Sarah J. Carlson

Contemporary Young Adult Author

On being the token Yank: Things my British friends say (that I wish I could)



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So as I mentioned in my previous post, over in Singapore, I have loads of British friends and that’s who I hang out with the most. One of the most fun parts of this, for me, is learning the dialect differences–as there are many. My friends have also unknowingly been my research subjects! They’ve helped me write a bunch of my characters in my novel, which is set in the UK. Today I’m posting a list of some of the words my friends use that I find awesome but don’t feel I have the street cred to use. It would just sound weird if I said it. This is by no means meant to be an exhaustive list of vocabulary differences, though perhaps some day……

Gutted (this is my favorite I think): like you’re devastated. Like “Arsenal lost and I was just gutted.”


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Knackered: tired/beat

Shattered: tired

Dodgy: sketchy, questionable

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Posh: upper class and likely snobby. Yeah, like Posh Spice, but I’m not sure why she was called Posh Spice. My friends don’t use it in a complimentary fashion, particularly when talking about posh Londoners. There’s also posh accents. I’d say that posh British people are what Americans might stereotypically think of all British people as being (which is obviously not true lol). We’d probably consider those old money Martha’s Vineyard types that play polo posh in the US.

 Posh at the Duke of York's theatre

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Wanker: idiot. Wank means to masturbate, so wanker would be one who masturbates, but this is used as a generally insulting term.


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Rubbish: garbage or crap. This can refer to actual garbage, like “Put it in the rubbish bin” or generally to desribe a situation or thing that is crap or no good, like “That’s rubbish.”

Chav: white trash. Also maybe like a poser, too.


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Bollocks: literally means balls, but is used in many ways. Used in isolation, I think it means like bullshit. Examples of uses in sentences: “Bollocks you do” “That’s a load of bollocks” “Made a bollocks out of it.” “Bollocksed it up.”  Also, that’s the dog’s bollocks, which apparently means it’s awesome.


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The loo: the bathroom. Example: I’m going to nip to the loo. I’m going to quickly go to the bathroom. I will say I’ve stopped calling it a bathroom and call it a toilet instead as, at least in public places, there is no bath in it

A few phrases I’d like to use:

  • Couldn’t be bothered
  • if you/do you fancy…: would you like to…
  • I’m keen to…: I’d like to….
  • I’m going to the cinema to see a film

Also, I’d like to use those little xx after text messages or other messages.  like “See you tonight! xx”

I’m sure I’ll have a follow up post to this.  Not sure what next post’s topic will be, but I’ll definitely do one about words I say my British friends don’t know 😛

Have you encountered words other people say that you either started using or wished you could use? Also, did I get any definitions wrong?

36 thoughts on “On being the token Yank: Things my British friends say (that I wish I could)

  1. Bookgirl

    I hadn’t heard of Chav before, that’s a newbie to me. When i lived in Manchester they would say ” your alright” meaning how are you. Where we would say “how ya goin”.They also would say “what you like” meaning aren’t you funny.
    Don’t get me started on the Geordie’s, I couldn’t understand a word they said, all that rhyming slang.:)


    1. sjoycarlson Post author

      Haha. Apparently getting your belly button pierced is a bit “chavvy.” Yeah, I’m still figuring out the different parts of England if you will, but some accents are definitely harder for me to understand. One of my friends is from Lancashire and I have a hard time with that one.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. sjoycarlson Post author

        KL seemed pretty nice. Except for you know the two airport thing that are both the KL international airport or whatever. And the one Tiger Air flies into…. That was Dodgy.


  2. echoesofthepen

    lol… Great post! As a Limey I do of course recognise these terms; a lot depends of course on tone and context, and to who or whose saying them.. In the army for example, some of the most graphic and abusive terms were in fact nothing more than friendly banter between good mates (friends).


    1. sjoycarlson Post author

      Hahaha I’m sure. I don’t know that we have an equivalent because it’s my understanding that it’s not just being rich and snobby, there’s also like an aristocratic class piece to it that we don’t have. I have to say the language differences have fascinated me! I think I’ll do another post someday on words I use that my English friends don’t get 😛 though usually I just filter them out but there have been a few surprises.


  3. teannadorsey

    My family is from England although came here two generations ago and I say almost all of these things and didn’t even realize they were British. Guess I picked up more than I thought. 🙂


    1. sjoycarlson Post author

      Haha it’s in your genes 😉 maybe there are parts of the US that say them? I’ve never heard Americans say it and I’ve got friends from every major region apart from the Plains and the Deep South. It’s so interesting though the way language evolves and changes 🙂


      1. teannadorsey

        I’m actually Canadian and I know some of these are used commonly but I already knew I do say a lot of British things, and have a slight accent when I get mad according to my friends. I don’t hear it though.


  4. Heather M.

    I’m not British but I saw a few of these on a regular basis. I use wanker all the time. Lol Maybe it’s because I grew up sitting in front of a computer and talked to a lot of British friends. I just picked up the words and claimed them as part of my vocab.


      1. Heather M.

        Lol! That’s awesome! My friends and family expect me to use slang words from around the world. It’s my way of avoiding cuss words I guess.


  5. Kate and Britt

    Reading this reminded me of the first time I saw the movie “Eastern Promises,” where after the soccer/football game the fans are walking along jeering at each other. “ARSENAL!” “WANKER!” “ARSENAL!” “WANKER!” At the time I remember thinking “Who the hell is Arsenal?” I suppose I just outed myself as American with that one. 😀

    Regarding the -xx or -xo at the end of a message, I use xo fairly often and always took it to mean “hugs and kisses.” To be used with good friends only, of course. Great post! -Kate


    1. sjoycarlson Post author

      Haha the only reason I even knew Arsenal was a football/soccer team before I came here was because my friends had this joke about pretending to know about soccer which went like this: “You know the thing about Arsenal? They always try to walk it in” or something like that haha

      Maybe the xx thing is in the US too but my friends just don’t do it lol.

      Glad you enjoyed the post 🙂


      1. Rachael C Marek

        Here’s a few more for the dictionary – cheeky, prat, twat, and bugger. xx Obviously, none of these are in reference to anyone in particular 🙂 just some of my faves.


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