Twelve incredibly British phrases the rest of the world doesn’t understand
Americans have always had a bizarre fixation with the Queen (a remnant of the empire George Washington couldn’t scrub away?) and her birthday seems to be no different.
The Queen is turning 90 this week, and it seems people abroad are more excited than many Britons themselves.
But how well do people abroad actually understand Britain?
Here are twelve phrases that’ll be utter gobbledygook to everyone else but the British:
1. Bob’s your uncle (and Fanny’s your aunt)
It basically means “there you are!” said after something successful.
However “fanny” is also British slang for vagina, and although this ruder context isn’t used, it’s still baffling to others.
2. You’ve lost the plot
This means someone has lost their temper, but it can also refer to a loss of sanity.
For example, “Donald Trump has completely lost the plot.”
3. Donkey’s years
For some reason British people think donkey’s years are really really long, and use this expression when talking about a long period of time.
The phrase is believed to have originated from cockney rhyming slang “donkey’s ears”
4. Let’s have a chin-wag
This is a quick conversation, and usually involves gossiping.
It may have come from the actual action of moving your mouth when speaking.
Manky is a strange term used to describe something disgusting.
According to some, it may be a variation on the 1950s word for mutilated, “mank.”
6. That’s a doddle!
This is when something, usually an action, was/is easy to complete, and some believe it to be a remnant of the 1930s.
7. Get stuffed!
It’s an alternative to the much ruder phrase (yes, it’s the one you’re thinking of) but it still has dirty connotations.
8. I’ve got the hump
No, it’s not a disease.
It’s British people’s passive-aggressive way of saying they’re annoyed. It does the job without being confrontational, or actually you know, saying how they feel.
9. At a loose end
Translation: I’m bored. So. So. Bored.
10. Penny for your thoughts?
What are you thinking?
The saying came into being in the 16th century, when a “penny” was actually worth a significant sum.
Using it this way implies not only that you wish to hear someone’s thoughts, but that you find them valuable.
11. I’m not being funny but…
If you hear this, it’s not the introduction to a joke. In this context “funny” is actually read as weird, and usually prerequisites a bizarre statement.
12. See a man about a dog
This is the less awkward, more random cousin of the sentence “I am going to use the toilet”, or just an excuse for your impending absence.