Index of entries

“Ae” spelling
Argle bargle; argie bargie
A proper
Baby bump
Book (verb)
Boxing Day
Call on (a phone number)
Car park
Chat show
Chat up
A coffee
Dab hand
Do (food)
Early days
European date format
Fingers crossed
From strength to strength
Full stop
Gap year
Get on with (a person)
Glottal stop
Go missing
Good on (a person)
Had got
Hang on
Hard cheese
Have a look
Have a quiet word
Have (someone) on
In future
Jack the lad
Jumble sale
(Piece of) kit
Knacker’s, knackered, etc.
Knickers in a twist
Knock-on effects
Larking, larky
A laugh
Logical punctuation
The long game
Make a hash
Man with a van; white van man
Mewling quim
No worries
On about
On holiday
On offer
On the back foot
Opening hours
A pint
Scenario (pronunciation)
Sell-by date
Silly season
Sit for (an exam)
Small beer
Sort of
Sort out
Spanner in the works
Spot on
Stag do
Sticky wicket
Straight away
Streets ahead
Suss out
Take a decision
Th-fronting (pronunciation)
Thank you very much, indeed
Too clever by half
Top oneself
Top up
Turn up
(At) university
University students
Wait for it
Well played, sir!
Year on year
… Years on

60 responses to “Index of entries

  1. Ben,
    This was fun but some entries really surprised me, perhaps because I grew-up hearing Scotland-born grandparents and their kids (e.g. my dad) using tin, bin, keen, veg, cheers (and “cheerio” as good-bye), daft, dodgy, fishmonger and a coffee (and similarily “a tea”) as part of everyday conversation. I think I do as well but never thought it anything but normal.

    More clearly Scot but still used a lot at home were wee, lass, laddie, bonnie, dram…

    One Britishism not on your list that I’m hearing lately is “tosser.” Not sure exactly how it relates to wanker.

  2. Hey…what about “collect”? As in, “I need to collect Rover from the vet.” I wrote “collect” in an email to my husband the other day and he wasn’t sure what I meant. FYI I lived in England in the late 80s and some things stuck with me for a long time, e.g. kitchen roll. It took me a while to remember that kitchen roll = paper towel. Other words/phrases that stuck with me…bin, went missing, on the dole, cheers, and a few others I can’t remember this second.

    My British colleagues were curious about “getting canned”. They were disappointed it meant “to be fired or made redundant”; they were thinking it had a sexual connotation :). I personally like the term “made redundant”…wish we used it here.

    • Rachel- “made redundant” is not exactly the same as being fired; it’s a precise legal term- it means that your *position* is no longer required, It would then be against the law to hire someone else to do the same job,
      People say “I’ve been made redundant”, but that’s not technically correct- it’s the *job* that’s redundant (and the person leaving must be compensated, at least to a minimum scale (and often much more),

  3. A Briticism that I loathe and that has been spreading like wildfire in the last few years: “At the end of the day” — I don’t like it when a Brit says it either.

    • I don’t like it either. My other half used to say it *a lot*- I cured it with aversion therapy! Every time she said: “At the end of the day…”, I would butt in and say “It goes dark!”.

      She tired of it before I did. :)

  4. How about “have a go” in place of our “give it a try”?

  5. “Call on” in the telephone meaning is US, instead of “call me at. ” Call me on xxx-xxx-xxxx. In the sense of coming to visit, that is common for salespeople in the US.

    Up to school, university. I know that “university” instead of “college” is Canadian also, but the “up to” part is from the mother country. Analog to “down to” the country.

  6. “She put the phone down on me” — Americans would probably just say “hung up on me”

  7. One I heard on a radio program this morning: bouncy castle, which I always translate into “moon bounce”, whether it looks like a castle or not. There are phrases that I imagine are so daft or so twee that no American would ever use them and yet I am so very often surprised.

  8. Where is “nonstarter”?

    • Is that actually a Britishism?

    • A nonstarter is any idea or project which never gets off the ground, in fact never makes it beyond the planning/discussion state, usually because of one crucial lack or flaw. ‘Moving to London with insufficient money for rent was a nonstarter for Jill and Ian.’ It never got any farther than the planning stage…it was impractical, un-do-able.

  9. I couldn’t find an address to make general suggestions for noobs, so this thread seems appropriate.
    I came across the term “fair cop” in the blog of Brad DeLong, economics professor at Berkeley. I always thought this was quintessential Cockney (“Fair cop, guv!”= “You caught me fair and square, boss”). Is this in fact common in US English as well?

    PS I am continually delighted, surprised and sometimes a little nonplussed to see terms that I thought were universal English are in fact noobs.

