11 words British people don’t actually say.

This article is about the “British” words and phrases we don’t actually use in Britain, so if you’re planning a holiday to England, Scotland or any other part of Britain, and trying to learn some colloquialisms, scratch these from your list – the consequences of saying some of them can be a fist to the face (which, curiously, we tend not to call “fisticuffs”). This article has occasional use of the f-word etc.

This article about British words came about after an American blogger mentioned how if he ever came to the UK he’d be sure to tip a bob to the waiter. That was shortly followed up with someone (also American) commenting on a page on dialects with some sense of authority that British people said “sitting room” or “parlour” instead of “living room” or “den.” If you’re writing a British character for a book, these words will throw up a big red flag that kills suspension of disbelief for anyone British reading the book, and if you’re coming to Britain for a trip or travel, you will be mocked for using these words.

So here’s the words and phrases we just don’t say (or very, very rarely) in the UK:

1. British Accent – we rarely classify ourselves as “British” as opposed to our individual countries. For example, I’m English, my mother was Irish (which ISN’T part of the UK), my father was Jamaican (we say Afro-Caribbean not Afro-British, BTW), the man on my birth certificate was Scottish, my best friend at uni was Welsh. So we would start by saying “English accent” or “Scottish accent.” Then we’d get more specific, such as “Northern accent” for people from the north of England.

2. Bob – we call it money or cash, we use the word quid to mean pounds, or p (pronounced “pee”) to mean pence (multiple of penny). If you say “pennies” (multiple of penny) to anyone from the UK who speaks Polish, they will laugh at you because that’s how you pronounce the word “penis” in Polish.

3. Ta – Nowhere do people in the UK say “ta” for goodbye. That’s an Americanism you have imposed on us. “Ta ta” might be said by a posh elderly aunt (or a young lady with adorably misguided aspirations) from time to time, and “tara” (pronounced ter-rah with a long a at the end) is another word for goodbye, but we don’t say “ta” to greet someone’s departure. Ta is an informal way of saying “thank-you” in the North of England (as in, ‘ta very much’).

4. Cheero – Nobody’s said this since the second world war. Cheerio is sometimes used by older people, but again it’s dying out and it’s considered more old fashioned than roast beef. The last time I heard it was in the lyrics to a song in Oliver Twist, in the context “so long fare thee well, pip pip cheerio…” and we also don’t say “thee,” so it shouldn’t be considered an accurate representation of our modern language (it was made in the 1960s, after all).

5. Codswallop – Another old-fashioned term, we tend to say “bullshit” “bull” or “crap” (crap has three meanings – excrement, something that is really terrible, or something that is untrue). Our favourite, however, is “bollocks” when we want to call out something as untrue. The only time in living memory that a British person’s said codswallop was when Hagrid says it in Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone (we call it Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, BTW) – and that’s set in 1991 (if you do the math from the gravestones etc this adds up).

6. On your bike (actually, it was always “on yer bike”) – Very dated to the 1980s. We tend to say “fuck off” these days or, if we’re being polite, “sod off” or “get lost.”

7. Fitty – this isn’t a word. I’ve lived in Britain for 29 years, I’ve travelled all over, I’ve voraciously devoured literature, and nobody has ever used this word in any context. It’s made up. Some people would say someone is “fit” meaning attractive (or “she’s well fit” or “he’s dead fit”), and there’s the very outdated and generally offensive word “totty” which again no-one has used for a very long time, but we just don’t have the word “fitty.” It even sounds made up. Referring to someone as “fitty” will probably have people wondering whether you think they’re epileptic. If they buy into fear-of-rape culture, they might even use this opportunity to make a scene.

8. Rumpy Pumpy – if you suggest having some ‘rumpy pumpy’ to any woman under 45, she will tell you to fuck off. AVOID! Nobody’s used this word since 1995, and even then it was only in an ironic sense. Nobody actually uses this word to describe sex that they have had or are going to have.

9. Sweet Fanny Adams – no, we say “fuck all” to mean the same thing. Nobody’s used “Fanny Adams” to mean “Fuck All” since World War II.

10. Toodle Pip – again, the only time this gets used is by people who are being ironic. It’s a joke. People are taking the piss when they say this.

11. Cack-handed – I got this claimed as “I’m not co-ordinated” from this page but actually it’s a derogatory term meaning left handed (the hand that you wipe your arse with if you’re right handed), from the days when schools were run by a certain type of nuns (and other pro-social psychopaths) who thought that left-handedness was a sign of the devil. There are plenty of British people out there who hate on lefties due to their subconscious cultural conditioning. Use it anywhere near a left-handed person and prepare to get bitch slapped. It’s as offensive to a left-handed person as the N-word is to most human beings.

