aggro

n aggression; trouble: Hey, you! Stop making faces at that guy outside with the knife – we don’t want any aggro around here!

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alight

v disembark. Many American tourists are confronted with this word quite rapidly after reaching the U.K., because on the London Underground the pre-recorded message says such things as: “This is Baker Street. Alight here for Madame Tussauds.” Madame Tussauds is a cheesy attraction and best avoided. The voice on the tube only says the part about the alighting.

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anyroad

adv very much an equivalent of “anyway.” If you think about it, “any road” pretty much means “any way,” erm, anyway.

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bagsie

v stake a claim for something in the same way that Americans would claim “dibbs” on or “call” some item or privilege: I bagsie the front seat or Bagsie first shot on the dodgems! It’s a rather childlike sentiment; you would be less likely to hear I bagsie being Financial Director! It doesn’t seem ridiculously far-fetched that it’d be derived from “bags I,” with “bag” meaning to catch something. But hey, who can tell. [Etymologists. –ed.]

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bally

adj darned. A very old-fashioned minor swear word, muck akin to a lighter version of “bloody”: I say, Edward! I think that ruffian is making off with your bally wallet!

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Baltic

n very cold: I’m not going outside without a coat, it’s bloody Baltic! Presumably named for the Baltic states, which aren’t all that cold.

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barney

n argument; fight. This is certainly rhyming slang, but no one’s sure of whence it came. It could either be “Barney Rubble” / “trouble” (Barney Rubble is a character in the cartoon “The Flintstones”), or “Barn Owl” / “row” (when it means “fight,” “row” rhymes with “now”). The latter is marginally more likely, as “trouble” could be many things other than a fight, but the former is a more popular explanation. Pick one.

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bash on

interj press on regardless, to keep struggling in the face of adversity. Has nothing to do with hitting people.

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bingo bango bongo

n that’s that done. Popularised by T.V. chef Jamie Oliver, and now used by people who are young enough to think it sounds nice.

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blag

v wheedle; bluff; wangle: I managed to blag a ride to work. Or: I had no idea what I was talking about but I think I managed to blag it. Perhaps if I sat for a bit longer I’d think up better examples. Likely derived from the French “blague,” meaning a tall story. Americans use “mooch” and “moocher” in the same context.

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bleeding

adj similar to “bloody.” Used extensively by Cockneys (i.e., in London). Consequently, there are no recorded incidents of the trailing “g” being enunciated.

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blimey

interj nice mild expletive, in terms of rudeness on a par with “my goodness.” It was originally part of the phrase “cor blimey,” which was likely a contraction of “God blind me,” which was in turn an abbreviated version of “may God blind me if it is not so.” There has been little evidence of God blinding users of the word, whether what they were saying was true or not. The original phrase “cor blimey” is still used, but rarely.

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blinding

adj unusually wonderful. A currently popular slang term, largely interchangeable with “brilliant” or “great.” You’d use it to describe the goal that your football team just scored, or your favourite Elton John song. Though if you even had a favourite Elton John song, there’s a good chance you’re unfamiliar with current slang.

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blinking

adj damned. A lesser equivalent to “bloody.” Slightly old-fashioned, but still in widespread use.

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Bob’s your uncle

interj there you have it; ta-da! It’s a little antiquated these days but by no means out of use. It carries a cheerful connotation, so you would be more likely to hear: And then fold it back again, once over itself like that and Bob’s your uncle — an origami swan! rather than: Just get a hold of the paedophile register and Bob’s your uncle!

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bobbins

adj useless junk. While quite recent slang, it’s rather charming: Did your grandmother leave you anything good? / Nope, just a complete load of ancient bobbins. One possible etymology: that it’s from the north of England (particularly the Lancashire and Manchester areas), which used to be supported largely by cotton mills. As the industrial revolution drew to a close, the mills closed down and the population found itself with a surfeit of largely worthless milling machinery. During that time the phrase “‘twas worth nout but bobbins” sprung up; years later we’re left only with the last word.

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bodge

1 v make a bit of a haphazard job of something 2 n something cobbled together. A “bodger” was originally a craftsman who worked on a green-wood lathe, but this information is of almost no help at all because the word “bodger” still rather implies that such a person was “bodging” something.

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bog standard

n no frills. The basic version. So your “bog standard” Volkswagen Golf would be one that doesn’t have electric windows, power steering or opposable thumbs. Well, nowadays a bog-standard Golf probably does have two thirds of those things. There’s no particular reason to believe that the term has anything to do with a toilet (see “bog”).

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bonkers

n crazy. I don’t think it really hit home that he was completely bonkers until he showed us the plan for attaching the finished device to his dog’s testicles.

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bonny

adj Scottish beautiful. A little antiquated — you’d be much more likely to hear: Deirdre’s new granddaughter is awfully bonny! than you would: Bobby’s stolen a bonny new shooter — we’re going to go out this evening and do the chip shop over.

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bought it

v died. Generally refers to someone who died doing something somewhat dangerous: D’you know Jochen Rindt was the first posthumous Formula One champion? Bought it four races from the end of the 1970 season and still won the bloody thing.

