Tag Archives: British slang

26 Things You’ll Want to Know Before Moving to England

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So you’ve decided to move to England and feel completely overwhelmed by the endeavor. Where does one even begin? Well, aside from packing up your flat, I will help you make this transition as smoothly as possible with these top tips.

This topic actually came about over coffee with my friend Tara. We were talking about ideas for another British book I’m writing and she mentioned moving to England. She knew it would be an enormous undertaking moving from the US to the UK but would love a book to guide her. Consider this your mini guide, my dear friend.

Before You Leave and After You Arrive

I know there is a ton of stuff to get done before you even think about leaving your country for England. Here are some necessities to tackle before you leave and after you arrive.

  1. Immunizations – there are routine immunizations required before moving to England, usually 4 to 6 weeks prior to your arrival. Your jabs depend on which country you come from so check with the CDC for details.
  2. Passport – make sure you have an update one and that it doesn’t expire for at least 90 days after you return to your home country. Remember to keep your passport current while you’re living in the UK.
  3. Work Visa – this is required for most countries right off the bat. Even US citizens, who can stay up to 6 months without one, would be required to get a work visa if you plan to move to England and secure employment.
  4. Banking –Once you arrived, make sure to bring your passport and work visa with you to your bank of choice. Standard bank fees and monetary exchange rates will apply. Check with the British Banking Association for details.
  5. Mail – most national postal services do not provide an international change of address online. Visit your nearest post office for proper procedure.
  6. Phone – using your own mobile service, even if they provide international service, will stick you with a massive bill. Best to get an inexpensive phone or a new SIM card for your smartphone at a UK service provider.

Traveling To and Around England

If you’ve read my post on the London Tube, you learned some helpful tips, tricks, and protocols when traveling by Underground. Below is some other savvy travel tips, as well.

  1. Your Flight – book your flight as far in advance as possible and at off-peak times if you can.
  2. Travel Insurance – A necessary evil in case your trip goes pear-shaped. If all goes well, consider yourself a jammy beggar.
  3. From the Airport – you’ll need to hire a car unless you have friends to pick you up. Rent a car instead of a cab to save loads of dosh.
  4. Oyster Card – this is a must for transport around London and when you want to scamper about the English countryside as well. Make sure to have cash on hand so you can buy a ticket anywhere an Oyster Card is invalid.
  5. Walking, Standing, and Driving – walk on the left, stand on the right when taking the escalator, and do drive on the left if you want to live.

Currency, Taxes, and Credit Cards

  1. Credit Cards – Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted. It’s helpful for booking flights, hotel rooms, and rental cars. Check with your merchant to find out the fees and exchange rates that apply. Once you can get a debit card for your British bank account, this will help eliminate the need to carry cash.
  2. Cash – British pounds is the currency of the UK and it’s best to use until you secure your own British bank account. This minimizes banking and ATM fees.
  3. ATMs – use bank ATMs and avoid “independent” ones. Flat transaction fees and percentage charges apply when you use “out-of-network” ATMs so withdraw larger amounts. ATMs are still cheaper than exchanging your cash at a bank.
  4. National Insurance Number – the British equivalent of a social security number so you can work and they can take taxes out. Go to the UK government website for details.

Learning British English

On our BritWordaDay social media channels, you’ll see daily posts of British words. It’s our goal to help you learn these wicked words for when you converse with Brits. Dialects change as you move about England but I’ve got a perfect solution for you.

  1. Learn the Lingo –Great Britain has many dialects and you’ll need to swot up on those as you travel around the country. Trust me. It’s like learning a whole new language. Check out my book for a proper guide to British words and beyond.
  2. Proper Pronunciation – places like Derbyshire (darbuhshuh) and Leicester (lesstuh) are common examples. Listen and adapt to British pronunciations to avoid sticking out like a sore thumb.

Basic British Culture and Customs

There are several I could mention here, including the quintessential sarcastic humor employed by Brits regularly. Trust me, if they take the mickey out of you then you’re in. Oh, and they use the word “sorry” quite a bit.

