Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Ten for Tuesday: My Favourite British Words

I've always been fascinated by Brit-speak. Even after living here for six years -- and adopting much of the local vocab -- there are words that just jump out at me as being so British. Here are my top ten!

1. Knackered. What a day. I'm knackered! It's so expressive you can't help but love it.

2. Rubbish. Ashley Cole is absolute rubbish. Don't worry if you don't know who Ashley Cole is. Take it from me, he's rubbish.

3. Rubber. Please can you hand me a rubber? I'm not getting fresh; (yay! semi-colon!)don't worry. Over here, it means eraser.

4. Loo. Where's the loo? I'm desperate. It sounds so much prettier than bathroom!

5. Aluminium. No, that's not a typo. It really is a-lu-min-i-um over here.

6. Trousers. What's that in your trousers? I dunno why, but the word makes me snicker. In the UK, 'pants' means underwear.

7. Anti-clockwise. This cracks me up. It's just bizarre to me.

8. Bap. I'll have a bacon bap, please. OR She's got a nice set of baps on her. Yes, this wonderful little word is dual-functional, meaning either bread-rolls or breasts!

9. Biro. I'll need a biro if you want me to write that down. A ball-point pen. For some reason.

10. Boffin. He studied for ten hours last night. What a boffin!

I made it to ten today! Yay! And a massive thanks to the lovely Jen at Unedited for featuring The Hating Game on her blog today!

Any foreign words you particularly like?


  1. Wow I loved these! Some I knew, and some I didn't but I have appreciation for them all!!! Thanks for sharing Talli! So insightful :)

  2. lo, Talli! Although I really don't get what's so funny about anti-clockwise... what is it in US? Surely there has to be an 'anti-' to everything? (Uncles included.. see what I did there?) my daughter's in NY right now and before she left we ran through some Americanisms.... don't even start me on 'fanny pouches' and 'bums'... ah the British toilet homour.. I mean humOr!

  3. Excellent!

    As a Brit, that all seems totally normal to me. (You're right about Mr Cole...he IS rubbish).

    I've always found 'pants' as trousers most amusing. Rather sadly as I'm now 40!

  4. Ooh neat!

    Nice list...

    Lets see.

    Stonking: huge
    Braw: good
    Naff: uncool
    Daft: crazy
    Nosh: Grub
    Kawaii: cute
    Gamabatte: Go gettem, you can do it, I'm cheering for you!
    Wonky: poorly executed
    Pfaffing: putzing
    Sod: multipurpose! Idiot or earth with rooted lawn. Can also be used as a verb! The sodding computer crashed while I was editing again!

  5. Sod it! I meant to use it as a verb above, oh well... As I sod -ahem-, as I said, it's multipurpose. Like the F word. : j

  6. This was a fun post! "Bap" is a great word, I like "Loo" as well. My favorite word is not really foreign but it isn't used often enough, so that makes it kind of strange: phantasmagoric. I just love the sound of it, but Edgar Allen Poe used it in one of his stories and I just fell in love!

  7. :-) As a Brit, I love this.

    I too used to find 'pants' very amusing when watching American films!

    And also 'fanny'. That means something way different over here...

  8. Boffin! Love it! I'm so going to call my husband that when he gets home from work. Not because he is one but I just want to use the word and sound all British, LOL!

    I do use the work rubbish a lot, though. I like it! It's a more appropriate and mature word than saying crap, haha!

  9. Yay you made it to ten!!! Well done you!

    Foreign words I like? Hmmm. Anything french. Spoken by a dashing French gentleman. Or that woman who does the safety announcement on the Eurotunnel. She can repeat herself many times over and I'll still be salivating at her sexy accent. Ok I'm going off topic now. Err...

    Je ne sais quoi. I like that phrase!


    take care

  10. I love the word rubbish too :-)

  11. Ah! I love this - thanks for sharing, everyone! Great to have the Brits' take on all the words I find strange, too. :) hehehhe on the FANNY thing! (To Americans, over here in the UK 'fanny' means, er, the front bum. ha!)

    Debs - it's counter-clockwise in North America. :)

    Thanks so much for chiming in, everyone!

  12. Brit English is so much fun!

    I think Biro is a brand.

