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Unique British English phrases only people in the UK understand (II)

Unique British English phrases only people

Continued from last week

“Cream crackered”: Cockney rhyming slang for “knackered,” if you’re “cream crackered” then you’re incredibly tired. A “knacker” was the person that slaughtered worn-out horses in the 19th and 20th centuries for their meat, hoofs, and hide. So, if you’re “ready for the knacker’s yard,” you’re exhausted beyond relief.

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“This week’s done me in already, and it’s only Tuesday. I’m cream crackered.”

“Curtain twitcher”: A nosey neighbour, often caught peering out on their street’s activities from a curtained window, might be referred to as a “curtain twitcher.”

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“He’s obsessed with anything that happens on this street. He’s a bloody curtain twitcher, but he still won’t sign for our packages.”

“Dench”: An adjective used to advocate something that is impressive or agreeable, dench is the equivalent of “solid” or “cool” when used in response to someone else. Its reported creator, British rapper Lethal Bizzle, elusively told the Guardian that the word “means anything you want.”

“I’m going to make us spaghetti carbonara for dinner.”

“Dench.”

“Dim”: Someone that lacks common knowledge might be described as “dim,” whilst someone that’s intelligent might be described as “bright.”

“She’s a bit dim.”

“Doddle”: An easy task is a “doddle.” The word could be a variation of “toddle” – like a young child’s first steps.

“This will be a doddle.”

“Dog’s dinner”: A “dog’s dinner” is a mess or fiasco – sometimes also referred to as a “dog’s breakfast.”

“You’ve made a dog’s dinner of that.”

“Faff”: To “faff” is to waste time doing very little. “Faff” comes from the 17th century word “faffle,” which means to flap about in the wind.

“We were just faffing about.”

“Fag”: A cigarette. A “fag end” is also the ratty bits towards the ends of a reel of fabric, which are the worst and the cheapest bits of the reel. Historically, “fags” were the cheaper cigarettes made of lower grade tobacco; however, the slang has spread to encompass all cigarettes. [Note that “fag” is a derogatory word for a homosexual in American English].

“Could I pinch a fag, please?”

“Flog”:  To “flog” means to sell something – usually quickly and cheaply. “Flogging” also refers to whipping a racehorse in order to make it move faster, so there is some speculation into whether you flog goods in order to make them shift faster, too. However, there is no proof for this theory.

“I’m trying to flog my old sofa. Do you know anyone that might be interested?”

“Full Monty”: After “The Full Monty” film was released in 1997, there was some international confusion over the phrase in which it was taken as a euphemism for stripping. However, “the full Monty” actually refers to pursuing something to the absolute limits.

“The full Monty” historically refers to an old tailor called Sir Montague Burton. Going “the fully Monty” meant purchasing a full three-piece suit, a shirt, and all of the trimmings.

“Our Christmas dinner had everything from sprouts to Yorkshire puddings. If you’re going to have a roast, have the full Monty!”

“Full of beans”: Someone that’s energetic, lively, or enthusiastic might be described as “full of beans.” This phrase could be a reference to coffee beans, although these claims have been disputed.

“Goodness, you’re full of beans this morning!”

“Gaff”: “Gaff” is an informal word for “home.” Although the origins of this phrase are largely unknown, a gaff in the 18th-century was a music hall or theatre, and so it’s believed to derive from this.

“What are you up to this weekend? We’ve got a party at our gaff, if you fancy it?”

“Geezer”: A “geezer” is a man that could be described as “suave” or “dapper,” and is often suited and booted. Men from east London are also commonly referred to as “geezers.”

Geezer is thought to stem from the 15th century “guiser,” which meant well-dressed. [Note that in American English, a geezer is an eccentric old man].

“That guy’s got such swagger – he’s a proper geezer.”

“Give me a tinkle on the blower”: “Give me a call” or “ring me.” The phrase is sometimes shortened to “give me a tinkle.” “Tinkle” refers to a phone’s ring, while “blower” is slang or telephone and refers to the device that predated phones on Naval ships. Sailors would blow down a pipe to their recipient, where a whistle at the end of the pipe would sound to spark attention.

“Give me a tinkle on the blower.”

“Gobsmacked”: Astounded; bewildered; shocked. “Gob” is slang for mouth, so if you’re gobsmacked, you’re shocked to the point of clasping your jaw in disbelief.

