Ten Brit Words/Phrases I’ve Adapted Into My Vocab (and a few more for fun)
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.
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.
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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