12. Fisticuffs – another one from Oliver Twist, people tend to call a fight a “scrap” a “punch up” a “brawl” or a “fight.” Then they tend to call the police. Assault is a crime in Britain, and is defined as “any unwanted physical contact” but people still do it and the police are utterly arbitrary in whether they choose to enforce it or not, like most other things here. I know someone who got a criminal record for putting their hand on someone’s shoulder, and I know someone who got away with trying to kill their child after years of abuse. It varies.

Generally when looking at British words and phrases, when faced with the choice between a bigger or smaller word, we will use the smaller one. Water will always find it’s lowest level, and it’s the same with language – think about what the minimum is that you need to say to make yourself understood instead of trying to dress it up with loads of words or phrases that might be inaccurate. Communication is about understanding, and the only real rule of communication (at least, general communication, not specialized e.g. academia) is that if most people can’t understand you, you’re doing it wrong. I stated “most people” not “all” because you can’t please everyone and some people will just never understand you.

Doga: Dog Yoga for you and your dog

So I got this email today from someone who wondered if I would mind sharing this article about Doga.  I went to look up what doga is.  You probably guessed: It’s a portmanteau of “dog” and “yoga” so it’s yoga for dogs.  Or more specifically, for dogs and dog owners.

This article tells you all about it, and it really put a smile on my face.  I absolutely 100% guarantee it will make you giggle, and hey, if you have a dog, let me know if you’d try this!  I don’t have a dog, but I have 5 rabbits, and I could DEFINITELY see my older bunnies benefitting from pet yoga.  I’m not sure if rabbits would stay still long enough to get any benefit out of meditation though.

Here’s the article and infographic:  http://www.fix.com/blog/try-doing-doga-with-your-dog/

In other news, my shower is now one Z-joint away from being finished!!!!!!  Exciting times.  Then I just need to go on holiday and everything will be back to normal again.

A six week old beagle who was wandering around on wikipedia looking lost (I know I've used him before but he's so CUTE).
A six week old beagle who was wandering around on wikipedia looking lost (I know I’ve used him before but he’s so CUTE).

STILL not king…

1. We now have all the components to have an actual working shower in our bathroom.

2. Unfortunately it’s not done yet.

3. Our bath is full of paint.  This is also now on the walls (but only behind the shower).

4. Drilling through metal whilst standing in a 7 inch gap between a glass panel and a wall is really hard.

5. The rabbits have given up trying to “help”

6. We are supposed to be on holiday but instead we are assembling a bathroom.  It’s a holiday in Cambodia:

7. I’m not sure I can convey the quiet longing and hopelessness about this situation any better than this: http://www.ealasaid.com/misc/vsd/aragorn.html

Still not king.

Cluttered

I chose “cluttered” rather than “clutter” because it feels as if the objects are physically doing the cluttering, not just being inert clutter.  Clutter as a noun is inert, still, motionless, passive, benign (until stagnant).  Cluttered is an action word.  My objects have cluttered me.  The room feels cluttered.  The person’s life is cluttered with clutter that’s cluttering it up.

Have you ever noticed how the words “clutter” and “clatter” sound almost the same?  In some accents, they’re almost indistinguishable from one another.  I’m not an etymologist (someone who studies the origins of words; I’m also not an entymologist – they study bugs), so I don’t know whether the words ever began the same way.  I tried to find out, and discovered that the verb, “clutter” came from the word “clot” (like blood clot) in the 1400s.  And the noun “clutter” came from “litter” (like, trash) in the 1570s.  I enclose a screen shot because the definitions sound so perfectly descriptive.  We’ve become too desensitized to the word clutter, and accept it as part of our lives, but apparently we’ve been fighting it since the 1400s.  It’s particularly interesting that the verb developed before the noun, because I feel like the clutter is active, it is not passive, it is loud and noisy and it clatters along cluttering up the tiny amount of quiet space in my brain.  I feel verbally assaulted by clutter which is why I’m still on the journey towards a minimalist life.

The etymology of the word clutter.
The etymology of the word clutter.

My shower caught fire on Friday, it was the perfect end to a crap week, really.  I was just lathering up my violet toner to keep my hair shiny white, and I started smelling burning hair; I checked the box with all the wires, and it had started smoking.  It wasn’t a huge surprise since the shower unit melted in February, then when we gaffer taped it, it seemed to stabilize.  Apparently not.  To make matters worse, the DIY disaster idiots who put the thing in (before we bought the house) stupidly put the isolator switch directly behind the shower, on a wall in the bathroom, and since it wasn’t a pull switch, I was trying to get it to turn off with soapy wet hands for what seemed like ages before it finally went.  I can now say in all seriousness, with no sense of hyperbole, that having white hair has saved my life.  If I hadn’t had white hair, I would have just used normal shampoo, and I would have just splortched it onto my hair, back to the shower, and lathered it in, then stood under the water for several minutes while it came back out again.

