This typical conversation happens often in my world of an American living in England: Me: So has Philip gotten back to you about that book?
Brit Bloke: Not a dickie bird.
Brit Bloke: You know, not a dickie bird.
Me: Dickie bird?
Brit Bloke: Not a sausage.
Me: Dickie bird? Sausage? What does that mean????
Brit Bloke: You haven't heard that before? It's Cockney rhyming slang.
Me: And it means???
Brit Bloke: *smug I know more than you smile* Haven't heard a word back. Not a thing. Dickie bird rhymes with word. Get it?
Me: *sigh of defeat, and will I ever get this cultural stuff?* No, not even in the slightest.
That conversation happened three days ago. Right. Cockney slang and Sheffieldish will be posts for another day, as I have realised there is as much diverse regional slang as there is coloured confetti in a New York parade.
After my eight years of living here, I thought I would share my top ten Brit slang words/phrases that I actually say now. A few are more natural than others (some I say just because it's funny), but here's the list in no particular order:
1) Cheeky - I say this all the time to my kids. Actually I say 'cheeky monkeys' as cheeky implies being mischievous in a sweet, innocent, you still gotta love them kind of way.
2) Cuppa – This is a Yorkshire term that connotes most Brit’s greatest addiction: a cup of tea. I love tea, and now I’m a tea snob. Americans, no offense, but Lipton is like dollar store generic tea. You don’t know real tea until you’ve had a proper cuppa.
3) Broody - When someone is holding a baby and wishes they could have a baby too. I often see this with older women who loved it when they were pregnant/had babies and now their kids are grown or with young mums ready to have another. Just a FYI, though I love my own kids (esp. as they are getting older), I never, ever get broody.
4) Mardy/Whinge - These pretty much mean the same, but whingy (a variation of whinge) is reserved for babies who usually have good reason like teething. It means sulky, terse or bad-tempered. ie. - Don't drink any more beer 'cause you get mardy.
5) Brilliant/Lovely - I use these often, though I get teased by American friends because it feels so normal to me. Usually it’s after a positive interchange, and/or we decide to do something that we are pleased with such as, 'Let's meet for lunch.' 'That would be lovely/brilliant.'
6) Bloke - Up here in Yorkshire (a region of England) we would never use 'chap' to describe a man. ‘He’s a right nice bloke, innit he?’ (translated – ‘he’s a nice guy’)
8) Trackie Botts – A few months ago a friend was talking about her son’s sports club and needing to get more trackie botts, which is short for trackie bottoms. I loved this phrase so much after hearing it that I went around the house annoying everyone with, ‘Like my trackie botts? Gonna go do some exercise.’ Sweat pants are what I used to call them, but pants are underwear here so that American phrase now sounds a wee bit disgusting. Sweat underwear???
9) Ayup/Hiya – Again another Yorkshire way (two different words) of saying hello. I don’t use it often except when I’m being tongue in cheek about how un-Yorkshire I am, though ‘Hiya’ can slip out occasionally without trying.
10) Ta/Ta Ra/Ta Duck/Ta Ducky/Ta Love – This is my favourite weird Yorkshire set of phrases, but you have to picture a big, bald and burly Yorkshire bloke saying this to your big, weirded out American husband as your leaving with paint from the DIY store. Ta is short for ‘thanks’ and then you add Ra, Duck, Ducky, or Love to the end. I say ‘ta’ in texts, but I couldn’t bring myself to add the others as, well, I have no idea what Ra means or why Duck is a term of endearment.
This is by far not a comprehensive list and many of these words can be spelled different ways (ie. ayup can be ay-up or ay up). I find I learn new sayings at least once a week in conversation, over text, in books, and/or in emails. Some definitions I can deduce by the context (ie. ‘Sorry I wittered away today’ – means ‘sorry I talked a lot’), but some I must have explained to me. This was especially true when my daughter came home and said, ‘Come ‘ere me 'ole pork sausage’ to the cat (the Brits have a special love for their sausage and call people/things they love sausages).
So I will have more slang/dialect posts in the months to come, but I thought I’d leave you with an old 80s commercial that shows the difference in British regional pronunciation and slang.
Ta Duck (pronounced Doouk).
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