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Stock British Phrases

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Bakura: Cor blimey, that was a smashing manoeuvre! Good show, chaps!
Tristan: Stop being so British!

Turns of phrase that are clichéd or even passé in the UK, but turn up in television all the time. In US TV, often used to up the level of Britishness. Many of these were originally popularized by P. G. Wodehouse. Some, especially the ruder ones, are still regularly used in Real Life.

Due to a lot of cultural cross-contamination with the countries of the Commonwealth, some of these phrases are also common in Irish, Australian, New Zealand, and Indian dialects of English (among others) — in fact, some are more common in those countries (particularly India) than they are in the modern UK, where they've died out or been rejected as clichés.

Compare Stock Phrases.

See Did Not Do the Bloody Research for when British English goes wrong. See also: British English, and the Quintessential British Gentleman (who probably uses these a lot).

Note that this article contains many colloquialisms which may not (indeed, rarely do) have fixed definitions, therefore to some extent your mileage may vary.

  • Aggro: Aggression, trouble, etc. Used in e.g.: It seems there's some aggro going on! This one is definitely more used in Australia and South Africa. Also means aggravation in the UK, at least in England. Used as "She's giving me aggro about...".
  • Arse: Ass is occasionally heard as a Bowdlerised version of arse, a sort-of Foreign Cuss Word. It tends to be used in the sense of "donkey", so that making an ass of yourself and making an arse of yourself are distinct and "ass" is much milder. The distinction is generally that an "ass" is a wilfully stubborn or unreasonable person (a donkey metaphor, obviously), while an "arse" or "arsehole" is a person who is unpleasant, yobbish or rude.
  • Away: Used exclusively Oop North. With the emphasis on the first syllable, this is short for "get away," a mild and friendly way of saying "Stop your nonsense," generally used to get the addressee's attention or express mild disbelief.
  • Aye. In Scotland and Northern England, it's a more common word than "yes" in colloquial speak that means the same thing. Elsewhere, tends to be the preserve of old/mysterious men, often smoking a pipe while ruminating on something. In the nautical world, it's used a bit more specifically — "aye" is used as yes, "aye-aye" is shorthand for "I understand and will obey." In other words, "aye" is an answer to a question, while "aye-aye" is a response to a command.
  • Bad Show: Usually an upper-class character will utter this when they witness something going wrong.
    • It's also used or given as "Bad Form" when someone does something intentionally wrong.
  • Bar: The counter of a pub. Often given as "I'm off to the bar" to denote going to the counter to order drinks.
  • Berk: Berkley or Berkshire Hunt, Rhyming Slang. Pretty mild expression for an idiot. Also, berk is pronounced burk, whereas it's the Barkshire Hunt.
  • Bint: Slightly contemptuous term for woman or girl, mainly used in London. Said to come from when Cockney troops were stationed in Iraq between the World Wars, as it's the Arabic word for girl. Basically a milder version of Bitch.
  • Bird: Woman; compare to US English "chick". More common Oop North, though also used in Cockney slang.
    • Not to be confused with "doing bird," which means "being in prison."
  • Blighter: scoundrel; enemy. 'Poor Blighter' = 'Poor Devil' or nowadays 'Poor Bastard'.
  • Blighty: Britain.
  • Bloody hell!: Exclamation of surprise or frustration (Blooming heck is a regional euphemism, particularly Oop North, where it can be said like "Blummin' 'eck"; And yes, the word is derived from "blood", despite some folk etymology claiming it is derived from the expression "by our lady". Ruddy Hell is an alternative, usually associated with the upper classes, unless "Ruddy" is pronounced "Roody" in which case its Oop North again). Formerly quite an offensive expression; this is still in use but is normally considered mild.
    • W. S. Gilbert once explained the difference to a critic who believed the title of the operetta Ruddigore to be obscene. "That would mean that if I said I admired your ruddy countenance, which I do, I would be saying that I liked your bloody cheek, which I don't."
  • Bob's your uncle.: "And then it will be simple". "All we have to do is get the explosives into place just as the guard rounds the third corner, and Bob's your uncle!"
    • Occasionally, for comedic purposes, "and Robert's your mother's brother" or similar.
    • The folk etymology for this one is that it originated when Robert Cecil, Lord Salisbury, was Prime Minister, and appointed his nephew Arthur Balfour (who succeeded Cecil as PM) Chief Secretary for Ireland. This is now thought to be unlikely as the phrase isn't recorded until a good thirty years later.
  • Bollocks: Nonsense. Literally 'testicles'; colloquially a slightly milder version of "bullshit". When referring to objects (cars, food etc) "The dog's bollocks" means something is the best you can get, "The bollocks" means it's amongst the best, while "Bollocks" means it's rubbish. "The dog's bollocks" may also be shortened to "The dog's" or "The mutt's" (as in "The Mutt's Nuts").
    • Similar to the American use of "shit" wherein calling something "shit" means that it is bad, while calling something "the shit" means that it is good.
  • Bog: toilet. Also can be used as a verb ("bog off" means "go away") or adjective ("boggin'" is Glaswegian for "disgusting", usually applied to taste or smell - "that's pure boggin' man").
