Brits and Americans may speak the same language, but that doesn’t mean we always use it in exactly the same way. Here are some phrases you’ll probably hear during a trip to the U.K. that might need a little further explanation.
1. “Fancy a cuppa?”
This is basically a more informal way of asking: “Would you like a cup of tea?” If you say yes, expect to be asked the follow-up question: “Milk and sugar?” In the U.K., taking honey and lemon with tea isn’t nearly as common as you might think. Oh, and if someone asks if you’d like a “builder’s tea,” they just mean a well-brewed cup of English Breakfast with milk, as opposed to a fancier blend of tea like Earl Grey.
2. “Are you pissed?”
In the U.K., the word “pissed” doesn’t mean “annoyed” or “irritated” – it means “drunk!” There are loads of other British colloquial terms for drunk, too, including “trolleyed,” “hammered,” “smashed,” “battered,” and “wasted.” And those are just the polite ones! Check out a rather ruder alternative in the Gavin and Stacey clip below.
3. “Got time for a chinwag?”
A “chinwag” is an informal and maybe gossipy conversation with a friend. You wouldn’t expect someone you’ve never met to ask you for a “chinwag;” it’s a word that presumes a reasonably close relationship with the other person. So, don’t say it to anyone at border control.
4. “Do you need a wee?”
Quite simply, “wee” is British for “pee”… except for when you’re in Scotland, where it’s used as a colloquial alternative to “small.” For example, “I’m looking after the wee bairn today” is how a Scottish person might say they’re caring for a small child. For an example of the other use of “wee,” check out this hilarious clip from Miranda.
5. “I’m completely cream-crackered.”
This phrase is a terrific example of Cockney Rhyming Slang – a way of saying a word in a more playful way by using a word that rhymes with it instead. “Cream-crackered” is Cockney Rhyming Slang for “knackered” or tired, so if someone’s feeling “cream-crackered,” they’re probably in need of a nap. Another common example of Cockney Rhyming Slang is “apples and pears,” which means stairs. Generally, these phrases make no sense when you first hear them, but then make total sense when you’re told what they mean.
6. “Wind your neck in, mate!”
It all depends on context, obviously, but “wind your neck in” is a reasonably forceful way of saying “pipe down, I didn’t ask for your opinion.” British singer-songwriter Lily Allen has a song called “Wind Your Neck In” on which she tells people to keep out of her business.
7. “It’s not quite what I had in mind.”
This is one of those quintessentially British turns-of-phrase that’s super-polite but often used a little disingenuously. For example, if you booked a theater trip for a friend’s birthday and she said “thank you, but it’s not quite what I had in mind,” that friend would probably be intimating that she isn’t very keen on going the theater at all. It’s definitely a useful phrase to store up for times when you want to express your disapproval without risking the possibility of being told to “wind your neck in.”
— VeryBritishProblems (@SoVeryBritish) February 23, 2020
8. “Stop faffing about!”
“Faff” is an informal term meaning to fuss or procrastinate. “Stop faffing about and get your shoes on” is something a mom might say to her kids if they’re running late for school one morning.
9. “Budge up, love!”
If someone on the tube asks you to “budge up, please,” they just want you to scooch up a bit so they can sit down as well. Simple as that.
10. “What a load of codswallop!”
Sadly, this awesome phrase has become a little bit old-fashioned now, but you still might hear it during a trip to England. No one is exactly sure where it comes from – it’s been suggested that it could be a Victorian phrase meaning “fake beer” – but there’s no doubting how it’s used today. If someone tells you that the opinion you’ve just expressed is “codswallop,” they’re saying in no uncertain terms that it’s absolutely baloney. Ouch!
Which is your favorite distinctively British phrase?Read More