I love British heroes. Heck, I married one. But understanding them is not always easy. For example, I had a ten minute discussion with my husband one night because he told me he was going to “cork the wall.” Turned out, he was going to put caulk between the skirting (baseboards) and the tile floor. But that’s his accent. Expressions are a whole other kettle of fish.
I thought I knew British. My paternal grandparents were from England and I grew up hearing many odd expressions. I wore trousers not pants and washed my face with a flannel not a washcloth. And didn’t everyone’s relatives call them ‘ma duck?’
However it wasn’t until I moved to the UK that I really understood that while I may speak English, I did not speak British. Here are a few of my favorite “what the ?” expressions that are incomprehensible to someone born in North America.
5. “A cup tie.” Is it a piece of cloth put around something you drink out of? No, it’s a soccer game (football match) played to win a trophy (cup).
4. “A derby.” A hat? A horse race? A city in England? It could be those things, but if you’re talking with a sports fan it refers to a soccer game played by neighboring teams. These are hotly contested matches and the winner gets bragging rights until the next derby comes around. (note: it’s pronounced darbie, like Barbie with a ‘d’).
3. “Johnnie-no-mates.” This is one of my husband’s favorite expressions. It basically means someone without friends. He believes that people who take selfie photos are Johnnie-no-mates because they don’t have any friends to take pictures with.
2. “Give it some welly.” The welly refers to Wellington boots, a type of rubber boots and the expression means to put force into something. Is the shopping trolley stuck? Give it some welly!
1. “Taking the Mick(ey)” or more formally “Extracting the Michael.” This means to make fun of someone or play a joke on them. It is quite often used rhetorically if you think someone is playing a trick on you. “Are you taking the Mick?”
Go on, try them all in your best British accent: “Did you see that Johnnie-no-mates at the derby cup tie giving his chair some welly and taking the Mick out of the stewards?”
What British expressions have you heard and don’t understand? Post them in the comments and I’ll try to explain them.