Fraser’s Phrases: ‘How’s Yer Bum For Cracking Walnuts?’

Walnuts. Do not attempt to crack with your bum.

Welcome, gentle Anglophenian, to a new section of this mighty blog, in which we take a wander down some of the stranger back-alleys of the English language. In particular, we will be examining those slang terms which have yet to make the trip over the Atlantic in any meaningful way. Some of them will be relatively well-known, some less so, but hopefully the end result will be a comprehensive lexicon of British idioms, that will serve as a bridge between our two mighty nations, fostering mutual understanding and, eventually, love.

Either that or it’ll serve as an excuse for you to laugh at us for talking utter bollocks.*

So, let’s start with something weird, shall we? The greeting “how’s yer bum for cracking walnuts?” has been cited as a Northern Irish welcome, a Scottish welcome, chat-up line, and even an album title by the London-based post-punk band Missing Presumed Dead. I first heard it as a Scottish thing, but for the life of me I can’t remember when.

When it’s used at all, it will be generally shouted by quite cocky men who want to appear to be the life and soul of the party. The kind of man who would rather say something silly and creative than trot out a trite and boring everyday line like “how are you?”

It’s not necessarily a creepy line either. I’ve heard it used very warmly, and if you’re at all unsure, the correct answer is probably “fine, fine, how’re you?”

Personally, I’d steer clear of using it as a chat-up line, no matter what your sexual persuasion may be. It’d work shouted from a construction site, or across the table at a restaurant, but possibly not whispered into the ear of someone you’ve just bought a drink in a darkened bar.

Note: Do not, under any circumstances, stop to think about how well your bum would work as a nutcracker. Things could get awkward very quickly if you do.

* Don’t worry, we’ll get to that one soon.

Do you have a phrase you’d like interpreted? Tell us here.

Fraser McAlpine

Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.

He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.

Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic

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