  13. Now you are taking the Mickey out of our English language Talli.

    I joined in a meme recently on Italian words

  14. Living in an urban east-coast US city, I've picked up a few fun Yiddish words:

    schelp -- carry; travel all over (or both, as in carrying something all over the place)
    putz -- stupid, clumsy person
    chutzpa -- boldness

    I am so addicted to Briticisms I set most of my first novel in County Durham. I relied heavily on the glossary at peevish.co.uk/slang to fact check (before asking friends across the pond to read). I find it especially funny that the Brits have so many slang terms for insane: nutter, barmy, barking, absolutely hatstand and many more.

  15. Cool list, Talli. The aluminum one cracks me up. One day in a high school metal shop class the english narator of a film we were watching continued to speak of some new metal that I had yet to hear of. To my ears he was saying, "Alley-min-um"! I'll never forget how stupid I felt when I figured it out!

  16. Oh, I totally love all of those...and it's funny I never heard 'anti-clockwise' in my life until a few months ago then I heard it twice in two days LOL (for those who aren't stateside we say 'counterclockwise' over here.)

    I have so many favorites- but one that jumps out at me is a word that our British and Aussie friends can get away with saying but just sounds downright silly here in the US if we'd even dare try for it: fortnight.

    So. Romantic. Maybe it's just the accent but I don't think so. Heck even if it is, I don't care. *swoon*

    Thanks for the fun read today! Loved it.


  17. oooh, i knew all of these except for BAP and now i'm going to start using that one post-haste

  18. HeHe. I could think of many more, but I'll comment on the word 'bap'. I know one major supermarket chain that has re-named baps as sandwich carriers so as not to offend women.

    As a woman was I offended? No!

  19. Jeff Goldblum was on an English motoring show this weekend, and they asked him about always playing 'boffins'. He had no idea what they were saying!

    'Bangers' is also good British slang - either for sausages (bangers and mash), or breasts again! 'Check out those bangers...' :-)

  20. It had never occurred to me before that anti-clockwise was weird ... but now you mention it!

  21. Trying not to sound crass one day, I asked where the loo was. The woman looked at me as if I'd lost my mind. I then said, "You know, the W.C." Again that look. "Water closet?" "Potty?" Finally, I just said "Ladies Room."

    Oh, to be a Brit.

    I also love the way you curse. 'Bloody' has now become one of my favorites as I can say it in front of Monster Baby.

  22. Knackered! I really like that word. I think I'll adopt it! :)

  23. Aha, love your selections, some of them are words I would put on my own favourite British words list, if I had one!

    My fiance would love you, Talli, he thinks Ashley Cole is rubbish too. Actually, so do I, but I'm not enough of a football fan to really care. Steve, however, can make Ashley jokes till the cows come home.

    And... wait a second... what do Canadians say instead of 'anti-clockwise'? Gasp! There is another possibility?

  24. Collywobbles is a good word. I don't know if it's particularly British though.

  25. I adore 'gobsmacked'. It's perfect.

  26. As a Brit I must put in a word for bollocks. As in 'that was complete bollocks' - an expression (correct me if I'm wrong) that hasn't travelled across the pond.

    How something can be incomplete bollocks escapes me. Perhaps after a visit to the vet?

    Oh, and bristols for a lady's..um..chestal area.

  27. Hmm. Not sure what to say about number 6..

  28. ah but the best thing about British slang is that it changes based on where you are. I'm scouse by birth (Liverpool) so I say things like "skitting" (taking the mickey) and "scally" (chav / trailer trash). However I live over in Hull and my Hubby is a Yorkshireman, so I now understand phrases like "twaggin' down tenfoot", "wait while 'ome", "tansag" and "owt fer nowt". Kids are also "bain" (not bairn, that's further up north)and baps are known as breadcakes.

  29. I love learning about words like this. What a laugh! I enjoy the character named Chanco in Nacho Libre. I just found out yesterday that his name means pig. Last night, my husband's latino friend made a dish called chanco. Funny. ;)

  30. My folks immigrated to Canada from Scotland so most of these are familiar - and still hilarious. I'd never heard biro before though!

  31. Britishisms are so cute. I love this list!

  32. It's funny because while our pants is funny to them, their trousers sounds so...grandfatherly to me. My husband and sons would never say they are looking for their trousers. My grandfather might have. For sure, my great grandfather would have.

  33. Loo is def. much prettier than bathroom!!!

  34. Personally, I'm pro-clockwise.

    I use "knackered" all the time. In fact, I'm knackered right now. I try to use "aluminum" all the time to say it the British way.

