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British English / English Slang - G to L

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Italicised words are also heard in Australian English. For tropes encompassing all branches of English, see Separated by a Common Language.

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  • Gaol: Archaic spelling of 'Jail', pronounced the same way. Rarely used nowadays, most often seen on old buildings and the job title of "gaoler". Not to be confused with the character from Kid Icarus: Uprising, which is pronounced "Gowl".
  • Gaff: Strictly, one's domicile, although it is also used in the sense of "territory", as in "My Gaff, My Rules." Originally Cockney, but now fairly widespread in London and the South-East of England. Unrelated to the identically pronounced gaffe, meaning a mistake or error.
  • Gaffer: from the Northern English shortening of "Grandfather", extended to cover certain types of older male authority figures where a friendly and respectful relationship is implied. Epithet universally used by football players in interviews, to describe their manager or coach.
    • Sometimes just means "boss" in general, especially in manual occupations.
  • Gardening Leave: A type of forced holiday sometimes used to keep people away from the office in between handing in their notice and their contract actually endingnote , or when a public servant is threatened with demotion or suspension, for example, in 'Yes Prime Minister'. Nowadays most often seen in reports of a football manager or coach being "placed on gardening leave" after some indiscretion or falling-out with their club, a sort of purgatorial prelude to being sacked.
  • Geezer: Man. Comes across quite Cockney-ish, or working class. Often has connotations of the geezer in question not being entirely trustworthy. In America, this specifically is an insulting term for an old man.
  • Geordie: A native of certain parts of Tyneside. Exactly who can be considered a Geordie is a topic of some debate, but you're usually pretty safe using it to refer to natives of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. It doesn't refer to just anyone from the North East, and whatever you do, do not use it to refer to a native of Sunderlandnote .
    • It can also be used to refer to the distinctive dialect spoken in the city. Some people actually call it, 'Geordie English'.
  • Git: A stupid, obnoxious, incompetent, or childish person. As an insult it's somewhere between "twit" and "wanker," but it can be softened by changing the spelling slightly to "get," which is the preferred form in some parts of the United Kingdom. Not to be confused with the American South's corruption of the verb "get" or a software version control system.
    • Though it's derived from the word "get", in the sense of offspring (cf. "begat") as a euphemism for "bastard".
    • A popular insult in Ireland: Dubliner Brendan Behan uses the longer form whore's get, as a killer insult.
  • Gob: The noun form is a synonym for the mouth ("Oi you, shut yer gob!"), while as a verb it means "to spit," typically a viscous wad of phlegm.
    • Hence the British term "gobstopper" for the large spherical sweet (candy) known as a jawbreaker across the pond.
  • Goods train: Freight train.
  • Go off: Of food, to spoil.
  • Government: the current Prime Minister and his Cabinet. In America, this is referred to as "the administration", while "government" is reserved for what Brits call "the state".
  • Grenade: Small bomb thrown by hand or launched mechanically. In British English, it also has the meaning of the solitary ugly girl in a group of fitties, usually encountered in clubs. Generally, her friends will not engage in the bizarre club rituals of drink-buying and ultimately coitus if she will be left out. In order to ensure that the rest of one's fellows in a group have a chance with the attractive ones, one member of the group will be required to court her. This is referred to as "jumping on the grenade", taken from the military context of a soldier jumping on a grenade, thus cushioning the blast and saving the lives of his kameraden. As you might imagine, deeply offensive especially if you're the "grenade". Much like clunge above, mainly used by teenagers, tosspots and teenage tosspots. This has since spread to the U.S.A.
  • Grill: A broiler. It was common in the U.K. to make toast using the oven for a long time, which is why Sting says he likes his toast done on one side in "Englishman in New York".
  • Grub: Food. "Grub('s) up!" = I say, chaps, it appears there's freshly-prepared food available. "Pub Grub" = Meals served in pubs that can range from well-prepared and tasty (in so-called "gastropubs") to virtually inedible (like the cheese sandwich in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), but usually with an emphasis on being heavy and filling. If you do get the inedible sort, the classic British approach is to not make a fuss and simply vow never to eat there again.
  • Guv: Short for "governor". Used for a boss, especially in cop shows. Note that outside of particular contexts, this is pretty archaic/clichéd. A tourist using it will get odd looks, in the same way a Brit would if they were to say "golly" or "swell" to an American. However, it does still sometimes persist for pub landlords, a fictional example being Al Murray's pub landlord persona.
    • Denotes some respect: 'Boss' if he's neutral / unliked, 'Guv' if he is liked/respected. Can be used for female leaders.
    • In Victorian upper-class slang "The Guv'nor" meant "my father". Appears in the Sherlock Holmes story "The Gloria Scott", a couple of Flashman stories and elsewhere. In more modern settings, the London Gangster may be addressed as such by his underlings.
    • Formerly used by Cockney street-urchin types in place of "sir", as in the Stock Phrase "Shine ya boots, guv'nah?".

