n advice columnist – a newspaper or magazine employee who responds publicly to readers’ impassioned pleas for help on a wide range of issues, but most commonly sex. Read by a large sector of the population, each of whom hopes to find a vicarious solution to their own dark sexual inadequacies.
n all talk and no action: Judith’s husband keeps telling us he’s going to build that racing car but, between you and me, I’d say he’s all mouth and no trousers.
n Anti-Social Behaviour Order – a restraining order awarded to miscreants specifically barring them from doing certain naughty things again (spray-painting bridges, beating up pensioners, that sort of thing). Whilst the ASBO itself does not go on the offender’s criminal record, any breach of it does – it’s intended to be a warning shot across the bows for errant youths.
n Scottish baby. Possibly derived from the old Norse word “barn,” which means both “child” and “children.”
n sort of lawyer. Barristers are different from solicitors in such a convoluted way it took a barrister a whole page of ball-bouncingly dull prose to explain it to me.
n chicken (as in person who is afraid, not as in bird). Exclusively applied to men: After we’d had a couple of beers we all jumped off the bridge into the lake, except Andy, who turned out to be a big girl’s blouse.
pron. “beud” (London); “burd” (Scotland) n woman. Well, not really. Bird is used by blokes looking upon the fairer sex with a slightly more carnal eye. It’s not quite at the stage of treating women as objects but the implication is certainly there: I shagged some random bird last night (a popular usage), or: Hey, Andy, I think those birds over there are looking at us. You’d never describe your grandmother as a bird. It’s popular in Scotland to refer to one’s girlfriend as “ma burd” — but do it in front of her and you’ll be choking teeth. About the only thing worse would be to call her “ma bint,” which will warrant a foot in the testicles and a loose tongue concerning your sexual prowess. The word itself is derived from the Old Norse word for “woman,” and the closest American English equivalent would probably be “chick.”
n guy. A bloke is a Joe Public, a random punter — any old fellow off the street. Unlike “guy,” however, it can’t apply to your friends. You can’t walk up to a group of your mates and say “Hi blokes, what’s up?” as they’d all peer at you as if you’d been reading some ill-informed, cheap dictionary. Without question, the most common usage of the word is in the phrase “some bloke in the pub.”
n police officer. After Robert Peel, who was instrumental in creating the British police force. It’s a little antiquated these days.
n wonk. Someone who is particularly knowledgeable about his/her subject. It doesn’t quite carry the respect implied in “expert” — calling someone a “boffin” suggests that he has body odour and is a virgin. Boffins are invariably male.
n unattractive woman. The word was mentioned in Deborah Curtis’ book Touching from a Distance, her memoir of life with Ian Curtis of Joy Division. While their marriage was breaking down, Ian was having an affair with a European woman whom the rest of the band supposedly referred to as “the Belgian boiler.”
adj rebellious; a bit of an upstart; a force to be reckoned with. From “Bolshevik”, the early twentieth century Russian socialist party, who ran around encouraging trade unions and upsetting the establishment.
n nerve. To “lose one’s bottle” is to chicken out of something — often just described as “bottling it.” It may be derived from Cockney rhyming slang, where “bottle” = “bottle and glass” = “arse.” Losing one’s bottle appears therefore to refer to losing the contents of one’s bowel.
n person who is generally no good, a bad egg. It’s very old-fashioned — even Rudyard Kipling would probably have used it in jest. One rather dubious etymology is that it was applied pre–Great War to golfers who used new American golf balls (similar to modern golf balls) instead of the more traditional leather-covered ones. They had a more enthusiastic bounce and the use of such balls was not banned by the rules but was considered bad sportsmanship, perhaps even a little underhanded. The term was originally applied to the ball itself, and only later to the user of such a ball.
n dependable person; rock. Someone who will stand tall in the face of adversity. A largely upper-class term, it is hardly in use nowadays.
pron. “bub-shun” n Scottish baby. From the German “bubchen”, meaning a young boy. Has a cosy, affable connotation. You’d never refer to your baby as a bubtion if it had lately been sick on your three-piece suit and drooled in your cornflakes.
adj effeminate and homosexual. If you have heard of an Englishman (and latterly New Yorker) named Quentin Crisp, he was the very epitome of camp. And even if you haven’t heard of him, he still was. Americans will say “flaming” or “swishy” to mean much the same thing, though interestingly some Americans do use “campy” to describe old-fashioned or preposterous humour.
n Scottish bad egg, nogoodnik. Pretty close Scottish equivalent to “yob,” with the notable exception that casuals will actually refer to themselves as such while yobs certainly would not. Dotted around Edinburgh is graffiti advertising the services of the “Craiglockart Casual Squad.” Craiglockart isn’t one of the worst areas of Edinburgh, so perhaps their modus operandi is to turn up and insult your intelligence, or throw truffles through your windows.
n risk-taker, someone who tends to take the kind of chances that involve things on the greyer side of society — the sort of person who buys random domain names in the hope someone will offer them a pile of money for them, or puts all their money on the rank outsider in the 12:45 at Chepstow.
n upper-crust equivalent of “bloke.” Nowadays only really seen in a tongue-in-cheek way or in 1950s Enid Blyton children’s books. It would read something along the lines of: I say chaps, let’s go and visit that strange old man with the raincoat at Bog End Cottage and see if he has any more special surprises for us! Jolly hockeysticks.