An electrician friend of a friend came and made the unit safe.  When he opened it up, I was horrified by how close I’d come to serious harm.  The exposed electrical wires which had been on fire were less than a millimetre away from burning away the insulation that was touching the water outlet pipe that takes water out through the shower head.  If you know your basic electronics, you’ll know that water always takes the shortest path back to the Earth, so it would have come straight out of the shower head and down through me.  What’s more, the fuse was so high (45A, standard shower fuse) that it hadn’t shorted out throughout this ordeal.  The whole thing (as I’d been saying since February) was an accident waiting to happen, but it was only last week that we actually got together a few hundred quid to get the bathroom sorted out, because we can’t be without a shower, because my OH doesn’t fit in the tub.

We were already in the process of trying to get someone to come and plumb our bathroom, since the shower had started melting in February, but the first quote we had was £1800 (for labour only, and it wasn’t itemized so I couldn’t see how they’d arrived at that figure, I think they didn’t want to do the job so thought if they put it high enough they’d either make a lot of money from something they didn’t want to do, or get out of doing it.  That plumber seemed to lose interest when I said I was keeping our current bathroom suite) so, after I had finished laughing at the absurdity that anyone would pay £1800 to NOT get a new bathroom put in, I had phoned someone else to come and quote me, literally minutes before I went into the shower.  He will be round on Thursday.  So I had to clear the bathroom of all the functional bottles, sponges etc that we use.

That was how I found out how quiet our bathroom is when there’s no clattering clutter cluttering it up.  When there is not one single bottle of shampoo on the side of the bath or in the floor of the shower cubicle, it is so serene that I was disappointed at the idea of changing the room.  You see, we don’t want to waste money (to buy or to run) on a new electric shower when we have literally no water pressure issues in our bathroom and no hot water issues with our boiler, so the whole cubicle may as well come out, and have an over the bath shower.  When we were first thinking about this back in February, we wanted a new bath, and to move the bath, toilet and sink around to make better use of the space.

We actually bought the house because I loved the bathroom so much.  The idea of having to change it is heartbreaking.  But my husband doesn’t actually fit in the bath because it’s designed for men who are my height and women who are shorter, and children.  It’s not intended for six footers.  I wrestled with the wastefulness of discarding the bath compared to keeping it.  I watched him struggle in the bath last night and I finally understood that we weren’t being wasteful in getting rid of the bath, it sadly wasn’t fit for purpose.

We will have to get a new bath.  But it won’t be the same serenity when the bathroom has been changed, because the suite we have now is one of those coloured ones from the 1970s (not avocado, ours is sunshine yellow), and the happy warm friendly yellow will have to be replaced by a stark, clinical white bathtub, in full size rather than extra small, which will be all the more obvious since we’re keeping the yellow sink (basin) and toilet.  But at least my husband will finally fit into the tub.

For now, it is the one room that is completely without clutter.  Just having that one room in the house that has been silenced feels like a big minimalist victory over the advancing agents of clutter.  It has spurred me on to get rid of more things today, things that have been waiting for a week or two to be removed from the house, and I felt so much better when I came back from the tip and the charity shop (thrift store) with a lighter car.  It’s the one room where I can hear my own thoughts.

Anything Can Happen Thursday: Terrible Houses

If you’re trying to sell your house, there’s lots of things you can do to spruce it up and get a better price, more views, a faster sale.  These people did none of these things.  I wish I could say they were aware enough to lower the prices into fixer-upper territory.  They did not:

At least you wouldn't be able to see all the toothpaste stains in the sink????
At least you wouldn’t be able to see all the toothpaste stains in the sink????
The above bathroom was accompanied by this kitchen, where you would have to be child-sized to actually open the cupboards and get anything out of them.  I've seen wider passages on boat galleys.
The above bathroom was accompanied by this kitchen, where you would have to be child-sized to actually open the ancient cupboards and get anything out of them. I’ve seen wider passages on boat galleys.  Also, Egads, the floor!

This next house didn’t quite measure up where it counted:

Another delicious bathroom design.
Another delicious bathroom design.  Let’s hope the new owners never need to fix the cistern.
In the same house as above, they should have used a spirit level at some point during the fitting of this kitchen...
In the same house as above, they should have used a spirit level at some point during the fitting of this kitchen…
...or a measuring tape.
…or a measuring tape.

