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British Slang and Colloquialisms, English and UK slang

Updated on December 6, 2012

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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    • MarlonC profile image

      MarlonC 6 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 7 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

      Eileen Kersey 7 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

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

    • billyaustindillon profile image

      billyaustindillon 7 years ago

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

    • Property-Invest profile image

      Property-Invest 7 years ago from London

      Hi Ethel

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

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Thanks for visitng both Ken

    • Ken R. Abell profile image

      Ken R. Abell 8 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Lots of smiles here too. Thank you.

    • profile image

      IĆ°unn 8 years ago

      fun Hub!

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Peace to you Tony :)

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 8 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 8 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

      Eileen Kersey 8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

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

    • profile image

      Madame X 8 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 8 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      Very funny - yes please to a Part 2.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 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

      Sarah Jackson 8 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 8 years ago from San Antonio Texas

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

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

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

    • 50 Caliber profile image

      50 Caliber 8 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

      Eileen Kersey 8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      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 8 years ago from New Delhi, India

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

    • profile image

      KellyEngaldo 8 years ago

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

    • Laura in Denver profile image

      Laura Deibel 8 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 8 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, 8 years ago from London, UK

      Thanks for a good laugh.

    • profile image

      Tammy Lochmann 8 years ago

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