  1. Don’t Take It Literally – Brits rarely say what they mean so learn to read between the lines. Check this out to see several humorous examples.
  2. Compliments – they typically make many Brits nervous and they will often deflect with self-deprecating remarks, even if secretly pleased.
  3. Weather – can be dodgy so it’s best to carry a brolly. Be prepared to discuss the weather…A LOT.

Know Your Onions about Food and Drink

Don’t believe all the disparaging remarks you hear about British food. They have many  tasty dishes both savory and sweet. When in England, ask the locals where they prefer to get their fish and chips or Indian curry.

  1. Tea – the preferred drink of the UK, a solution to most problems (or so you will be told), and, yes, it is a meal. Read my blog post on British tea to better understand this revered British custom.
  2. Drinking – is a national past time in the UK and a cornerstone of British culture. Even if you don’t drink, go hang out a British pub if you want to know the Brits.
  3. Food – the Brits offer many tasty treats like Yorkshire pudding and Sticky Toffee Pudding but the Brits do love their offal (organ meat) and you’ll find it in things like Steak and Kidney Pie or Lancashire Hot Pot.
  4. Dining Etiquette – place your napkin on your lap instead of tucking it into your shirt. Say “please” and “thank you”. This is “British Politeness 101” Put your knife and fork together in the middle of your plate to indicate you’re finished. My book has a whole chapter dedicated this sort of thing.

British Electricity and Measurements

  1. Plugs and Voltage – the Brits use a specific 3-prong plug and the outlets are typically 220-240 volts. You can by conversion adapters but if you don’t want to run the risk of frying your blow dryer, buy a new one when you get there.
  2. A Mixture of Measurements – Distances on roads are calculated in yards and miles. Objects are measured in centimeters and meters. Height is stated in feet and inches. Food is weighed in grams and kilos. People are weighed in stones and pounds.

Hopefully, you’re feeling more prepared for your move to England. In my upcoming book this autumn, I’ll be sharing more detail about this very subject. If you want an easy-to-read top guide to British words and the various dialects of the UK for your move to England, then download my book from Amazon or iTunes.


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Have You Heard About Ulster English?

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It’s a UK Dialect of Northern Ireland

Ulster is a province in Northern Ireland and made up of people groups which include Ulster Scots, Mid Ulster, and South Ulster speakers. The counties of Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry, and Tyrone are part of the United Kingdom, while Cavan, Donegal, Monaghan are part of the Republic of Ireland. The Ulster English dialect from this region of Ireland has been developing for centuries.

This Northern Ireland language began during the early seventeenth-century colonization of English settlers. However, Ulster English has not only been influenced by British English and Hiberno-English (language spoken in the Republic of Ireland) but also the Scots language and Irish Gaelic.

How I Learned About This Dialect

I never even knew about this language until I started writing my book for BritWordaDay. I began researching dialects of Northern Ireland and discovered Ulster English is the predominate language spoken there. The two major divisions of Ulster English is Mid Ulster and Ulster Scots.

My high school best friend, Jeff, often referred to his mother’s statements as her “speaking Irish” because they had an interrogative tone to them. Come to find out, Ulster English speakers have a noticeable tendency to raise the pitch towards the end of declarative sentences. Perhaps Jeff’s mum has Ulster in her blood.

Distinguishing Words of Ulster English

Irish speakers, as a whole, do not use the words “yes” and “no” very often but instead, repeat the verb in a question as a response. For example:

Question: Are you going to work soon?
Answer: I am (instead of saying “yes”)

Sometimes Ulster speakers use the verb “have” followed by “with me” or “on me” in this way:

Have you money for the train on you?

Ulster English mirrors Irish with the word “you” in its singular and plural form. Instead of “you guys” the Ulster English speakers would say “yous” like certain parts of Pennsylvania. Two other forms of “you guys” would be “yis” or “yousuns” which, again, the Pennsylvania natives would say “you-uns” to a group. It’s funny how particular Ulster English words or close variations have endured centuries after the colonization of America.

