11 British Words and Sayings That Everyone in the World Should Know
Oscar Wilde once said, "We have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language." Here is your decoder for the funniest and most useful British sayings.
While it is often attributed to the half-yank (his mom hailed from Brooklyn) that was Winston Churchill, it was actually Irish writer George Bernard Shaw who scribbled, “England and America are two countries divided by a common language.” But what both blokes do have in common is that, well, they’re both blokes. Britain doesn’t have “bachelor parties,” but rather, “stag nights,” and other terms they use for the men who populate those parties include, but aren’t limited to: chap, Barney, GQ (stylish), geezer (not so much), lad, pet, fella, and, believe it or not…lovey. It’s also worth brushing up on these Spanish phrases everyone should know before heading over to “the continent” (otherwise known as Europe).
Next time you can’t stop yawning, try this phrase on for size. Doesn’t it sound so much more sophisticated than whining about how tired you are? And when you do take that midday snooze, don’t feel guilty about it. We have to say, this is one of our favorite British sayings.
Then you’re slightly perturbed. Gutted? Well then it’s full on despair, you know, like how Bridget Jones felt when she caught her boyfriend cheating on her. Read up on the 10 American words that have verrrrrrry different meanings in Britain—you’re in for a laugh.
Bollocks is generally an angry outburst, but it can sometimes be a compliment, depending on how it’s used. It’s slang for something “rubbish,” or a falsehood, reports urbandictionary.com. But it can also mean something fantastic, as in, “That curry was the bollocks!” Confusing, isn’t it? Check out 30 more British phrases that always confuse Americans.
Chuffed to the muff
Next time you nail that presentation at work or knock a minute off your mile run, tell a friend that you’re “chuffed to the muff,” aka very pleased with yourself. For more foreign slang to impress your coworkers, read about the 12 Italian phrases everyone should know.
Keep calm and carry on
The former WWII slogan for London to remain stoic throughout the Blitzkrieg that was “Keep Calm and Carry On” eventually became a recent obnoxious American excuse to parody said posters. But here’s the thing, mates: The royal reminder wasn’t really used at all. Indeed, the catchy cautionary card was commissioned in 1939, but was never publicly displayed. Copies were made and then just placed in cold storage until the eventual air raids happened, but ended up just being shelved and recycled as part of a Paper Salvage program. KCACO was a forgotten piece of wartime history until a copy of the command was rediscovered in 2000 at Alnwick’s Barter Books.
Mind the gap
Next time you’re getting on the Tube—we mean subway—be sure to “mind the gap,” a much more charming way to say “look where you’re going!” Have you heard that on your morning commute in the States? Read up on more British slang you didn’t realize you knew.
Here in the Colonies, if you’re pissed, you’re angry. Back in Blighty, it means you’re drunk. Grog (ale), plonk (cheap wine), and mother’s ruin (gin) are all fun terms for the tipple that gets you bladdered (and/or legless) at the local pub (aka the BattleCruiser or Bozzer). Smoking a fag outside said tavern? It just means you’re smoking a cigarette. Ah, British sayings. They just never get old.
Let’s snog, baby!
While having a wank is a decidedly solitary act, the wiggling that makes the world go round is nothing if not covered by the United Kingdom’s always creative British sayings: Rump pumpy (straight up intercourse), snog (kiss), and the Austin Powers-ruined perennial that is shag. Note: Many of these acts may lead the lady to be up the duff (pregnant). Our friends across the pond also have different words for foods. Check out these 14 common foods that British people call by different names.
Posh is speaking tosh
Brits are know for their insults, among them: Sexy Beast‘s “spazmongoloid” (idiot); “wazzock,” a similar descriptive; and “damn squib,” which also means roughly the same thing. Being “gobby” basically means you’re a loudmouth. As for “posh is speaking tosh,” well, it just means a fancy rich person is bragging. They’re big on the whole tall poppy syndrome thing.
It’s about that time to sod, or bugger off, already. (Both words basically mean, “We’re done here.”) Think you’re an expert in all things British sayings? Take our British slang quiz to find out.