To skip to a letter in the alphabet, click on the letter in the image aboveI have done multiple entries on many terms (for example, “queue”). Generally, the one linked to below is the first entry. To see all of them, use the search function in the column to the right.
– A 24-hour clock Advert Advisor “Ae” spelling Afters Aggro Ahnt (pronunciation of “aunt”) A proper Argle bargle; argie bargie A right Arse Amongst Athletics B Baby bump Backbencher Banter Barman Bent Bespoke Bestie Bin Bits Bits and bobs Bloody Bob’s Your Uncle Bog roll Bog standard Bollocks Bonkers Book (verb) Boxing Day Brilliant Browned Off Bugger Bum Bumbershoot By-election C Call on (a phone number) Called Can’t be arsed Car park Chat show Chat up Chattering class/es Cheeky Cheeky Nando’s Cheers Cheesed off Chokka Clever Cock-up A coffee Collect Colour Cookery Covers band Crap Crapper Crisps Cuppa Cuttings D Da Dab hand Daft DIY Directly Divisive Do (verb; food) Do (pro predicate) Dodgy Dog’s breakfast Done and done Done and dusted Drinks E Early days Effing Erm European date format Expiry Date F Faff Fancy Fiddly; fiddly bits Fingers crossed Fishmonger Flat Flummox Follow-on Food hall Footballisms Fortnight From strength to strength Fug Full credit to Full of beans Fully Full stop G Gallimaufry Gap year Garden/ing leave Gastropub Get on with (a person) Ginger Give a toss Give (someone) the pip Glottal stop Go missing Go wobbly Gobshite Gobsmacked Gobstopping Good on (a person) Gormless Greengrocer Grey Grotty Gutted H Had got Hang on Hard cheese Have a look Have a quiet word Have (someone) on Hooter Hoover Hullo I In future In hospital In the street Inverted commas J Jack the lad Jiggery-pokery Journey Journo Jumble sale K Keen Kerfuffle Kick/push into the long grass (Piece of) kit Kitted out Knacker’s, knackered, etc. Knickers in a twist Knock-on effects L Laddish Larking, larky A laugh Lashings Liaise Lie-in Lift Logical punctuation The long game Long list Lost the plot Loo
m M Mad Main Make a hash Man with a van; white van man Mate Maths Mewling quim Minder Mobile Mum Mummy tummy N Nappies Negotiate (U.K. Residents) Negotiate (U.S. Residents) Nick Nil No joy No worries Nobby Nonstarter Not by a long chalk Note Nutter O Offer Oi Omnishambles On about On holiday On lead One-off On offer On the back foot On the day On the up and up Opening hours Organ-eye-zation (pronunciation) Over the moon P Panto Pants A patch on Peckish The penny dropped Pictures A piece of cake A pint Pip Piss off! Plaster Plonk Po-faced Poo Porridge Posh Presenter Pulling Punch above one’s weight Punter’s chance Put paid Q Quality (attributive noun) Queue R Range Red Nose Day Ring Roundabout Row Rubbish (noun) Rubbish (verb) Run-up S Sacked Saviour Scenario (pronunciation) Scrum Scuppered Secateurs Seconded Sectioned Sell-by date Shag Shambolic Shite Shitgibbon Shock (attributive noun) Short-listed Silly season Sit for (an exam) Skint Slip road/ramp Small beer Smarmy Snarky Snog Sorry? Sort of Sort out Sound/seem/feel a [noun] Spanner in the works Spoilt Spoilt (or spoiled) for choice Spot on Sport Spotty Square brackets Stag do Stand (for election) Starter Sticky wicket Stockist Straight away Streets ahead Stroke Stroppy Sunnies Suss out Sweets Swings and roundabouts T Take a decision Taking the piss Takeaway Telly Th-fronting (pronunciation) Thank you very much, indeed Tick Tin Toff Too clever by half Top oneself Top up Trainers Trendy Trousers Tuck into Turn up Twee Twig Two a penny U (At) university University students V Veg Vet W Wait for it Weds. Wangle Wanker Wazzock Well played, sir! Whilst Wonky X xx Y Year on year … Years on (Some number of) years’ time Yoghurt Z Zed
147 thoughts on “Index of entries”
This was fun but some entries really surprised me, perhaps because I grew-up hearing Scotland-born grandparents and their kids (e.g. my dad) using tin, bin, keen, veg, cheers (and “cheerio” as good-bye), daft, dodgy, fishmonger and a coffee (and similarily “a tea”) as part of everyday conversation. I think I do as well but never thought it anything but normal.
