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

Continued from last week

“Pants”: Rubbish; trash; garbage.

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“That is pants.”

“Par”: A “par” breaches social and common courtesy, e.g., a disrespectful comment could be seen as a “par.” “Par” can also be used as a verb, e.g., “You just got parred.” This slang term could be a British abbreviation of the French “faux pas,” meaning an embarrassing or tactless remark in a social situation.

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“I don’t mean this as a par, but did you remember to wash this morning?”

“Pear-shaped”: A situation which has quickly evolved into an accident waiting to happen might be described as “gone pear-shaped.” The phrase is reportedly old slang from the Royal Air Force and was used to described awry expeditions and flights.

“Well, this has all gone a bit pear-shaped.”

“Pea-souper”: A “pea-souper” is a thick fog, often with a yellow or black tinge, caused by air pollution. The idiom was first used to describe the thick, choking smogs that settled over London, caused by lots of people burning fossil fuels in a close vicinity, as early as 1200. The smogs were compared to pea soup due to their colour and density.

“Be careful when you’re driving – it’s a pea-souper out there.”

“Pinch punch first of the month”: “Pinch punch, first of the month. No returns of any kind” is a school playground rhyme often exchanged between friends on the first day of a new calendar month, accompanied by a pinch and a punch to the recipient.

If the joker forgets to say “no returns of any kind,” the recipient can say “a slap and a kick for being so quick,” accompanied by a slap and a kick. According to the Metro, the playground ritual originates from the medieval times, when a “pinch” of salt was believing to make witches weak, and the “punch” resembled banishing the witches entirely. As a result, “pinch punch, first of the month” was a way of warding off witches and bad luck for the near future. Nowadays, it’s mostly a way for kids to pull pranks on their friends.

“Pinch punch, first of the month!”

“Ha! A slap and a kick for being so quick!”

“Pop your clogs”: To “pop your clogs” means to die. This cheery phrase is widely believed to originate from Northern factory workers around the time of the industrial revolution. When they were working on the factory floor, employees had to wear hard clogs to protect their feet. “Pop” has evolved from “cock,” and when someone “cocked” their clogs, the toes of their clogs pointed up in the air as they lay down dead.

“Did you hear what happened to John’s old man? He popped his clogs, didn’t he…”

“Poppycock”: Something that is nonsense, rubbish, or simply untrue might be described as “poppycock.” This quintessentially British idiom derives from the Dutch “pap” and “kak,” which translate as “soft” and “dung.”

“What a load of poppycock!”

“Quids in”: Someone who’s “quids in” has invested in an opportunity which is probably going to benefit them massively. “Quid” is British slang for “pounds,” e.g., “five quid” means £5.

“If it all works out as planned, he’ll be quids in.”

“Round”: You might buy a “round” of drinks for your friends at the pub, in the understanding that they will each buy you a drink as part of their “rounds” later on.

“Whose round is it? Is it Steve’s?”

“No way, these pints were my round.”

“Shirty”: Someone short-tempered or irritated might be described as “shirty.” The meaning of this slang has been debated at length. The word “shirt” is derived from the Norse for “short,” hence short-tempered. However, other people believe that “shirty” has connotations of being dishevelled.

“Don’t get shirty with me, mister.”

“Skew-whiff”: Something that is “skew-whiff” is askew.

“Is it just me or is that painting a bit skew-whiff?”

“Skive”: “Skiving” is the act of avoiding work or school, often by pretending to be ill.

“Skive” is derived from the French “esquiver,” meaning “to slink away.”

“He skived off school so we could all go to Thorpe Park on a weekday.”

“Slumped”: Lacking in energy; usually after a long period of exertion.

“Do we have to go to the dinner party tonight? I’m slumped.”

“Smarmy”: Someone that comes across as scheming or untrustworthy might be described as “smarmy.” Although the adjective’s origins remain largely unknown, early documented uses seem to use the word as synonymous with “smear,” further suggesting that someone who is “smarmy” is also “slick” or “slippery.”

“Don’t trust him – he’s a smarmy geezer.”

