r/AskUK Dec 01 '22

What words would only a British person use?

My husband sometimes makes fun of me when I accidentally use American English words instead of British English (because that's how I learned it at school). What typical British English words should I get into the habit of using?

Edit: Thanks to all of you! I'm sure my husband will be surprised that I probably now know more insults than he does.

2.6k Upvotes

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3.1k

u/sbs1138 Dec 01 '22 Silver Helpful

Numpty - idiot
Muppet - idiot
Spanner - idiot
Tool - idiot
Pillock - idiot
Plonker - idiot

1.8k

u/[deleted] Dec 01 '22 Wholesome

The joy of English is that almost any word can be used to call someone an idiot.

‘You complete mousemat’

‘You’re such a paint tin’

‘You absolute duvet cover’

We’d all know by context and understand- but none of these have ever been used.

1.1k

u/Superspank172 Dec 01 '22

The key here is the modifier used. If you add absolute, or complete, to almost any noun then it will pass as an insult.

You absolute mantlepiece

593

u/canyonstom Dec 01 '22

Especially if the modifier is fucking.

You fucking door handle.

403

u/FakeOrangeOJ Dec 01 '22

YOU FUCKING DONKEY!

149

u/phoebadoeb Dec 01 '22

WHAT ARE YOU

302

u/Arkiel21 Dec 01 '22 Helpful

An idiot sandwich chef

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u/wildagain Dec 01 '22

Where have you been on the internet

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u/devster75 Dec 01 '22

You utter fork handle

You complete garden hose

You total biscuit tin

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u/Saedynn Dec 01 '22

Absolute mantlepiece sounds like a compliment to me, like you only put good looking things up on the mantle, so an absolute mantlepiece sounds like calling someone a 10/10 to me

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u/jflb96 Dec 01 '22

The mantelpiece is the boring display stand for the cool knickknacks. If you’re an absolute mantelpiece, you’re the plain one in the group.

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u/lawlore Dec 01 '22

Yep. People talk about the stuff on the mantlepiece, not the mantlepiece itself.

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u/Funky_monkey2026 Dec 01 '22

Generally looks good but often serves no other purpose.

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u/LifelessLewis Dec 01 '22

Unless the noun is legend.

18

u/Hookton Dec 01 '22

I dunno, delivered in the right tone...

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u/yyyeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet Dec 01 '22

This is also true of describing being drunk

I was totally mouse matted last night

Want to come over and get paint tinned?

She was in a right state, totally duvet covered

136

u/bpup Dec 01 '22

Absolutely gazeboed

102

u/Bunister Dec 01 '22 Helpful

Fuckin' breadbinned mate, totally lampshaded.

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u/durum77 Dec 01 '22

My friend called another guy a piece of fluff when we were in primary school.

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u/lodav22 Dec 01 '22

Piece of fluff means girlfriend (in a bit of derogatory way) where I live.

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u/OrganizationOk5418 Dec 01 '22

In Liverpool people get called a quilt, meaning weak or stupid, or both. For example: "Fk off, ya fkn quilt".

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u/ihateyournan Dec 01 '22

Especially food items:

'You're such a donut'

'He's such a fucking turnip'

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u/Tompster_ Dec 01 '22

Fun fact, pretty much any tool could be used to call someone an idiot. For example:

  • You absolute screw driver

  • You absolute hammer

  • You absolute Dewalt DCG405N-XJ 18V LI-ION XR 5" brushless cordless angle grinder

  • You absolute plier

  • You absolute saw

76

u/Bigjuicydickinurear Dec 01 '22

You inanimate fucking object

25

u/emolloy93 Dec 01 '22

I'm sorry I called you an inanimate object, I was upset.

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u/ScroobiusPup Dec 01 '22

'Absolute specimen' is a good one too

58

u/Minute-Mechanic4362 Dec 01 '22

Also the obligatory “Absolute Unit”

44

u/ThatHairyGingerGuy Dec 01 '22

Though this obviously has a very different meaning

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u/[deleted] Dec 01 '22

Weapon - idiot

59

u/NotWritten_NotARule Dec 01 '22

I said weapon as an insult once, at work, and someone from SE London told me it meant “very attractive” around there.

