British Slang and Colloquialisms, English and UK slang

Having recently created one Hub about Yorkshire Dialect, and one about some of the language differences between British and American people, my thoughts have turned to British slang, colloquialisms, idioms and funny euphemisms.

I will offer my apologies here and now to any reader who takes offense, as none is intended. I will also apologise for any strange words or sayings that I foolishly thought were unique to the UK, but are more international.

So here goes:

  1. Round the hat rack, generally means a bit barmy, or not all there.
  2. Lost the plot means that you have no idea what is going on.
  3. As much use as a chocolate fireguard or as a chocolate teapot. Hopefully this one is self explanatory. No? Well it means the person or thing referred to is useless.
  4. I'll make you smile on the other side of your face. This generally refers to a cheeky grinning child, threatened with a slap. Hopefully this one is becoming extinct.
  5. Its like the black hole of Calcutta in here, refers to a place that is very dark. I guess this one dates back to the days of Empire. The black hole of Calcutta was where prisoners were held back then.
  6. A bit of Aggro or Bovver refers to a fight or some such trouble.
  7. If he or she has been ASBO'ed they have received an Anti Social Behaviour Order from the courts or police.
  8. As Mad as a Hatter.
  9. One of my mother's funny expressions was about a person who was not very nice looking. He, or she, looks as if his Mother stood on his face to wind the clock up. Sorry this is not a nice expression but it still makes me laugh.
  10. A lick and a promise is not as exciting as it may sound. It simply means a job done in a hurry and not thoroughly.
  11. Your not backward at coming forwards are you?, may be said to someone who is definitely not shy.
  12. I'll give you something to cry about. This used to be said to a child who was crying, for no reason, and could mean that the child was in for a slap.

OK so that's a few sayings to get us started. So what about rude expressions, that are not really swearing. How about:

  • Get knotted
  • Shut your Gob (mouth)
  • Shut yer cakehole (mouth, again)
  • Get lost
  • Get stuffed
  • This is one of Hubby's put downs, to moronic individuals. Go polish the bolt in your neck.
  • Have you got verbal diarrhoea?, may be asked of someone who never stops talking.

So how about a few words?

  1. Fireballer is a creep. Someone who is trying to get round you (another expression I guess)
  2. Plonker simply means you silly thing.
  3. Skive off. This means to avoid work or chores.
  4. Bunk off. This could refer to a child who is playing truant from school.
  5. Twagging, is also a word for playing truant.
  6. Pulling a sickie refers to someone absent from work who is pretending to be sick.
  7. Titfer is a hat. Perhaps this is like the Cockney rhyming slang. Tit for tat.
  8. One yer Bike, means no chance, clear off and stronger phrases.
  9. Med up for yer. Pleased for someone.
  10. Yer not as daft as yer look, are you? Well really what a cheeky saying.
  11. Thick as two short planks, could refer to someone who is not that bright.
  12. Stop going round the houses, will tell someone that you want them to get to the point.
  13. Spuds are potatoes.

Fashions and times change and this means that slang words and phrases often change also. In the second world war a Spiv was a person who traded goods on the black market, for example.These days the British language has plenty of American expressions used on a daily basis.

When I was young and rather a chatterbox or natterbag, as my Dad would say, Dad had a pertinent expression about me. He used to ask "Was you vaccinated with a Gramophone needle?" I guess most youngsters these days will have no idea what I am talking about.

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Comments 26 comments

MarlonC profile image

MarlonC 5 years ago

regarding the chocolate teapot/fireguard, a cruder version involving a one-legged man sprang to mind alongside 'an ashtray on a motorbike', which the late Lucky Dube employed in one of his songs...

maheshpatwal profile image

maheshpatwal 6 years ago from MUMBAI

Ethel thank you very much for making me familiar with brit slangs...... your hub is awesome and well researched.

ethel smith profile image

ethel smith 6 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull Author

Yes that might be fun Billy, I will give it a go thanx

billyaustindillon profile image

billyaustindillon 6 years ago

Some great ones here Ethel - maybe a little rhyming slang might be in order :)

Property-Invest profile image

Property-Invest 6 years ago from London

Hi Ethel

Great to see another British person on Hubpages. Keep up the fantastic hubs!

ethel smith profile image

ethel smith 7 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull Author

Thanks for visitng both Ken

Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

Lots of smiles here too. Thank you.

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IĆ°unn 7 years ago

fun Hub!

ethel smith profile image

ethel smith 7 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull Author

Peace to you Tony :)

tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 7 years ago from South Africa

Thanks Ethel for this one. Such language, while it might make the purists squirm, is what keeps language alive. I love it and the British certainly have a way with colloquialisms.

Love and peace


H P Roychoudhury profile image

H P Roychoudhury 7 years ago from Guwahati, India

I am not a competent person to comment on English slang or colloquialisms but it reminds me of my past life at Manchester where my daughter learnt from birth the Lancashire colloquial English. I must say colloquial English Lancashire sound was so melodious that it has no compare with London English.Thanks for sharing.

ethel smith profile image

ethel smith 7 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull Author

Well ladies a part two it will be. Thanks for the visits :)

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Madame X 7 years ago

Thanks for this fun info Ethel. I love hearing about the vernacular of other places and where expressions come from. Yes, do a part 2!!

2patricias profile image

2patricias 7 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

Very funny - yes please to a Part 2.

habee profile image

habee 7 years ago from Georgia

This is great! We actually use some of the same expressions in the South! I agree with RM - do a part II!

Sarahredhead profile image

Sarahredhead 7 years ago from Southern United States

I love it!!! I have been to the UK twice and couldn't get enough of the colloquialisms. (I am quite proud of my own region's colloquialisms.) They are truly unique to each realm; and I'm adding some of these to my daily conversations. Thank you for sharing!! Bravo!

rmcrayne profile image

rmcrayne 7 years ago from San Antonio Texas

This is loads of fun ethel. By all means, do a part 2.

ethel smith profile image

ethel smith 7 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull Author

That would be fun Dusty. You could water it down so that it passed the censors :)

50 Caliber profile image

50 Caliber 7 years ago from Arizona

Another yet entertaining dialect hub. Good job, I enjoyed it. I thought about doing an American one but it would most likely be rated R

ethel smith profile image

ethel smith 7 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull Author

Thanks to you all. Of course there some very rude expressions which I thought I had best avoid here.

Once I had finished another batch of funnies sparng to mind so I may to have a Part Two later.

Jaspal profile image

Jaspal 7 years ago from New Delhi, India

Nice hub, had a good laugh at some of the expressions. Thank you!

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KellyEngaldo 7 years ago

Amazing! I must visit this again before my trip to the UK. Very fascinating!

Laura in Denver profile image

Laura in Denver 7 years ago from Aurora

This is very cute, although being from the States as I am, I have never heard many of these.

May I suggest that you highlight some of the sayings for better Web effect? Please see

Best, Laura in Denver

Manly Man profile image

Manly Man 7 years ago

How about the Northern U.S. cowboy expression--"The snow's ass deep on a nine-foot Indian." Or " It's colder'n a well digger's knee." Or "We've been trick f**ked!" (Scammed.)

Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

Thanks for a good laugh.

Tammy Lochmann profile image

Tammy Lochmann 7 years ago

Thanks for sharing this...I enjoy interpretations of different slang and colloquial expressions. Fun Hub

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