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.

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Back To Hogwarts Day! The Harry Potter Film Locations

HARRY POTTER SPOILER ALERT (but if you don’t know what happens by now, are you likely to care)!!
While I was away in Scotland a week and a half ago, I came across a few sights that seemed a bit familiar (joke – we went out intentionally to find these places).  Since today is September 1st, when the train left at 9:00am for another school year at Hogwarts, I thought I would share these with you all:

First we drove past Loch Eilt, which is the lake seen in a few of the Harry Potter films, and, of course, the final resting place of Albus Dumbledore:

Loch Eilt, resting place of Dumbledore
Loch Eilt, resting place of Dumbledore
Another view across Loch Eilt
Another view across Loch Eilt

It was raining verily, and I was recovering from a BARE migraine, so we didn’t get a chance to go out in the kayak and look around the islands and explore them (which I had hoped).  We went back to Glenfinnan.  I’d expected the viaduct to just be visible from a lay-by or something, but apparently not.  We parked at Glenfinnan train station and found out there was a walk to get to the viaduct.  Fans of the Harry Potter films will remember that the Glenfinnan Viaduct is where the Hogwarts Express can be seen iconically making its way to the school every September 1st (somewhere around 20-40 minutes into most of the films).

The walk to the Glenfinnan Viaduct.
The walk to the Glenfinnan Viaduct.  It looks like it belongs in Harry Potter before you even go anywhere!

The sign at the start said 1-2 hours walk, but we found the walk to be much quicker, and you get your first glimpse of the Glenfinnan Viaduct after just 10-15 minutes of walking (uphill):

The first glimpse of the viaduct
The first glimpse of the viaduct, with a standard British train on it (no, trainspotters, don’t ask me to define a “standard” British train).

We got closer and the views were absolutely stunning:

Glenfinnan Viaduct.
Glenfinnan Viaduct.

I took a panorama shot as well – click to enlarge:

A panoramic shot of the Glenfinnan Viaduct.
A panoramic shot of the Glenfinnan Viaduct.

I was very taken with it, and even though it was pouring with rain (hence the mistyness to all these pictures) I stayed for a good few minutes.  When it was time to go back, we were at the “first glimpse” viewing point when we heard a STEAM TRAIN!!!  I was so excited, I RAN back to the first glimpse point, and waited patiently to snap some pictures.

Sadly, as you will see from my photos, the misty drizzle has wrecked the background (this was my second camera, because it has the best zoom and it was raining so I didn’t want to wreck my new-second-hand Canon EOS).

A STEAM TRAIN!!!
A STEAM TRAIN!!!
A STEAM TRAIN ON THE GLENFINNAN VIADUCT!!
A STEAM TRAIN ON THE GLENFINNAN VIADUCT!!

I resorted to my second ever use of photo editing software to try and get the above image to come out better, and I don’t really know what I’m doing, so it came out like this:

The steam train on the Glenfinnan Viaduct, “fixed” with pixl editor.

If anyone has any suggestions for how to fix the first picture, I still have the original.

We did look for Steall Falls as well when we were around Ben Nevis, but we walked down by the river for about a mile and we never found it so we gave up and came back.

On the way home, we also passed by

Alnwick Castle:

Alnwick Castle, best viewed from the side of the road.  There are NO VIEWS FROM THEIR EXPENSIVE CAR PARK.
Alnwick Castle, best viewed from the side of the road just off the A1. There are NO VIEWS FROM THEIR EXPENSIVE CAR PARK.

We were going to go in but tickets are priced at DAMN EXPENSIVE and the whole place was teeming with kids and I had a head injury and they’d purposely only got one ticket booth open with another member of staff to one side selling a more expensive ticket, presumably this was orchestrated to try and increase sales of the more expensive ticket that meant you didn’t have to wait at the ticket booth.  Additionally, you have to pay for parking on entry (instead of pay and display or pay on exit), and you don’t find out ticket prices until after you’ve done this, unless you’ve looked online.  All in all, I thought the management of the castle was exploitative of guests, so even though we’d been fleeced for £3 of car parking money already, we decided to cut our losses and carry on home.  Shame, I would have liked to have seen it, it’s been on my “want to see” list for a while (being in Robin of Sherwood the 80s TV show, and a bunch of other stuff as well) but the confusing and over complicated ticketing prices combined with the tacky attempts to get us to spend more on an expensive ticket and swarms of badly behaved children everywhere all just put me right off.

I hope these pictures brightened up your Back to Hogwarts day, let me know if you need any information for planning a trip to see any of these sights, e.g. locations (that’s the Harry Potter Guide where I found some of the locations, and it’s fabulous. There were a couple of locations we didn’t find, which was a shame, but Scotland’s a huge great wilderness of things!