arse

n 1 what you sit on. Very close in meaning to the American “ass,” although actually derived from a different root, as arse is an old English word meaning “tail.” I can’t be arsed I can’t be bothered. bunch of arse load of nonsense: I never bothered reading the bible, the whole thing is a bunch of arse. 2 interj rats. Used alone in a similar fashion to bollocks: I’m sorry to tell you, sir, but you’ve missed the last train. / Arse!

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barnet

n hair; hairstyle. Another example of Cockney rhyming slang which has slipped into the common vernacular: “Barnet Fair” / “hair.” Barnet is an area of London. Presumably they had a fair there at some point.

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beavering

v working enthusiastically. These days you’d have difficulty saying it without a chorus of sniggers from the assembled crowd, as everyone in the U.K. is well aware of the American use of the word “beaver.” It’s the sort of thing your grandmother might say at Christmas dinner that would make the younger generations choke on their soup.

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blow off

v break wind (rather old-fashioned): My goodness, is that Deardrie cooking breakfast again? / Hmm, no, I think the dog’s blown off. Brits do not use the American meaning (to brush off).

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bogie

n pron. “bo-ghee” booger. The charming little things everyone excavates from their nose now and again but likes to pretend they don’t.

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bum

1 n posterior; pretty much the British equivalent of “butt.” 2 v mooch: Mind if I bum a ride home? or perhaps more amusingly: Can I bum a fag? What the Americans call “bums” Brits call “tramps.”

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cack

n shit: I’ve cacked myself; the club was okay but the music was cack. Well known in the U.K. but perhaps not all that widely used.

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chuff

1 v fart. 2 n one’s posterior. 3 n Northern England vagina. 4 interj general swear word usable much the same as “fuck”: It was all going fine until the chuffing pigs turned up. Entirely separate from the word “chuffed,” so use with care.

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collywobbles

n spine-tingling fear; heebie jeebies. Originally meant the act or fear of having an unexpected and uncontrolled bowel movement. Which does make one wonder whether “colly” is an accepted abbreviation for “colon.” Probably isn’t. I’m done with the wondering now.

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Elastoplast

n adhesive bandage, i.e. Band-Aid. Antiquated term –”Plaster” is used more commonly in modern British English.

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fanny

n female genitalia. This is another word which could leave you abroad and in dire straits. In the U.S., your fanny is your posterior and a “fanny pack” is what Brits decided to call a “bum bag” instead. There’s a neoprene belt sold in the U.S. that is designed to stop snow from entering your ski jacket during a fall. It is marketed under the name “Fanny Flaps.” It is not for sale in the U.K.

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floater

n number-two which refuses to be flushed away. It is not, as one of my contributors discovered, an appropriate name for laptop that’s shared around various parts of the office.

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fringe

1 n bangs. The bits of hair coming down over your forehead. So called because it’s the fringe of your hair. Americans call them “bangs” because they look like small explosions of hair emitting from the scalp. 2 the edge of something (universal).

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giddy

n dizzy or vertiginous. In the U.S. this means silliness and/or giggling – the British definition is more of a medical condition. The British driving license application form asks the applicant whether they are “subject to excessive giddiness.”

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gob

1 n mouth. Almost always used in the context “shut your gob.” 2 v spit: The pikey fucker just gobbed down my shirt! It’s possible the word is derived from Gaelic, where it means a bird’s beak, or from the English navy, where it was used widely to refer to the toilet.

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guff

1 v fart. Presumably some sort of derivation of “chuff” or vice versa. Not to be confused with “gaff.” 2 n verbiage: I asked him what happened, but he just gave me a load of guff.

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gyp

n irritating pain: I don’t think I’ll make it out tonight; my ankle is giving me gyp. Interestingly, in the U.S. “gypping” is cheating.

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jabs

n inoculations: I’m off to the Amazon for a week – got to get my jabs this morning!

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jacksie

n ass: If you bring that thing into one of these meetings again I’m going to shove it up your jacksie! From Cockney rhyming slang “Jack and Danny” / “fanny”.

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John Thomas

n penis. The term derives from the name given to the appendage of the leading man in D.H. Lawrence’s novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover. The book was made famous by the obscenity trial it landed Penguin Books in during the 1950s. Someone once told me that in America one could buy “John Thomas relish” to put on your lunch. This turned out to be nonsense, but is somehow still amusing. Perhaps I’ll invent it.

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