Examples and Usage of Ulster English

As a British word specialist, I will not only teach you these Ulster English words but how to properly use them in context. Here are some examples of these Northern Ireland words and their usage.

Using Ulster English

Blade – girl

Look at thon blade. (Look at that girl.)

Bout ye? – How are you?

Bout ye, fella? (How are you, man?)

Craitur/Craytur – creature

Aye, the poor craitur. (Yes, the poor creature.)

Foundered – to be cold

Are ye foundered? (Are you cold?)

Hallion – a good-for-nothing

Shut your gob, ye hallion! (Shut your mouth, you good-for-nothing!)

Munya – great, lovely, attractive

The grub is quite munya. (The food is quite lovely.)

Poke – ice cream

Yous want some poke? (You guys want some ice cream?)

Whisht – to be quiet (a command)

Whisht, ye aul eejit! (Be quiet, you old idiot!)

Ways to Learn More Ulster English

During the month of March, BritWordaDay is running a March Madness campaign for Anglophiles “mad” about British words. The focus is Ulster English, including all things Irish. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to learn more of this amazing Northern Ireland dialect.


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For the Love of Black Country

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Black Country Flag of England by Hogweard – Licensed under Public Domain

A Facebook page called The Only Way Is Black Country has over 4,400 followers and is dedicated solely to Black Country with emphasis on bikers and, of course, its unique slang words. They found our BritWordaDay page and started by sharing our album called Black Country and then our Facebook activity absolutely skyrocketed! This is the inspiration for this particular article. Though a small part of England, I heard them loud and clear via social media. For my Black Country followers and word nerds, this is for you.

What is Black Country?

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Courtesy of Black Country Investments via cradleylinks.co.uk
I know some of you must be thinking what the heck is Black Country? Is it some sort of new musical group or alcoholic drink? Uh, that would be a “no”. Black Country is an area of the West Midlands in England, north and west of Birmingham, including Dudley, Walsall, Sandwell and Wolverhampton. Although, traditionally Black Country encompassed a wider area of the West Midlands, no two locals can agree on where it starts or ends to this day.

The initial usage of Black Country, as an expression, dates back to the 1840s. The common belief is that this name comes from the black soot that once covered the area due to the heavy industry of coal mines, iron foundries, and steel mills widely-used during the Industrial Revolution. Another possible origin is owing to the 30-foot coal seam that is close to the surface.

Black Country Flag

The Black Country Living Museum launched a competition to design a flag for the Black Country in 2012. It was in response to the campaign launched by a Parliamentary Flags & Heraldry Committee, encouraging local communities to develop their own flags to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II and the UK’s hosting of the 2012 Olympics.

The flag’s creation was the catalyst for an official Black Country Day & Festival in 2014 which is celebrated annually on July 14. This is the anniversary date of the invention of the world’s first steam engine, the Newcomen Engine, built in the Black Country in 1712.

The design was inspired by the words of American diplomat, Elihu Burritt, as he described the Black Country region as “black by day and red by night”. This came from coal furnaces giving out smoke by day and glowing red by night, hence the colors of the flag. The chain was incorporated into the design given it was a typical product manufactured in the area.

Language of the West Midlands

Black-Country-Alphabet1The traditional Black Country dialect has its roots in Middle English (from around 1066-1470) and Early Modern English (from around 1470 – 1650) as well. Believe it or not ‘thee’, ‘thy’, and ‘thou’ are still in use by Black Country speakers, as is the case in the North East like parts of Yorkshire and Lancashire.

The dialect’s perception was boosted in 2008 when an internet video, The Black Country Alphabet, described the whole alphabet in Black Country speak. As you can see, I’ve included a graphic to demonstrate their quirky alphabet.

Black Country in Literature

For the Harry Potter fans out there, our beloved Hagrid has been known to use the word ‘summat’ quite a bit which means ‘something’. Didn’t know the Hogwarts gamekeeper was a speaker of the Black Country, eh?

