Copping Off With Fraser’s Phrases

Hugh Grant and Andie McDowell copping off in 'Four Weddings and Funeral'

Valentine’s Day will soon be upon us, which means a million tiny humiliations and one or two sweet connections will be being made in every town in every nation (assuming they observe the ritual in the first place). Next week, we’ll be looking at the various terms of affection the Brits use when they’re in love, but, jumping the gun a bit, here’s a brief rundown of the kind of things you can expect to be asked, should you be fortunate enough to have got lucky within earshot of someone from the UK.

For starters, there’s snogging, the best word for a passionate kiss in the entire world. All the best in sexy slang comes from the teenage years, and tends to carry a whiff of innocent glee with it. So while American teens make out, and suck face, their British counterparts get off with one another, snogging like hungry tortoises and generally indulging in endless bouts of tonsil tennis.

The way boys and girls talk about the people they fancy changes all the time, but if someone says you’re fit, that’s good. If you’re a girl and you’re referred to as totty, that’s basically approving but not a compliment, as you’ve been objectified into a lump.

(There’s more of this current teenspeak in the Fraser’s Phrases post Class of 2012)

Once the snogging has stopped, you’re into a realm of fairly brutal descriptive terms for acts we can’t really describe on a clean-minded website like Anglophenia. Suffice to say that we don’t do First Base, Second Base etc, but there are terms which cover these areas. For example, should you ever have listened to the Beatles song “Penny Lane” and wondered what “four of fish and finger pie” refers to, well the first bit is fish and chips – sold in a fourpenny portion – and the second bit is third base. Let’s move on, I’m blushing.

So you’ve snogged, you’ve copped off, all inhibition has departed and the time feels right, all there is left is to get your leg over. That is to say, to indulge in a spot of how’s-your-father, to bonk, to shag, to roger, to have it off, to have it away or (one for the gents, this), dip your wick. And if you do it standing up, that’s a knee-trembler. Who says the British are dignified?

Let’s end on a word of caution. Should you be tempted to boost a British female friend’s pride in some romantic conquest or other, try and avoid the word slut, even said in approving tones: it carries far worse connotations in the UK than America. Similarly, don’t look for British equivalents, like slag or tart or slapper, partly because they’re sexist, and partly because they’re fairly seriously taken as insults, unless you know the person really well and can vouch for their sense of humor. Strumpet, on the other hand, is archaic enough to be used in fun, even though it’s an old slang term for a prostitute. But really, you’re best off avoiding these terms altogether.

However, if a Brit refers to slagging someone off, it’s a lot milder and non gender specific. They just mean insulting them generally, usually behind their back. It’s not sexual reference at all, although it’s perfectly possible to slag someone off by calling them a slag. It works like this:

Archibald: “I say, I don’t wish to slag off Count Percival, but his behavior at last night’s masked ball was perfectly vile.”

Ferdinand: “It was, and quite what he was doing with that slag Lady Millicent is beyond the wit of mortal man.”

Coming soon: Love and romance…

Fraser McAlpine

Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 13 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Music.

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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