More clearly Scot but still used a lot at home were wee, lass, laddie, bonnie, dram…
One Britishism not on your list that I’m hearing lately is “tosser.” Not sure exactly how it relates to wanker.
A “tosser” finishes his wank by…..erm…. tossing. yes?
Hey…what about “collect”? As in, “I need to collect Rover from the vet.” I wrote “collect” in an email to my husband the other day and he wasn’t sure what I meant. FYI I lived in England in the late 80s and some things stuck with me for a long time, e.g. kitchen roll. It took me a while to remember that kitchen roll = paper towel. Other words/phrases that stuck with me…bin, went missing, on the dole, cheers, and a few others I can’t remember this second.
My British colleagues were curious about “getting canned”. They were disappointed it meant “to be fired or made redundant”; they were thinking it had a sexual connotation :). I personally like the term “made redundant”…wish we used it here.
Rachel- “made redundant” is not exactly the same as being fired; it’s a precise legal term- it means that your *position* is no longer required, It would then be against the law to hire someone else to do the same job,
People say “I’ve been made redundant”, but that’s not technically correct- it’s the *job* that’s redundant (and the person leaving must be compensated, at least to a minimum scale (and often much more),
A Briticism that I loathe and that has been spreading like wildfire in the last few years: “At the end of the day” — I don’t like it when a Brit says it either.
I don’t like it either. My other half used to say it *a lot*- I cured it with aversion therapy! Every time she said: “At the end of the day…”, I would butt in and say “It goes dark!”.
She tired of it before I did. 🙂
How about “have a go” in place of our “give it a try”?
give it a try hero doesn’t have the same ring to it 🙂
“Call on” in the telephone meaning is US, instead of “call me at. ” Call me on xxx-xxx-xxxx. In the sense of coming to visit, that is common for salespeople in the US.
Up to school, university. I know that “university” instead of “college” is Canadian also, but the “up to” part is from the mother country. Analog to “down to” the country.
“She put the phone down on me” — Americans would probably just say “hung up on me”
One I heard on a radio program this morning: bouncy castle, which I always translate into “moon bounce”, whether it looks like a castle or not. There are phrases that I imagine are so daft or so twee that no American would ever use them and yet I am so very often surprised.
It’s a castle, it’s bouncy, it’s a bouncy castle…. if nothing else it’s descriptive of what you get 😉
Where is “nonstarter”?
Is that actually a Britishism?
A nonstarter is any idea or project which never gets off the ground, in fact never makes it beyond the planning/discussion state, usually because of one crucial lack or flaw. ‘Moving to London with insufficient money for rent was a nonstarter for Jill and Ian.’ It never got any farther than the planning stage…it was impractical, un-do-able.
I couldn’t find an address to make general suggestions for noobs, so this thread seems appropriate.
I came across the term “fair cop” in the blog of Brad DeLong, economics professor at Berkeley. I always thought this was quintessential Cockney (“Fair cop, guv!”= “You caught me fair and square, boss”). Is this in fact common in US English as well?
PS I am continually delighted, surprised and sometimes a little nonplussed to see terms that I thought were universal English are in fact noobs.
OOOOH. I am over the moon that I found this site today!
You weren’t bouncing on the bouncy castle mentioned above were you?
Just found this site, love it! What about the use of “wang” as in, “I’ll just wang over.” Also, the use of “Doris” to refer to a married woman.
I’m British & Wang means Penis. I wouldn’t recommend using it in the sentence you’ve suggested, might lead to some red faces, ha!
Wang does indeed mean penis, but it is also a verb meaning to throw. Many school fairs in the UK would include a welly (gumboot) wanging competition.