  • Bruv: Cockney term of friendly address, short for "brother," equivalent to "mate" or "pal."
  • Bugger: Reasonably mild curse. "Buggery" is another word for anal sex; the verb "bugger" is often used in places Americans would say "fuck" or "screw": "Bugger that, I'm out of here!". "Bugger that for a game of soldiers", "Bugger off!", "Buggeration!", etc.
    • The word means having anal sex or sex with an animal; coming into British vernacular after disputes with the 'Bulgar' sect.
    • Not offensive in the expression 'silly buggers'. "Who's been playing silly buggers?": "Who's messing around?
    • While quite mild Oop North (and in the USA, where it is not a curse), it's rather more offensive down south, especially to the older generations. Same applies to "sodding" (see below).
    • As "silly buggers" suggests, can also be used as a noun, as in "you bugger". Oop North, among people you know, it's possible to call someone "ya ol' bugger" and not have it be insulting in the slightest. It's also possible for this to go very wrong.
  • Bum: nothing to do with transients (try 'beggar', 'tramp', or if you're feeling really pejorative, 'tinker'). Much milder than the equivalent "arse", can be used in near-polite company and has found a home in the term "bum bag" (UK version of US "fanny pack", see below...)
  • By Jove: Short for "by Jehovah", it's an archaic alternative to saying "by God", which at at one time carried with it a potential for offense. More often heard in British period Dramas uttered by aristocrats as an expression of mild delight.
  • Capital: Fantastic, used by posh people.
  • Cheerio: Goodbye. Somewhat archaic these days, mostly used by posh folk.
  • Chips/Crisps: British words for fries and potato chips, respectively. If you're an American and you ask for chips in a grocery store, you'll be directed to the frozen aisle. Hilarity Ensues for the shop assistant.
    • Slightly complicated by the fact that very thin cut chips (in the British sense) are often still referred to as "fries" or "French fries". The dividing line between chips and fries is somewhat blurred, but the general rule of thumb is McDonald's sells fries whereas a fish and chip shop sells chips.
  • Cor, blimey!: Exclamation of surprise; from 'God blind me'
  • (Old) Cobblers: Nonsense/Bullshit, particularly if spoken. "That's a load of old cobblers, that is!"
    • Has been explained as Cockney rhyming slang 'cobbler's awls'='balls', with 'balls' meaning 'nonsense' or 'I state you are incorrect/speaking nonsense'.
  • Crikey! An abbreviation of "Jesus Christ!" used as an exclamation of surprise. (Thanks to the late, lamented Steve Irwin, this is less British and more Australian.) 'Crickey riley' is also said, though possibly only amongst the working class.
    • Unless you're Boris Johnson. Also possibly the only man in any era to use the phrase 'old bean' genuinely and while under pressure.
  • Crumpet: somewhat old-fashioned term for a woman, in the same sense as "bird." Most popular during The '70s. (Also, bread with holes in it, eaten with tea.)
    • "Getting a bit of crumpet" = "getting laid"
    • "The thinking man's crumpet" = "Very attractive woman who is also very smart/cultured." Originally in reference to Joan Bakewell (Jo Brand once commented that Bakewell should surely be the thinking man's tart.), later used in reference to Nigella Lawson, Helen Mirren, and Carol Vorderman. Unlike standard "crumpet," can be used in reference to a man (e.g. Benedict Cumberbatch was once called "the thinking woman's crumpet.")
  • Chavs are youth (usually) who generally causes discomfort amongst the middle class. Stereotypically clad in a hooded sweatshirt and Abercrombie tracksuit (benefits permitting) and clutching a can of cheap lager. Not usually a threat to the public, but is seen as such due to a large amount of robbery undertaken in the early 2000s by people in such clothing. A common misconception is that Chav is an acronym for 'Council Housed And Violent', when in reality, the word has Romani and Polari roots. Nonetheless, it has been expanded to include anyone working class and of little use to the nation, probably from London. The precise meaning of the phrase is the source of much debate and changes much with background, region, etc.
    • Actually, a Romany term, usually meaning "Boy" or "male" depending on dialect.
  • Chocks away! : "Here we go!"; dates back to the early days of aviation when an aircraft was prevented from rolling forwards while its engine was running by "chocks" (wedges of wood) under the wheels, to be pulled away by ropes before takeoff. Only used in a joking sense in modern times. (Pilots now use the phrase "off the blocks")
  • Cuppa: Cup of tea.
  • Daft: A term for silly and foolish person. Normally used as a form of reprimanding someone for doing something stupid (i.e "Are you daft?").
  • Darlin': (Slightly) abbreviated form of "darling". Used irreverently as a greeting towards women, "All right Darlin'?". (Occasionally inverted, woman to man.)
  • Draw (noun): A tie game. "Tie" as a noun generally refers to an article of clothing tied around the neck. Ted Lasso, though generally good about accurate use of British-isms, notably gets this one wrong.
  • Drink (meaning financial remuneration): Common Cockney term "Do this and there's a nice drink in it for ya."
  • Doolally: Nonsensical, in a mess,"it's all quite doolally", or if refering to a person, insane, as in "Gone quite doolally" Another Indian import from the Empire, dhulali.
