Ten Words You May Not Understand When You Visit Britain

Monday, April 08, 2013

A significant number of travelers from around the world visit the UK every year, and many of them feel they will have no problem whatsoever with the language. Millions can speak English already, of course, and many more will have studied the subject at school, so everything will be OK, right? Well, no, not all the time, because the British people, from the far north of Scotland to the deep south of England, love to use slang words. So, even if you know the difference between bubble and squeak, you may still find yourself confused sometimes. Here are ten words which can mean something different in certain parts of the United Kingdom.
While the word banger can mean a rather loud firework that you’re likely to hear in early November in particular, it’s also a common name for a sausage. The traditional dish of bangers and mash is a hearty plate of sausages and mashed potato, and is popular throughout the UK.
In the north of England and throughout Scotland, you are likely to hear the word bairn on a number of occasions. It’s actually a term for a baby or small child. Other terms used in the UK include sprog and nipper.
Boat Race
In and around London, rhyming slang remains common, and there are a number of expressions that you’re likely to hear about your travels. They include apples and pears (stairs), plates of meat (feet) and currant bun (sun). The term Boat Race refers to the face.
If you hear some telling you they are chuffed, they are actually saying that they’re very pleased. The origin of this word is thought to be in relation to an animal being chuffed, or puffed out with fat.
In the United States, someone is described as being pissed when they are extremely angry, but in the UK it means they are rather drunk. Therefore, if someone tells you they are pissed they aren’t commenting on their levels of rage.
Goggle Box
The Goggle Box may sound like something from a fantasy novel, perhaps, but it’s just an expression for the television. Other terms used to describe a TV are the telly, the idiot box and, rather mockingly, the electronic babysitter.
If someone tells you they are a Bobby when they are at work, they’re actually telling you they are a police officer. The term is thought to have originated from the founder of the modern British police, Sir Robert Peel. For the same reason, officers are also known as Peelers.
Jam Jar
Another popular example of Cockney rhyming slang, a jam jar is another name for a motor vehicle. If you are planning to investigate any car hire deals in the UK, be sure to find a jam jar that you can afford.
A scalawag in America is a derogatory term for a Southerner who is thought to have betrayed his roots, but in the UK the word scallywag usually refers to a young person who often breaks the law. The shortened word scally is particularly common in the north-west of England.
Several denominations of money are given slang titles in the UK, so if someone offers you a monkey they may well be talking about a sum of £500 rather than a simian. Other terms include pony (£25), score (£20) and bulls-eye (£50).

Jamie Anderson has lived in England all his life and is fascinated by slang.

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