I don’t know what ‘wang’ means where you are, but here in England the term ‘wang’ usually refers to the male genetalia. I’m also unsure as to the term doris meaning a married woman specifically, it would normally be the case that your mother might be reffered to as the ‘old dorothy’ or ‘old dot’ and some may refer to their wives as ‘doris’ in latter years.
“Doris” is widely used by cops in the Met (and possibly elsewhere) to refer to a female officer; it’s actually a somewhat offensive term, as it comes from rhyming slang: Doris Day = easy lay.
“Wang” as penis is an Americanism that’s crept into British English; “wang” as in throw is older (as in the welly-wanging contests mentioned above).
‘Wang’ definitely means ‘throw’, my dad says it all the time. My dad (from Staffordshire) says it all the time. I don’t use the word but I resent not being able to because the daft American meaning is taking over. If you look at Wikipedia it says ‘welly wanging’ emerged as a sport in the West Country in the 70s and Wiktionary gives the etymology as imitative and says that ‘wang’ can mean ‘bang’ or ‘hit’ too (I’ve never heard the word used with these meanings though). Moreover 2 of the 3 quotations provided on Wiktionary are from Americans, so the word clearly has some currency stateside.
Not yet on the list (but coming ‘straight away,’ I hope):
knock me up
Rachel: “getting canned” does have a (recent?) sexual connotation. Check Dan Savage’s advice column (“Savage Love”).
Here’s a fun one thatr always makes me smile: “Little man” as in “there was a little man selling balloons”. Or “I need to get a little man in to fix the sink”.
In Scotland the expression is similar but for little we use wee and it’s normally used in the context of a guy over 6ft, “awwright wee man?” or if someone is of slight height we use, yip, you guessed it, big man, “awwright there big man?”
What a joy to find this site. I’m British and have been living in NYC for 14 years now, but still find myself amazed at the differences in our use of a common language. One of my favorite jobs was as a copy editor for an American-edited English-language newspaper in Moscow in the early 90s. Our readership included many nationalities, including British and American expats. Though not really NOOBs, my two favorite catches in articles written by fantastic young American journalists were:
“She walked down the runway, showing flashes of fanny through the thigh-high slits in her skirt,” and, just a few weeks later, “The typical image of a Conservative minister sitting at his desk in suspenders.”
Left unedited, neither of these would have made suitable reading in a daily paper for our British readers. “Fanny,” a harmless reference to buttocks in the US, means “vagina” in British slang. “Suspenders” refers to a garter belt in the UK. (Brits say “braces.” Though perhaps “suspenders” would have been more appropriate for a few Conservative ministers at that time.)
Have you seen the famous bit of TV when Fanny and Johnny Craddock were on their cookery show? She’d been demonstrating how to make doughnuts.
During the sign-off, Johnny piped up “Goodbye, and I hope all your doughnuts turn out like Fanny’s”. 🙂
In the UK suspenders are also used to hold up men’s socks – I had visions of Conservative ministers sitting at their desks with no trousers, just their underpants and socks with suspenders!
Annie – when they talk about a minister in suspenders – they’re talking about him being dressed in women’s clothing for sexual gratification! “Suspenders” is never used unqualified to refer to something to hold up socks – for the half-dozen people in the UK that use them (all over 80, I suspect), they would be “sock-suspenders” or more likely, “garters”. The image was intended to be satirical (there’s a widespread belief that despite the Conservatives constantly banging on about “family values”, that there are some very odd goings-on in high places.
Heh. This side of the pond, “braces” means dental braces, for straightening splayed teeth.
Here too- it’s usually clear from the context which is meant. 🙂
Heres a few:
“bumming a fag” -begging for a cigarette,
“thats pants” -thats not great,
“nicking” -taking things without asking / stealing, so you could also “nick a fag”. Stop that sniggering in the back row!