92

u/and_so_forth Dec 01 '22

They've been told that by someone who accidentally called them a weapon to their face.

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u/Cunningstun Dec 01 '22

Depends on context

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u/TragedyOA Dec 01 '22

Twat

132

u/NastyEvilNinja Dec 01 '22

Which is pronounced TWAT and not TWOT u/americans

80

u/ProFoxxxx Dec 01 '22

That user has one post and it says

HEY Australia STFU nobody asked you! This is between us and the UK! Go kill a crocodile or something.

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u/nadehlaaay Dec 01 '22

American living in the UK here — muppet has become somewhat popular recently and tool has been used forever!

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u/Violet351 Dec 01 '22

I’m 49 and have been using muppet since I was a teenager

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u/Lazyrockgod Dec 01 '22

Me and her indoors figured out that you can make any noun mean "idiot" as long as you precede it with a superlative, such as "right", "utter", or "absolute".

Examples include "he's a right teacup", "you absolute door hinge", "what an utter staircase"

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u/james___uk Dec 01 '22

'Eejit'!

I am suddenly realising as I type this that this might be idiot in another dialect 😅 What an eejit I am

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u/ihateirony Dec 01 '22

Eejit is Hiberno (Irish) English, I never felt like it was identical to idiot, but they're pretty close.

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u/Whale31777 Dec 01 '22

Twazzock - idiot

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u/MasculineRooster Dec 01 '22

Wazzock can also be used

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u/YuppieKiYay Dec 01 '22

Lemon - idiot Prat - idiot Lizard - useless lazy idiot

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u/mypostisbad Dec 01 '22

Twonk

Twazzock

Twunt.

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u/Levantante Dec 01 '22

Faffing

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u/Spartan_029 Dec 01 '22 edited Dec 01 '22

I was raised in both England and America thanks to the military, my mum is from Dorset as well as the vast majority of my family (dad has very little family), I consider England my home country.

But unless I've been home for more than a week, I have a solidly bland American accent. I'll still pronounce things like Basil, Oregano, Aluminium and other such nonsense the British way, but people still know what I'm saying.

However I also use words like "faffing" and "winge" and it always makes people stop in their tracks and question my sanity...

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u/Sinemetu9 Dec 01 '22

Here’s the i you forgot.

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u/IAmLaureline Dec 01 '22

Is whinge British? Didn't know that!

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u/Spartan_029 Dec 01 '22

My whole family uses it, and every American I've told to quit whinging has then asked me to repeat myself. It may be my small sample size, but in my experience it is indeed a British term.

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u/The-Porkmann Dec 01 '22

Fortnight, whilst, ghastly, terribly and awfully.

Whoops a daisy does not count.

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u/Eni420 Dec 01 '22

Whoops a daisy counts. >:(

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u/seanyseanerson Dec 01 '22

Wait Americans don't have fortnight? What do they call them?

97

u/xeraxia Dec 01 '22

At my work, they use 'bi-weekly' to say every two weeks, and it confuses the hell out of me.

103

u/Nipple_Dick Dec 01 '22

If biannual means twice a year, wouldn’t bi-weekly mean twice a week?

87

u/xeraxia Dec 01 '22

That's what I've tried explaining to them but it gets ignored.

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u/blackwylf Dec 01 '22

It does. And it also means fortnightly. Don't even get me started on nonplussed... I'm American and even i can't stand the linguistic abuse.

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u/Howtothinkofaname Dec 01 '22

Sadly nonplussed is one that many people seem to get wrong regardless of nationality these days. We’re losing a great word but I think it’s too late. Ah well, was nice while it lasted.

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u/[deleted] Dec 01 '22

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u/memcwho Dec 01 '22

If you arent a native, saying "to me" when carrying something requiring a multi person lift will be mind blowing.

And legally requires the retort "to you" from someone else

140

u/mattyplant Dec 01 '22

It's all well and good that the chuckle brothers get everywhere, but does everybody know Badger loves mashed potato?