    • Also may have been derived from the Deolali army sanitorium in India or the camp there as a whole. Simon Raven explains it as being derived from the fact that soldiers would be stationed there for long periods in the heat, and would go a bit mad, the phenomenon becoming known as the "Deolali tip."
  • Duck: A term of endearment towards another person (though very occasionally used confrontationally in Stoke on Trent). Derives from "Duke". Nowadays, it's mostly affectionate; men will rarely call other men "duck". Almost exclusive to the Midlands and parts of South Yorkshire; people from outside these regions, even in England, will usually be somewhat baffled at apparently being called a duck.
  • 'Ey up: extremely informal greeting from Oop North (equivalent of 'hey' or 'yo' - "'ey up, chuck" is one variation), used less these days but still around. Also used as a general exclamation to draw someone's attention to something. Often followed by chuck/lad/lass/love, if someone is being greeted, 'love' being used for any female person.
    • "Ta ra" is the opposite, though slightly less informal, meaning "Goodbye" or "See you later".
  • Fam: a close friend, used as a term of endearment; usually to signify mutual happiness. Comes from 'family', but would never, ever be used to a relative. Originated in London gangs, but has spread to most London working class culture. (Due to either parallel development or trans-Atlantic sharing, the exact same word with the exact same meaning is often used by African-Americans.) Currently getting good mileage in Doctor Who.
  • Fanny: A milder word for Country Matters, found the opposite side of the pelvis from what Americans mean by the term. (US "fanny pack" <-> UK "bum bag".) Expect to see this word used a lot in lad comedies like The Inbetweeners and in most sitcoms on BBC Three.
  • Fit: Good-looking, attractive (in a superficial way). Does not literally mean fit as in 'in good shape, muscular'. Used for both men and women, usually by younger people.
    • Can also mean something is tasty: "The chips from this place are proper fit".
  • Fiver: A five-pound note.
    • Tenner: A ten-pound note. Be aware, saying 'twentyer' or similar for any other denomination of note will get you looked at funnily.
  • Flat: A kind of apartment. There are minor semantic differences (there are apartments in the UK), but the distinction is slight, and mostly contextual.
    • As a general rule, a 'flat' is a house which is all on one floor when in a building with more than one floor (i.e. bungalows don't count). 'Apartment' is generally used to describe a very high-class, expensive or impressive flat.
    • Recently this has changed due to the building of more luxury apartments, but traditionally flats in Britain were viewed as a sign of either being lower-class, a failure, or going through a temporary rough patch.
      • Or a student. Or, if the flat happens to be part of one of the better tenement buildings in eg. Glasgow, disgustingly rich (a good two-bedroom flat in nice parts of the city can easily cost more than a very good four-bedroom house in the suburbs).
  • Flibbertigibbet: Quite the archaic phrase it refers to a silly, scatterbrained and ultimately irresponsible person the word derives from a name for an imp or fiend.
  • Frightfully/Fearfully: Very, Extremely. Even more old-fashioned and upper-class-twit than 'Awfully'.
    • Not to be confused with "Ghastly!" (as in, "That's absolutely...") which refers to something distressing or unpleasant.
  • Gob: mouth, as in "shut yer gob" (be silent) or "daft gobshite" (idiot who talks nonsense). Also "gobbing off" (talking back/mouthing off). Depending on accent, may sound more like "gub".
    • Also means "to spit": "I gobbed off the bridge".
      • This itself can also be "goz": "I got gozzed on".
  • Golly: An exclamation, probably short for God Almightly.
  • Good evening, all: semi-formal greeting introducing oneself to those present. In Dixon's case (see below), to the TV audience. Sometimes contracted to "Evening, all".
  • Goodness gracious me!: Modern usage indicates that the speaker is highly camp or of Indian descent.
  • Good show, lads: Well done.
  • Gordon Bennett: "Holy crap!" or "Oh my God", etc. Actually named for an extravagant New Yorker, but it's definitely an English phrase.
    • An alternative etymology: (Australian-derived?) General Gordon Bennett was an Australian army general who led his men abysmally badly during the military disaster in Malaya and Singapore. He abandoned his command to its fate and fled to Australia on one of the last boats that were able to get out before the Japanese enforced a surrender. His name became a byword for utterly unbelievable incompetence, cowardice, and other undesirable qualities.
  • Guv'nah/Guv; Informal term for the boss, a corruption of "Governor". Can mean the literal boss of a company or site, the figural boss (such as the leader of a gang or someone acknowledged as being a "hard man", or ever jokingly referring to a wife when pretending to be henpecked) or as a form of address to a male ("Evening, Guv - got the time on you?"). Pronounced "Guv'nah" due to being used mainly by Londoners and truncated to "Guv" more often than not, especially when used to address someone. See also "It's a Fair Cop" below.
  • Hello, what's this?: An expression of mild surprise. (Occasionally used by Americans too.)
    • Usually pronounced "Hullo". Actually predates the greeting.
  • Howdo; Mostly Northern or above a certain age, an informal greeting or term of recognition. Although a truncated version of "How do you do?", it is used more like the term "'Sup" in that it neither requires nor expects a response explaining how the recipient is.