In some parts of England I was once told that “a couple” could mean 3, bit like a bakers dozen being 13 maybe. The “Happy Couple” has some interesting connotations there…
‘hanger left/ right’ i.e. turn left or right especially when giving driving directions
In north east England ‘wife’ means any female above teenage/ early 20s years
‘the dogs bollocks’- top quality, brilliant
‘brass monkey weather’ from the phrase ‘cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey’, possibly derived from a navy contraption to stack cannon balls
It’s not “hanger left” – it’s “hang a left”.
And the brass monkey/cannonball thing is a myth- cannonballs were stored in *wooden* racks on board ship. See snopes.com for details.
Thanks, this site is the dog’s bollocks!
Went out of the house this morning (in England) and it was a little bit cold. So of course, we would say it was a little “Nippy”, or its a bit “Parky”, both meaning cold.
One word that needs to be added here is “quite.” In British English “quite” means “sort of,” even, ironically, “not very.” It does not have the quality of strongly intensifying meaning as it has, or can have, in the USA.
It can have the intensifying meaning. So the meaning of “I am quite exhausted” could be “I am slightly exhausted” or “I am completely exhausted”, depending on how you say it. But I think the latter would be considered old-fashioned usage in the UK.
Great blog – I’d second the use of “quite” as a quasi-NOOB, since Americans seem to use it differently than the Brits. One term I’ve noticed popping up on my Facebook is “ace.” It’s become common for random & unconnected friends to post “that’s ace” or something similar. Just a thought.
Also worth a mention is ‘Lush’ a term used mainly in South Wales & the West Country it means something that is good, great, attractive & can describe how some one looks, how something tastes or to describe a situation. I use it at least once a day!
It’s more widely used than that- it’s quite a “now” word with the younger population- my daughter and her friends use it in this way all the time.
I have come across a term that was very puzzling at first- “chuffed.” It sounds to me as it should mean upset when it apparently means just the opposite. I hear it from time to time on television shows from England.
chuffed=excited to commence something, as a new project.
Chuffed means pleased (about anything). “I was so chuffed to win the competition.”
How about “doing sums”? Hasn’t been used much in the US in the past century, but then yesterday’s NYT had “Mr. Day-Lewis prepared for the part not by splitting rails or doing sums on the back of a shovel but mostly by reading.”
What about “scatty” for scatterbrain. as in the movie the secret about cats and dogs w/ actor Ben something can’t remember his last name.
I think there must be some regionality at play here. A solid third of these have been in common usage in New Hampshire/New England for my 50 years. Fun site though.
The use of Tarmac by Americans refering to the runway bothers me it is a British company trade-name for asphalt as Macadam and Coldprovia was onced used in the USA. most Americans think thet come across as world travelers when they use it.
I tried to correct a friend in the States who often claimed to be “pissed” when she was annoyed. I said the correct terminology is “pissed-off” as in the UK to be pissed is to be drunk. And it is “chips” not “french fries”…..
PS: congrats at your receiving coverage in a UK newspaper which is how I found this blog.
How about “you lot” ? I’ve started using it hyere in Texas!
How about, “We legged it.” ? (We escaped as quickly as we could.)
One Britishism I picked up in England and South Africa was telling someone, when he’d helped you with a small favor— like, say, a waiter fetching you a wedge of lemon for your tea— was, “Oh, you’re a star!” I still say it in the USA.
How about a “car park” ? (US= parking garage)
A “parking garage” would generally be under cover, yes? That’s one sort of car park, but it’s a broader term. Most car parks are outdoors – just a flat open space with marked bays. The other main type is the multi-storey car park – closer to what I understand by “parking garage”.
Having a ball reading all these. I’m U.S.-born-and-raised, but an unabashed fan of Shakespeare, Monty Python, J.K. Rowling, et al. As a scientist, I was moved to run some statistics. I categorized the 144 terms above as follows: 44 that I regularly use in my own speech without the least hint of irony; 86 I would be perfectly comfortable using in context, around Brits, or tongue-in-cheek; 32 I would immediately understand, but wouldn’t tend to use myself; and 21 I honestly hadn’t heard before. (The remaining 14, I couldn’t classify without looking at the actual articles to make sure I had the sense of them right, and I don’t have time at the moment.)