If you like British period literature, North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell is peppered with Black Country speak. Had I known back then what I know now of Black Country, I would’ve enjoyed the story much better. I think I need to dig out that book and read it again. It is a fantastic story!

Speaking Black Country

Here are some basic greetings and replies that you can try out on your mates. Or if you find yourself in Black Country you’ll know what they’re saying and how to respond.

  • Ow B’ist – How are you? (Contracted from ‘How be-est thou?’)
  • Bay Too Bah – Not too bad?
  • Bostin’ Ah Kid – very well
  • Kidda – friend
  • Wench – an affectionate term for a girl or young woman
  • Yow – you

Example: Ow B’ist, wench? Bay too bah, kidda and yow?

Note: Bost is slang for ‘broken’. The word bostin’ means ‘smashing’ aka a way to break something yet it means amazing, great, or excellent.

  • Am – are
  • Clemmed – hungry
  • Cob – round bread roll, which looks like the stones of a cobbled street
  • Fittle – food
  • Gooin – going
  • Snap – food or meal

Example: Am yow clemmed? Gooin’ to fetch some fittle. Yeah, but just a cob fer me. You could even swap ‘fittle’ with ‘snap’.

Final Words and a Special Offer

As a word nerd I find this particular British speech fascinating. What do you like best about Black Country words? Perhaps you might think it’s silly. Login and tell us your thoughts. If you quickly sign up for our newsletter on our home page, this coming Thursday, you’ll receive a special Black Country companion infographic!


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Naughty British Slang Words

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It’s always a bit awkward discussing naughty words like swearing or privates but these will appear in my book so I thought; why not give you a teaser. For those of you who might be offended by this blog post, my apologies. However, at BritWordaDay, we teach you all about British slang words and we want our non-British speakers to be in the know.

I find it useful to familiarize yourself with naughty British words, lest you use one unknowingly. For example, a Brit does not use the expression “fanny pack” but rather “bum bag” and for good reason. Read on and you’ll see exactly why.

On the occasion a Briton might use one of these naughty words in your company (which is very likely) or possibly direct them at you, you’ll know whether to laugh it off or box their ears!

Top 25 Naughty British Words

We created a list of our top 25 naughty British words that are quite commonly used. Depending on the kind of person you are, you’ll either start using them right away or avoid them like the plague. The choice is yours but do avoid saying it front of mum and dad. Oh, yes, and gran and grandad too.

  • Arse – ass
  • Baps – women’s breasts
  • Bellend – Tip of the Penis
  • Bloody – Damn or the “F” Word
  • Bollocks – Testicles
  • Buggered – screwed or F***ed or messed up
  • The Dog’s Bollocks – Fantastic (as great as a dog licking his testicles)
  • Fanny – Female Genitals
  • Feck – alternative to F word
  • Goolies – Testicles
  • Jacksie – butt or anus
  • Knob – penis
  • Nonce – pedophile
  • Page Three – topless woman from The Sun, a daily UK tabloid newspaper
  • Poofter – Gay Man
  • Randy – Horny
  • Rodger – To have sex (a more coarse term and of the bum variety)
  • Rumpy Pumpy – To copulate (in a more jocular sense)
  • Shag – sexual intercourse
  • Sod – Bastard or Sodomite
  • Tosser – Jerk or one who masturbates
  • Thrupney Bits – women’s breasts
  • Twat – Female Genitals
  • Wanker – Jerk or one who masturbates
  • Willy – penis

Really Bad British Words

*WARNING – THESE WORDS ARE VERY CRUDE*

Now these very naughty British words should really be avoided altogether but I know you cheeky lot are tuning me out right now. If you get socked in the jaw or have your face slapped, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

  • Aussie Kiss or Carpet Munching – oral sex on a woman
  • Axe Wound or Hairy Axe Wound – vagina
  • Beef Curtains – flappy labia of the female genitalia
  • Buggery – the act of anal sex
  • Dogging – people meeting up in the park to watch each other have sex or participate
  • Flange – vagina or the vulva and to insult to a woman’s privates.
  • Growler – very rude word for hairy female genitalia
  • Knob Jockey or Uphill Gardner – derogatory words for a homosexual
  • Slag – a whore or very loose woman (a great insult)

Now this list is not inclusive of all naughty British words. This is just to give you an idea of the kind British slang words you’ll often hear and their meanings. The later list is what you might hear from the really brazen lot.