31

u/lostmyselfinyourlies Dec 01 '22

Mashed potato!!

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u/c19isdeadly Dec 01 '22

Handbag

Trousers

Knickers

Wally

Plonker

669

u/wuthering_tights Dec 01 '22

Sounds like a checklist you check before leaving the house!

167

u/Mukatsukuz Dec 01 '22

you're right and I just realised I'm sitting here without my wally!

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u/Inlevitable Dec 01 '22

I never forget to be a plonker

73

u/Mukatsukuz Dec 01 '22

I always check my plonker's fully tucked into my knickers, though.

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u/ILikeToSpooner Dec 01 '22

Spectacles, testicles, wallet & watch

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u/koombot Dec 01 '22

I know a guy who once shouted "Show us your knickers" from a hotel in Tennessee. Needless to say the crowd of African Americans at the bar misheard him and were somewhat upset.

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u/Cherry_Treefrog Dec 01 '22

My spanish wife’s friend Francesca shortens her name to Paqui, which would not go down too well in many parts of the uk.

36

u/lawlore Dec 01 '22

I'm curious as to how Paqui has become a nickname for Francesca- I believe it, but I'd be interested to know how she got from A to B?

56

u/whyhercules Dec 01 '22

It’s supremely common.

”Paco” is the typical shortening of “Francisco”, and has been for centuries if not longer, apparently because of a Latin title given to Saint Francis (Pater something or other). The female version is shortened to “Paca” or “Paquita”, which can be itself shortened to “Paqui”

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u/FriendlyPyre Dec 01 '22

What's American for handbag?

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u/ice_cream_for_crow Dec 01 '22

Purse

45

u/Onechop123 Dec 01 '22

So what’s the American equivalent for a purse?

50

u/Streathamite Dec 01 '22

Wallet which is both masculine and feminine in the US

34

u/Edward_T_Thatch Dec 01 '22

"One moment while I get my wallet out of my purse." - Spooky stuff.

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u/Dry_Pick_304 Dec 01 '22

Using bollocks for something bad, and dogs bollocks for something good.

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u/robbodagreat Dec 01 '22

Less of a britishism, but I also love that shit and the shit are basically opposites

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u/funnytoenail Dec 01 '22

Just don’t be having the shits

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u/[deleted] Dec 01 '22

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u/theflyingfartmachine Dec 01 '22 edited Dec 01 '22

Knackered

ETA: Many years ago, I was staying in Germany on a student exchange program and someone had taught them 'clapped out' for being really tired and/or worn out. I, being keen to expand their vocabulary, taught them knackered (after going through the background, knackers yard etc.). My hosts thought it was brilliant and took great pride in sitting down in a cafe in Frankfurt and loudly stating "I'm knackered", much to the annoyance of my German teacher.

This is probably my greatest, and only, contribution to German society.

178

u/rainbow84uk Dec 01 '22

Or cream crackered if you want to be polite.

61

u/Alfred_the_okay Dec 01 '22

'Knackered' isn't impolite, is it?

115

u/spidersprinkles Dec 01 '22

My mum made out like it was a swear word when I was a kid. Not sure why....

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u/McChes Dec 01 '22 edited Dec 02 '22

“Knackered” derives from the term for old, worn-out horses at the end of their lives, which were sent to the “knacker’s yard” to be turned into tallow, glue and other products. A “knacker” was someone who worked in one of those yards, and it was generally considered pretty disreputable. Summary of it here. Saying someone looks “knackered” strictly is suggesting that they look like they are fit for/have been through a knacker’s yard.

Those yards haven’t existed for decades [Edit: apparently they still do, as I have discovered after prompting from u/That-Phase-4308 below], though, and most people have forgotten/never learned the origin of the word. Given that, I can’t see how it would be particularly offensive these days.

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u/rainbow84uk Dec 01 '22

Mine too. It's not really swearing but definitely wasn't seen as a polite thing for a child to say when I was growing up.

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u/ThundaGhoul Dec 01 '22

Fanny in the context of vagina rather than arse.