On a day in which you wake up confused and disorientated, you might say, “I don’t know whether I’m Arthur or Martha today!”
If you fall, seemingly effortlessly, into a fortunate situation, your mates might say, “Well, YOU surely landed with your bum in the butter, didn’t you?”
If you express disgust with the dirty clothes of a chimney-sweep, a fr5iend might chide you with, “Hey, where there’s muck, there’s brass!”
If you’re a feckless ne’er-do-well, but make a gallant promise to achieve something, a doubting friend might wither: “Chance would be a fine thing!” (ie., fat chance of THAT ever happening!)
“Are we still expected to give a speech, or has that idea been kicked into the long grass?” (ie., scuttled)
Man 1: “I just can’t get my hand on the knob!”
Woman: (knowingly) “Said the bishop to the actress!” (ie., initial phrase can be construed as a risque’ double-entendre).
50 yr old Brit and never heard the first two, but doesn’t mean they are wrong.
An alternative to the bishop/actress phrase would be “Nudge, nudge, wink, wink!”, from the Monty Python sketch.
The lady who taught me those first two phrases was from WWII-era Yorkshire.
I’ve started using the British phrases: “funnily enough” and “in the fullness of time”
“I’m all right, Jack!” An old English phrase suggesting how many Britons are, frustratingly, too proud to open up or to seek help or to admit problems. An expression of pride (and sometimes unwillingness to help others)
As a Brit I have always understood this to signify selfishness. Often used to refer to the behaviour of someone else who is unwilling to do something about a problem because it does not affect them personally. Perhaps Americans would say “Not my problem!”?
“I’m all right, Jack!” isn’t an expression of pride or unwillingness to open up: it means “I’m OK, Your problem is not my problem, leave me out of it.”
“Every hole’s a goal!” A lewd expression exchanged post-game by drunk rugby players… meaning “In my current state, any orifice of a woman would be fine for me.”
“I’m alright Jack” is also the title of a really (really!!) funny Brit movie with Peter Sellers in his first star role as a trade union overseer.
It is a comedy about management-men relations. A classic line from Sellers:-“We cannot accept incompetency (sic) as a reason for dismissal. That is victimisation”.
If you see it in a dvd bin-get it!
“What it says on the tin”: meaning, there is no discrepancy between what a product is labeled as, and what it does. Can be used when a tin can is not even involved, as with software. Can imply that there will be “no surprises” or maybe that something will be “turnkey”. Kind of like the American “WYSIWYG”: “What you see is what you get.”
“Does exactly what it says on the tin” comes from advertising.slogans from Ronseal. They sell paint, varnish, stain etc with very prosaic names.
e.g “Ronseal quick-drying wood stain: does exactly what it says on the tin.”
They have actually copyrighted the phrase.
Thanks for that!
Brits know what a “tannoy” is: an outdoor speaker mounted at, say, a train station or sports arena. e.g. “She was so surprised to hear her name paged over the tannoy.” This is an example of a commercial brand trademark– the audio hardware firm Tannoy— slowly becoming a generic noun for any kind of public loudspeaker.
I’ve been watching the two excellent British TV serials, HAPPY VALLEY and LAST TANGO IN HALIFAX, both set in modern semi-rural West Yorkshire. Those shows are just choc-a-bloc (another English term!) with wonderful old English words and phrases! Scriptwriter Sally Wainwright really knows how to capture all that language in its proper context.
Then there is your “anorak”: a person thought to be nerdy, pedantic, swottish, self-absorbed, socially maladroit perhaps.
“In Cloud Cuckoo-Land”. When a person is not thinking rationally or practically. I hear it especially used in regard to the politically correct brigade of England’s “Loony Left”. ie., teachers who propose teaching sex and birth-control to 8-yr-olds…
You’ll never hear a Yank say: “And then I was made redundant.” (ie., let go from a job)
Being made redundant is a specific legal situation- it’s not just being fired.
If you “are made redundant”, it means that the employer is saying that the *job* is redundant – they can’t sack you and then take someone else on to do the same work. They also have to pay you – depending on length of service, it can be a substantial amount (e.g. my girlfriend has worked for the same company for nearly 25 years – if made redundant, it would cost them around $100K. That’s more than the statutory minimum – but even that is substantial after 25 years).