Adding a few personal touches to this next home really helps potential buyers see themselves living here:

rghargrahg;rjhk  hwthrw ehwlhewl khwetglkweg kewlt
Where does that third window go?  Into the land of helpimdrowningunderallthisclutter!
The house also sports a psychedelic wall, for all you fans of LSD.
The house also sports a psychedelic wall of killer Yoda owls, for all you fans of LSD.
And who could forget the kid's bedroom, where you can pre-destine him/her to have PTSD before he/she even joins up.  Let's be fair, it's clearly a boy's room.
And who could forget the kid’s bedroom, where you can pre-destine him/her to have PTSD before he/she even joins up. Let’s be fair, it’s clearly a boy’s room.
Clearly the second child was NOT being pushed into being a soldier.  I sincerely hope they wanted him to DRIVE the train.  And yes, again, clearly a him.
Clearly the second child was NOT being pushed into being a soldier. I sincerely hope they wanted him to DRIVE the train. And yes, again, clearly a him.
This place could feature on some TV series about hoarders.
This place could feature on some TV series about hoarders.

These houses all had some features that really made them stand out – for all the wrong reasons:

This is a feature kitchen.  Like a feature wall, only under the stairs.  And probably wants covering up.  Or razing to the ground.
This is a feature kitchen. Like a feature wall, only under the stairs. And probably wants covering up. Or razing to the ground.
This kitchen is so embarrassed it's trying to blend in with the walls.
This kitchen is so embarrassed it’s trying to blend in with the walls.
Perhaps one of MC Escher's lesser known works, this bizarre split level bathroom makes no sense - you'd have to be six foot to comfortably use that sink, or three feet to enjoy the toilet.
Perhaps one of MC Escher’s lesser known works, this bizarre split level bathroom makes no sense – you’d have to be six foot to comfortably use that sink, or three feet to enjoy the toilet.
Yodelling? Bowling alley?  Room for a sneaky snooker table?  The real question is, what's the point of the second bath mat??  You can't get out of the bath there.  There's taps in the way.  And a window.  And why are the toilet and bath so close together when there's all this space?
Yodelling? Bowling alley? Room for a sneaky snooker table? The real question is, what’s the point of that second bath mat?? You can’t get out of the bath there. There’s taps in the way. And a window. And why are the toilet and bath so close together when there’s all this space?  So many questions!
This kitchen couldn't decide whether to be good retro (to the left) or cheapass falling apart retro (to the right).  Add to that a third possibility: White goods (at the back).  Are the bars there to prevent the cupboards from running away in shame, or because the owner was a *huge* fan of Prisoner: Cell Block H and wanted the ambience???
This kitchen couldn’t decide whether to be 60s retro (to the left) or 70s retro (to the right). Add to that a third possibility: White goods (at the back). Are the bars there to prevent the cupboards from running away in shame, or because the owner was a *huge* fan of Prisoner: Cell Block H and wanted the ambience???
I hope the arrows are pointing to the way out.  After all, who doesn't want a bedroom with three walls and two radiators and one seamless floor?
I hope the arrows are pointing to the way out. After all, who doesn’t want a bedroom with three walls and two radiators and one seamless floor?

This final house has to win the prize for the worst house ever:

Usually a wall like that separates a staircase.  And the ceiling thing looks a bit high to be a bed nook.  Mysterious.
Usually a wall like that separates a staircase. And the ceiling thing looks a bit high to be a bed nook. Mysterious.
The bath looks like a beached whale.  And why is the loo jammed in a corner when there's acres of space?
The bath looks like a beached whale. And why is the loo jammed in a corner when there’s acres of space?
This room is looking vaguely normal, but very dirty.
This room is looking vaguely normal, but very dirty and with the far right wall full of holes.
And the garden has the same floor as the kitchen.  Is it a failed extension, or did the walls fall off one of the downstairs rooms?
And the garden has the same floor as the lounge. Is it a failed extension, or did the walls fall off one of the downstairs rooms?  But the reason it gets the prize is the kitchen, below:
The sink is in the middle of the room, next to the back door.  The stairs are bizzarre, and if there were ever a house fire, the occupants would not be able to get out.  Also the walls are filthy.  You have to admire the optimism of the estate agent - this beaut was listed at around £80,000 in York.
The sink is in the middle of the room, next to the back door. The stairs are bizzarre, and if there were ever a house fire, the occupants would not be able to get out. Also the walls are filthy.  And that bed does not look like a nice place to sleep. You have to admire the optimism of the estate agent – this beaut was listed at around £80,000 in the north of England.

Doesn’t your house feel clean and well-planned now?  All those little foibles looking a bit tame?  I know mine does!  Let me know in the comments if you’re tempted to put an offer on any of these delightful habitats.

Note: I own none of these pictures.