“I was gobsmacked!”

“Gutted”: Not to be confused with literally being disembowelled, someone that says they’re “gutted” is devastated or extremely upset.

“I was absolutely gutted.”

“Half past”: While Americans are more likely to say “seven thirty” or “five fifty,” Brits will more often than not refer to times in “minutes past” the hour. Eg, “half past seven,” and “ten to six.” It’s unclear why Brits appear to favour analogue time-telling while Americans go for the digital format.

“It’s twenty past eleven.”

“Hank Marvin”: “Hank Marvin” is Cockney rhyming slang for “starving.” “I’m Hank Marvin” means “I’m hungry” or “I’m ravenous.” Hank Marvin is a British musician from the 1960s and 1970s, and is a pretty obscure reference nowadays. Marvin played guitar in Cliff Richard’s backing band in the 1960s.

“When are we going to eat? I’m Hank Marvin.”

“Innit”: “Innit” is an abbreviation of “isn’t it” most commonly used amongst teenagers and young people. This phrase is used to confirm or agree with something that another person has just said.

“It’s really cold today.”

“Innit.”

“Leg it”: Make a run for it; run away; scarper.

“That’s when all of the lights came on, and so we legged it.”

“Long”: Something that takes a lot of effort and probably isn’t going to be worth all of the effort, either, could be described as “long.” This could be due to the lengths that the person will have to go to in order to complete the task. Something that is “long” is probably also annoying or aggravating.

“Cleaning the kitchen is long.”

“Lurgy”: If someone’s “caught the lurgy,” they’re suffering from cold or flu-like symptoms. “The dreaded lurgy” originates from 1950s British TV show “The Goon Show,” in which one character has to deal with a national epidemic of an unidentified illness. “Lurgy” is probably based on a mispronunciation of the word “allergy.”

“She’s come down with the dreaded lurgy.”

“Making random words past-tense to mean drunk”: Brits are known for favouring a drink or two, so much so that almost any noun can be used as a substitute for “drunk.” In his stand-up show, British comedian Michael MacIntyre said: “You can actually use any word in the English language and substitute it to mean drunk. It works.”

Examples include “trollied,” “smashed,” and “gazeboed.”

“I was absolutely car-parked last night.”

“Minging”: Something unpleasant, unappetising, or highly unattractive might be described as “minging.” The term comes from the Scottish slang word “ming,” meaning faeces.

“What’s in that sandwich? Is that ham and tuna? That’s minging.”

“Mint”: “Mint” might be used when referring to something of the highest caliber. Derived from “mint condition,” which refers to something pre-owned that retains its pristine condition, although something that’s just “mint” doesn’t have to be pre-owned.

“Those shoes are mint!”

“Mortal”: Derived from the Newcastle sociolect, “mortal” was made widely known across the country in 2011 by reality TV show “Geordie Shore.” “Mortal” describes someone highly intoxicated or drunk in a sloppy manner.

“Did you see Scott last night? He was mortal.”

“Nick”: “The Nick” can refer to prison, while “to nick” also means to steal. The origins of the phrase are largely debated online; however, it’s believed that “to nick” as in to steal influenced the slang term for prison, as being imprisoned is similar to being “stolen” away.

“Did you just nick that?”

“Don’t get caught, or you’ll end up in the Nick!”

“On it like a car bonnet”: This colloquialism might be said by someone that has the situation under control.

“How’s the report going, Steve?”

“Don’t you worry, Alan, I’m on it like a car bonnet.”

“On the pull”: Someone that’s “on the pull” has gone out, usually on a night out, with the intention of attracting a sexual partner. “Pull” can also be used as a verb. If you’ve “pulled,” you’ve kissed someone.

“You look nice. Are you going on the pull?”

“Over-egg the pudding”: “Over-egging the pudding” means embellishing or over-doing something to the extent that it’s detrimental to the finished product. Although this sounds like an analogy about the chemistry of baking, or putting too many eggs in a cake batter, “egg” actually comes from the Anglo Saxon “eggian,” meaning to “excite.” This is still used in English in the phrase “egging someone on” to do something.

In “over-egging the pudding” analogy, someone is over-exciting, or over-mixing, the batter too much before it bakes – resulting in a tough or dense cake.

“We get it – you’ve injured yourself. Don’t over-egg the pudding.”

 

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