  • Half: A half-pint. To go for a quick drink down the pub is often called going for "a swift half", usually with the tongue-in-cheek implication that it will not be very swift and will involve consuming rather more than a half-pint.
  • Handbag: Clutch bag of infinite capacity for all manner of mysterious items, US "purse". UK purse refers to the actual money-containing receptacle, known for men as a wallet.
  • Handbags: A fight in which not much harm is (or is likely to be) done, due to the belligerents' inability/inebriation/pacifism, i.e like two girly-girls whackin' each other with their purses. May be dismissively referred to as "handbags at dawn", "handbags at twenty paces" or similar.
  • Hard man: Tough guy, badass. No relation to the Mega Man 3 boss of the same name.
  • Hen night/do/party: Bachelorette party. Usually seen stumbling around town on Friday and Saturday nights in a skimpy uniform involving pink bunny ears. Tackier variations add an L plate to the bride-to-be. *shudder* Male equivalent is stag night.
    • Just visit Newcastle-upon-Tyne on a weekend. Go on, I dare you.
  • Herb: is pronounced with an "h" at the start. Brits find it slightly odd/amusing when an American mentions "erbs". The same tends to apply to other words with an unpronounced "h" sound. See Eddie Izzard's take on this one here.
    • Puffing the herb – smoking pot. Only ever used ironically by non-hippy types.
    • In the classic northern accent where 'h's are religiously dropped from everything because, easier, y'know, there will be a sound that Americans can't make (like æ) that implies an 'h' so well it's the most enunciated thing compared to a Yank's "erb garden".
  • Hiding: A beating or spanking: "I ought to give you a good hiding". As used metaphorically, can describe an umpteen-nil football match.note  (Note that the verb "hide" itself is not used as a synonym for "beat" or "spank"- that would be "tanning your/someone's hide".)
  • Holiday: A day off from work, whether prescribed by tradition (e.g. Christmas) or taken on the employee's own volition. "He's on holiday/on his holidays" in Britain means the same thing as "He's on vacation" in America. There are roughly 17 bank holidays scattered through the year, from New Year's Day to Boxing Day (December 26th), which are public holidays that are not observed by every business but may see time off given or extra pay in lieu of this.
    • Holidays: "On my holidays" means on a vacation trip, as above, while "the holidays" refers to a break (recess) between school terms: "the summer holidays start next week". Provokes cringing, spontaneous vomiting, etc. in the UK if used as a non-denominational synonym for 'Christmastime', regarded as one of the chief indicators of Political Correctness Gone Mad.
  • Homely: Home-loving, affably domestic.
  • How d'you do?: Common semi-formal greeting in certain circles, almost never pronounced as the original "how do you do?", but closer to "Howjadu?". Contrary to popular belief, it's meant as a rhetorical question and the only response should be either a polite nod or a reciprocal "How d'you do?". Shortened even further to "How do?" Oop North, particularly in Yorkshire and nearby areas.

  • In a bit: In a minute. Not unheard of in the U.S., but in that case it tends to be "in a little bit", whereas the British drop the "little".
  • Innit: Shortened form of "isn't it?" used most commonly in London and South East Wales. though also in areas of the North such as Manchester, often as a largely rhetorical verbal punctuation mark, though its exact usage shifts slightly depending on region. Overused to the point of stereotype by some, in the same way that Canadians like the word "eh".
  • -ise/-isation: E.g. "Bowdlerise", "Bowdlerisation". Spelt (that's the British spelling, by the way) with Zs in the Oxford English Dictionary, but the S variation is otherwise more common in British usage. Most worldwide dialects of English favor this spelling, although Canadian English makes use of both with a bias towards Z and American English uses the Z-spelling almost exclusively.
  • Iti (pron and often spelt Eyetie). A derogatory World War II-derived reference to Italians, unknown in North America. This is meant as an insult. Some British-Italian people consider this to be an N-Word.

  • Jerry: Germans. Common in World War II movies, as in "look out squad... Jerry's likely to be flying patrols on a day like this. Keep a weather eye open, pip pip".
  • Jizz: To ejaculate, or the liquid product thereof. Can means semen and urine, so if your mate jizzed in a bottle, it could be gross in more than one way.
  • Jobsworth: Unhelpful public service employee, from their catchphrase "it's more than my job's worth to do X", where X is usually "anything at all that would help you in any way".
  • Jock: Someone from Scotland, deriving from a common name north of the border. The American usage has crept into British life too, thanks to Eagleland Osmosis.
  • Johnny: A 'rubber johnny' is a condom.
    • A typical sex-ed show will feature a personified condom named Johnny Condom, squick.
  • Juggernaut: A very large lorry/truck. From the more common meaning of a huge and unstoppable force.
  • Jumper: A sweater, a jersey. All three words are used, but the former is more common.