Good to know, thanks for that elucidation.
Love it when English coppers in films break down a door and ask, “‘ello… Who’s been playing silly buggers, then?”
Not listed in the topmost list is the “off-licence”. This means a liquor store, but I’m not sure how it got that name. znepj?
Also, very offensive nowadays, understandably, but when I was in London, people would tell me they were just going to “pop round the paki-shop”. Eek!
Anyone that sells alcohol must be licensed- you can either have an “on-licence” (to sell alcohol to be consumed *on* the premises) or an “off-licence” (to sell alcohol to be consumed *off* the premises) – or both, in the case of some pubs.
So “off-license” is a form of synedoche.
Great to know, thank you.
What year was this?
The first time I heard this was in 1978 London. Granted, that’s quite a long time ago now. I suspect the phrase is MUCH more non-PC today.
In the 1986 UK movie, PRICK UP YOUR EARS, Joe Orton’s mother says, “Fancy covering me sheets with distemper!” (in this case, painting them with green paint)
I’ve never heard “distemper” used in this context before. In the States, it is only used to describe a disease pets get.
In that same film, a landlady asks, “What are you going to do? Shag the dimplex? ”
I know what shag is, but I’ve never heard the word dimplex used Stateside.
Distemper is rather basic thin paint -for wallpaper etc.
A dimplex is a small semi-portable oil-filled electric radiator. Presumably the joke is that it is flat, solid, and with no space for penetrations-quite unshaggable in fact!
Gotta love the British expression, “on the razzle” It means “going out on the town to party and look for sex”, I do believe…
(though I think this may be quite dated by now, ie., maybe from the DOWNTON era?).
Still used, but early C.20 in origin.
I’ve never heard the word “gymkhana” used Stateside. Meaning a fancy society equestrian event where horseriders jump hurdles, etc.
I believe it’s of Indian origin: yes – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gymkhana
In a heated discussion, a Brit will say, “I take your point on board” ie., “I will concede you that point you’re making”.
Usually abbreviated to just “I take your point”, or increasingly, just “point” – which I think is an Americanism.
A quaint old English saying is “spend a penny”, ie., look for a toilet.
More blunt is Patsy Stone on AbFab saying, “I’ll just have a slash” (I need to urinate) haha
Based on the fact that you literally had to “spend a penny”: there were public toilets funded by having to place a penny (old style) into a turnstile to get in.
“went tits up”= died, failed, ended, went “belly up”
“rumpy-pumpy” sex, especially of the illicit kind.
Ohh, where to start on this one? 🙂
Getting your leg over
Getting your Nookie
Slap & Tickle
Dipping your wick
Riding/get a ride (Scot’s/Irish)
To name but a few
“mucky week-end” = a weekend, usually at a hotel, devoted to lovemaking, especially if clandestine.
“big, girl’s blouse”= a male who is effeminate or timid; who shows no manly courage or toughness.
example: “I tried playing rugby, but when the ball came me way I ran from it like a big, girl’s blouse.”
“For love nor money” = said of something very scarce or rare
e.g.: “You can’t get a cheap flat now in Bayswater for love nor money”.
“at her majesty’s pleasure” = in prison.
e.g. “That MP embezzled a million quid, and now I believe he’s residing at her majesty’s pleasure.”
Another is a euphemism we used in Scotland “Aye, wee George is up at the big house” – meaning wee George is banged up
“Detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure” is actually a legal term, reflecting the fact that (theoretically) all legal authority derives from the crown.
“shirty” = irritable or querulous. Heard this on BBC Four today.
ex: The professor became shirty when his students sauntered in late to his classes.
Bugger/ohh bugger/bugger me – still seen by my gran as THEE worse swear word in history – but have heard it used quite a lot in American shows recently (last time I heard it was on the Simpsons last week when Homer called Bart a ‘bugger’) as we all know, buggery is anal penetration for sexual gratification
Then again, Americans will never say, “he’s called”. They’ll say, “his name is”.
