Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Favorite British Words Of The Day

Not mine, Merriam-Webster's. Mine are guv'na, gor blimey and bollocks. Jiggery-pokery... nothing at all what I thought it was. Ditto boffin (the apostrophe makes a difference: boffin'). I thought pukka was a type of bead.

From M-W: "Although Merriam-Webster is a dictionary of American English, it contains a range of words rarely heard outside Britain. Here are some of our favourites."

PRAT: a stupid or foolish person

"Everyone's feeling a bit summery this morning, with a few rays breaking out over Britain and some of you lot daring to break the 'anyone who wears sunglasses in April is a prat' rule that we just made up." – 3am.co.uk, April 6, 2011

TWEE: affectedly or excessively dainty, delicate, cute, or quaint

"Micmacs [is a] ramshackle and unbearably twee French comedy." – Chris Tookey, Daily Mail Online, February 26, 2010

(Twee + Prat = Twat, a quaint idiot? - C.)

KNACKERED: tired, exhausted

"Went for a 4 miler and then when I got back from work we took the kids swimming. Nice and knackered now." – blog post at SoreLimbs.co.uk, January 18, 2011

JIGGERY-POKERY: dishonest or suspicious activity; nonsense

"[Greece] flouted European Union rules on the limits to budget deficits; its national accounts were a moussaka of minced statistics, topped with a cheesy sauce of jiggery-pokery." – Jeff Randall, The Telegraph, May 20, 2010

PLONK: cheap or inferior wine

"Fine diners are drinking premier cru wines at plonk prices as a bring-your-own booze revolution gathers pace in Britain's best restaurants." – Robert Booth, The Guardian, June 20, 2010

CHUNTER: to talk in a low inarticulate way: mutter

"Tell me about it. I was chuntering on last night about *padded* training bras." – michlan on Twitter, April 13, 2011

WHINGE: to complain fretfully: whine

"I shall have one pint of beer less every time I'm in the pub, and I might occasionally whinge about the rises in the cost of living outstripping my wages." – blog post on A Dull Day at Work, April 2, 2011

GORMLESS: lacking intelligence: stupid

"Gormless, unhelpful and poorly trained shop staff create merry hell for customers who are simply exercising their legal rights to a repair, refund or replacement." – Sam Dunn, Two Pennies Worth blog, March 22, 2011

BOFFIN: a scientific expert and especially one involved in technological research

"Brain boffins at University College London have made a major breakthrough in the ongoing effort to bridge the gap between man and machine." – Rik Myslewski, The Register, April 11, 2011

PUKKA: genuine, authentic; first-class

"... the record-breaking Sri Lankan [cricket player] has always shown himself a pukka gent...." – William Langley, The Telegraph, July 24, 2010

More at Merriam Webster.


  1. Love your definition of twat, will start using it. I had heard some of these words thanks to the Scots I work with, but still, the one that makes me chuckle everytime when I hear it is "The cheek of that man!" or something like that. Almost got into trouble when my boss was furious and said it.

  2. Cheeky monkey. Stop lookin' at me bum!

  3. I've heard of "whinge" before. I thought I had heard of "knackered" before too, but I thought that it meant drunk instead of tired.

    "Twat-a quaint idiot"--haha! :-D

  4. Hubby is British and I went to grad school there and lived there almost 10 years so I hadn't thought about it, but we use most of these all the time. Some words just get lost I guess. For instance, I first had kids there, the ads didn't call them diapers, the store didn't, the package or other people didn't, so they were never diapers, it became a foreign word. When I had my last kid here we still used the British word, I'd tell the boys what to go get me and they didn't know what diapers were until they heard it in school. Ok rambling example but that's how we're bilingual in our house today-English and American.

  5. Actually, Carey, it's "Cor Blimey" with a C. I always liked it when The Beatles said they were "well chuffed", which means to be pleased.


  6. Not a singular word, but an expression that I'd heard, and enjoyed all the more when I found out where it originated.

    "Gordon Bennett" - an expression of surprise, contempt, outrage, disgust, frustration.

    And now for the origin story:

    He has the unenviable record, as bestowed by the Guinness Book of World Records, of the 'Greatest Engagement Faux Pas', for the manner in which his engagement to the socialite Caroline May was broken off in 1877.

    It is reported that at the 1877 New Year's party held by his fiancee's father, he became so drunk that he mistook the fireplace for a toilet and urinated in it in front of his hosts and their guests.

  7. Plonk was originally Australian, but it is such a good word it can stay.

    Speaking of the Aussie vernacular, we might say 'root' for sexual intercourse. Similar to 'screw' as a verb and noun. The caption possibilities of the FPOTD become greatly expanded if you accept 'root' as a word for sex...

    One true Briticism I like, but don't use, is pear-shaped. As in when things go wrong, they go pear shaped.



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