“Sod’s law”: A British axiom that boils down to the idea that: “If anything can go wrong, then it definitely will go wrong.” “Sod’s law” is often used to explain bad luck or freakish acts of misfortune. This is more commonly known in the US as “Murphy’s law.”

“Of course my toast had to land on the floor butter-side-down. It’s Sod’s law.”

“Spend a penny”: To “spend a penny” is a polite euphemism for going to the toilet.

The phrase goes back to Victorian public toilets, which required users to insert a single penny in order to operate the lock. Although it sounds crude, the phrase is actually considered a polite way of announcing that you are going to visit the bathroom. Historically, only women would announce they were going to “spend a penny,” as only women’s public toilets required a penny to lock. Men’s urinals were free of charge.

“I’m going to spend a penny.”

“Splash out”: To “splash out” means spending significant amounts of money on a particular item or event. If you’re “splashing out,” it’s implied that you’re spending money on a treat to mark a special occasion or celebration.

“Wow – you’ve really splashed out on this party!”

“Swot”: Similar to “nerd” or “geek” but less derogatory – someone that takes academic study very seriously might be described as a “swot.” “Swot” can also be used as a verb. “I haven’t seen Tom since he started revising for his exams. He’s turned into such a swot!”

“Yeah, he’s been swotting like mad for his Spanish exam.”

“Take the biscuit”: If someone has done something highly irritating or surprising in an exasperating fashion, you might say that they’ve “taken the biscuit.” “Taking the biscuit” is the equivalent of taking the nonexistent medal for foolishness or incredulity.

“I could just about deal with the dog barking at 5:30a.m., but the lawnmower at 3 a.m. really takes the biscuit.”

“Take the Mickey”: To “take the Mickey” means to take liberties at the expense of others – and can be used in both a lighthearted and an irritated fashion. “Take the Mickey” is an abbreviation of “taking the Mickey Bliss,” which is Cockney rhyming slang for “take the p***.”

“Hey! Don’t take the Mickey.”

“Tickety-boo”: Something that is “tickety-boo” is satisfactory and in good order.

This classic British idiom may seem stereotypically twee; however, some sources believe that “tickety-boo” in fact derives from the Hindu phrase “hīk hai, bābū,” meaning “it’s alright, sir.”

“Everything’s tickety-boo.”

“Waffle”: When someone makes a great speech while skirting around a subject or saying little of any value, you might say that they’re talking “waffle,” or that they’re “waffling.”

In the 17th century, to “waff” went to yelp, and quickly evolved to mean to talk foolishly or indecisively. “I wish he’d stop waffling on.”

“What a load of waffle!”

“Wally”: Someone silly or incompetent might be described as a wally. Although its origins are largely debated, the term’s meaning has evolved over the last 50 years alone. In the 1960s, someone that was unfashionable might be nicknamed a “wally,” according to dictionary.com.

“Don’t put down a leaking mug on top of the newspaper, you wally!”

“Wangle”: If you’ve “wangled” something, you’ve accomplished or attained something through cunning means.

“I wangled some first-class seats by being nice to the cabin crew!”

“Whinge”: To “whinge” means to moan, groan, and complain in an irritating or whiney fashion.

“Quit whinging.”

“Wind your neck in”: If you want to tell someone to not concern themselves with issues that don’t directly affect them, you might tell them to “wind their neck in.” This classic phrase is another way of telling someone that their opinion is not appreciated in the given scenario.

“Wind your neck in and stop being so nosy!”

“Wind-up merchant”: Someone that makes comments just to spark controversy or argument might be labelled a “wind-up merchant.” The “wind-up merchant” will often claim to be making their comments as a light-hearted jest when the recipients start becoming irritated. If you’re “winding someone up,” you’re making them tense or irritated in the same way you wind up a Jack-in-the-box before it pops.

“Stop being such a wind-up merchant and be serious for one second!”

“Zonked”: Exhausted; tired.

“I was going to go out tonight but when I finished work I was absolutely zonked.”

 

Concluded

 

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