  • Kerb: Curb, though only the roadside kind rather than, say, curbing one's speech. It’s a homonym.
    • Kerb-crawling: Driving slowly by the kerb', i.e. soliciting prostitution.
  • Kerfuffle: Commotion or fuss.
  • Khazi: Another word for toilet, corrupted from HindiZulu.
  • Kip: A quick nap or snooze, or to have such.
  • Knickers: Underwear, i.e. panties.
  • Knob: Slang for the penis, or, in verb form, vulgar slang for sex. Slang form can also be spelled "Nob". Also commonly used as an insult, along with it's derivative Knob-end – usually to describe people who frequently make mistakes, similar to "boob", or someone who is unpleasant, similar to "dick".
    • When spelled as "Nob", can also be used to refer to an unpopular superior, or as a general term for the upper classes (from 'nobility'), i.e. "the nobs" and "hob-nobbing", the act of socialising with said social class.
  • Knock up: To knock on somebody's door in order to wake them up. The "knocker-up" was an employee whose duty was to go round the town knocking on people's doors to awaken shift workers whose shifts started at ungodly hours, in the days before alarm clocks were common/reliable.
  • Kosher: Used much more (in the idiomatic sense of 'legitimate') in Britain than in the States.
    • Similar to 'pukka' – truthful or correct. 'Kosher' – 'the real thing'/'legal'/'legit'.
    • So much so that some Orthodox Jews Hebraicize to "Kashrut" when they specifically refer to Jewish dietary law ("I keep Kashrut at home").

  • Lag: Doesn't just refer to latency in online gaming; in British English it can also refer to a prison inmate. In the form "old lag", this means someone who has been in prison for a long time. A staple of British crime dramas.
    New inmate: Who's that?
    Older inmate: What, 'im? Oh, you don't wanna try to mess around wiv 'im, lad. He's an old, old, lag, 'im. Knows all the tricks, and, if you can pluck up the courage and the ready, where to get all the good stuff too.
  • Larry: Southern teen slang for a loner, as in "Come sit with me, I don't want to look like a larry" or "She's such a larry; no-one hangs out with her". Further North, the equivalent is "Billy no-mates" (or just "Billy").
  • Leg it: Essentially, run like hell. A close American analogue would be to "book it."
  • Lie-in: Staying in bed for longer than usual, or sleeping late, as in "Having a lie-in."
  • Lift: "Elevator" in US English. Also the equivalent of "ride", in the car sense, as in "I'll give you a lift to the station".
    • Although 'taken for a ride' means to be tricked or exploited.
      • Both "I'll give you a lift" and "taken for a ride" would be perfectly understood by Americans. As would 'lift' to mean 'elevator' for that matter, although it is not the usual term.
      • "Lift" is sometimes used in American media (Star Trek being an example with its turbo-lifts), but only to refer to the more spartan sorts such as service elevators or dumbwaiters.
    • In Scotland, being "lifted" can denote being arrested, generally in the context of being taken off the streets when drunk. It can also denote stealing, specifically shoplifting or casual, petty theft.
    Suspicious Scot: Whaur did ye get thae Playstations?
    Thieving Scot: Lifted 'em oot the back o' the Tescae's oan Maryhill Road.
    • Lifted is also British Army slang: in Northern Ireland, assisting civilian police in making an arrest was known as "lifting" a suspect. It was still used in this sense in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Loo: Toilet, lavatory, "the gents'" or "the ladies'". The "bathroom" is the room where the bath is (and it's a "bath", not a "bathtub"). See khazi, above.
    • Unlike in America, the most common use and the least rude. Saying "toilet" in public isn't very nice. There is no such thing as a 'restroom', ask for one and you'll be presented with a rest room, or break room, if you're allowed in.
  • Lorry: A truck. Something knowingly stolen is often said to have Fallen Off The Back Of A Lorry. Pickup trucks and the like are called "light trucks", though.
    • Interestingly though, what the British call railway trucks are freight cars.
  • Love/Luv: As a noun, a term of endearment, mostly used by older folk to younger ones in a similar fashion to "dear". Particularly practised Oop North. Can also, between friends, be largely similar to mate. Mostly used by any member of the opposite sex to the other when their relationship is only friendly, but otherwise used amongst hetero friends or relatives. Can also be used between spouses or those in long term relationships past the "I love you" threshold, e.g "Fancy a cuppa, love". Can be considered mildly patronising or sexist so use with caution, especially outside the North of England.
    "Put the kettle on, will you, love?"
  • Lurgi: To have the lurgi : to be ill in an uncomfortable but not doctor worthy way, typically with a heavy cold. Almost allways the lurgi. Old fashioned these days, either made popular by or invented by The Goon Show. Sometimes used as Americans might use Cooties (as in "We won't play with you, you've got the lurgi"), but that is even rarer.
  • Luvvie: an actor, as they are stereotyped as being too snobbish to learn the names of the "little people" and so end up addressing everyone as "love".
    • This is due to the now-extinct practice of weekly repertory theatre, where a theatre company would put on a different production every week. This required well-used actors to be dealing with four scripts at a time, and they would frequently have trouble remembering the name of the character they were supposed to be playing/rehearsing at that moment, let alone the name of the character of the person standing next to them (who would likely be in the same four plays), or their actual name.


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