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bricking it

n shit scared: He didn’t do very well in the interview – we felt a bit sorry for him as he was clearly bricking it.

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brill

adj popular abbreviation for “brilliant.” Well, popular amongst 1980s adolescents.

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brilliant

adj particularly good: I had a brilliant holiday; What a brilliant night out. It’s a little bit childish — you’d be less likely to refer to a “brilliant board meeting” or a “brilliant shag.” Also carries the usual other meanings (as “gifted” or “luminescent”) in the U.K.

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bumf

n copious amounts of paperwork or literature: You would not believe the bloody stack of bumf that came with my new video recorder. Possibly derived from the army and a contraction of the phrase “bum fodder,” i.e., toilet paper.

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bung

1 v stick; wedge. Push something into something, often something that was not intended for that purpose: Eventually we discovered that it wasn’t working because our son had bunged a Polish sausage into the video recorder. 2 n stopper, often rubber. The type of thing you use to block fluid from coming out of things. 3 n bribe intended to buy silence. A monetary reward given to someone in order to buy their tacit agreement, often associated with the fixing of sports games: Everyone knows that their manager’s taking bungs to throw the matches anyway. 4 – up full of cold; congested: I can’t come into work today, one of the kids is bunged up.

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bunk off

v skip (as in school); play truant: I think I’m just going to bunk off and ride my bike today.

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burgle

v break into somewhere and nick stuff. Americans have the hilarious word “burglarize,” which means the same thing; for all I know, Yanks might refer to the event as burglarization. Or perhaps not.

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busk

v sit in the street playing an instrument and hoping people will give you money. See also “waster.”

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butcher’s

n look: Hey, give me a butcher’s at that. ‘From Cockney rhyming slang: “butcher’s hook” / “look.”

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cack-handed

clumsy; ineptly executed. Likely derived from a time when the left hand was used for cleaning one’s posterior after movements, and the right hand reserved for anything else. Therefore anything executed with the left hand is perhaps sub-standard. Almost all scatological etymologies are historically false, but they’re more amusing than the polite ones. The sad truth of life is that more of our language derived from the Viking term for “baking tray” than some sort of acronym which spelled “FUCK.”

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car boot sale

n merry event where people get together in a field and sell the rubbish from their attic, under the secret suspicion that some part of it might turn out to be splendidly valuable. Not entirely dissimilar to a jumble sale. The term stems no doubt from the fact that this is normally carried out using the boot of your car as a headquarters. This sort of nonsense is now largely replaced by eBay, where you can sell the 1950s engraved brass Hitler moustache replica your father was awarded for twenty years’ service in the post office without actually having to meet the freak who bought it.

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champion

adj Northern England great; wonderful: Ooh, those sausages were champion!

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cheerio

interj goodbye. Fairly old-fashioned and light-hearted. Originates from the 1970s, when one of the favourite killing methods of the Welsh mafia was to intravenously inject the victim with breakfast cereal.

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cheers

interj informal substitute for “thank you.” Somehow derived from its use as an all-purpose toast.

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chivvy on

v hurry someone along with something. If you want an example, you can have this: I was pretty sure I’d be up until 1 a.m. daydreaming instead of doing my homework, but my mum chivvied me on with it and I was done fairly early.

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chock-a-block

adj closely packed together. You might use this to describe your dating schedule or your attic, unless you are unforgivably ugly and you live in a flat, in which case you’d have to think up something else to use it on. The examples here are provided as-is, you know; they don’t necessarily work for everyone. It’s possible that the word has a quite unfortunate origin — it may have originally referred to the area where black slaves were once lined up on blocks to be sold. It’s also possible that it stems from maritime usage, referring to when a block and tackle were jammed against each other to stop the load moving.

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chuffed

adj generally happy with life. Make sure you only use this word in the correct tense and familiarise yourself with the meaning of the word “chuff,” too (see previous entry). For antonym see “dischuffed”.

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cock a snook

v thumb one’s nose. A display of contempt, normally expressed at some sort of authority: Between you and me, I think the eight-foot bronze penis Harry made was less about art and more about cocking a snook at Norwich City Council.

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cock about

v fool around; mess about: Where the heck’s Bob? / I think he’s in the garage cocking about with that ridiculous jet-powered go-kart that he bought on eBay.

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codswallop

n nonsense. The etymology of this antiquated but superb word leads us to an English gentleman named Hiram Codd, who in 1872 came up with the idea of putting a marble and a small rubber ring just inside the necks of beer bottles in order to keep fizzy beer fizzy (“wallop” being Old English for beer). The idea was that the pressure of the fizz would push the marble against the ring, thereby sealing the bottle. Unfortunately, the thing wasn’t nearly as natty as he’d hoped and “Codd’s wallop” slid into the language first as a disparaging comment about flat beer and eventually as a general term of abuse.

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concessions

n discounts you might get on things if you’ve been there before, are a student, are over sixty or such like. Brits do not use the U.S. definition (snacks you buy during a film or sporting event). Often abbreviated “concs,” to confuse American tourists attending crappy mainstream musicals in the West End.

