A Brit Back Home: Un-Guessable British Words

Although I brought my kids up to know their British heritage, and apparently we did a lot of things that weren’t typically American, I never once chided them for using Americanisms. OK, (just in case they’re reading), I did go a bit full-on making sure they said “Please”, which quite a few Americans seem to omit. (Calm down, I’m not saying anyone’s necessarily rude, but I’ve done unscientific surveys on it and the actual word is often absent.)

Anyway, I’ve never understood Brits in the USA who insist on using their British English vocabulary and worse, get annoyed or sneer when Americans don’t understand them. As Rob Lowe illustrates here, some British words are so different from American English that no one would stand a chance if they were trying to guess the meaning.

Trainers – I suppose an educated guess here might yield results since these shoes were originally designed for exercise, but I knew never to use it in the US anyway. Interestingly, despite the plethora of American words that cross the Pond every year, I’m not noticing Brits saying “sneakers” much. Continue reading

50 Cockney slang phrases that you’ve never heard of before

How familiar are you with the famous London dialect of Cockney rhyming slang?

Do you like a nice cup of ‘Rosie Lee’ at night before you head up the ‘apples and pears’ to your ‘Uncle Ted’?

Apologies – for those aged under 25, you may not understand the statement above or be familiar with the famous London dialect of Cockney rhyming slang.

For many years, Londoners have been using catchy words and phrases in sentences that rhyme with the actual words they mean to say.

Quite often, this trend can be heard around Essex too.

As an example, the sentence above means ‘Do you like a nice cup of tea at night before you head up the stairs to your bed’.

Cockney rhyming slang was also popularised around the country when it was used during the classic British sitcom ‘Only Fools and Horses’.

Here is a list of 50 Cockney terms that you’ve probably never heard – along with their translation and an example of use in a sentence:

1. Able and Willing

Translation: Shilling

Use: “I’m so skint until payday, could you lend us an Able?”

2. Alan Minter

Translation: printer or splinter

Use: “The Alan’s jammed with paper again.”

3. Alex Nash

Translation: slash (urinate)

Use: “Where’s your loo? I’m desperate for an Alex.”

4. Apple pip

Translation: dip

Use: “Let’s all go down to Brighton for an apple pip.”

5. Arthur Conan Doyle

Translation: boil

Use: “Oi mate, would you put that kettle on the Arthur?”

6. Atilla the Hun

Translation: 2:1 degree

Use: “I graduated last year with an Atilla in Business Studies.”

7. Baa lamb

Translation: tram

Use: “I’m on the lamb over from Ikea.”

8. Basil Brush

Translation: thrush

Use: “I’ve got a bad case of the old Basil.”

9. Betty Boo/ Eartha Kitt

Translation: poo

Use: “Where’s the lav, I need a Betty!”

10. Bill Oddie

Translation: voddie (vodka)

Use: “Get us a Bill and cola.”

11. Billie Piper

Translation: windscreen wiper

Use: “Someone’s gone and ripped off my Billies.”

12. Billy Ray Cyrus

Translation: virus

Use: “I had to take my laptop to the shop because I opened an email with a nasty Billy Ray attached.”

13. Boracic lint

Translation: broke, skint

Use: “I can’t come out tonight, I’m completely Boracic.”

14. Brad Pitt

Translation: fit

Use: “Mate, that girl is proper Brad Pitt.”

15. Britney Spears

Translation: ears, tears, or beers

Use: “Dry those Britneys.”

16. Charlie Drake

Translation: steak

Use: “I’ll have chips with me Charlie.”

17. Cheese and kisses

Translation: Mrs

Use: “I got some flowers to surprise me cheese, she loved it.”

18. Cheesy Quaver

Translation: favour

Use: “Do us a cheesy Quaver, pal.”

19. Coat hanger

Translation: clanger, mistake

Use: “I’ve only gone and sent it to print with a huge coat hanger in the headline!”

20. Cuff link

Translation: drink (alcoholic)

Use: “Let’s go down the rubber dub for a cuff link.”

21. Cuppa, sausage and a slice

Translation: nice

Use: “He’s a cuppa lad.”

22. Daisy dancers

Translation: stairs

Use: “I’m off up the Daisys to bed.”

23. Damien Hirst

Translation: first class degree

Use: “My cousin only went and got a Damien from Oxford!”

