of American friends). Language is in a constant state of flux. Even in my lifetime, it has changed so much. Besides, English, itself, isn’t exactly what you’d call a pure language. A bit Latin, a bit Anglo-Saxon, Germanic, Gaelic, the list goes on.

One of my best friends, I’ve known since we were ‘wee’uns’, lives and works in Manhattan and has done for over 25 years now, in fact, he is now a US citizen, so has his feet both sides of the linguistic pond. Also my ex-wife grew up in Chicago, so I am fairly used to the differences.

This friend of mine and a small group of us, have, like Mrs Just-B, developed a language that, granted, can be a bit left-field and a little bizarre sometimes. Anyway, once (or should that be ‘one time’?) I was over visiting him and we were in his studio, just chatting away. At a certain point, one of his colleagues came in to ask him something. This guy (chap) just stood on the doorway for a few seconds, waiting for a suitable break in our conversation. When we both turned to him, he just rolled his eyes and said, ‘You Limeys are f****n’ weird.’, then closed the door and left.

Oh yes, there is another. In the US, when talking about where a person or company lives or is located, you often say something like, ‘x-corp, working out of Denver. How does that work? To my mind, it seems far more logical to say, ‘working in Denver’, or ‘they are from Denver’. How can they be ‘out of Denver’ if they are in it?

I could find loads more – and me of ten years ago would have, voraciously – but now I think that the amazing thing about language is how it adapts to suit its surroundings.

That said, I can’t forgive you for is ‘store’. It’s a shop. A store is a warehouse, a repository. A shop is where you buy things. Store is now becoming the norm here too. The other one is ‘movie’ It’s a film.

I’m not going to moan too much though. That’s the fast track to becoming your own grandfather. ‘Country’s gone to the dogs.’

Vive la difference.


To make matters even more mired; if we Brits get really, really, blind-drunk, we are ‘shit-faced’ or ‘completely arseholed’. I’ve no idea why the latter, but I think the former comes from being so drunk, you end up face down in said excretion.

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“It’s the dog’s bollocks” meaning it’s the very best that it can be (US tr. “the cat’s whiskers”)
often shortened to “It’s the bollocks”

as opposed to

“It’s bollocks” meaning it’s rubbish, not to be taken seriously (US tr. “It’s Bogus”)

Two phrases that mean the opposite of each other, the only difference being the word ‘the’.

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I won’t mention football, but 2 others spring to mind;

The American buffalo is not a buffalo but a bison (so Buffalo Bill should be called Bison Bill)

Biscuits are twice baked (the Italian origin of the word) and so should be hard and brittle, a bit like your hard cookies. What you call biscuits are actually scones.

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Actually biscuits means different things in different parts of the US.
Biscuits that are scone-like (baking powder biscuits) are totally different from biscuits that are bread-like (rolls.) Baking powder biscuits for breakfast are more a southern/western thing. Roll biscuits for dinner are more northeast. At least, from my experience.

What you call biscuits, we call “crackers.” Saltine crackers, Ritz crackers, graham crackers, etc.

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What drives me a bit crazy on my various UK visits is the rhyming slang. Words that mean things simply because they rhyme. Totally untranslateable in some cases. But I’ve found it entertaining to ask WTF sometimes. Some of the most excellent pub conversations start that way. When my friends and I visit the UK, we travel by car, stay at B&Bs and eat at local pubs rather than hotels and restaurants. It was great the day a bunch of guys were trying to describe the rules of Rugby as we watched. That was hysterical!

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Oh, you hit a nerve there! I have a very hard time letting that go. Working everywhere but (save for :wink:) Denver? Were you banned from Denver?

On a similar note, please never tell me something is “based off,” or worse, “based off of” something else. Ugh.

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Working out of never bothered me. It’s just short for working out of my home in… or working out of my office in…Oh, wait. Working IN my.
Now it’s gonna bother me.

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Having a bit of an inner Parrot … I tend to start imitating my surroundings if I’m there long enough … I’m not sure why … adaption perhaps? When I lived in Texas I began to get a slight drawl :stuck_out_tongue:

Anyhoo … Back in the dark ages when I was close with the UK bunch I talk of … the first time I told someone here that things had gone pear shaped I got a few funny looks. I however found it amusing :smiley: I still use the phrase every now and again as I think it fits perfectly.

Not to be confused with bed shaped … also a my favorite song from Keane :wink:

… and what a cracking song it is, too.

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