  • "I bloody love you, you're my best mate, you are!" - expect any friendly drunk to come out with variations on this stock phrase.
  • "In breach (or a breach) of the Trade Descriptions Act" - The Trade Descriptions Act 1968 is the only piece of government legislation whose name is known to pretty much everyone (although it's since been largely superseded by other, less snappily-named, legislation). The original law was effectively a ban on false advertising by companies who said they did a certain thing or provided a certain service but didn't. The phrase is quoted as a Sophisticated as Hell stock phrase to describe anything that has a Nonindicative Name, especially when it's a petty distinction.
  • Innit, eh? Used by Cockneys, Janners (native Plymouthians) or British West Indians with little to no provocation.
    • "Innit" (isn't it) can also be appended to pretty much any sentence, in place of tag questions like "didn't she", "won't they", "couldn't we" etc.
      • (East) Indians are also fond of using the full "isn't it" in the same manner.
      • In South Africa (a former British colony) "Isit?" is a phrase that usually means "Is that so?", but is also known to mean "I'm not really listening to you", "That's painfully obvious" or "You're boring me."
    • Compare the Welsh variant - "We're going to the pub then, is it?"
    • For a more upper-class, old-fashioned variant, use "what?" As in, "I say, that's hardly cricket, what?"
  • I say! (Or the full version, "I say, old chap, that's just not cricket".): "I say" might be an exclamation of surprise or agreement. Generally restricted to posh/old fashioned accents. "That's not cricket" means something is unfair or unbalanced/being done wrongly.
  • "It's a fair cop": Just after being caught at something, roughly equivalent to "Yes, I did it." From "cop", to catch. The full version is "It's a fair cop, guv, you've got me bang to rights".
    • Still used almost exclusively within His Majesty's Prisons, as a form of address used by inmates addressing uniformed staff.
  • Jolly good, or "jolly good show", often said in an Upper-Class Twit voice.
  • Karzi/Khazi: Toilet (Indian imported word). Alternatively, 19th century Cockney origin.
  • Ken: Borrowed from Scots-only word meaning 'know'. Archaically, was prevalent in all English, but noo juis the Scots fowk ken "Ken", ken min?
    • Well, them and North-Easterners, but nobody kens that they ken the ken that you ken, y'ken?
  • Kerfuffle: A disturbance or commotion. Often used derisively, in the same sense as "fuss". Originally a Scots word, "curfuffle", derived from the Gaelic "cior thual", meaning "confusion, disorder".
    • This is still used in some parts of the US, where it's seen as a kind of jocular term for "much ado about nothing" (but not Much Ado About Nothing). The sound of it has led some Americans to confuse it for Yiddish, which has improved its popularity in the judicial system (American jurists love Yiddish).
  • Knackered: Tired. Formerly had some watershed issues, since it originally described a very specific kind of tiredness, and way before that was used to mean tired to the point of death. When a horse is too old to work, it's sent of to the knackers (glue makers) to cut off and boil up the hooves, as boiled hoof makes a sticky sludge.
    • Can also be used in place of "broken", ie. "Looks knackered to me" or "Oops I've knackered my bike".
    • "Knackers" can also refer to the dangly parts of a man's anatomy.
  • Knickers: Panties.
  • Lad: Young man or boy.
  • Lass: Young woman or girl, but also applied to girlfriend. Used mainly in Northern England (Northumberland, Yorkshire etc.), but also see the Scottish 'lassie'.
  • Lorry: British term for truck.
  • Lush: Stunning, or totally awesome. Most often used in Wales ("These chips are right lush!"), but its use has spread as a result of the popularity of Gavin & Stacey.
    • You may also hear the phrase “Gert lush,” which more or less means the same thing in The West Country, especially around the Bristol area. Gert itself roughly means very, as in “That’s a Gert big car.”
  • Luv: An irreverent term for a women, but can be used to denote affection.
    • "Cheers luv" when a woman is the server of a drink.
      • Again, can also be used woman-to-man, especially in the full version: "Moi Luvvah". Very strange experience for a Scotsman, going into a motorway service station and having the woman behind the till refer to you as "my lover"...
    • Also used as a universal, unisex term of address by actors; thus the derisive term "luvvie" for actors, particularly those who reminisce too much about the business.
  • Luvaduck!: my goodness; used by Cockney women.
  • Malarkey: Nonsense.
    • Of Irish provenance, this is still used in certain parts of the US which had a strong Irish influence (i.e. most of the US). Joe Biden, for example is of largely Irish descent and commonly associated with the word.
  • Match: Instead of saying "game" as Americans do. As in "I've got to get home to watch the match."
  • Mate: Friend, informal. Can be used generically — the rough equivalent of 'pal' or 'buddy' — or specifically, ie. 'my best mate'.
  • Minge: Brit slang for the female genitalia. Pronounced 'minj', unlike the unrelated terms minging and minger (below) which are pronounced like the Chinese dynasty or "sing" (usually no G sound at all, but sometimes a hard G for southerners).
  • Minging: disgusting, unattractive or distasteful, in England usually applied to women by men - "Eurgh, she's proper minging!". Originally Scots, from the word "ming" meaning an unpleasant smell, and still used there in a more general sense.