24. Diet Coke

Translation: joke

Use: “These train strikes are a Diet Coke!”

25. Donald Trump

Translation: hump

Use: “What’s given you the Donald, then?”

26. French egg

Translation: enough (un ouef)

Use: “That’s it, I’ve had a French egg now.”

27. Gamma ray

Translation: stray

Use: “This cat keeps hanging about my garden, I reckon it’s a gamma.”

28. German beer/ ginger beer

Translation: engineer

Use: “If you need some work done on your car my cousin’s a great ginger beer.”

29. Godforsaken

Translation: bacon

Use: “I’m craving a godforsaken sarnie.”

30. Gordon Brown

Translation: clown

Use: “My dad’s a bit of a Gordon.”

31. Harry Hill

Translation: pill, birth control

Use: “I can’t be pregnant, I’m on the Harry.”

32. Holy Grail

Translation: email

Use: “Send us the details in a holy.”

33. Hovis

Translation: dead (from brown bread)

Use: “He’s been Hovis for years now.”

34. Ian Beale

Translation: real

Use: “I’m keeping it Ian Beale.”

35. Itchy ring

Translation: Burger King

Use: “I’m Hank Marvin mate, wanna go get an itchy?”

36. Jabba the Hutt

Translation: shut

Use: “I just went down the tin tank for some cash but it was Jabba.”

37. Jet fighter

Translation: all-nighter

Use: “I had to pull a jet fighter to catch up with my work.”

38. KY Jelly

Translation: telly

Use: “Get in here quick, your trouble’s on the KY.”

39. Kangaroo pouch

Translation: couch

Use: “Help us move my kangaroo.”

40. Lager and lime

Translation: spine

Use: “I’ve got a terrible pain in me lager.”

41. Lisa Tarbucks

Translation: Starbucks

Use: “I’ve not got enough wonga to get coffee from Lisa.”

42. Lump of lead

Translation: head

Use: “Use your lump!”

43. Malcom X

Translation: text

Use: “Send us a Malcom.”

44. Merlyn Rees

Translation: piece, lunch

Use: “I’m off to the caff for some Merlyn, are you coming?”

45. Noddy holders

Translation: shoulders

Use: “I’ve got a terrible pain in me Noddys.”

46. Obi Wan Kenobi

Translation: mobile phone

Use: “Send us a Malcom on me Obi Wan.”

47. Perpetual loser

Translation: boozer

Use: “Me local perpetual has been no cop since it got taken over.”

48. Pineapple chunk

Translation: bunk bed

Use: “You and your sister will have to share the pineapple.”

49. Ricky Gervais

Translation: face

Use: “You should’ve seen the look on her Ricky when I told her the news.”

50. Rock of Ages

Translation: wages

Use: “With rent like this they better give us higher Rock of Ages.”

Source: 50 Cockney slang phrases that you’ve never heard of before

British Slang: It’s Bucketing Down – Lovely British Words and Phrases for Rain

Britain is known as a rainy country, despite the fact that it doesn’t get any more rain than say, Seattle. But it’s true that Britain is very wet. Their soggy maritime climate has shaped their history and culture, and it’s no surprise that like the Inuit with multiple words to describe snow, the British also […]

Britain is known as a rainy country, despite the fact that it doesn’t get any more rain than say, Seattle. But it’s true that Britain is very wet. Their soggy maritime climate has shaped their history and culture, and it’s no surprise that like the Inuit with multiple words to describe snow, the British also have many different phrases to describe the different kinds of rain. Here are our favorites.

Pissing down – In America, variations of the word ‘piss’ are considered quite coarse language, it’s not so in Britain, it’s a much softer connotation. Pissing down is torrential rain.

Bucketing down – A nice way of saying ‘pissing down’ – raining very hard.

Tipping Down – Raining heavily.

Mizzly – A common Cornish phrase for rain – it’s a misty rain that seems to settle on the landscape. It’s doesn’t feel like it’s actively raining, but everything is wet.

Spitting – Very light rain – with only a few drops at a time.

Plothering – A phrase often used in the Midlands or Northeast that describes is heavy rain that, well, plothers (the sound it makes hitting the ground).

Lovely weather for ducks! – A jovial phrase that the terrible weather must be good for something at least – like Ducks.

It’s chucking it down – Heavy and constant rain.

It’s siling/syling down (N. England) – A heavy rain.

