242. 11 Idioms Only Brits Understand (really?)

This is a slightly rambling and unprepared episode which I made up as I went along, and in the end I talked about a page I found on MatadorNetwork.com called “11 Idioms Only Brits Understand”. I don’t think that these are exclusively used by Brits, but nevertheless they are some pretty commonly used idioms, so I decided to talk to you about them in this episode. After that I ended up clicking on a few random YouTube videos, playing around with the cockney accent and listening to some music. Enjoy! [Download]

Small Donate ButtonHere’s the page from The Matador Network “11 Idioms That Only Brits Understand” (the idioms are also printed below)

The Idioms
1. Pop one’s clogs

You don’t get much more British than this. To pop one’s clogs is a euphemism for dying or death.

Example: “No one knew he was about to pop his clogs.”

2. That went down a treat

If something goes down a treat, then it was thoroughly enjoyed.

Example: “That cake went down a treat.”

3. Take the mickey

Us Brits love to make fun of and tease each other and that’s exactly what ‘taking the mickey’ means. You can also say ‘take the mick.’

Example: “Stop taking the mickey out of your brother.”

More like this 8 lies you tell yourself when you move to London
4. Itchy feet

This refers to when you want to try or do something new, such as travelling.

Example: “After two years in the job she’s got itchy feet, so she’s going to spend three months in Australia.”

5. At a loose end

If you’re at a loose end, it means you’re bored or you have nothing to do.

Example: “He’s been at a loose end ever since he retired.”

6. Another string to your bow

This means to have another skill that can help you in life, particularly with employment.

Example: “I’m learning French so I’ll have another string to my bow.”

7. As the actress said to the bishop

This is the British equivalent of ‘that’s what she said.’ It highlights a sexual reference whether it was deliberate or not.

Example: “Blimey, that’s a big one — as the actress said to the bishop.”

8. Bob’s your uncle (and fanny’s your aunt)

This phrase means that something will be successful. It is the equivalent of ‘and there you go,’ or as the French say ‘et voilà!’ Adding the ‘and fanny’s your aunt’ makes you that much more British.


A: “Where’s the Queen Elizabeth Pub?”
B: “You go down the road, take the first left and Bob’s your uncle — there it is on the corner!”
9. Cheap as chips

We love a good bargain, and when we find one we can’t help but exclaim that it’s ‘as cheap as chips.’

Example: “Only a fiver for a ticket — cheap as chips mate!”

10. Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves

This is one that our grandparents have told us our whole lives. If you take care not to waste small amounts of money, then it will accumulate into something more substantial.

11. Nosy parker

This is for all the nosy people of the world. A ‘nosy parker’ is someone who is extremely interested in other people’s lives.

Example: “Stop being such a nosy parker! They’re having a private conversation!”

Gritty Brit Flick

Top Gear Parody


  • Anonymous

    John Scofield Rules!
    Your podcast is helping me a lot, well done!
    Guillermo from Barcelona

  • estellecheung

    Hi Luke! I really enjoyed the Rolling Stones’ music in this episode, but after listening through to the so called “top 50 of Rolling Stones”,I remain unaware of their names. Will you do me the favor and tell me the music’s names,especially the one you played once and again? Thanks and Merry Christmas!

    • I played “Get Off My Cloud”, “19th Nervous Breakdown” and “Shattered”. They’re all on the compilation “Forty Licks”.

  • I already knew about “bob’s your uncle”, I’d got it more as a “and that’s it!”. I also already knew about taking the mickey (out of sb). But then, the rest was brand new to me! :D

    Thank you Luke, one more time!

  • Ksenia

    I’ve only recognized the expressions you explained or used in other episodes. No wonder it’s like this because I have no other contact with the British culture. All the film are usually American, and books, even if they are written by the British authors usually don’t feature such vocabulary.

  • Nice episode Luke, as always of course, i really enjoy when you ramble and put music on the pod.

    BTW, have you ever seen the Rutles? I think you already knew them anyway you will laugh: www.youtube.com/watch?v=54KBPA20b9Q

    and what about Metallica + The Beatles??


    I hope you enjoy it!!


    • I have seen The Rutles about 1,000,000 times and I am a huge Neil Innes fan!

  • Tanja

    Nice one like always Luke!
    l would like to explain what I’ve heard about phrase: Bob’s your uncle from my uncle :).

    Once upon time UK has PM named Robert called Bob. (I found on the Internet one UK’s PM Sir Robert Walpole for example who lived in 18th century)…But anyway if it was not that Bob he was surely a big cheese. His nephew was one ordinary bloke with no particularly skills. Interestingly , his uncle Bob helped him to fell into Parliament (for example or maybe to get some job irregularly). After that nephew became heavy hitter leaving on the gravy train and keeping a finger in many pies:). With a huge salary and an expense account he was enjoying his life.

    His environment was normally was jealous since he was not deserved that position and coined a phrase: Easy for you because Bob’s your uncle!:)…Funny isn’t it but possible ? And pretty logical :) hahaha


  • Gigi

    I’m not sure if this is the case though, I sometimes hear only british people saying ‘bish bash bosh’.

  • Aritz

    Hi Luke.

    Recently I saw this link with similar stuff about english idioms and colloquial expressions translated to Spanish.


    Quite interesting.


    • Ah, nice one. Some good expressions there :)

    • oh what a great source,thanks a bunch Aritz.It’s gonna be really useful.

  • Yaron

    Nice one.

    I have recognized only 3 idioms… shame on me! But I was familiar with few others. i.e. I must had heard them before, but I didn’t recognize it until you gave examples. Anyhow, for now, I know them all…thanks for that. I hope I will not forget them.

    Anyhow, the best part of the show was the ‘Gritty Brit Flick’ stuff, it was hilarious….
    I like this kind of movies, although that in this kind of movies, there is no chance that I would understand anything without subtitles….

  • Ksenia

    Hi, Luke.
    I was wondering if you saw this on reddit and if you could comment it in one of your podcasts?