    I'm a fan of the hood and trunk of the car. Isn't it bonnet and ... what's the other one?

    My husband's best friend is British, so it's fun spending time with him to learn the other English.

  35. Wish I had more British friends. I'll have to settle on more PBS...

  36. Straight Guy, do you get our shows on PBS then?

    Over here we spend loads of time watching American shows!

  37. those are simply hilarious! I think I would be laughing everytime someone said baps or rubber! ha ha!

  38. Love 'knackered.'
    Here's a funny story on one of your other words. I took my daughter and a girl from England to Disneyland and they were in a shop when the English girl started yelling--enthusiastically--'look at all these rubbers. I need to buy a bunch.' My daughter was mortified.

  39. So funny. I love those words, but mainly because I didn't realize some of them were unusual.

    I'd never thought of the word/s anti-clockwise before. What would you say instead?

  40. Absolute tosh...no not your list Talli! It is a phrase I use and my expat non Brit pals make me say it every time we meet up. It means, a lot of nonsense.

    It's piece of cake = it's easy to do.

    Cakes are scrummy.

    Just had to get cake in there for you! LOL

    Our dog pants ;/

  41. I'm Canadian, which means we get all the British spellings without all the funny British expressions. Here are some uniquely Canadian ones:

    pencil crayon=colored pencil
    garburator=garbage disposal

    Also, when I first moved to the US, people would give me the strangest looks when I said I was going to "write a test". Americans take tests, Canadians write them.

  42. Love your list today, great words. Congrats too on making it 10.

    Thoughts in Progress

  43. Hi Talli,
    LOL! These words crack me up! I use rubbish from time to time, I like the sound of it. I like "loo" although in the tv series "Law & Order" the dectives call their Liutenant, Lu for short. I bet an English detective would never call his/her liutenant that ;) Thanks for sharing these words even though we hardly use them on this side of the pond (Montreal, Canada) ;)

  44. My cousins in London use "brilliant" quite a bit. I always thought that was so cute :)

  45. I love those words! I wish I could get away with using them in Chicago. I also wish I had a British accent; they always sound so cool.

  46. biro is a maker of ball point pens - hence why it became synonymous with ball point pen.

  47. Thanks for this! Fun stuff~ cheers, N

  48. I loved these. I never realised how weird my own language can be sometimes. I also love the differences between regional words, like dannies for hands. :)

  49. Haha...this is why i love the Brits and that accent gets to me. Most of these words i have used occasionally so great to remind me of them too. Nice list~

  50. Anti-clockwise? I've never heard that one before. But for some reason I like it.

    I refuse to accept "aluminium," though. Humphry Davy christened it "aluminum," and aluminum it shall remain, no matter how edjimicated-sounding "aluminium" is. I've even got my English friends to own up to this.

  51. The "rubber" one really gave me a laugh. It's so funny that both country speaks English, yet each country speaks it so differently. It's crazy! Crazy fun!!

  52. well, since English is not my first language, I would have to write down here your list again because I love most of these typically British words :) 'rubbish' is cool, but also I like the expression 'what a bummer' and, I like word 'ravishing'. As far as other languages go - I just adore the way Japanese sounds. And swearwords in Spanish absolutely rock :)

  53. I knew all of these!! Yay! I watch a lot of British tv though. So much I started dreaming in British. Yes. It's possible.

  54. wow! talli awesome as always! as an aussie i have many thoughts!
    (aussie is pronounced ozzie, not ossie. we are weird)

    most of the words are the same here as we all know us convicts stole the words from you during migration.

    the only ones we don't use are Trousers, Bap and Boffin. And will start using Boffin immediately.

    Also whats the deal with the rubber thing? We say rubber. I'm assuming americans think a rubber is something...else? something dirty?

    to us "loo" is what you use when you're amoung friends, very informal. everywhere else it's toilet. dont say loo's to your boss.

    buggered = knackered
    bogan = dole-bludging loser
    togs = swimming costume/bathers

    hehe, Boffin, hahaha that will keep me gong all day!

  55. I never say 'boffin' and I'm English. As English as they come. Tabloids use it though. A LOT!

    But no one who isn't a tabloid newspaper says 'boffin' ... do they?

    No anti-clockwise in US? That's just wrong. Is it widdershins there?

    Thanks for this.