    • Minger: Someone who is minging.
  • Muppet: Idiot. Often used in tandem with Shut it, you slag!, when parodying Cockneys. The OED traces the colloquial usage to 1989, with no mention before the introduction of the proper Muppets around 1957.
  • My word!: Milder form of "My God".
  • Naff off!: Clear off!/Go away! Possibly invented by Porridge as a simulation of what prisoners would actually say.
  • Nick: As a verb, can mean steal or arrest. As a noun, means prison. So if you nick something, you'll be nicked, and end up in the nick.
  • Now then: This phrase is interchangeable with "well, look who it is!", "that's interesting", "right, pay attention", and "steady on", depending on context and the way in which the phrase is delivered. More common Oop North.
  • Oi: "Hey", as in "hey, you!". Gained international usage in reference to the Oi! subgenre of Punk Rock, the name drawing on the working class roots of the original London-based scene.
  • Old Bean, Old Fruit, Old Sausage, Old Crumpet, Old Cake, Old Egg, Old Brick: Deliberately silly alternatives to 'Old Chap'.
  • Old china: Cockney term of endearment, from the rhyming slang "china plate" = "mate."
  • Other X are available: Phrase used by The BBC to pre-empt accusations that the strictly-no-advertising public broadcaster is engaged in Product Placement, or more frequently these days, used in satirical contexts to mock the idea that the subject might be Product Placement. The classic version is "Other listing magazines are available", a get-out clause that allows the Beeb to plug the Radio Times.
  • Palaver: Fuss, or, archaically, conversation (comes from a West African word meaning negotiation, probably entered the language via the slave or gold trade). Stereotypically associated with the cliché "What a palaver!", meaning "What a fuss!".
  • Peckish: Mildly hungry, often further qualified with "a bit peckish" or "a mite peckish" to make this more clear. One would not use "peckish" in lieu of "starving" or "famished" unless being sarcastic.
  • Pint: Beer is generally sold by the pint, so "going for a pint" means "going out for a drink." Often, in TV shows that want to avoid Product Placement, a character will go into a pub and simply ask for "a pint." Strangely, the bartender will never respond "of what?" That said, since bar people in real life are so used to people just asking for a pint without being specific, there will often be a default brand as long as they specify the type of product. So "a pint of cider" will usually default to Strongbow, for example.
    • A British pint of any liquid does not equate to a US pint, just to add a little more confusion into the mix. A British pint is 20 fluid ounces, versus 16 for the US pint. The larger imperial units are all affected by this, for example a US quart is 2 US pints and a US gallon is 8 US pints. A British quart and gallon are 2 and 8 British pints, respectively, so all US imperial units from pint upwards are about 80% of the British equivalents.
  • Pip pip, cheerio and all that rot. : "Cheerio" or "Cheers" is still used to mean "goodbye". Cheers is also a minor version of "Thanks", for instance if somebody holds the door if you're walking through it behind them.
  • Pissed: this means drunk rather than angry. However, 'pissed off' means annoyed.
  • Poppycock! Means 'Nonesense!' or 'rubbish!'
  • Porridge: Often given as "Doing Porridge", denoting the person is going through a term of imprisonment.
  • Proper: Term of emphasis. "That's proper good, that is."
  • Pub: The local drinking establishment, short for "Public House".
  • Pull the other one, it's got bells on (often shortened to just "Pull the other one"): You've got to be kidding, you can't expect me to believe that.
  • Quid: Pound coin. Similar to "buck" for a US dollar.
  • Quite, quite! : Yes indeed; exactly.
  • Rather!: Usually used as a stereotypical Upper-Class Twit exclaimation, meaning "Yes please!" or an exclaimation of agreement. Often pronounced 'RA-ther!'
    Care for a spot of tea?
    Oh, rather!
  • Right: Term of emphasis, contraction of "downright". "That's right nasty, that is."
  • Right ho: okay then (also "Righty oh", "rightio").
  • Right you are: Means the same as the above.
  • Sent to Coventry: Being shunned and ignored by co-workers or friends because you've been a pain in the arse.
  • Shag: To....well, "have relations".
    • Interestingly, "shag" is considered a much harsher swear in Britain than in America. In America, nobody had even heard the phrase until Austin Powers and thought little of it. British censors, on the other hand, were not amused.
    • "All shagged out" is quite a common alternative use, meaning tired/knackered.
  • Shite: Like shit, but with an 'e'. Pronounced 'shyte'. Mostly used by Northerners, Irish, and Scots.
  • Slag: Literally, a by-product of the smelting process and slang, a woman or man who's a bit loose, so to speak. (Rarely applied to men, due to differences in standards.)
    • "Slag off" on the other hand means to criticise, with a hint that it may be undeserved. ("Quit slagging off me mam, ya gobshite.")
  • Smashing! : Good, fun.
    • All usage is thought to be derived from the Irish "Is maith é sin", meaning "It is good". It just hung on in Scotland, perhaps because a Scots "smoshan" sounds slightly less stupid than an English "smeshing".
  • Sodding : See above under "bugger", comes from "sodomy". Used in modern times for things that irritate people, like annoying little jobs that need doing. "I had to put more sodding paper in the photocopier", or "Oh, sod it." Perfectly usable before the watershed.
