Tag Archives: British slang

My 10 Favorite Examples of British Slang

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Image: Union Jack British Flag by Pete Linforth via Pixabay

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 singled out that inimitable term, trouser tenting, to capture that moment in the morning when a gentleman might be – how to say? – more alert, aroused or otherwise excited.

Having just hit my 14th anniversary living in London, I long ago accustomed myself to the myriad ways in which Britain and America truly are – as George Bernard Shaw once put it – “two countries divided by a language.” The word “quite” for example, which means “very” in the United States, means “not very” when used here. (She’s “quite nice” means she’s just OK.) In a similar vein, if you “table” a motion in the UK, that means you’re opening it up for discussion. In the U.S., to table something is to remove it from consideration.

Still, it is the everyday differences I enjoy most. Here are ten of my favorite examples of British slang you might want to think about incorporating into your linguistic arsenal:

Read the rest of this post over at Better After 50

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 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.

 

Lost in Translation: Trouser Tenting, Anyone?

I think we can all agree that the Queen’s English is the English of grown ups.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my New Jersey roots as much as the next guy. But there’s no question that if you want to sound really evolved, you need to get with the (Old) Jersey.

And for the most part, I think I’ve been pretty successful at mastering the subtle differences  – not just in accent, but in terminology – across the Atlantic divide.

I now dutifully refer to my daughter’s bathing suit as her “swim costume” (despite the urge to wrap her in a boa).  I’ve also learned that you’ll raise an eyebrow or two when you confess that your eight year old  has “dirty pants,” because “pants” mean underwear, not trousers. I’ve even come to employ the term “toilet” when in search of a bathroom, even though “toilet” is a bit too literal for my taste. (Can’t we just leave what I do in there to the imagination?)

I even smugly underlined every Britishism Zoe Heller inadvertently slipped into her latest novel, The Believers, when she should have been using American slang. (Take that, you Booker prize nominee!!)

Which is why I was really flummoxed when a British friend of mine handed me a copy of his latest screenplay and asked me to “translate” it into American. I blithely flew through all the standard issue changes: shopping vs. groceries, car park vs. parking lot, etc. etc. But then I hit a speed bump:

The term of art was “trouser tenting.” It’s meant to refer to that time in the morning when a gentleman might be – how to say? – more alert, aroused or otherwise excited. I paused. What on earth was the generic American term for “trouser tenting?”

So I fired off an email to some of my guy friends in the States and got the following responses: morning wood…morning glory…morning missile…breakfast sausage…(Yup, someone really said that.)

My screenplay friend ended up opting for “morning glory” and I was relieved to have held up my end of the bargain. But I have to say, the whole exercise just left me feeling, once again, that the English just sound so much more grown up…

Cheers.

*****

Speaking of good, old-fashioned grown-up English fun, I was delighted to discover the London Travel Log, with this entry on Fuller’s Brewery.

Image: The Knitten Tent by Basheem via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.