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cor

interj ooh! Once a part of the phrase “cor blimey,” this is now used on its own to mean something like “ooh!” And here was you thinking that was some sort of typo.

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cor blimey

interj rather older-fashioned term of surprise: Cor blimey, I thought he was going to drive straight into us! Has mostly migrated these days into just “blimey” or, more rarely, “cor.”

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craic

n pron. “crack” fun and frolics to be had with other people; what makes a particular pub fun, or a particular wedding bearable: The pub ended up being a bit shit but the craic was great! From Irish Gaelic, hence the comedy spelling. The popular recreational drug “crack” exists in the U.K., as does the euphemism for vagina. This means endless confusion for many Irish crack whores.

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crikey

interj general expression of surprise. Rather elderly and a little esoteric these days — you can most imagine it being used in a context something like: Crikey, Eustace — looks like Cambridge are going to win after all! It may be derived from “Christ kill me.” It also may not.

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cropper

n sudden failure. Only really used in the phrase “come a cropper,” e.g., Your uncle Arthur came a cropper on his motorcycle one evening after a few beers! It means something particularly bad has happened to the person in question. Most likely they died.

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crumbs

interj general expression of surprise. Much akin to “God,” or “bloody hell” in that context (but without the ghastly use of our saviour’s name in vain or any swearing). It’s quite all right to use in polite company, though perhaps a little antiquated. More likely to be heard in a context like: Crumbs, that’s more expensive than Harrods rather than: Crumbs, I just dropped the smack out the window.

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current account

n checking account. The bank account into which you deposit your salary, only to have it seep away gently through the porous floor of the bank.

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damp

n (yes, noun) wet rot. You might hear it in a phrase such as: Bob’s moved out of his house as it’s been practically destroyed by damp.

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daylight robbery

n highway robbery. A swindle so blatant that its very audacity takes you by surprise: Twenty percent a year? That’s bloody daylight robbery!

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dead arm

n an arm which has been disabled via a punch to the tricep. A popular form of entertainment amongst school bullies or inebriated university students.

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dear

adj expensive. While a little bit antiquated, it’s still in more widespread use in the United Kingdom than it is in the U.S.

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dicky

v dodgy; iffy. Not quite right. Usually used in reference to digestive health: I can’t come into work today, I’ve got a bit of a dicky stomach.

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diddle

v swindle mildly. A colleague might diddle you out of getting the best seats at the game; you’d be less likely to tell of when your grandparents were diddled out of their fortune, leaving them penniless beggars working the streets for cash. Brits do not use the term to refer to onanism.

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dischuffed

adj unhappy: When I got the car back from the garage I was dischuffed to say the least.

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disused

adj unused: In the end we took him to a disused warehouse and beat the living daylights out of him. Not sure if it’ll stop him, but it certainly made your mother and I feel a lot better.

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doddle

n something very easy.

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dog’s bollocks

n See “bollocks.” I’m not writing it twice.

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dog’s breakfast

n something which has been made a complete mess of: When we finally got his tax return through it turned out it was a dog’s breakfast. Why the dog should have any worse breakfast than the rest of us, I have no idea.

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dog’s dinner

n same as “dog’s breakfast” (marginally more common).

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dole

n welfare. An allocation of money that the government gives to unemployed people, ostensibly to help them eat and clothe themselves during their fervent search for gainful employment but really for buying fags and lager. on the dole receiving welfare: Bob’s been on the dole since his accident.

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donkey’s years

n ages; a very long time: That shop’s been there for donkey’s years. The term originates from the fact that donkeys are larger than human beings, and so if we were all planets then years would be longer on the donkey-planet than they would on the human-planet. This is certainly the most likely explanation.

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duff

adj useless; crap: Hey, what happened to that new magical TV multi-remote thing you got? / Oh, I sent it back. It turned out to be a bit duff.

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easy peasy

adj easy. Somewhat childish – more likely to apply to little Jimmy’s ability to jump over the dog than Price Waterhouse Coopers’ ability to balance your accounts.

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faff

v pussyfoot; bumble about doing things that aren’t quite relevant to the task in hand. You’ll often find it used when men are complaining about women faffing around trying on different sets of clothes before going out, which uses up valuable drinking time.

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flag

v become tired; wane: I was doing fine until the last lap and then I started to flag.

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flog

1 n sell. Has an air of poor credibility to it — a bloke in the pub might flog you a dodgy car stereo, but you’re less likely to find Marks and Spencer announcing in the press that from next week they’ll be flogging a new ladies wear range. Americans would probably use “hawk” in the same instances. 2 beat viciously (universal).

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flutter

v brief, low-stake foray into gambling. Many people “have a flutter” on the Grand National horse race once a year, or the odd boxing match. Anything more regular and it’s just straight gambling.

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fortnight

n two weeks (from “fourteen nights”). This word is in very common usage in the U.K. As to why the Brits need a term for a time period which the Americans have never felt the urge to name, perhaps it stems from the fact that Americans get so little annual leave that they can never really take a fortnight of holiday anyway.