“See my tailor, he’s called Simon, I know it’s going to fit.”
(from “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll” by Ian Dury and the Blockheads)
Interesting re “his name is” / “he’s called.” In England there are regional variations regarding usage here. As a south Londoner, I’d say “His name is James but he’s called Jim.” But when I lived in the north-east (Sunderland), people would say “He’s called James” meaning that that was his name.
Couple of classic Scottish phrases;
More bottle than United Dairies or More front than a Tesco’s window – supremely confident, especially in a fight
More cheek than 2 arses – very, very cheeky
Two British-isms that have yet to take hold here (thankfully) are “minutes time” and the over use of “absolutely” as absolutely bonkers, …crap, …spot on etc. etc.
If they did, I’d go absolutely bonkers in a minutes time.
‘mutton dressed as lamb’ : A rather meanspirited remark one might make, sotto voce, about a middle-aged woman trying to dress in some tight or revealing or super-trendy fashion, best worn by a woman in her teens or twenties.
Blowsy. A word used to describe women of a certain age whose once voluptuous charms are beginning to suffer from the insidious effects of gravity.
Originally used by rose-growers to describe a flower in between it looking at its best and the petals dropping off.
A term used to describe clothing worn by women who wish to hide their physical charms, or to hide the fact that they are losing them.
Popularised in the classic ’70s Britcom ‘Rising Damp’:
Rigsby (the landlord who lusts after Miss Jones) to his tenant Allen: “How’s Miss Jones tonight?
Allen: Oh you’ll get nowhere with her. She’s wearing her ‘harvest festivals’
Rigsby: Harvest festivals-what are they?
Allen: All is safely gathered in!
Not a usage I recall ever having heard (51 year old Brit) outside the actual sitcom. Not that that means it isn’t a fairly common usage.
I don’t believe that Eric Chappell (scriptwriter) would have known the phrase from his upbringing in Lincolnshire. After all, it’s not the most humorous of counties!.
I suspect it’s a Liverpudlian expression which was picked up by a man with an acute ear for such things.
“sherbets” : a funny euphemism for alcoholic beverages. ‘Oh dear; I’m afraid our Nigel has had one too many sherbets tonight.’
To Knock Up
Embarrassed to recall my first trip to the US in the 80’s as a sweet and innocent young female legal bod. I was staying at a posh Manhattan hotel to attend an early morning signing ceremony for a big acquisition that had some very famous VIPs in attendance. One of the lawyers was a very loud New Yorker who was seen as a bit of a legend and, by chance, he was put in the room next to mine. The night before, nervous I might sleep through my alarm, I asked him to make sure I was up and about when he went down to the ceremony. Needless to say he didn’t, and I came down a few minutes after the others. The Chairman asked me if I had got lost and I explained rather loudly (just as there was an unfortunate hush in the background), that I had been expecting the lawyer to swing by my room to knock me up. I had no idea why this statement caused such a stunned silence. I made the local legal rag as the only person ever to have rendered this lawyer speechless.
Used to be an actual job:
Has “jobsworth” not reached the States yet? You must have them – a petty official who insists on sticking to the rules and regulations even where they are clearly irrelevant to a particular situation. Derived from “it’s more than my job’s worth to [deviate from the rule book]…..”
“Jobsworth” by Jeremy Taylor
Named for / named after. There is a fair amount of discussion about these variants elsewhere on the internet. As a Brit I was brought up to say that little Jimmy was named after his grandpa. The US “named for” just sounds weird to me. But recently “named for” has become more and more common in British usage. I wonder: is the reverse true? (Compare “the next several days” – which I “corrected” to “the next few days” in my Norwegian students’ essays until I discovered that it was an Americanism. It too is creeping into British usage.)
I’ve never heard anyone other than an American say “named for”. Just my experience.
I do notice that Britons always pronounce “wrath” as “roth”… even if they come from the North Country where many such “a” words are changed to flat/short “a” (like dance, laugh, pass, France, path, etc.)
I recently was bemused to hear a British narrator in a doco refer to that “famous American Steinbeck novel, THE GRAPES OF ROTH”.