Also arse rather than ass.

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u/Onechop123 Dec 01 '22

Don’t for get the verb fanny. ‘To fanny about’

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u/ThundaGhoul Dec 01 '22

Sort of like the female equivalent of 'Dick about'

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u/flipfloppery Dec 01 '22

We had a good laugh with some servers at Denny's over the word 'fanny'.

We told them we'd seen a pot of 'fanny firming cream' at CVS or Walgreens, then told them that fanny means "the front, not the back" in British English.

The servers had a real good giggle about it then disappeared into the kitchen to tell the chefs/cooks about it and all we heard was the kitchen erupt into laughter.

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u/[deleted] Dec 01 '22

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u/Mrcientist Dec 01 '22 edited Dec 01 '22 Silver

Nip - Going out quickly - "To nip out for something"

Pop - See nip - "I'm just going to pop down the offie - (offie = off license, a seller of alcoholic drinks [liquor store/bottle shop])

Arse - In lieu of ass - "She's made a right arse of herself"

Palaver - complicated, elaborate - unecessarily so - "that was/were a right palaver"

Brew/Cuppa - Tea

Cob/Stottie/Roll/Barmcake/Bap - A soft bread roll (dependent on local dialect)

Well - Very/extremely so - "That was well good"

Alright? - Hello (not to be confused with "are you alright/ok")

Hold your horses - hang on a moment

Mardy - in a bad mood - "He's in a right mardy" (Right = very on this occasion, also see "well") - EDIT - rarely used south of the Midlands.

Proper - a) Very - "That was proper good", b) Good in a traditional/old fashioned sense - "Tell you what, I wish we still had proper Lucozade"

Stodge - a dense, high carbohydrate food

Manky/Mank - dirty, unpleasant, gross (can refer to a person) - "Mate, that cob looks well manky"

31

u/boojes Dec 01 '22

Manky/Mank - dirty, unpleasant, gross (can refer to a person) - "Mate, that cob looks well manky"

Cob = bread roll

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u/Mrcientist Dec 01 '22

See my entry for all the different names for soft bread roll! :)

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u/IrreverentBlonde Dec 01 '22

Oh that's so true about 'alright'!

Even more confusingly, 'Are you alright/okay?' is also different in the UK, since we often use it in lieu of 'How are you?' And we don't really expect a proper answer.

I think in the US, you'd only use it if someone's had an accident or looks sick/worried/afraid etc!

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u/Mrcientist Dec 01 '22

Haha yeah, it's probably a really important one for non-native British-English speakers to understand. Along with the universal rule that the only two correct responses are "Good" - I am doing well, and "Fine" - I am doing anywhere from neutrally to terribly.

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u/UnlimitedHegomany Dec 01 '22

No one said it yet and I am so pleased!

MINGE!

( Vagina)

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u/Robbo1979psr Dec 01 '22

Growler

24

u/luvlylibs Dec 01 '22

This always makes me giggle "show us yer growler" 😄

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u/PhazonPhoenix5 Dec 01 '22

Blimey. This is in my regular vocabulary

135

u/Ze_Gremlin Dec 01 '22

Are you Ron Weasley?

79

u/PhazonPhoenix5 Dec 01 '22

No I suck at chess

33

u/FastSpacePuppy Dec 01 '22

Or George Russell maybe?

20

u/After-Gur9836 Dec 01 '22

C r i k e y

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u/Michael_Oxlong Dec 01 '22 Bravo!

"free health care"

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u/Disastrous-Design503 Dec 01 '22

Yeah... they're trying to prep us for for that going if you read the "free at the point of use" rebrand in the papers.

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u/shinymcshine1990 Dec 01 '22

Lairy

126

u/Inlevitable Dec 01 '22

It's not very pretty I tell thee

78

u/LukjanovArt Dec 01 '22

Walking through town is quite scary

64

u/BOTCharles Dec 01 '22

Not very sensible either

58

u/N7twitch Dec 01 '22

A friend of a friend he got beaten

52

u/oRedDeadDano Dec 01 '22

He looked the wrong way at a policeman

45

u/Schmimble Dec 01 '22

Would never have happened to Smeaton

34

u/hoody13 Dec 01 '22

An old Leodensian

33

u/Schmimble Dec 01 '22

LAAAAAA---A---AAAAAA...