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full Monty, the

n the works; the whole shebang. Since the 1997 film of the same name the phrase has tended to mean “completely naked” if not put in a context.

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gazump

n accept a higher offer in a property deal at the very last minute: The day we were supposed to sign the papers we were gazumped! Your mother spat at them, which made me feel slightly better about it.

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give over

interj give up: When are you going to stop watching telly and get your homework done? / Jesus mum, give over!

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glass

v the act of breaking a glass and shoving the lower half of it into someone’s face, thereby causing some degree of distress. A popular way for pikeys to settle arguments.

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go down a storm

adj go down great; go down like a bomb: Julie went down a storm with the customers we spoke to today – I reckon we’ll see an order this afternoon as long as the demo model doesn’t catch fire again.

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gobshite

n Scottish 1 bullshit. Intended to refer to the metaphorical shite that is coming out of your gob: Jimmy said he was in the Olympic ski team but to be honest I think it’s all gobshite. 2 the person who is emitting said matter: I wouldn’t believe anything Anne says, she’s a wee gobshite.

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gobsmacked

adj surprised; taken aback: I was completely gobsmacked… I didn’t even know she was pregnant.

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grizzle

n Scottish grumble or moan. Much like “whinging.” Often used to refer to grumpy babies: Oh, just ignore him he’s been grizzling all morning.

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gubbins

n apparatus; stuff that does stuff: You put a coin in this end, and then out of here comes a model of the Eiffel Tower. I’m not really sure how the gubbins works…

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gutted

adj deeply disappointed. You might use it to describe your state of health after your football team were beaten eight-nil and you dropped your car keys in a pond.

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hard stop

n deadline. The time at which something must finish: I can come along to your wife-swapping party to start with, but I have a hard stop at eight o’clock.

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hash

n pound; octathorp (the symbol ‘#’). As well as various other universal meanings, Brits call the ‘#’ symbol hash.

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haver

v Scottish pron. “hay-ver” ramble incoherently: I went to see granny at the weekend but, well, bless her, she’s just havering these days. The word is in common usage, and features in the Proclaimers’ song I’m Gonna Be (500 miles).

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having kittens

interj extremely nervous: I was having kittens beforehand but once I got in there the director explained the plot and I managed to just get undressed and get on with it.

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higgledy-piggledy

adj in disarray; jumbled up. You might use it to describe the garden shed you built when you got home from the pub. The term is a little antiquated but still in use.

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hire

v rent. Americans rent rental-cars; Brits hire hire-cars. In the U.K., the word extends to any other objects you might borrow for a short period of time – bicycles, bulldozers, hookers and such like. Americans will only ever use the word “hire” in connection with hiring a person to perform a task, not a machine.

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hum

n unusually bad smell, perhaps somewhat associated with rottenness. Is rottenness a word? Who knows?

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ickle

n itty-bitty; very small. Usually be seen in use regarding “cute” things: What an ickle puppy! Less likely to be seen in more serious situations: Dad – I’ve just had an ickle accident in your car.

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indeed

adv extra-much, when used after a statement: It was pretty warm to start with but when they turned on the booster rockets it got very hot indeed.

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innit

interj London “isn’t it.” A very London-centric contraction with nasal pronunciation obligatory: Well, the traffic’s always this bad at this time of night, innit guvnor.

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jammy

adj lucky. Often seen in the phrase “you jammy git,” uttered graciously on some sort of defeat.

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jolly

adv 1 very: We had a jolly good time at the zoo. 2 adj happy: He seemed remarkably jolly about the whole business.

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kerfuffle

n Scottish big fuss; rumpus. The word “fuffle” (meaning to dishevel) arrived in Scottish English in the 16th century; the word gained a “car-” in the 19th, to arrive in the 20th with its current spelling.

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kick the bucket

v die. I am going to assume that this refers to an important part of the hanging-yourself procedure if you don’t happen to have a chair. Somewhat informal, as you might have guessed: Jimmy says he can’t buy a car until his grandmother kicks the bucket.

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kip

n sleep: I’m just off home for an hour for some kip. It’s a Dutch word meaning a rather run-down place to sleep.

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knackered

adj very tired; beat. The “knacker’s yard” was once a place where old horses were converted into glue.

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knock about

n sport practise: Jimmy and I are taking the football to the park for a knockabout.

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knock up

v bang upon someone’s door, generally to get them out of bed: OK, g’night – can you knock me up in the morning? In U.S. English, “knocking someone up” means getting them pregnant. Although most Brits will feign innocence, they do know the U.S. connotations of the phrase and it adds greatly to the enjoyment of using it. Both Brits and Americans share the term “knocking off,” to mean various other things.

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lie-in

n the act of staying in bed longer than you normally would. Very similar to “sleeping in,” though it implies something a little more deliberate. “Sorry, I was having a lie-in” would be as bad an excuse for being late for work as “sorry, I couldn’t be arsed getting up.”

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miffed

adj pissed off: She was pretty quiet all evening and then got a bit miffed as soon as I suggested we pay half each. She started crying, saying she’d never wanted to go to a strip bar in the first place and asking for her purse back.