  10. OOOOH. I am over the moon that I found this site today!

  11. Just found this site, love it! What about the use of “wang” as in, “I’ll just wang over.” Also, the use of “Doris” to refer to a married woman.

    • I’m British & Wang means Penis. I wouldn’t recommend using it in the sentence you’ve suggested, might lead to some red faces, ha!

      • IvanOpinion

        Wang does indeed mean penis, but it is also a verb meaning to throw. Many school fairs in the UK would include a welly (gumboot) wanging competition.

    • I don’t know what ‘wang’ means where you are, but here in England the term ‘wang’ usually refers to the male genetalia. I’m also unsure as to the term doris meaning a married woman specifically, it would normally be the case that your mother might be reffered to as the ‘old dorothy’ or ‘old dot’ and some may refer to their wives as ‘doris’ in latter years.

      • “Doris” is widely used by cops in the Met (and possibly elsewhere) to refer to a female officer; it’s actually a somewhat offensive term, as it comes from rhyming slang: Doris Day = easy lay.

      • “Wang” as penis is an Americanism that’s crept into British English; “wang” as in throw is older (as in the welly-wanging contests mentioned above).

  12. Not yet on the list (but coming ‘straight away,’ I hope):

    going forward
    knock me up

    Rachel: “getting canned” does have a (recent?) sexual connotation. Check Dan Savage’s advice column (“Savage Love”).

    • Here’s a fun one thatr always makes me smile: “Little man” as in “there was a little man selling balloons”. Or “I need to get a little man in to fix the sink”.

  13. What a joy to find this site. I’m British and have been living in NYC for 14 years now, but still find myself amazed at the differences in our use of a common language. One of my favorite jobs was as a copy editor for an American-edited English-language newspaper in Moscow in the early 90s. Our readership included many nationalities, including British and American expats. Though not really NOOBs, my two favorite catches in articles written by fantastic young American journalists were:
    “She walked down the runway, showing flashes of fanny through the thigh-high slits in her skirt,” and, just a few weeks later, “The typical image of a Conservative minister sitting at his desk in suspenders.”
    Left unedited, neither of these would have made suitable reading in a daily paper for our British readers. “Fanny,” a harmless reference to buttocks in the US, means “vagina” in British slang. “Suspenders” refers to a garter belt in the UK. (Brits say “braces.” Though perhaps “suspenders” would have been more appropriate for a few Conservative ministers at that time.)

    • Have you seen the famous bit of TV when Fanny and Johnny Craddock were on their cookery show? She’d been demonstrating how to make doughnuts.
      During the sign-off, Johnny piped up “Goodbye, and I hope all your doughnuts turn out like Fanny’s”. :)

  14. Heh. This side of the pond, “braces” means dental braces, for straightening splayed teeth.

  15. Heres a few:
    “bumming a fag” -begging for a cigarette,
    “thats pants” -thats not great,
    “nicking” -taking things without asking / stealing, so you could also “nick a fag”. Stop that sniggering in the back row!

    In some parts of England I was once told that “a couple” could mean 3, bit like a bakers dozen being 13 maybe. The “Happy Couple” has some interesting connotations there…

  16. ‘hanger left/ right’ i.e. turn left or right especially when giving driving directions
    In north east England ‘wife’ means any female above teenage/ early 20s years
    ‘the dogs bollocks’- top quality, brilliant
    ‘brass monkey weather’ from the phrase ‘cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey’, possibly derived from a navy contraption to stack cannon balls

    • It’s not “hanger left” – it’s “hang a left”.

      And the brass monkey/cannonball thing is a myth- cannonballs were stored in *wooden* racks on board ship. See for details.

  17. Thanks, this site is the dog’s bollocks!

  18. Went out of the house this morning (in England) and it was a little bit cold. So of course, we would say it was a little “Nippy”, or its a bit “Parky”, both meaning cold.

  19. One word that needs to be added here is “quite.” In British English “quite” means “sort of,” even, ironically, “not very.” It does not have the quality of strongly intensifying meaning as it has, or can have, in the USA.

    • It can have the intensifying meaning. So the meaning of “I am quite exhausted” could be “I am slightly exhausted” or “I am completely exhausted”, depending on how you say it. But I think the latter would be considered old-fashioned usage in the UK.

  20. Great blog – I’d second the use of “quite” as a quasi-NOOB, since Americans seem to use it differently than the Brits. One term I’ve noticed popping up on my Facebook is “ace.” It’s become common for random & unconnected friends to post “that’s ace” or something similar. Just a thought.

  21. Also worth a mention is ‘Lush’ a term used mainly in South Wales & the West Country it means something that is good, great, attractive & can describe how some one looks, how something tastes or to describe a situation. I use it at least once a day!