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u/MeldoRoxl Dec 01 '22 All-Seeing Upvote

My (American) husband (British) sometimes says "Well, look at these bobby dazzlers". I cannot think of anything more British than that.

170

u/sweetdeejokesonme Dec 01 '22

Does he say it when you take your top off?

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u/MeldoRoxl Dec 01 '22

No, but he better now.

18

u/Barry_Minge Dec 01 '22

Ideally his monocle would pop out too. (Not a euphemism)

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u/doomladen Dec 01 '22

Is your husband a TV game show presenter from the 1970s?

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u/MeldoRoxl Dec 01 '22

No, he's lovely. An absolute delight.

A bobby dazzler, if you will.

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u/cozysquish Dec 01 '22

Mardy! It's a brilliant word to use 👏 especially if the hubby has the man flu, you can just say he's being mardy 😂

49

u/SnowLeopard42 Dec 01 '22

I think this is regional, never heard it till I moved from London to Derbyshire. Deffo not American though.

60

u/GeorgeWFrance Dec 01 '22

Very Sheffield too (Mardy Bum by Arctic Monkeys for example)

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u/Lurkinating Dec 01 '22

Often paired with arse!

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u/PartyIncident Dec 01 '22

Innit is a good one innit?

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u/ZestycloseStable2896 Dec 01 '22

Munter. So descriptive 😂

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u/themodernist73 Dec 01 '22

Bellend. As in ‘He is an absolute bellend’.

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u/Typical_Ad_210 Dec 01 '22

Thank heavens for that explanatory second sentence!

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u/TeaProgrammatically4 Dec 01 '22

"Good morning, that's a nice tnetennba".

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u/MathematicianBulky40 Dec 01 '22

Mum as opposed to mom is the big one for me. Anyone refers to their mother as their mom it's an instant american alert.

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u/imminentmailing463 Dec 01 '22

Lots of people in the Midlands and North say 'mom'.

82

u/ThundaGhoul Dec 01 '22

North is mam, but yeah midlanders say mom for some reason.

42

u/Rows_ Dec 01 '22

North took A, South took U, we had limited vowels left to choose from!

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u/[deleted] Dec 01 '22

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u/RealisticCountry7043 Dec 01 '22

Yep! Grew up in Birmingham and so many people say mom.

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u/FrancesRichmond Dec 01 '22

Not in the 'north-east'- mam or mum (if you are posh)

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u/Perfect_Restaurant_4 Dec 01 '22

In Newcastle it’s mam.

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u/nick9000 Dec 01 '22

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u/DameKumquat Dec 01 '22

Also skanky used to describe leaving dirty (under)pants on the floor rather than anyone who has low standards in sexual partners.

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u/Mythic1992 Dec 01 '22

Bollocks.

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u/Chip365 Dec 01 '22 edited Dec 01 '22

Absolutely. 'Tis the greatest of swear words imho. If a non-Brit uses this word correctly (and not make it sound too weird) then they're alright in my book.

EDIT - Irish people can get away with it easily tbf

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u/SassaMustafaCat Dec 01 '22

Nappy instead of diaper Don’t say soccer :)

60

u/Jbbrowneyedgirl Dec 01 '22

Don't forget Dummy instead of Pacifier too! Torch rather than flashlight

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u/Typical_Ad_210 Dec 01 '22

And fleshlight rather than male masturbatory aid. That’s an important one.

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u/smith_s2 Dec 01 '22

It’s half ten, rather than it’s 10.30 a.m

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u/Robbo1979psr Dec 01 '22

Tell an American to be there for half 10, and they arrive at 5

34

u/Oozlum-Bird Dec 01 '22

They don’t appear to understand the 24 hour clock very well either

42

u/downvotesStag Dec 01 '22

ThATs MiLiTaRy TiMe...