  • Spiffing: Used by posh people to refer to something considered excellent or marvelous; rarely used these days unironically.
  • Spot of tea: The clichéd phrase to express British-ness that has rarely, if ever, been used non-ironically/seriously.
    • "Spot Of" is sometimes used as a diminutive, e.g. "Let's get a spot of lunch".
  • Steady on, old chap : "Go easy" or "slow down a bit", the "old chap" may be omitted.
    • "Go steady" means much the same and doesn't refer to the American usage of "dating somebody".
  • Stiff Upper Lip, and all that: Expression denoting reserve and practicality in the face of trouble. Ironically, the phrase "stiff upper lip" was originally an Americanism.
    • Scots do this too, except without ever referring to it directly, although if pressed will call it "being a trooper".
  • Strewth: From "God's (honest) Truth", a phrase which is possibly British in origin. This is much more associated with Australia and while it will be familiar to most Brits, is not actually in common use in Britain.
    • Note that while the original phrase is used as a (somewhat feeble, if used by the speaker) argument to assert that a previous statement is accurate, the term "strewth" is typically used as an exclamation (particularly to communicate exasperation, though this may vary)
  • Ta: "Thanks" (very informal). Probably derived from the Danish "Tak", and used mainly in Britain (particularly London and the North), though occasionally heard in Ireland and Australia as well. "Ta very much(ly)" is a common rendition. Usually taught to very young children who can't yet wrap their mouths around "thank you" or "thanks". "Say ta." Only one "ta" is used, otherwise it becomes...
  • Ta-ta: "See you later". Usually the two syllables are pronounced differently, the first with a short "a" and the second with a longer one.
  • Taking the piss: Screwing around; joking. Bowdlerized as "taking the mickey".
  • Tally-ho!: "Let's get this show on the road", especially if this show is a hunt of some sort. Also stereotypically used by more upper-class fighter pilots in World War II. This is because "Tally-ho" is an actual hunting-with-dogs term, meaning the quarry has been sighted. The aviation usage is that an enemy plane has been sighted and the pilot is moving to engage.
    • Has been explained as 'til es hault' or somesuch in French as used by the Norman overclass way back. 'He is halted'; meaning the prey hunted has stopped to fight or in exhaustion.
  • Tickity-Boo: Running like a well-oiled machine, it's all fine.
  • That's not cricket: That's not the way things should be done, properly. Often used in applications where the other person is cheating or acting dishonourably rather than outright immorally.
  • Toodle-pip: goodbye. Almost never used in modern times. Deliberately quaint mangling of 'Toodle-oo' and 'Pip-pip'.
  • Tosh: nonsense.
  • Toss(er): "To toss" (or, as per actual use, "to toss off"), as a verb, means "to masturbate"; most consider the term to apply specifically to males.
    • "Tosser" is typically used as an insult meaning much the same thing as "wanker" (see below), though "tosser" is generally considered to be the milder of the two words. Note that its use is not necessarily used literally.
    • Tosspot is an old, unrelated term meaning "drunkard" but has evolved into a slightly gentler form of "tosser" (simply because it sounds sillier). The image invoked is of someone tossing back their pint (presumably of good old-fashioned ale).
  • Twat: Used today mostly to mean idiot, although it is used in its original sense as a name for female genitals, hence its relative strength. Though used in Eagleland, is much more prevalent in the UK, and is notably pronounced to rhyme with 'hat' as opposed to rhyming with 'hot'.
    • "Twat" also means "to hit", probably as a variation on "swat". ("He twatted me across the head!")
  • Wally: An idiot.
  • Wank(er): "To wank" (verb) is "to masturbate". The meaning of "wanker" and its comparison to American "jerkoff" are left as an exercise for the reader. Given that this is a reasonably strong swear word in the UK (not being used before the watershed as a rule), it is particularly entertaining to hear it used casually in US shows, with a similar level of severity as say "sillyhead" or "twit". Example - The Simpsons episode "Trash of the Titans" features two uses of the word and was broadcast at its usual 6pm slot in the UK, causing a rash of complaints and also much falling about with laughter.
    • As a noun, "Wank" refers to a certain masculine fluid. Not to be confused with "a wank" (also a noun), which means a session wherein a person masturbates
    • Seems to be starting to make appearances in US shows in a context that indicates that the speaker knows what it means. For example in the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica, "alone time" on extended Raptor missions has been called wanking. On the other hand that show is heavily Canada-based, so...
    • The collective name for bankers: a wunch.
  • Wang: Slang for penis and a common Chinese surname. Also means 'to throw/put' e.g. 'Wang the kettle on.'
  • Wangle: An archaic phrase referring to getting something done through manipulation and deceiving such as wangling your way out of a sticky situation.
    • Alternative spelling: "wrangle," although originally that spelling meant "to argue."
  • What's all this then?: What a bobby (patrol officer) says upon arriving at the scene of whatever mayhem is occurring. Usually preceded by "All right, all right", "'Ello, 'ello, 'ello" or "Now then, now then."
  • You're nicked, chum: You're under arrest (Or its variant from The Sweeney: "Get yer trousers on — you're nicked!").

