Part 1 in a series about informal British English words and expressions.
Slang basically means informal language which is used among friends, and which isn’t really appropriate at work or in other formal situations.
This podcast is devoted to teaching you some of the most common and well-known bits of British slang. As a British person born and bred, I have lived in London, the midlands and Liverpool. There is a lot of variation in the slang used in different regions of England or The UK. The words I’m going to teach you are words which are pretty normal for me. Scotland, Wales or Ireland may have different variations. Also, people much younger than me, or people in different ethnic groups might use different slang. The slang I present in this episode is a selection of words I grew up with, or words I often hear my friends using.
Slang is not rude by definition, but there are some rude words included in this episode. Please consider this before listening or before using in class.
Below you can read the slang terms I present in this episode, with some explanations.
You can expect more episodes in this series in the future.
SLANG TERMS (from A to C)
Ace – If something is ace it is awesome. I used to hear it a lot in Liverpool. Kids thought all cool stuff was ace, or brill.
Aggro – Short for aggravation, it’s the sort of thing you might expect at a football match. In other words – trouble! There is sometimes aggro in the cities after the pubs shut!
All right? – This is used a lot around London and the south to mean, “Hello, how are you”? You would say it to a complete stranger or someone you knew. The normal response would be for them to say “All right”? back to you. It is said as a question. Sometimes it might get expanded to “all right mate”? Mostly used by blue collar workers but also common among younger people.
Arse – This is a word that doesn’t seem to exist in America. It basically means the same as ass, but is much ruder. It is used in phrases like “pain in the arse” (a nuisance) or I “can’t be arsed” (I can’t be bothered) or you might hear something was “a half arsed attempt” meaning that it was not done properly.
Arsehole – Asshole to you. Not a nice word in either language.
Arseholed – Drunk! Usually in the advanced stages of drunken stupor, someone would be considered “completely arseholed”. Never me, of course!
Baccy – Tobacco. The sort you use to roll your own.
bent – 1. dishonest or corrupt, 2. homosexual (mildly derogatory)
Bladdered – This rather ugly expression is another way of saying you are drunk. The link is fairly apparent I feel!
Bird – girl or girlfriend
blag – lie or talking nonsense.
Blatant – We use this word a lot to mean something is really obvious.
Blimey – Another exclamation of surprise. My Dad used to say “Gawd Blimey” or “Gor Blimey” or even “Cor Blimey”. It is all a corruption of the oath God Blind Me.
Bloke – man
Bloody – One of the most useful swear words in English. Mostly used as an exclamation of surprise i.e. “bloody hell” or “bloody nora”. Something may be “bloody marvellous” or “bloody awful”. It is also used to emphasise almost anything, “you’re bloody mad”, “not bloody likely” and can also be used in the middle of other words to emphasise them. E.g. “Abso-bloody-lutely”! Americans should avoid saying “bloody” as they sound silly.
Blooming – Another alternative to the word bloody.
Bob’s your uncle – This is a well used phrase. It is added to the end of sentences a bit like and that’s it! For example if you are telling someone how to make that fabulous banoffee pie you just served them, you would tell them to boil the condensed milk for three hours, spread it onto a basic cheesecake base, slice bananas on top, add some whipped double cream, another layer of banana and Bob’s your uncle!
Bog – Toilet
Bog roll – Toilet paper
Bogey – green sticky things that come out of your nose
Bollocks – This is a great English word with many excellent uses. Technically speaking it means testicles but is typically used to describe something that is no good (that’s bollocks) or that someone is talking rubbish (he’s talking bollocks). Surprisingly it is also used in a positive manner to describe something that is the best, in which case you would describe it as being “the dog’s bollocks”. Englishmen who live in America take great delight in ordering specialised registration plates for their cars using the letters B.O.L.L.O.X. Good eh?
Bollocking- A severe telling off
Booze – As a noun, an alcoholic drink; as a verb, to drink alcohol, particularly to excess.