Speaking of brazen, isn’t it interesting how the Brits have quite a few slang words for a woman’s privates and some quite anatomically specific? An attempt at being a bit more civilized then the forthright Yanks, I suppose. Although Americans do have a few slang words for female privates we pretty much use the main one and get on with it.

Thoughts on Naughty British Words?

Did you learn some new words? Were you offended by some of these naughty British words? Understandable as some are quite vulgar. We’re here to educate and not necessarily advocate. As you often hear me say on social media, sometimes it’s about what NOT to say. Log in and discuss your thoughts even if you want to give us an earful.


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Cockney Rhyming Slang – London’s Famous Secret Language

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When Did It Start?

The earliest known writings of cockney rhyming slang dates back to 1845. It is referenced in a publication by English writer Jerringham Wakefield called Adventures in New Zealand.

However, the first recorded rhyming slang in a systematic way was Ducange Anglicus’ writings of The Vulgar Tongue: A Glossary of Slang, Cant and Flash Phrases, used in London from 1839 to 1859. Another is John Camden Hotten’s: A Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant, and Vulgar Words published in 1859.

Examples of Rhyming Slang in Writing

Anglicus includes these examples, all dated 1857:

  • Apple and Pears = stairs
  • Barnet-Fair = hair
  • Bird-Lime = time
  • Lath-and-Plaster = master
  • Oats and Chaff = footpath

Hotten’s book includes:

  • Bull and Cow = a row (fight)
  • Chevy Chase = the face

The Secret Slang of London

Where did Cockney Rhyming Slang come from? Yes, London but the specific location refers to those born within the sound of Bow Bells aka St. Mary-le-Bow church in Cheapside. This is not to be confused with Bow Church in the Tower Hamlets borough or Marylebone in Westminster.

It is speculated that rhyming slang was often used as a cryptic way of speaking to confuse non-locals. Also, trades people supposedly used this secret language to disguise their speech from their customers by way of collusion and thus the police as well.

Many Cockney phrases are based on locations in London and would most likely be meaningless to people unfamiliar with the city. For example, there is “Peckham Rye”, meaning “tie” (as in necktie), which dates back to the late 19th century; “Hampstead Heath”, meaning “teeth” (usually said just as “Hampsteads”), which was first recorded in 1887 and “Barnet Fair” which dates from the 1850s.

Rhyming Slang and How to Use It

For those of you who follow BritWordaDay on Twitter and Facebook, have seen some examples with usage but there are many more Cockney Rhyming Slang phrases. Below are some new ones and a few I’ve posted to add further clarification. They start with the shortened version of the rhyming slang and then give the full phrase as well as the meaning.

  • Borassic – Borassic lint = Skint
  • Brahms – Brahms and Liszt = Pissed (drunk)
  • Bread – Bread and Honey = Money
  • Crackered or Creamed – Cream Crackered = Knackered (tired)
  • Current Bun – Sun (trashy UK newspaper)
  • Daisy Roots – Boots – In use by 1859. Hotten explains this as a shortened form of ‘Daisy recruits’.
  • Flowers and Frolics – bollocks (nonsense) – Irish origin
  • Loaf – Loaf of Bread = Head
  • Richard – Richard the Third = Turd
  • Ruby – Ruby Murray = Curry
  • Scarper – Scapa Flow = Go
  • On Your Tod – Tod Sloan = Alone – American-born horse jockey who rode and won several races for England.

A Video Demonstration

Kate Arnell of Anglophenia teaches you some additional phrases and actually uses them all in a sentence. Clever girl! So have a butchers!

Do you get a kick out of Cockney Rhyming slang? Did you know about the origins or that it’s been around so long? Login and share your thoughts with us!

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