Sea Fret – A wet mist or haze that comes inland from the sea (see Mizzly)

Smirr – A Scottish term for an extremely fine and misty rain that comes from a poem by George Campbell Hay.

Scotch mist – A thick mist and drizzling rain.

Letty – A West Country term that says that there is just enough rain to make outdoor work impossible (coming from a word that once meant disallow).

Cow-quaker – A sudden massive rainstorm characteristic during the month of May when the cows are traditionally let back on the fields.

Snell – A Scottish phrase for a very, very cold rain.

Smizzle – A Scottish phrase for a light rain.

Duke of Spain – Cockney Ryhming Slang for rain.

Raining forks’tiyunsdown’ards – A colorful Lincolnshire phrase meaning heavy rain like it’s raining pitchforks.

Source: British Slang: It’s Bucketing Down – Lovely British Words and Phrases for Rain

A Londoner guide to 33 popular Cockney rhyming slang terms

Confused by the traditional lingo in our city – well here’s some ‘lump of ice’

Whether you have lived in London all of your life, or are new to the city, you’ve probably have heard people speaking Cockney.

There’s literally hundreds of Cockney phrases, which means the native  East End language can get pretty confusing.

For those Only Fools and Horses fans you would have heard Derek ‘Del Boy’ Trotter use rhyming slang including: “would you Adam and Eve it”, which is slang for you won’t believe it.

We’re also used to Danny Dyer tell Queen Vic punters he’s “done some bird” as he plays Mick Carter in EastEnders , or hearing acting legend Michael Caine naturally use the lingo during television interviews.

So to help you navigate your way around the London dialect we’ve comprised a list of of 33 popular Cockney rhyming slang terms and what they mean.

1. China plate – mate (friend)

2. Adam and Eve – believe

3. Apples and pears – stairs

4. Boat Race – face

5. Bird lime – time (in prison)

6. Bricks and Mortar – daughter

7. Brown Bread – dead

8. Bubble Bath – Laugh

9. On the floor – poor

10. Scotch mist – pissed

11. Currant bun – sun (also The Sun newspaper)

12. Dicky bird – word

13. Dog and bone – phone

14. Dustbin lid – kid

15. Duke of Kent – rent

16. Hank Marvin – starving

17. Jam-jar – car

18. Lady Godiva – fiver

19. Loaf of Bread – head

20. Mince Pies – eyes

21. Peckham Rye – tie

22. Pony and Trap – crap

23. Rosy Lee – tea

24. Sherbert (short for sherbert dab) – cab

25. Skin and Blister – sister

26. Tea leaf – thief

27. Trouble and strife – wife

28. Vera Lynn – gin

29. Whistle and flute – suit (of clothes)

30. Wonga – cash

31. Duck and dive – hide/skive

32. Lump of ice – advice

33. Pleasure and pain – rain

Source: A Londoner guide to 33 popular Cockney rhyming slang terms – MyLondon

In Search Of London’s Last Cockneys 

“We had to move away, Cos’ the rent we couldn’t pay.”

What does it mean to be cockney? Pearly kings and queens? Rhyming slang? Pie and liquor? It’s commonly believed that to be truly cockney, you must be born within earshot of Bow Bells, which peal from Cheapside’s St Mary-le-Bow church.

Noise pollution and a lack of maternity wards in the area have rendered this definition practically obsolete. The term ‘cockney’ dates back to the 1300s and was originally used as a pejorative label for the city’s toffee-nosed urban folk. It’s since become a term of endearment primarily referring to the working class, down-to-earth, East Enders of London.

But in 2010, Professor Paul Kerswill of the University of York estimated that the cockney accent would disappear from London “within 30 years”. 10 of those years have now elapsed. Is this native London breed really set to become brown bread? And what has triggered the mass exodus of these former city-dwellers to surrounding counties such as Essex and Kent?

“We’re still alive and kicking, but we’re hanging by a thread”

Think cockney and Pearly Kings and Queens often spring to mind. The tradition, dating back to the Victorian costermongers (street traders) of north London, was founded by Henry Croft, a former workhouse inmate, who — inspired by the style-savvy costermongers who sewed lines of pearls onto their clothes to mimic the rich — chose to go one step further by completely embellishing suits with pearl buttons [ . . . ]

Read complete feature story in THE LONDONIST: In Search Of London’s Last Cockneys | Londonist