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Born In Britain Weird And The Weirdo

  • Bobbie Edsor
  • May, 2019
  • 135
  • Exclusive English Phrases

VERY (AND NOT VERY) BRITISH PHRASES THAT WILL BEDEVIL ANYONE WHO DIDN’T GROW UP IN BRITAIN

Every language has a few phrases that don’t always translate well − and the British English has some absolute corkers.

The team at the Business Insider UK office has compiled a list of the best British slangs and idioms that define the weird and wonderful British dialect we grew up with.

From our linguistic research, we’ve confirmed that above all, British people are sarcastic, unsympathetic, and often rather drunk.

Each term is partnered with a description and example. Some entries also feature surprising facts about the phrase’s origins, with a few quintessentially British idioms not actually coming from British roots at all.

Whether you think this list is the ‘bee’s knees’ or if it’s enough to make you want to ‘pop your clogs’, scroll on to discover very British phrases that will confuse anybody who didn’t grow up in Britain.

VERY BRITISH

A few sandwiches short of a picnic

Someone that lacks common sense might be described as ‘a few sandwiches short of a picnic’.

The phrase was first documented in the British Broadcasting Corporation’s ‘Lenny Henry Christmas Special’ in 1987.

‘She’s great fun, but she’s a few sandwiches short of a picnic.’

BAGSY

Calling ‘bagsy’ is the equivalent of calling ‘shotgun’ or ‘dibs’ when something, like the front seat of the car, is offered up to a group.

Schoolchildren might call ‘bagsy’ on items from their friends’ pack lunches, like an apple or a cereal bar that the friend isn’t going to eat.

‘Does anyone want thi−?’

‘Bagsy!’

BEE’S KNEES

This phrase became main-stream in America in the 1920s despite its British origins, but its popularity in America has dwindled since the turn of the century.

The ‘bee’s knees’ referred to small or insignificant details when it was first documented in the 18th Century. Since then, the phrase has evolved and refers to something at the ‘height of cool’.

‘The Beatles are the bee’s knees.’

BENDER

Someone on a spree of excessive drinking and mischief is ‘on a bender’.

Benders often last over 24 hours, and so you might say that someone is on ‘a weekend bender’, or a ‘three-day bender’.

‘I bumped into him towards the end of his four-day bender. He was a wreck.’

BLINDER

To ‘pull a blinder’ involves achieving something difficult faultlessly and skillfully.

The phrase is most commonly used when the individual has been lucky and the person saying it is in disbelief that the first person has managed to pull it off.

‘And did you see that equalising goal in the last minute of injury time? He pulled a blinder there.’

BOB’S YOUR UNCLE

The very British equivalent to ‘Hey presto!’ or ‘Et voila!’

This phrase is used to describe a process which seems more difficult than it actually is.

‘Press down the clutch, put it into gear, then slowly ease off the clutch again. Bob’s your uncle − you’re driving!’

BOG-STANDARD

Something that is ‘bog-standard’ is completely ordinary with no frills, embellishments, or add-ons.

Its origins are somewhat unclear, but a ‘bog’ is another word for a toilet in British slang, adding to the connotations that something ‘bog-standard’ is unglamorous and un-special.

‘How was the hostel?’ ‘Oh, nothing exciting to report − just your bog-standard dorm, really.’

BOOT

The ‘boot’ is the compartment at the back of the car known as the ‘trunk’ in American English.

‘Shove the shopping in the boot.’

BOTCH JOB

A repair job that’s been completed in a hurry and will probably fall apart reasonably soon is considered a ‘botch job’.

‘Sam did a botch job on these shelves − they’re wonky!’

BROLLY

Abbreviation of ‘umbrella’.

‘Grab your brolly; it’s drizzling outside.’

BUDGE UP

An informal way of asking someone to make room where they are sitting for you to sit down, too, would be asking them to ‘budge up’.

It’s similar to ‘scoot over’ or ‘move over’.

‘Hey, there’s loads of room on that bench. Budge up and make some room for us, too!’

BUILDER’S TEA

It’s the name of a strongly-brewed cup of English breakfast tea with milk − the way that tea is most commo...

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