Notable users of Stock British Phrases:

Comic Books

  • John Constantine probably uses everything on this list and then some.
  • Jack Frost of The Invisibles.
  • The Fat Slags is a comic strip in Viz about some fat birds who are quite the easy shags.
  • The phrase wangle is often used in the Winker Watson comic strip in The Dandy as the character is a cunning public school boy. Also used in The Beano a story in the first issue was called The Wangles of Granny Green it was about a young boy who dressed up as his Granny so he could live on his own.
  • Wilds End, taking place in the English countryside makes copious use of these. Bloody and bollocks most commonly.
  • Asterix and the Britons naturally has them, even more hilarious in French since they're transcribed literally ("Goodness gracious" becomes "Bonté graçieuse", "Stiff Upper Lip" becomes "Levre superieure rigide", etc.). In the English translation, this was adapted to having every sentence end with ", what?"
  • The Lucky Luke story "The Tenderfoot" features an Unflappable Englishman inheriting a ranch in the U.S. and spouting just about every British phrase you can think of (and even funnier in the English version where Separated by a Common Language comes into play).
  • The Major in the Garth Ennis comic Bloody Mary becomes more British with every sentence he speaks.


  • Sidney James, who was born in South Africa, adopted a Cockney accent when he was acting in the UK and had several Cockney slang terms in the Carry On films, such as "Knickers!", and "Cor, blimey."
  • In Chicken Run, when "chocks away" is yelled, the chocks are revealed to be boxes of Toblerone chocolate.
  • "Sod a dog," indicating an admission of a mistake, is used by Hugh Grant in the film Notting Hill; censored in the American television version. It might be just a bit of silly faux English just for that film.
    • Indeed, it's used so as not to say 'fuck a duck'.
  • In the Harry Potter films, Ron Weasley has adopted "bloody hell" as his catchphrase.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail includes a sketch in which a woman is accused of witchcraft. After a ludicrous test proves her to be a witch, she replies, "It's a fair cop." The line is virtually unintelligible to American audiences.
  • Austin Powers uses a lot of these. Parodied to the hilt in the third movie, where Austin and his father start up a conversation in entirely British jargon, which requires subtitles that eventually degrade into "??????????" as their jargon gets thicker.
  • The Full Monty used "chuffin'" (as in "Chuffin' Nora!") instead of "naff off" to pre-empt the American ratings sensitivity over strong language.
  • Spoofed in Pixels. The UK Prime Minister uses those all the time and the US President has no idea what she's talking about. When he asks her, however, she admits that she doesn't know either.


  • P. G. Wodehouse's light novels were the Trope Maker for several of these. One of his story collections was titled Eggs, Beans and Crumpets, named after the terms by which the characters address each other.
  • In Joe Orton's play Loot (1965) there is a little spin on a stock phrase:
    Truscott: You're fucking nicked, my old beauty.
  • Enid Blyton's characters use "ass" in the sense of a donkey as a synonym for "idiot" a lot, much to the amusement of later generations of readers.
    • Dick and Fanny having "a gay old time" in The Magic Faraway Tree. Recent reprints have replaced Jo, Bessie and Fanny with Joe, Beth and Frannie, and Cousin Dick with Cousin Rick.
    • Other phrases which often appear in Enid Blyton's books are By Jove, Golly, frightfully.
  • "Bob's your uncle" is frequently mocked in Discworld, especially by Carrot, who doesn't exactly understand idioms.
    • "Surely Bjorn Stronginthearm is my uncle." And thereafter, every time 'is your uncle' comes up, it's Stronginthearm, rather than Bob.
    • In Carrot's first appearance, he uses some of the traditional copper phrases in Dwarfish, which are then translated word-for-word in footnotes ("Good day, good day, good day! What is all of this that is going on in this place?").
  • Newt from The Maze Runner Trilogy, likes to use the word "bloody" a whole lot.
  • Redwall: While every species/location is some British stereotype (searats are Cockney and Talk Like a Pirate, moles are Brummie, etc.), the ones who take the cake are Salamandastron's hares (who are, to a buck, Royal Air Force WWII-era pilots), ending every other phrase with "wot wot?".
    • In one case, "a word in your shell-like ear" becomes even funnier as it's addressed to a mouse.

Live-Action TV

  • Friends includes an episode where an acquaintance (Jennifer Coolidge) insists on speaking with a fake British accent. Not only is her speech a bizarre mix of every accent in the UK, but she also uses every stock phrase in the book.
  • "Good evening, all" was used in the introduction to camera of the cosy 1960s police drama Dixon of Dock Green, spoken by the eponymous Constable (later Sergeant) George Dixon (Jack Warner). Each episode ended with another solo piece to camera with the final words "Good night, all".
  • When it comes to the swear words, Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. As British magazine SFX put it:
    "Every time Spike said "bugger" "bollocks" "sod" and "wanker", we felt like Winston Churchill had wandered onto set, humming Rule Britannia and waving a Union Jack."
    • Yes, and why does he do this while the Irish guy speaks Californian, apart from Irish not being cool...
      • Could be Angelus called Rule of Cool on himself ages ago and lost his brogue so English victims would take him seriously, and Angel is doing Californian to fit in.
      • Also because, while James Marsters can more or less do a British accent, David Boreanaz really can't pull off Irish and it's a complete embarrassment when he tries.
      • Angel also spent a good deal more time in California than Spike. He spent the majority of the 20th century there, while Spike by contrast seemed to be all over the place.
        Angel: Wait a minute, I wasn't in Italy during The '50s.
        Spike: Oh, right, guess you weren't. Really missed out.
  • In The Mighty Boosh, "Slag" is one of the Hitcher's favorite insults. He also says "me China" a lot.
  • Jamie Hyneman on MythBusters used "Bob's your uncle" as coda to his description of the function of a pneumatic cannon in the Killer Soda Cup myth. Narrator Robert Lee followed with "So Robert's your mother's brother" in the narration.
  • In Porridge (which is slang for doing time, itself), a classic 1970s sitcom, Ronnie Barker popularised the term "nerk," used as a substitute for "berk" to keep the censors happy (as back then it was a far stronger curse than it is now).
    • They also used (and popularised) "Naff off". The show had to get around the problem of portraying prisoners reasonably convincingly (even though it was a sitcom) but without having them swearing (as it was shown before the 9pm watershed). HRH Princess Anne hit the headlines in the 1970s having told photographers to Naff Off but it is debatable whether this was the actual phrase she used.
  • A humorous variation of "Bob's your uncle" from The Young Ones is "Bob's your auntie's live-in lover".
  • "Evening all" was popularised by Eric Morecambe.
  • The Two Ronnies were extremely fond of stock phrases, as a lot of their sketches hinged on word play and double meanings.
  • In the Leverage episode "The Rashomon Job", the team's "Rashomon"-Style retelling of a job they pulled five years back recalls Sophie's speech as this.


