British slang

Although it’s been a while since I was in my home country of England, I thought it would be fun to touch on some of the rather quirky1 and interesting slang words you can find there. Without further ado2 here are the kinds of things you might hear when spending time with British people.

‘Mate’ – one of the commonly used terms of endearment3 and affection in the UK. Use it when you are talking to a close friend. It’s often easily substituted for the American ‘buddy’, ‘pal’, or ‘dude’.
E.g., ‘Alright, mate?’

Bugger All
‘Bugger all’ – an informal (slightly rude) slang term that’s a synonym for ‘nothing at all’.
E.g., ‘I’ve had bugger all to do all day.’ ‘Go away. This is bugger all to do with you!’

‘A great word and phrase used by Britons to describe being exhausted or worn out.
E.g., ‘I am absolutely knackered after working all day.’ ‘I need some new car tyres. These ones are knackered.’

This is very British and means to be shocked and surprised beyond belief. The expression is believed by some to come literally from ‘gob’ (a British expression for mouth), and the look of shock that comes from someone hitting it.
E.g., ‘I was gobsmacked when she told me she was pregnant with triplets.’

Lost The Plot
This one can actually be discerned by examining the words themselves. To ‘lose the plot’ can mean either to become angry and/or exasperated to a fault, or in a derogatory – if slightly outdated sense – to mean someone who has become irrational and/or acting ridiculously.
E.g., ‘When my girlfriend saw the mess I’d made, she lost the plot.’

‘Cheers’ doesn’t quite have the same meaning that it does in other counties – of course, it still means ‘celebrations’ when making a toast while drinking with some friends, but in British slang, it also means ‘thanks’ or ‘thank you’.
E.g., ‘Cheers for getting me that drink, Steve’.

The Bee’s Knees
The bee’s knees – a rather lovely term used to describe someone or something you think the world of.
E.g., ‘She thinks Barry is the bee’s knees’.

Taking The Piss
Since we Brits tend to mock and satirise anything and everything possible, ‘taking the piss’ is in fact one of our most popular and widely-used slang terms. To ‘take the piss’ means to mock something, parody something, or generally be sarcastic and derisive5 towards something.
E.g., ‘The guys on TV last night were taking the piss out of the government again.’

Commonly used by virtually everyone in the UK to mean ‘two weeks’. From the Old English phrase for fourteen nights.
E.g., ‘I’m going away for a fortnight to Egypt for my summer holiday.’

A ‘bollocking’ is a telling-off6 or a severe or enthusiastic reprimand7 from a boss, co-worker, partner, or anyone else, for a misdemeanour8.
E.g., ‘My wife gave me a real bollocking for forgetting to buy milk on my way home from work.’

One of the more delightful British slang terms in this list, ‘scrummy’ is used as a wonderfully effusive9 term for when something is truly delicious and mouth-wateringly good.
E.g., ‘Mrs Walker’s pie was absolutely scrummy. I had three pieces.’

Skive (off)
We use this to indicate that someone has failed to turn up for work or an obligation due to a fake illness. It is most commonly used to describe schoolchildren trying to get out of school or dissatisfied office workers trying to pull a sick day.
E.g., ‘He tried to skive off work but got caught by his manager.’



ACTIVITY: Explain the meanings of the following slang words or substitute them with other words:
I know that these might mean bugger all to you now and you’re likely sitting there a bit gobsmacked but practice them for a fortnight or so and they’ll be fine for you. British people like when others use their slang so I promise not to take the piss, even if you use it incorrectly. I know you might feel knackered after learning so much but don’t skive off until you’re done. Once you’ve learned them all, you’ll be the bee’s knees and then you can go for a scrummy cake to reward yourself.
Cheers for reading and tell everyone how useful this was. I don’t want to get a bollocking from my boss about my article. If that happens, she’ll ask my mate Tom to write instead of me 😉

Peter Wallin

VOCABULARY: 1 /kw∂:rki:/ svojrázne, bizarné – svérázný, bizarní; 2 bez ďalších okolkov – bez (dalších) okolku, bezodkladně; 3 prejav lásky, nežnosti, pohladenie – projev lásky, něžnosti, pohlazení; 4 rozpoznať – rozpoznat; 5 /diraisiv/ posměšný, výsmešný – posměšný, výsměšný; 6 vynadanie, zjazdenie niekoho – vynadání, sjetí někoho; 7 pokarhanie, napomenutie – pokárání, napomenutí; 8 /misdimi:n∂r/ poklesok, prehmat, prečin – poklesek, přehmat, přečin; 9 vášnivý, citom pretekajúci – vášnivý, citem přetékající