    • It’s more widely used than that- it’s quite a “now” word with the younger population- my daughter and her friends use it in this way all the time.

  22. Charles Mayfield

    I have come across a term that was very puzzling at first- “chuffed.” It sounds to me as it should mean upset when it apparently means just the opposite. I hear it from time to time on television shows from England.

  23. How about “doing sums”? Hasn’t been used much in the US in the past century, but then yesterday’s NYT had “Mr. Day-Lewis prepared for the part not by splitting rails or doing sums on the back of a shovel but mostly by reading.”

  24. What about “scatty” for scatterbrain. as in the movie the secret about cats and dogs w/ actor Ben something can’t remember his last name.

  25. I think there must be some regionality at play here. A solid third of these have been in common usage in New Hampshire/New England for my 50 years. Fun site though.

  26. The use of Tarmac by Americans refering to the runway bothers me it is a British company trade-name for asphalt as Macadam and Coldprovia was onced used in the USA. most Americans think thet come across as world travelers when they use it.

  27. I tried to correct a friend in the States who often claimed to be “pissed” when she was annoyed. I said the correct terminology is “pissed-off” as in the UK to be pissed is to be drunk. And it is “chips” not “french fries”…..

    PS: congrats at your receiving coverage in a UK newspaper which is how I found this blog.

  28. How about “you lot” ? I’ve started using it hyere in Texas!

  29. How about, “We legged it.” ? (We escaped as quickly as we could.)

  30. One Britishism I picked up in England and South Africa was telling someone, when he’d helped you with a small favor— like, say, a waiter fetching you a wedge of lemon for your tea— was, “Oh, you’re a star!” I still say it in the USA.

  31. How about a “car park” ? (US= parking garage)

  32. A “parking garage” would generally be under cover, yes? That’s one sort of car park, but it’s a broader term. Most car parks are outdoors – just a flat open space with marked bays. The other main type is the multi-storey car park – closer to what I understand by “parking garage”.

  33. Having a ball reading all these. I’m U.S.-born-and-raised, but an unabashed fan of Shakespeare, Monty Python, J.K. Rowling, et al. As a scientist, I was moved to run some statistics. I categorized the 144 terms above as follows: 44 that I regularly use in my own speech without the least hint of irony; 86 I would be perfectly comfortable using in context, around Brits, or tongue-in-cheek; 32 I would immediately understand, but wouldn’t tend to use myself; and 21 I honestly hadn’t heard before. (The remaining 14, I couldn’t classify without looking at the actual articles to make sure I had the sense of them right, and I don’t have time at the moment.)

  34. On a day in which you wake up confused and disorientated, you might say, “I don’t know whether I’m Arthur or Martha today!”

    If you fall, seemingly effortlessly, into a fortunate situation, your mates might say, “Well, YOU surely landed with your bum in the butter, didn’t you?”

    If you express disgust with the dirty clothes of a chimney-sweep, a fr5iend might chide you with, “Hey, where there’s muck, there’s brass!”

    If you’re a feckless ne’er-do-well, but make a gallant promise to achieve something, a doubting friend might wither: “Chance would be a fine thing!” (ie., fat chance of THAT ever happening!)

    “Are we still expected to give a speech, or has that idea been kicked into the long grass?” (ie., scuttled)

    Man 1: “I just can’t get my hand on the knob!”
    Woman: (knowingly) “Said the bishop to the actress!” (ie., initial phrase can be construed as a risque’ double-entendre).

    • 50 yr old Brit and never heard the first two, but doesn’t mean they are wrong.

      An alternative to the bishop/actress phrase would be “Nudge, nudge, wink, wink!”, from the Monty Python sketch.

  35. I’ve started using the British phrases: “funnily enough” and “in the fullness of time”

    • “I’m all right, Jack!” An old English phrase suggesting how many Britons are, frustratingly, too proud to open up or to seek help or to admit problems. An expression of pride (and sometimes unwillingness to help others)

      • IvanOpinion

        As a Brit I have always understood this to signify selfishness. Often used to refer to the behaviour of someone else who is unwilling to do something about a problem because it does not affect them personally. Perhaps Americans would say “Not my problem!”?

  36. “Every hole’s a goal!” A lewd expression exchanged post-game by drunk rugby players… meaning “In my current state, any orifice of a woman would be fine for me.”

  37. “I’m alright Jack” is also the title of a really (really!!) funny Brit movie with Peter Sellers in his first star role as a trade union overseer.
    It is a comedy about management-men relations. A classic line from Sellers:-”We cannot accept incompetency (sic) as a reason for dismissal. That is victimisation”.
    If you see it in a dvd bin-get it!

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