- I lived in London for a year andpicked up some UK slang words that I still find myself using.
- Wonky, dodgy, and many others have become mainstays in my vocabulary.
- I've also started referring to French fries as "chips" just like my British counterparts.
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I lived in the UK for just over a year, and moved back to New York at the start of this year. There are a few things I miss about living across the pond, and one has to be the British language. Yes, I know it's still English — I'm talking about their slang words.
The British have a way of using words to describe things that are often indescribable. For example, when a painting is just slightly off-kilter on a wall, don't you wish there was a word for that? Well, the Brits have one: "wonky."
Though I may no longer live there, I've brought a bit of London back home with me in my language.
Cuppa: (n) a cup of tea.
Any time I went to someone's home while living in the UK, without fail, I would be offered a "cuppa." There's truth behind the stereotype that Brits love tea, and after spending a year there I've become a convert. I choose it over coffee every time, which now gives me too much of a caffeine buzz.
Knackered: (adj) exhausted, tired, unable to move.
I can't think of any of my British friends who wouldn't use this word when they were tired. "I am absolutely knackered" was a phrase I would often hear at school or work on a Monday morning.
Gutted: (adj) devastated, disappointed.
If you've failed an important test, or your crush doesn't like you back, you would say you were "gutted."
Chuffed: (adj) proud, pleased with one's accomplishment.
After acing a test or getting a new promotion at work, you'd say you're really "chuffed."
Dodgy: (adj) sketchy, suspicious, potentially dangerous.
An alleyway late at night, or a boarded up house could be described as "dodgy," but the word can be used to describe anything suspicious looking, like this shoe creeping out of the closet.
Wonky: (adj) off kilter, not right.
You know the feeling when you see a picture frame and it's slightly tilted? In the US we would say its "messed up" ... but isn't the word "wonky" just so much better?
Shambles: (n) mess, chaos.
A "shambles" can be used to refer to any type of mess. You, yourself can also be a shambles, like if you're late to work and forgot your lunch, you're a shambles. Also if your plans don't work out one night, you could say, "This night was a total shambles."
Bloody: (adv) absolutely, completely.
Like the London Eye, pictured here, the word "bloody" is one of the most quintessentially British things there is. Bloody, which was once considered offensive, can be put before any word for emphasis: bloody delicious, bloody good, or bloody hard are all common usages.
Quid: (n) one British pound.
I like the word quid because you can use it to make things sound cheaper: 50 pounds might sound like a lot, but 50 quid doesn't seem like that much.
Nosh: (n) food, snack.
"Nosh" can be used to refer to any type of food, though you probably wouldn't say it when talking about a fancy dinner.
Chips: (n) french fries.
I was definitely confused when I first heard french fries referred to as "chips," and chips referred to as "crisps," but now back in New York, I still find myself calling french fries chips. It just rolls off the tongue easier.
Offie: (n) liquor store.
The "offie" or "off-licence" is a liquor store and convenience store combined. In certain parts of London, like where I lived, the closest shop was an offie and I'd head there for all my shopping needs.
Banging: (adj) awesome, great, spot on.
I think I most often heard "banging" when referring to food. This falafel sandwich I had was so good I had to take a picture midway through eating, which I almost never do. It was just that banging.
Skint: (adj) broke, penniless.
When it's reaching the end of the month and you're waiting for your next paycheck to go grocery shopping, that's when you're "skint."
Uni: (n) college, university.
"Uni" is how everyone refers to college and university. They actually call high school "college" so the whole thing is a bit confusing.
Cheeky: (adj) cute, flippant.
"A cheeky chap" is how I'd refer to my pup, Jasper, in the above photo. He's just so cute.
Faff: (v) dither about, procrastinate; (n) bother, unnecessary work.
To "faff" about is to procrastinate, or simply not get something done, like I am in the photo above, looking at my phone at the office. I'd also use faff to describe an annoyance, such as, "I'd go to his party, but it's an hour away, that's too much faff."
Fit: (adj) attractive, good-looking.
I think Timothée Chalamet is quite "fit."
Pear-shaped: (adj) wrong, disastrous.
If something's gone wrong, you could say its a shambles, but you could also say its gone "pear-shaped." BBC America cites the origin of the phrase dating back to 1940s fighter pilots trying to do loops in the air, but sometimes having them come out more pear-shaped.
Posh: (adj) upper-class, fancy.
According to Fandom, Victoria Beckham of the Spice Girls was called Posh Spice because "of her refined attitude, form-fitting designer outfits, such as little black dresses, and her love of high-heeled footwear."
Rubbish: (n) garbage, trash.
Something about the word "rubbish" just seems so much nicer than garbage.
Hoover: (n, v) vacuum.
Just like vacuum, hoover can be used as a noun or a verb. You could say, "The floor is filthy, someone needs to hoover," or, "Where's the hoover? There's dust everywhere!"
Blimey: my goodness, wow.
Blimey is a slightly more old-fashioned term, but it's still a great way of expressing excitement that no one will expect.
Bangers: (n) sausages.
If you look at any classic British menu, you're sure to find bangers and mash, a traditional dish of sausages and mashed potatoes. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, "The term bangers supposedly originated during World War I, when meat shortages resulted in sausages being made with a number of fillers, notably water, that caused them to explode when cooked."
Gobsmacked: (adj) astonished, astounded.
According to Dictionary.com, the word gobsmacked comes from two words: gob, which is slang for mouth, and smack, to hit. Feeling gobsmacked means that you feel like you have been (figuratively) hit in the mouth.
Kerfuffle: (n) skirmish, argument, fight.
In my experience, kerfuffle is used to describe a not-so-serious disagreement. For example, "We had a kerfuffle over which restaurant has the best burgers in the city."
Zed: (n) the letter Z.
The reason I like this one is that since my name is Zoë, a lot of my friends call me "Z." By differentiating between the Z and the Zed, I know when one is referring to the letter, and the other to me.
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