English as a Second Language

FCUK LondonAmerica has a close bond with England. We understand the Brits – well, sort of. We can watch Downton Abbey and Doctor Who and understand most of what’s going on. But we seriously lag behind in our creative use of slang.

I’ve been married to a Brit for many years and I only know if I’ve wandered into Brit-Speak when I see the blank looks. (Don’t Americans say “sod off”? How about “bugger off”? “Cheesed off”? “Pissed off”?)

If you’re going to read this blog with any regularity, you’re going to need a bit of a lesson.

This isn’t the Queen’s English, so don’t expect to find much of what follows on PBS – though you may find it in Austin Powers.cartoon English

I use “boot” and “trunk” interchangeably when referring to the back end of my car and “bloody” is an integral part of my personal swearing vocabulary. But I have yet to adopt “khazi”1 since there is already sufficient slang for toilet (“loo”, “WC”, “bog”, “privy”, “lav”, “lavvie”, “crapper”, “po”, “pisspot”).

1 Or “karsy” – though my husband insists there is no “R” in khazi no matter what it sounds like to my American ears.

I’ve already explained a common slang phrase “Can’t be Arsed” though for many years I thought it was “Can’t Be Asked” which is much nicer and closer to the point but misses all of the color of Shakespeare’s English.

“Pissed” in America means “angry”, but “pissed” in England means “drunk” – maybe angry as well, but it’s not a pre-requisite. So, the English don’t get “pissed off” they just get “pissed” though they might attend a “piss up”. Knowing this is essential if a Brit says that you “couldn’t organize a piss up in a brewery.” It’s an insult – you’re inept.

If a Brit really wants to be insulting, they’ll call you a “tosser” or a “wanker” or in my case a “septic” – but more on Cockney Rhyming Slang another time.

“Taking the piss” (as opposed to “taking A piss” which is what you do after a “piss up”) means to make fun of someone and “pissing about” is what you do on a Saturday night when you don’t have a date and are avoiding doing anything productive (like reading this blog).

“Tits up” and “pear shaped” mean the same thing. These phrases are used when something has gone really wrong. When a Brit says his date has gone “tits up” he doesn’t mean this in a good way. Maybe his date fell “arse over tit” while trying to dance in stilettos.

If something is “getting on my tits”, it’s annoying me – and I’m not just talking about “The Girls” – men have tits as well. “Cheesed off” is like pissed off just a bit more polite.

SOD OFF“Sod off” means go away (in a “fcuk off” sort of way) as does “bugger off” and “piss off” and “on your bike”. “Sod it” is what you say when you’ve given up on something (in a “fcuk it” sort of way) and “Sod all” means nothing – literally – it means nothing.

So does “nowt” which is a word imported from Yorkshire (AKA “the North”). “Owt” is the opposite, meaning something. So, translating the phrase “something for nothing” into British slang would be “owt for nowt.”

Thus endeth the lesson – at least Part 1. I haven’t even mentioned “barmy” or “gobsmacked” or “nosh” or “dosh” or “kip” or “nicker” or….

I’m Jae and this message is bollocks.

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