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mind

v watch out for: Mind the gap; Mind your head whilst going down the stairs.

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momentarily

adj for a moment. Not to be confused with the U.S. definition, “in a moment.” I was alerted to this by a Brit who heard a station announcement in Chicago that his train would be “stopping momentarily at platform 6” and was unsure as to whether he was supposed to take a running leap to get into it before it left.

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moreish

adj provoking of further consumption. I once wrote that you’d never find this word in a dictionary, but I had to change when someone pointed out to me that it was in the OED. I hate you all. It means something (usually food) which leads you to want more – Jaffa Cakes, Jelly Babies or dry roasted peanuts would be some good personal examples. It’s rather light-hearted; you wouldn’t go around describing heroin as moreish, whether it is or not.

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mug

n gullible person: He’s such a mug, he just took the entire story and believed every word of it!

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named after

adj named for: His mum claims he was named after his paternal grandfather but, between you me, I can’t really see how she’d work out who that was.

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nativity

n crèche. Christian Christmas scene, usually featuring a plasticine baby Jesus lying in some grass. Normally made painstakingly over the course of several evenings by mothers of children who will take it to school and pass it off as their own work.

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natter

n engage in idle banter; chatter: I thought she was busy getting ready to go out to dinner, but it turns out she’d spent the whole afternoon nattering to her mates.

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natty

adj great; handy; cool: I found this natty little device for stopping cables falling down the back of my desk.

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nick

v 1 steal. Something you buy from a dodgy bloke over a pint has quite probably been nicked. In a strange paradox, if a person is described as nicked, it means they’ve been arrested and if a person is in the nick, they’re in prison. 2 condition. Commonly used in the phrase “in good nick,” the word nick refers to the sort of state of repair something is in: Think I’ll buy that car; it seems in pretty nice nick.

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niggle

n, adj nag; pester. You might hear it in a context like: He seemed okay, but I had a niggling doubt.

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nip

1 v quickly go and do something, very similar to “pop”: I’m just going to nip out for a minute. 2 n chill: There’s a bit of a nip in the air; It’s a bit nippy today. And yes, the Brits do also use it to derogatorily refer to Japanese people, so the Pearl Harbour “nip in the air” jokes have probably been covered already.

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noddy

adj substandard; below par: The hull was pretty solid but to be honest the rest of the thing was a bit noddy.

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nouse

n knowledge. Pronounced like “mouse” with an N on the front of it. Not pronounced like “no use”.

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nowt

n Northern England nothing.

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och

interj Scottish a general word of exclamation. Very Scottish. Groundskeeper Willie Scottish: Och, yer jokin’!

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off one’s tits

adj high (on drugs): I’ve no idea how she got up there, I was off my tits from about nine o’clock onwards. Perhaps she jumped? Ah, you see, you thought I was going to copy-paste the previous entry again. Well, rest assured that I would have done had it meant the same thing.

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oi

interj pron. “oy,” as in “boy” hey. General noise used to attract someone’s attention. I can’t really believe that an American being accosted with “oi” will be sitting there wondering whether that word means “faucet” or “yard,” but I wouldn’t like to feel this dictionary was too highbrow to be useful to people who had to be fed by their spouses with a spoon.

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on one’s tod

n alone; on one’s own: Ever since his dog died, he’s been sitting on his tod at the end of the bar with a whiskey in front of him. I don’t think it’s doing him any good, but what can you do?

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on the blink

adj not working right: The television’s been on the blink since we had the water-pistol fight.

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one-off

n something that only happens once. You might use it if you were selling your artwork or attempting to apologise for an affair with your secretary.

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owt

n anything. Rather northern-English: Whatcha looking at me for? I didn’t do owt! It’s recognised throughout the U.K. but it’s a little unusual to use it.

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palava

n mix-up; cluster. A confusion that arose from something that probably ought to have been simpler: I thought it was going to take ten minutes to renew my passport when I came out of prison but… boy, what a palava.

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pay rise

n raise: Do you think they took it as a joke? / Well, some people were laughing at the start but, as the ice cream melted, Ian started to get really uncomfortable and I don’t think anyone really thought it was very funny. I doubt I’ll get the sack, but I certainly won’t be getting a pay rise.

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pear-shaped

adj gone wrong. Usually it’s meant in a rather jovial sense, in a similar way to the American expression “out of kilter” or “off kilter”: Well, I was supposed to have a civilised dinner with my mates but we had a few drinks and it all went a bit pear-shaped. You would be less likely to see: Well, she went in for the operation but the transplant organ’s been rejected and the doctor says it’s all gone a bit pear-shaped. Possible derivations involve glass-blowing or hot-air ballooning. Separately.

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peculiar

adj unique: These street signs are peculiar to Birmingham. Because Brits also share the more conventional meaning (“unusual”), it does slightly imply that. If street signs can really be that unusual. Also applies to things other than street signs.

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phut

adj pron. “fuht” gone- Something which has breathed its last, expired. It is an ex-something: We ended up stuck watching BBC2 because the television remote control had gone phut.

