Talk Like a Local: Becoming British

Talk Like a Local — By Alexi Ueltzen on November 12, 2009 at 11:10 am

It’s a well known fact that the British have special powers when it comes to slang. They can turn the dullest sentence into something at once amusing, sarcastic and adorable just by shortening a word and inserting a nickname. For example:

Regular English: I just hung that picture up completely crooked.

British English: Just hung that picture completely wonky, didn’t I? Brilliant.

Do you see how funny and self-deprecating that second one is? Because I do. Read on for some more examples of how the United Kingdom has tweaked, reworked and made-oh-so-charming the English language.

Quid: (noun) Money. More specifically, the British version of a dollar, or one Euro. Only much, much more fun to say.

Muck around: (verb) Have fun. Really brings to mind a child stomping around messily in galoshes, doesn’t it?

Wicked: (adjective) Cool. This is also popular on the United States’ east coast, predominantly Boston, but there is usually said in conjunction with “cool” (i.e., “wicked cool”) making it significantly less…cool.

Biscuit: (noun) Cookie, and a far more sophisticated way of saying it too; “Biscuits” sound appropriate for adults, whereas it’s impossible to offer another grown person a “cookie” without sounding either excessively motherly or as though you’re five years old.

Chuck it: (verb) Throw it, both in or away. Again, this has much more attitude than just “tossing” something. One tosses softballs, but one chucks hand grenades.

Gaga: (adjective) Crazy. This makes total sense when examining the clothing choices and general behavior of pop artist Lady Gaga who, while American, is undeniably nuts.

Get one’s goat: (adjective) To annoy someone. Is there anything more annoying than a stolen goat? From real-life experience, I can say no.

Phiz: (noun) Face. Abbreviated from physionogomy, which just goes to show that your average British abbreviation is totes smarter than your average American abbreviation.

Want an exhaustive list of British slang? Check it out here (and don’t get us started on the rhyming stuff). Please also feel free to leave strongly worded comments with your favorite slang words that I inadvertently left off the list.

[Photo: enders_shadow1/Creative Commons]

Tags: british, slang, United Kingdom


  • Chris says:

    I have three more:
    Belt up . It’s the British for shut up
    Dekko – To have a look at something.
    Quite – When used alone, this word means the same as absolutely!

  • jasper says:

    RE Chuck It: you might have to be a little careful with the term “tossing” as it means something quite different in the UK

  • Alexi Ueltzen says:

    Excellent call, Jasper. Will keep that in mind next time I’m in the United Kingdom.


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