Tag Archives: Britishisms

Glosso’s advent calendar: Baubles of Britishisms – Dec 8


Day 8 of Glosso’s popular evergreen advent calendar, “Baubles of Britishisms”. Each day, leading up to the quintessential British day of rest and relaxation (“Boxing Day”), you’ll open a window to the world of quirky Brit-speak.


Don’t get your knickers in a twist.

“Steven Pinker’s The Sense of Style will get grammar pedants’ knickers in a twist.” — Management Today, 30 Oct 2014

“The Hudl runs Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean with Tesco’s custom launcher over the top. Now for those of you who don’t like custom UIs, before you get your knickers in a twist it’s worth noting that this means the interface is actually more or less stock Android.” — Know Your Mobile, 14 Nov 2014

That’s what Brits say when someone is overreacting and getting hot under the collar when they really don’t need to. Fraser’s Phrases looks at the history of the expression.

But when a Brit loses it completely, they:

Go off on one. “Speaker Bercow has been sweating about his future recently and went off on one, first viciously attacking a jokey Tory MP for being ‘exceptionally ignorant’.” — Daily Mail, 11 Nov 2014

Go spare: “Former Tory minister Kenneth Clarke said Mr Cameron ‘knows perfectly well’ that free movement is essential to the EU. He told the BBC’s Sunday Politics: ‘All our companies, multinational companies, will go spare if you start interfering with that.’” — Daily Mail, 12 Nov 2014

Throw a wobbly/wobbler:  “The president of the Cyprus Hydrocarbons Company Toula Onoufriou threw a wobbly at an energy conference in Tel Aviv when she saw that the pseudo foreign minister Ozdil Nami was participating and immediately put the uppity Turk in his place.” — Cyprus Mail, 12 Nov 2014

That’s what Brits do when they’re upset or angry …

Glosso’s advent calendar: Baubles of Britishisms – Dec 7


Day 7 of Glosso’s popular evergreen advent calendar, “Baubles of Britishisms”. Each day, leading up to the quintessential British day of rest and relaxation (“Boxing Day”), you’ll open a window to the world of quirky Brit-speak.


Can’t be fagged.

“Let’s be clear: Le Coq is not promising gastronomic fireworks. It’s an upmarket Nando’s. I mean that in a good way. It’s dinner out for those who can’t be fagged to cook and can afford this as an alternative. Yes, I know. Remember, this is Islington.” — review of the new restaurant Le Coq in The Guardian, 9 Nov 2014

“If you can’t be fagged to lug it all with you, there is now a company called HQhair.” — Sunday Times, 2002

Here are the Oxford English Dictionary‘s many definitions of fag, the first few of which presumably account for the meaning of fagged above: 1) v.i. grow weary or less eager, flag; 2) v.i. work until one is exhausted; toil, exert oneself; 3) v.t. make thoroughly weary; tire out, exhaust. 4) v.t. in a public school, of a senior boy: use the services of (a junior) for menial tasks 5. v.i. in a public school, of a junior boy: perform menial tasks for a senior. Also, formerly, in cricket: act as a fieldsman to a senior boy (usually followed by out) 6. v.t. naut. unravel the ends of a rope. As a noun, the OED defines it as 1) something that hangs loose, a flap; 2) a last remnant, a fag-end; 3) a leftover strip of land, tufts of last year’s grass not grazed down;  4) a cigarette.

For more on the now obsolete tradition of fags and fagging in British public schools, see this article on Wikipedia.


Can’t be arsed: “Brand, 38, told Paxman, 63, that he had never voted because of ‘absolute indifference and weariness and exhaustion from the lies, treachery and deceit of the political class’. Paxman responded: “If you can’t be arsed to vote, why should we be arsed to listen to your political point of view?”” — reporting on Jeremy Paxman’s interview with Russell Brand, Daily Telegraph, 5 Nov 2014

The Brits’ way of saying “can’t be effing bothered”.

Glosso’s advent calendar: Baubles of Britishisms – Dec 3


Day 3 of Glosso’s popular evergreen advent calendar, “Baubles of Britishisms”. Each day, leading up to the quintessential British day of rest and relaxation (“Boxing Day”), you’ll open a window to the world of quirky Brit-speak.


Got the hump.

“Don’t get me wrong, not getting work marked is irritating; assessments involve hard work, and the wait for grades is tense. In my second year, an IT failure led to the publication of my results being delayed by 24 hours. I got the hump.” — The Independent, Nov 16, 2014

Read Rudyard Kipling’s “Just So” story How the Camel Got His Hump” on Lit2Go for a possible explanation.


Brassed off: “We’re all right brassed off with the state of this nation and over the past 800 or so words…you’ll surely concur I’ve provided watertight, incontrovertible, rigorous and downright sexy proof that this revolution will work and that it needs to happen.” — Huffington Post UK, Nov 13 2104

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The advent of Glosso’s advent calendar …

Back by popular demand, Glosso’s shiny advent calendar will be running again this year, starting (of course) on Wednesday, Dec 1. Check in for your “Baubles of Britishisms,” which run daily through our most British of named holidays, “Boxing Day.” (And if you don’t know what day that is, then just keep opening your bauble windows, and you’ll find out soon enough.)

There might be another surprise buried among the baubles: we’ll keep you posted.

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Glosso’s advent: Baubles of Britishisms – Happy Chrimbo!

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Day 25

A Chrimbo A-to-Zed of Britishisms:

On this day of Father Christmas coming from Lapland, bread sauce, mince pies, Christmas pudding, and pantomimes, let’s celebrate the lingo of Blighty. Happy Christmas, and God save The Queen!

Ace, aggro, any road, argue the toss

Belt up, bent as a nine-bob note, bespoke, bits ‘n’ bobs, blag, bloke, bloody hell, (well) blow me down (with a feather), Bob’s your uncle, boffin, bog roll, bog-standard, bollocks, bottoms up!, brass neck, brassed off, bumf, bung it in Continue reading

Glosso’s advent: Baubles of Britishisms – Dec 11



Day 11

It’s not cricket.

“Raising UK interest rates soon simply isn’t cricket, the Bank of England’s chief economist has declared, in an intervention that swapped the spreadsheet for the Wisden almanack.” — The Guardian, 17 Oct 2014

“‘For instance, in the UK, tipping for food in restaurants is OK, although unexpected as service charges are generally included. Yet, tipping for drinks at a bar is just not cricket!'” — Daily Mail, Oct 16, 2014

Not fair, not cool old chap. Cricketers are the ultimate sportsmen: it’s a gentleman’s game. If it’s not on, it’s just not cricket.


Glosso’s advent: Baubles of Britishisms – Dec 9


Day 9

Pull your finger out.

“I can still see my parents coming home from parents’ evening with their hair falling out, having been told once again that I was going to end up as a tramp on the street corner. It wasn’t until I was 14 that I suddenly realised that if I didn’t pull my finger out I really was going to be a tramp on the street corner.” — Richard Madeley, Daily Mail, 18 Oct 2014

In other words, stop faffing around and get on with whatever you need to get on with …

There are various theories about where the phrase originated — including that it was RAF slang, it referred to courting couples, and that it was a nautical saying about crew members loading cannons with powder. Read some of those suggestions in this Guardian notes and queries piece from 2011.