You probably already know that for us Brits a ‘sidewalk’ is a ‘pavement’, ‘chips’ are ‘crisps’ and when you mention your ‘pants’ in the UK you might get some eyebrow raises. But the differences between British and American English don’t stop here and there’s a wide array of unique and interesting words and phrases commonly used across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Here, we’ll share our top 10 British expressions…
1. Fancy a cuppa?
Meaning: would you like a cup of tea?
One thing you’ll quickly realise in the UK is that our reputation for being obsessed with tea is by no means overstated. If you want to make friends with the locals, learn how to make the perfect cuppa and you’ll be on everyone’s good side! Making a cup of tea is also a legitimate excuse to get out of doing …er…pretty much anything.
2. You alright?
Meaning: how are you?
This is often misinterpreted as an assumption that we think something is wrong. But don’t worry, we just want to know how you are! You’ll find that a lot of people drop the ‘t’ when pronouncing this so it might sound a little bit like ‘You alriiii’.
Meaning: very pleased
Although we Brits aren’t known for delighting in our own achievements, ‘chuffed’ is often used to express pride or happiness with oneself – “I’m feeling well chuffed with my grade”. To further emphasise how happy you are, you can also be ‘dead chuffed’ – “I’m dead chuffed to be back on the team”!
I’m afraid it’s true what they say about the weather in the UK! That’s why you need to make sure you always have your trusted ‘brolly’ to hand. Even if it looks like a nice, sunny day outside, things can change pretty quickly so don’t get caught unprepared in the rain!
Meaning: very drunk
So in the US ‘pissed’ is used to describe someone who is extremely angry or irritated. Although it also has this meaning in British English, the more common use of this word is to describe someone who’s had a few too many alcoholic beverages. Keep in mind that this is a very casual term and should not be used in a professional environment!
6. Bob’s your uncle
Meaning: and there you have it…
One of the trickier British expressions to get your head around. This is usually said after a list of instructions to indicate that something should be easy to do. “Add the milk and cinnamon, give it a good whisk and Bob’s your uncle!”
Meaning: a short nap
“I’m off for a kip.” Siestas aren’t typical in British culture but what else can you do on a rainy Sunday afternoon, especially after a couple of pints at the pub!
Meaning: a chat
In the UK, it’s not uncommon to say that you want to “go for a chinwag” or “have a chinwag”. You don’t need to waggle your chin while doing so, just make sure to let your friend know all the latest juicy gossip!
9. That’s rubbish!
Meaning: that’s untrue/worthless
Ok, so let’s break this down. ‘Rubbish’ in British English usually translates to ‘trash’ in American English. But in the above case, ‘rubbish’ takes on a slightly different meaning. Depending on the context, ‘rubbish’ can mean that something is believed to be untrue or worthless. It’s not a particularly polite expression so I would refrain from using it unless you’re looking for an excuse not to be invited for afternoon tea!
Meaning: to be incredibly upset or disappointed about something
‘Gutted’ is a fairly recent British slang word and therefore very common among young people. It expresses deep disappointment about something -“I’m gutted that Arsenal lost the game!”
So there you have it, our top 10 British expressions! Although this is just scratching the surface of what there is to learn, hopefully you now feel much more prepared for a trip to the UK. A place home to thatched cottages, the British royal family, separate hot and cold taps and of course, fish and chips!
Right… I’m off for a cuppa.