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u/wuthering_tights Dec 01 '22

Depends where in the UK you are. Local dialogue can differ from town to town. Just learn what people call lunch, dinner, a bread roll, a woodlouse, never say soccer, and you'll be fine.

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u/banfriends Dec 01 '22

Can’t be arsed — cannot be bothered

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u/MeldoRoxl Dec 01 '22

For years, I (American) thought it was "Can't be asked", so I would regularly say this around everyone. Kids, my in-laws...

15

u/IrreverentBlonde Dec 01 '22

There are some British people who think it's 'can't be asked' and use it inappropriately, too - so you're not alone!

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u/banfriends Dec 01 '22

That is hilarious 😂

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u/MasonInk Dec 01 '22

Firstly it's "English", there is no such thing as British English...

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u/WoolyBouley Dec 01 '22

Found the most fun person

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u/ButtercupBento Dec 01 '22 Wholesome

Fag is a cigarette not a slur for a homosexual

Fanny is not your bottom but a lady’s front bottom. A bottom is usually your arse (never ass) or bum

Pants are called trousers plus more. Although some parts of Britain do call trousers pants. Pants here for undergarments. Also called knickers, keks, briefs, y fronts, boxers and more depending on style, location in the kingdom, and gender

Bangs are called a fringe

Backpack is called a rucksack. Never use the term fanny pack (see above). That’s a bum bag here

I wouldn’t try to sound British if I were you. We’ll just take the piss/mickey out of you (ie make fun of you). I’d just try to substitute words that aren’t used here for ones that are

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u/Hefty_Peanut Dec 01 '22

I've never heard a non-Brit say "dear" as in expensive (e.g. the clothes are too dear in that shop).

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u/TriumphantHaggis Dec 01 '22

Rubbish instead of trash. Pavement instead of sidewalk. Shop instead of store. Motorway instead of highway. All I can think of right now

28

u/VladKerensky Dec 01 '22

Lift instead of Elevator, Aluminum instead of Aluminum

22

u/TriumphantHaggis Dec 01 '22

Yes! And car park instead of parking lot. (P.s. Happy cake day)

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u/MarthaFarcuss Dec 01 '22

Anything but 'cockwomble'

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u/Repulsive_Dance_6673 Dec 01 '22 All-Seeing Upvote

Wazzock is a word that doesn’t get used often enough

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u/Jorge-Esqueleto Dec 01 '22

Crumpet. To describe either a specific variety of baked goods, or an attractive young woman.

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u/DameKumquat Dec 01 '22

You can tell by whether it's a count noun (I'll have four crumpets, please) or an uncountable noun (I'll have some of that nice bit of crumpet...)

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u/sandra_nz Dec 01 '22

As a Kiwi, the first British word that I had genuinely never heard was "mither". And now I use it all the time!

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u/Vanoccupanther13 Dec 01 '22

I spotted mouse poo by the toaster at work today. My colleague said ‘crumbs’ , I responded with ‘cripes ‘. Then I immediately thought of Danger Mouse….

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u/Public_Growth_6002 Dec 01 '22

Blithering (as in idiot)

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u/cardiffcookie Dec 01 '22

Say Cwtch instead of cuddle if you want to be Welsh.

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u/Foundation_Wrong Dec 01 '22

Whose coat is that jacket?

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u/Thesheersizeofit Dec 01 '22

American say “Bring it with…” rather than “take it with…” this one annoys me. Another is “Write you” rather than “write TO you”.

A word we only use is mardy or nesh or ginnel/gennel.

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u/Trivius Dec 01 '22

I always used bring/take contextually.

So if someone is leaving with something but I am not I would say "take it with you"

If someone is leaving with me I would say "bring it with you"

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u/o0sirwalter0o Dec 01 '22

You Silly sod, when crying over something insignificant

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u/hoksworthwipple Dec 01 '22 edited Dec 01 '22

Jiffy.

Hang about.

Hold your horses.

Mind your back.

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u/knityourownlentils Dec 01 '22

“Eez not backwards at coming forwards!”

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