Bottle – Something you have after twenty pints of lager and a curry. A lotta bottle! This means courage. If you have a lotta bottle you have no fear.
Brew – a cup of tea
Budge up – If you want to sit down and someone is taking up too much space, you’d ask them to budge up – move and make some space.
Buff – muscular, well built
Bugger – This is another fairly unique word with no real American equivalent. Like bloody it has many uses apart from the obvious dictionary one pertaining to rather unusual sexual habits. My father was always shouting “bugger” when he was working in the garage or garden. Usually when he hit his thumb or dropped a nail or lost something. Today we might use the sh** or the f*** words but bugger is still as common. The fuller version of this would be “bugger it”. It can also be used to tell someone to get lost (bugger off), or to admit defeat (we’re buggered) or if you were tired or exhausted you would be buggered. You can also call someone a bugger. When I won £10 on the lottery my mate called me a “lucky bugger”.
Bugger all – If something costs bugger all, it means that it costs nothing. Meaning it is cheap. If you have bugger all, it means you have nothing.
Bum – This is the part of your body you sit on. Your ass! It might also be someone who is down and out, like a tramp. You might also bum around, if you are doing nothing in particular, just hanging out. Finally to bum something means to scrounge it from someone.
Bung – To bung something means to throw it. For example a street trader might bung something in for free if you pay cash right now! Or you could say “bung my car keys over, mate”.
Butchers – To have a butchers at something is to have a look. This is a cockney rhyming slang word that has become common. The reason “butchers” means a look even though it doesn’t rhyme is because it is short for “butchers hook” and “hook” of course, does rhyme.
Chat up – To chat someone up is to try and pick them up. If you spotted a scrummy girly in a bar you might try to chat her up. Or a girl might try and chat up a chap!
Chav – Someone who is, or pretends to be of a low social standing and who dresses in a certain style, typically badly or in sports clothing. Often used as a form of derogation. Sometimes said to be an acronym for ‘Council-Housed and Violent’ but this appears to have come later. Most likely to come from the Romany for child; chavi.
Cheeky – “Eee you cheeky monkey” was what my mother said to me all the time when I was a kid. Cheeky means you are flippant, have too much lip or are a bit of a smart arse! Generally you are considered to be a bit cheeky if you have an answer for everything and always have the last word. My licence plate on my MX5 (Miata in American) was CHEEKY, which most Texans thought was something to do with bottoms – wrong!! A cheeky pint.
Cheers – This word is obviously used when drinking with friends. However, it also has other colloquial meanings. For example when saying goodbye you could say “cheers”, or “cheers then”. It also means thank you. Americans could use it in English pubs, but should avoid the other situations as it sounds wrong with an American accent. Sorry!
Cheesed off – This is a polite way of saying you are pissed off with something.
Chin Wag – This is another word for a Chat. You can probably tell why!
Chuffed – You would be chuffed to bits if you were really pleased about something.
Cock up – A cock up means you have made a mistake. It has nothing to do with parts of the male body.
Cockney rhyming slang – There are lots of words that make up cockney rhyming slang. These are basically rhyming words like “butchers hook” which means “look”. If you are in London and you hear someone talk about a Septic they are probably talking about you – because it’s short for “Septic tank” which equals “yank”, which is our word for an American. How do you like that!
Cor – You’ll often hear a Brit say “cor”! It is another one of those expressions of surprise that we seem to have so many of. It will sometimes be lengthened to “cor blimey” or “cor love a duck”, depending on where you are. “Cor blimey” is a variation of “Gawd Blimey” or “Gor Blimey”. They are all a corruption of the oath “God Blind Me”.
Cracking – If something is cracking, it means it is the best. Usually said without pronouncing the last “G”. If a girl is cracking it means she is stunning.
Crap – The same word in both countries – but less rude here. I loved watching Brits being interviewed on US chat shows and embarrassing the interviewer when they said something was “total crap”.