There would be plenty of American listeners, I suspected, who would not know what novel he was referring to…
There’s a Marx Brothers film set partly, I think, in Oxford, that includes the following exchange or something like it:
Secretary: ‘Sir, the Dean’s outside and he’s waxing wrath!’
Groucho: ‘Well, let Roth wax the Dean for a while’
Given what you say, the joke wouldn’t work with US speakers.
There are also plenty of pop song lyrics that work only with a British pronunciation.
I like the way Britons will use the expression, “to get on”. ie., to carry on amenably with their daily life’s activities.
Example: “Racism is terrible… because most people in London just want to get on.”
And the use of “on” (a time designator, similar to “minute’s time”).
A British doco narrator saying: WACO….TEN YEARS ON
In the USA, “clouds”, “eggs” and “pickles” are most often used in the plural.
In Britain, the weatherman will say, “Those in the North should expect to see a bit of cloud.”
The English will say: “I thought I’d have a bit of pickle with my egg.” where a Yank will say, “I decided to have some pickles with my eggs.”
Pickle and pickles are two different things in the UK:
“pickle” is something like Branston or piccalilli, a spread with pickled vegetables; “pickles” means picked onions or gherkins etc.
“Pickled” not “picked”, sheesh.
What we Yanks call “relish” ?
I’ve just learned (learnt?) the English expression ‘pukka’, meaning excellent. ‘That’s a pukka bit of kit.’ It comes from Hindu, I believe?
A legacy of the Raj, like bungalow, pyjamas etc.
When did Britons stop saying “la-BORE-a-tree” for “laboratory”? The sort of pronunciation I used to hear Basil Rathbone saying in 1940’s movies… but young Britons now say “LAB-ra-tor-ee”, American style.
You think? I can’t say I’ve heard that version: most will just say “lab”.
I don’t think either of those spellings accurately reflect an English pronunciation but you’d need to use the IPA to clarify but I have noticed the word being pronounced with a stress on both the first and the second syllable by different people. Like most people I avoid the problem by saying ‘lab’
I’ve have heard ‘Bob’s your Uncle’ spoken several times among Americans lately. Pretty sure that’s an adopted Anglicism.
There’s an entry for Bob’s Your Uncle–look for it in the Search field.
I was listening to BBC4’s audio drama “The Archers” yesterday. One earthy Yorkshire character exclaimed: ‘I’m so bloody bored with him, always wandering about with a face like a smacked arse.”
I don’t know what that means… can anyone clarify here?
I can! https://benyagoda.com/2018/02/26/smacked-ass-an-appreciation/
Some good words from the English Midlands are ‘flob’ = spit/phlegm/mucus (either as a verb or noun, as in “Urgh, there’s flob on the road!”) and lamp = punch. Something widely said in England is “Say when” when pouring someone a glass of an alcoholic drink (or grinding pepper on food) and asking them to say when you should stop pouring. The usual response to this is “When!”, rather than ‘Stop/Now/Stop now/that’s enough/that’ll do’, when you want them to stop. Is ‘say when’ and/or the response ‘when’ ever used in America? I imagine it’s less frequently used than in the U.K., I’ve never heard it on American films or TV.
In Michigan, USA, we use a great many of these Britishisms. “Say when”/”When!” is frequently said here.
Then there is the question around a pot of tea: “Shall I be mother?” – meaning, shall I pour out the tea? May be said by both men and women.
N-grams seems to have a few mentions of the British ‘Waistcoat’ used by Americans in place of the US ‘Vest’. Might be worth an article?
Thanks–I haven’t heard it but will look into it. Ngram Viewer does notoriously have a number of false positives, cases where a book may have been published in U.S. but by a British author, or that quotes a British person.
Hi there, Professor Yagoda. I’m wondering if there is any cropping up in the U.S. of the British “I’ve” for “I have” where “have” means possess, own, etc.
I also wonder if the common BrE redundant “as well” (where there is already a word in the sentence or phrase to suggest an additional something, such as in the example sentence “And he’s a great dancer, as well”) has trickled into American English.