  56. This is a great post. Thanks, Talli. Always great to hear a Canadian's perspective of the Brits.

    I also found some great bloggers from your comment section too.


  57. I love britishisms. Most of mine I picked up from Harry Potter, so there is a lot of name calling and the like, but I love several of them you've mentioned. My friend Tara (who's Welsh) has also corrected me on the different MEANING of a lot of words and they crack me up, My favorite is 'Pants' (which literally is UNDERpants) as 'crap'... my first draft is pants.

  58. Talli,
    Knackered is an expressive word, very suitable for a lot of occasions!

    I didn't know that you gave aluminum an extra i. Now that I look at it, makes sense.

    Trousers is more formal than pants. More expressive, too. I know you use knickers for underwear, too.

    Thanks for the new words: boffin & bap! Always like learning more English! :)

  59. This is such a fun list! I love "boffin". I didn't realize that you haven't always lived in the UK. Where did you move from, and was it a culture shock?

  60. I love this list! I have a friend who's British and she uses these words all the time. Very helpful since they show up very regularly in the British mysteries I like to read :)

  61. Hey Talli, i never shared this story with you or a lot of people and thought you might like it and share your thoughts. x


  62. whoa--some of these are really foreign to me. (No pun intended) LOL

    Gotta love "loo" though. :)

  63. I like "reckon." I've heard it twice on the Chris Moyles Show this week alone.


  64. I learned one about a week ago on a British writer friend's blog. She talked about a "hose pipe" in her backyard. Hose pipe? I asked. Yeah, she said. Don't you have those in your backyards too? I had this vision of a big, cement cylinder thingy in her yard. Then I found out it was a garden hose. It was the pipe part threw me!

  65. Great list to make me look at our expressions afresh, from someone else who loves semicolons!

  66. I actually had to read the comments to find out why anti-clockwise would seem strange.
    Most of these are used fairly commonly in Australia although rubber is definitely something that the teens are getting rid of and replacing it with eraser.

  67. I like some expressions that may be uniquely Scottish.

    Wobbit: woozy/wobbly As in: I feel a wee bit wobbit today.

    Stramash: Can mean a racket (as in noise) or an argument.

    Handbags at 50 paces: a meaningless argument.

    Tatties: potatoes (pronounced ta'eez)

    I cannae be bothered/cannae be arsed: Indicates one thinks something is too much trouble. :D

    FET: pronounced "fet". F***'in English Tourist. :D

  68. Oh, and for the Brits in the audience, "anti-clockwise" is said "counter-clockwise" in the US.

  69. @claudia:

    nope brits wouldnt call a liutenant "loo", because we pronounce it "lef-tenant"

    I also forgot my favourite insult for my ex - Wanker. the fact that the producer of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was called Thomas B. Wanker still cracks me up.

  70. Gotta love the Brits and their gift of the gab. They all make sense to this Aussie gal, but I love the post all the same :)

  71. This is actually quite useful to me right now since I'm writing a British character!

  72. Those are great! Some of them I knew, but some of them I've never heard before. Now if I go over there and someone asks me for a rubber, I'll know what they want. :)

    I'm going over to Jen's right now!

  73. I really like Gobsmacked too. AND the phrase, "can't be bothered." Ashley Cole is rubbish. ;)

  74. Love these words, Talli. Thanks for sharing. <3

  75. Some I knew, but BAP is totally new to me. These are fun!

  76. Talli,

    Couldn't help posting a gentle riposte.

  77. A couple years ago I was over in London on a trip, and we were on a coach with a driver/tour guide. He said the word "higgledy-piggledy" and I cracked up and LOVED it. So that's my favorite foreign word :)

  78. Hi Talli ..

    full stop ... period in the States

    knocking up as in tennis and squash .. warming up before a game .. not good in Americanese!

    Bristols ... well you guessed it - another version of bap ..

    The words and language can become tricky .. but amusing - if we know there are differences ..

    Love your choices .. Hilary

  79. Hi Talli,

    I just found your blog and I must say that I love it. This post cracked me up. I know quite a few people from England who have got me into saying 'reckon.' I'm one of your newest followers and looking forward to reading your posts!

    Feel free to check my book/coffee themed blog at www.coffeetalereviews.blogspot.com in your spare time.

    Ms. C

  80. This is just dandy! I myself am headed to London for a Semester in about three weeks, and your little list will come in quite handy. I am also a fan of "wanker."


Coffee and wine for all!