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pig’s ear

n a mess; a poor job: We paid the guy from down the road to come and finish painting the fence, but he made a complete pig’s ear of it. Probably comes from the phrase “you can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.”

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pinch

v steal. A contributor of mine told me that her father got anything but the reaction he expected when in New Orleans he asked a friend if he could pinch their date for a dance. The Brits do not share the American usage of “pinch,” to mean arresting someone.

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pong

n bad smell. My maths teacher at school, Mr Benzies, also taught my uncle, who was fifteen or so years older than me. My uncle told me that in his day Mr Benzies was known unanimously as “Pongo Benzies” because “wherever he goes, the pong goes.” If you’re reading this, Mr Benzies, please remember that I’m just relating what my uncle said, and I didn’t necessarily actually call you that, or try and get the rest of the year to call you it too.

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porkies

n lies. From Cockney rhyming slang “pork pies” / “lies.”

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post

n, v mail. Brits don’t mail things, they post them. Their mail is delivered by a postman (one word). And, umm, he works for an organisation called the Royal Mail. It’s pretty much the reverse of how these two words are used in America.

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pukka

interj the genuine article; good stuff: I was a bit dubious when they were selling Levis for twenty quid, but I reckon they’re pukka. It is derived from the Hindi word “pakka,” meaning “substantial,” and made it to the U.K. via the Colonies.

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put paid to

v put an end to: We were going to have a picnic in the park but the weather put paid to that.

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queasing

v Mock version of “quantitative easing”, the U.K. government’s term for increasing the money supply in order to make customers happy, with the small expense of causing hyperinflation sometime in future. Probably ages away.

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queue

n, v, pron. “cue” line. This doesn’t really help the definition at all, as a line could be any number of things. A pencil line? A railway line? A line of Charlie? A line dancer? As a result of this potentially dangerous confusion, a word was developed by some British word-scientists to separate this particular line from all the others. A queue is a line of people. To queue is to be one of those queuing in the queue. The word means “tail” in French, and is used in the same context. Americans do in fact use the word, but only in the “you’re third in the queue” type telephone call waiting systems.

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quite

n kind of; sort of: What did you think of Jean’s new boyfriend? / Hmm, yeah, I suppose he was quite nice. This is something of a tough one because Brits will also use quite, in the same way as Americans, to mean “very.” The only real way to determine exactly which type of quite is being used is to look at how expressive the word that follows it is. If it’s a word like “perfect” or “delicious” then it’s being used the positive way; if it’s a word like “nice” or “pleasant” then it’s negative.

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quits

adj even; square. No remaining debt to be paid: Well, the week after she backed into my car, my son got caught having sex with her cat so I think we’re quits.

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reckon

adv believe to be true. It’s still perfectly acceptable in the U.K. to say “I reckon” this, that or the other: We’re going to get a taxi to the airport but Dan reckons we’re still not going to make it. The term is still used in the Southern U.S. but regarded with disdain by snobby northerners who believe it can only be uttered whilst chewing a piece of straw and leaning on a gate.

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redundant

n laid off. Make redundant lay off: Unless things start picking up pretty soon we’re going to have to start making people redundant.

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revise

v study: I can’t go out tonight, my mum says I’ve got to stay home revising. All the other meanings of the word remain the same.

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ropey

adj iffy; something which isn’t in as good as state as it might be. It might be you with a hangover; your ex-girlfriend or the car you bought from someone in the pub last week: I can’t come into work today – I’m feeling a bit ropey or: We took a look over the plans but to be honest they looked a bit ropey.

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rubbish

n trash; garbage. Everyday waste.

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samey

adj similar: We looked at ten flats that afternoon but they were all just a bit samey.

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scarper

v run away. Usually from the scene of some sort of unpleasant incident in which you were a part: I saw some kids out the window writing all over my car in spray paint but by the time I got there they’d scarpered. It may be derived from the Cockney rhyming slang “Scappa Flow” / “go.” Scappa Flow is a large natural harbour on an island north of Scotland where the British naval fleet was kept during World War One. All this extra information provided free of charge.

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schtum

adj pron. “shtoom” silent. Only really used in the phrase “keep schtum,” meaning “keep your mouth shut” in the U.K. It is derived from the German adjective “stumm,” meaning being either unable or unwilling to speak.

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scupper

v obstruct; stymie: We were planning on having a party but then my folks arrived home early and scuppered that. The term derives from seafaring, where the scupper is a drain designed to allow water to flow overboard from the deck. To be scuppered is to be hit by a wave large enough to knock you into this drain. Of course, it could also derive from the more obvious seafaring source where scuppering something is sinking it, but hey. I make a lot of these up on the spot.

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shambolic

adj in complete disarray, unorganised; in shambles. You might use it to refer to your aunt Gertrude’s octogenarian hairdo or the Russian army’s method of ending hostage situations. If I was ever to give one piece of advice to someone wanting independence for their part of the U.S.S.R. or keen to highlight a particular cause to the Russian government, I’d suggest not taking hostages. If you do so, the Russians give you a couple of days of negotiations, throw in a bit of food so you feel you’ve got your money’s worth and then on about day three they massacre you and all of your hostages using some devastating new method they’re trying for the first time.

