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Tips For Adulthood: Five Useful Pieces of British Slang

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood. From time to time, I enjoy sharing the wonderful peculiarities of British English I encounter during...

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

From time to time, I enjoy sharing the wonderful peculiarities of British English I encounter during everyday life over here in the U.K. A few years back, I identified that inimitable term, trouser tenting, to capture that time in the morning when a gentleman might be – how to say? – more alert, aroused or otherwise excited.

Lately – because my husband and I are trying to figure out whether or not to purchase a home – much of my new British-speak has come from the housing market. The ongoing unrest over budget cuts and tuition fee increases has also given me some colorful new expressions with which to spruce up my vocabulary.

To wit, here are five pieces of British Slang worth incorporating into your own arsenal:

1. GazumpedGetting “gazumped” refers to a situation where you have a verbal  – or possibly even written – agreement with a seller to buy a property at an agreed price, but at the last minute, s/he sells it to someone else, usually for a higher amount. I absolutely love this term, (although I didn’t love it so much when it happened to us, as it just did.) Nearly everyone I know here has a story about being gazumped and apparently, they are in good company.

2. Gazundered – Equally compelling (to me at least) is the sister real estate term, gazundered, which refers to a situation where, right before contracts are to be exchanged, the buyer suddenly drops his offer on the property, knowing that s/he holds all the cards.

3. Beshert – OK, this term is actually Yiddish (though don’t they all sound a bit Yiddish?) and it actually means “inevitable” or “preordained,” usually in the context of marriage. But our mortgage broker used it with us twice:  first, when it looked like we had just enough money to secure a mortgage on a property and later, when we lost said property by being gazumped. Either way, it was all “beshert.” God bless him.

4. Crustie – Here’s one I pulled from the anti-government strikes and protests that have flourished here since the government announced its austerity budget last autumn. As protesters took to the streets (again) in early March, London’s colorful mayor, Boris Johnson, referred to them as a bunch of “aggressive crusties and lefties.” According to the Urban Dictionary, a “crustie” is an unkempt youth of uncertain domicile who is marked, above all, by his or her anti-authority attitudes. But a friend of mine said that it just meant “tree-hugger.” Either way, I’ll take it.

5. Argy-Bargy – Argy-bargy (soft “g” please) basically means a heated argument. Which is a lovely way to describe a family meal…a lively street mob…or a political debate. Take your pick. Love it.


Image: House for sale by mundoo via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.


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  1. Patricia June 29, 2011 at 11:38 pm #

    My kind of post – I am reading Cutting for Stone right now and the author often doesn’t define a term – does italicize it and does let us know if it is Ethiopian or Indian – I have Googled about 20 such words from about the 1960s era so far – quite often makes the read confusing or disorienting and slows it way down – then again fascinating.

    I found out the term for a great house you might be looking for in the UK….a living building – that is what I am grant writing for now for the International Living building Challenge 2.0…used to be net-zero housing.

  2. MJ June 30, 2011 at 1:47 am #

    Argy-bargy – I’ve heard this via the lovely dulcet tones of Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen as they provide commentary on professional cycling races. This term is usually used to describe the elbow throws and jostling for position that happens among sprinters as they jockey to win the end of a sprint stage in, for example the Tour de France.

    • Kristen @ Motherese June 30, 2011 at 6:33 pm #

      Thanks, MJ. I knew that “argy-bargy” was familiar to me and Phil and Paul are definitely the source. I cannot wait to hear them each morning for the next three weeks!

  3. Delia Lloyd June 30, 2011 at 7:52 am #

    @mj-love the cycling ref-captures it beautifully!

  4. Shelley June 30, 2011 at 5:53 pm #

    Gosh, I knew 1 and 5, but haven’t encountered any in between. ‘Crustie’ is a much more evocative term than ‘tree-hugger’; it makes me think of someone with dirt or sweat crusted on their skin. ‘All goes beshert’ doesn’t quite fit the definition as I grasped it, but it sounds vaguely rude without being so, which is fun. I thought being gazumped was about the worst thing that could happen to a person, but gazundering is even dirtier, in my opinion!

    Thanks for the new words!

  5. Howard Baldwin June 30, 2011 at 8:09 pm #

    Now, if you want good slang, you really have to go to Australia.

    Bingle = fender-bender
    Dobber = whistleblower
    Bludger = goldbrick (lazy)
    Yakka = work

    And the list goes on and on.

  6. delialloyd July 1, 2011 at 9:56 am #

    @howard-thanks for these=fab!

  7. daryl boylan July 1, 2011 at 2:31 pm #

    Love the new words — more, please?

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