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shattered

adj extremely tired; emotionally devastated. You could be shattered by the death of your dear mother or a good invigorating jog. Experiencing both simultaneously would leave you shattered in two different ways at once, and probably reasonably angry. Can there really be a God if the world contains this much suffering? No, probably not.

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shimmy

n, v deft evasive manoeuvre: The bull went straight for him but Mike shimmied out of the way.

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shirty

adj testy; irritable. May have originated in a time when people used to take off their shirts to fight and so “getting shirty” meant that you were preparing to thrash a rotten scoundrel to within an inch of his pitiful life.

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shonky

adj poorly made; shoddy: I showed mum the Eiffel Tower model I made from matchsticks, and she just said it looked a bit shonky.

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shout

n treat; gift: Want to go to the cinema this afternoon? My shout?

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sickie

n a day off work elicited by feigning illness: I’m going to take a sickie tomorrow and go to the zoo!

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skin up

v roll a joint. Most likely derived from the use of the term “skin” to refer to cigarette rolling papers: Do you reckon Cindy’s coming back to work after lunch? / I doubt it, I saw her skinning up in the car.

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skint

adj broke. The position of having no money: Dave refused to give me any petrol money – was moaning on the whole time about how skint he was.

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skive

v, n play hookie: We’ve got chemistry this afternoon but I’m just going to skive as I can’t be arsed. Differs from “playing hookie” in that it may also be used as a noun: Our team meetings are basically a complete skive.

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smashing

adj great. Contrary to appearances, something which is smashing is a good thing rather than a bad one: Mum, I had a smashing time playing football in the park! It may be derived from the Gaelic phrase “is math sin,” which means “that’s good.”

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snap

n ditto; me too: Do you know, I think I slept with that guy in my first year of university. / Oh god! Snap!

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sorted

adj sorted-out: You’ve got it? Great. Sorted. I am ninety-nine percent sure that this originated in a drugs context, a view only strengthened by the existence of a Pulp song entitled Sorted for ‘E’s and Whiz.

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spare

adj at one’s wits end; mad: I’ve been trying to get this working all morning and it’s driving me spare!

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square brackets

n brackets. Something went very wrong at some point in history. Nobody knows what it was, but the end result of it was that, to Brits, [these] are square brackets, and (these) are “brackets”. To Americans, [these] are “brackets” and (these) are “parentheses”. Even {these} ended up being “braces” to Americans but “curly braces” to Brits. It’s possible many people have died as a result of these confusions, although I can’t exactly work out how.

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squiffy

adj pear-shaped. Pretty much anything that’s gone wrong. Often, but not exclusively, used to refer to one’s state of sobriety: Deirdre’s mother was looking a bit squiffy towards the end, it’s a good job we left when we did.

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steady on

interj whoa; hold your horses. Almost always followed by an exclamation mark: OK, that does it, I’m resigning! / Steady on!

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sterling

adj good/great: That main course was sterling stuff.

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stodgy

adj sticky; reluctant to change. Could apply equally easily to people (Everyone else was very eager except Bob, who was being decidedly stodgy about it) or substances (the soup looked nice but it turned out to be stodgy as hell).

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stonking

adj enormous: When I finally woke up, I had a stonking hangover and my wallet had vanished. And I appeared not to be in my bed at home, but under a park bench.

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straight away

interj right now: Once you buy our fine credit card, you can start to make purchases with it straight away!

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suck it and see

v give it a try: We changed the suspension for the last two laps – we’ve no real idea whether it’s going to improve his times so he’s just going to have to suck it and see.

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suss

1 v figure out: I was going to try and put it back without him noticing but he sussed. 2 adj dodgy; suspicious: I really wasn’t interested in buying that car… the whole deal seemed a bit suss.

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swish

adj fashionable; stylish. Brits do not share the American meaning of the term (effeminate): I say, you’re looking rather swish today. Job interview?

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swizz

n a small-scale swindle or con. If you opened your eight-pack of KitKats and there were only seven, you might mutter “that’s a bloody swizz.” If you discovered that your cleaning lady had been making out large cheques to herself over a ten year period, you’d be inclined to use stronger wording.

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ta

interj thank you. Often regarded as a little slovenly. May be derived from the Scandinavian “tak,” meaning much the same thing.

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table

v put forward for discussion: I’d like to table this for the end of the meeting. To Americans, “table” means to put aside. Somehow these got separated, much like “momentarily.”

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taking the mickey

interj making fun of; laughing at. Essentially a more polite version of “taking the piss.” Your grandmother would be much more likely to use this variant.

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tick

n 1 check; check-mark. One of those little (usually handwritten) marks people put next to things to show that they’re correct. Not the X (that’s for wrong answers), the other one. 2 moment. A very short space of time, very much equivalent to the way “second” is used in conversation: Try and hold it on for the moment, I’ll be back in a tick once I’ve phoned an ambulance. No doubt derived from clock noises.

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tickety-boo

adj in a good state; going well: We spent all the weekend on our knees and the garden’s tickety-boo now!

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tight

adj 1 drunk: My mother-in-law seemed rather nice the first time I met her, but I could swear she was tight. 2 miserly. I’m too tired to think of an example phrase, you’ll have to make your own up.

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tip

1 n place in great disarray: Your flat is a complete tip! Derived I think from the British term rubbish tip, where one goes to tip rubbish. 2 a gratuity (universal).

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titchy

adj very small; ickle. Perhaps slightly childish, but in common use in the U.K.: Well, the food was very nice, but the helpings were titchy!

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tits up

adj awry: As soon as the squirrel escaped the whole thing went tits up. Whilst the term originally referred to something which was dead (presumably derived from the orientation of said tits), it’s evolved to mean anything in a poor shape.

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toodle-pip

interj goodbye; cheerio. Rather old-fashioned. Also toodle-oo. This may be derived from English soldiers attempting to pronounce “a tout à l’heure” (“see you later”) in French during the First World War. Or perhaps toodle-pip is some sort of derivation of that involving the French word “pipe,” which is slang for a blow-job. Whilst this fact is true, the derivation idea is something I’ve just made up off the top of my head right now.

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tosh

adj rubbish; nonsense: Katie’s new boyfriend was going on about how he works in high finance somewhere – personally, I think it’s all a load of tosh.

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twee

adj kitsch. Old ladies’ front rooms, tartan cloth jackets and pleasant little sleepy retirement towns are twee. Marilyn Manson, drive-by-shootings and herpes are not.

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twig

v catch on; realise that something is up: Bob just poured the contents of the ashtray into Fred’s pint but he’s so pissed I doubt he’ll twig. It may come from the Gaelic word “tig,” meaning “understand.”

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up the duff

n pregnant: Did you hear Judith’s up the duff again?

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volt-face

n pron “volt-fass”, because it comes from French about-turn: In the end they made a complete volt-face and offered us the thing for a grand. The French comes in turn from the Italian “voltafaccia” meaning “turn face”.

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waffle

n, v banal or rambling conversation. You might describe your CEO’s yearly speech to the employees as nothing more than waffle, and likewise you could accuse him of waffling. Brits do describe those cross-hatched baked batter things as “waffles,” but they don’t really eat them all that much.

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wee

1 adj Scottish small: That’s an awfully wee car – are you sure you’ll all fit in it? In a loose sense it could also be interpreted as meaning “cute” in the “cute and cuddly” sense. You could tell someone they had a “nice wee dog,” but might meet with more curious glances if you used it in a more serious scenario: “Well, Mrs. Brown, I’m sad to tell you that you have a wee tumour on your cerebral cortex.” 2 v urinate: Back in a minute, I’m going to have a wee.

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what’s up?

interj what’s wrong? While this means something akin to “hello” in the U.S., Brits use it to mean “what is wrong with you?”

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whinge

v whine: Ah, quit whinging, for heaven’s sake! whinger someone particularly partial to whinging.

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whip round

n passing the hat. A collection of money – usually a somewhat impromptu and informal one. You might have a whip round for Big Mike’s bus-fare home but you probably wouldn’t have one for his triple heart bypass. Unless you were using it as an attempt to bring a spot of humour to an otherwise morbid situation in the sort of way my wife doesn’t like me trying to do.

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wicked

adj cool; awesome: Jim’s got a wicked new car stereo. A little bit eighties. Okay, a lot eighties.

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wizard

adj cool; awesome: Wow! That’s wizard! A bit eighties. I have to emphasise here that just because words are in the dictionary doesn’t mean to say I use them on a regular basis. As far as I’m concerned it has a similar aura to “Bitchin’!”

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wobbly

n Used in the same way as “wobbler.”

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wonky

adj not quite right. You might say “My plans for the evening went a bit wonky”; you would not say “I’m sorry to tell you, Mr. Jones, but your wife’s cardiac operation has gone a bit wonky.” The American English word “wonk” (an expert in some particular subject) is not used in the U.K.

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woolly

adj ill-defined; vague: We gave up halfway through his presentation… it all seemed a bit woolly.

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wotcher

interj howdy; hey there. A form of greeting, rather more familiar to Victorian schoolboys than anyone more contemporary. Harks back to a time when “cock” meant something like “mate,” but nowadays marching into a bar and greeting someone with “wotcher, cock!” is unlikely to make you more popular.

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yonks

n a long time; ages. Not a specific length of time at all; it could be minutes or decades: Where have you been? I’ve been waiting here for yonks! or: Met a friend from school the other day that I haven’t seen for yonks.

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yous

n Scottish plural form of “you”: Are yous coming out later? When alien civilisations try to crack the English language, several things will make them wonder how on earth anyone managed to communicate using it. One of these things will be the fact that “pound” was both a unit of weight and a unit of currency. Another will be that “pint” represented two different volumes on different sides of our tiny planet. Perhaps the most confounding will be the fact that we had no way to make a distinction between addressing one single person, or several thousand.

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