  • The Gershwin song "Stiff Upper Lip" is a compilation of these. It was written for the film adaptation of Wodehouse's A Damsel In Distress; lyricist Ira Gershwin was not only a major fan of Wodehouse but had collaborated with him on a couple of Broadway musicals in the 1920s.
  • Gorillaz. Mostly in their interviews, but if you talk to them on their website, they'll use it.

Newspaper Comics

  • Mac Manc McManx of Get Fuzzy uses these to the point that no one can understand what he's saying.

Tabletop Games


  • In On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, when Daisy discovers her doctor has been hypnotizing her into revealing her past life as an 18th-century Englishwoman, this is how she answers him on the phone:
    "Cheerio! Oh, tally-ho, Doctor! Yes, she gave me the jolly message. Nothing's wrong. After all, what is time? If you miss me in this life, you can catch me in the next, can't one? Eh, what? Well, kippered herring."

Web Original

  • Bakura in Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series tends to speak in these (see the page quote).
    • Considering in the actual 4Kids Entertainment dub "proper", he once broke out into an "Pip-pip cheerio!" in one episode when the voice actor had previously only been nominally British.
    • Yugi randomly started speaking with a British accent in the flashback to episode 6 (in which episode, his voice slipped back to British from the stress of having a harpoon thrown at him):
      Yugi: Bloody 'ell!
      Tristan: Holy bleep on a bleep sandwich!
      Yugi: Oi, mate, did you just frow a bloody 'arpoon at me?
      Mako: Um...I didn't want you to leave—
      Yugi: Shut it you knob'ead! Cor, what a f*ckin' muppet! Bloody 'arpoonin' everythin'! I coulda got done in there! Right in front of me bird! What a fit bird she is! Bloody 'arpoon! What the bloody 'ell you playin' at, you bender? God save the queen and all that palaver! Wanker! Tart! Loo! Fish 'n' chips! Apples and pears! Fanny! 'Arpoon!
      Mako: ...You are one bizarre little man.
      Yami: Bloody hell!
  • Survival of the Fittest version three character Quincy Archer trotted these out fairly regularly. It stuck out because the majority of the characters were of course American.
  • Some of the Brits (Beltane, Hazard, Stopwatch, Mister Mystic, ...) at Whateley Academy in the Whateley Universe will drop one of these once in a while. Hazard tries to sound like she's very upper-class, so she usually only drops one of these when she's so surprised that her accent slips to reveal her lower-class East London origins.
  • Pokey the Penguin has Mr. Nutty, a British snowman who tends to use these quite often.
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-1577-2 is a mysterious entity which uses these incessantly, apparently in an attempt to pretend it's a human Englishman. Pip pip, jolly right.
  • In Homestar Runner, Strong Bad has a tenuous enough grasp of American English at times, and his knowledge of British English seems to begin and end with "cheers", "cheerio", and "nevermind the bullocks" (sic). His attempt to pass himself off as "Constable Anybody" from "the Royal Society for Total Dorks" has him sign off with "Cheers! 'Cause I'm so British!"

Western Animation

  • All the English characters from Strawberry Shortcake (T.N. Honey, the twins Lem and Ada) have dialogue that consists mostly of these.
  • The Transformers franchise, accidentally. "Slag" is their all-purpose swear word (perfect for giant robots) and it often doesn't go over well overseas when 'bots say "Slaggit!" or "Oh, slag!" or "I'm not going out there and getting slagged!" There was even a character named Slag in Transformers: Generation 1. He hasn't been used in quite some time, understandably (and the Transformers: Animated character who shares his design is called Snarl, with a Lampshade Hanging when we heard his name for the first time.) The IDW comic books also lampshaded this, having Arcee inform Slag of what his name meant, inspiring him to change it to Slug.
    • In 2011, there was a kerfuffle over "Spastic", a toy character who has been criticized for sharing a name with an English term for "retarded". Hasbro has decided to rectify the situation by renaming him Over-Run. Initially, they were just not going to release it outside the US, but Hasbro changed their minds when they realized it was fairly common to import American figures for retail.
  • One Treehouse of Horror episode of The Simpsons shows the 1890's Scotland Yard HQ with a sign saying "Our Motto: 'What's All This, Then?'". A Shout-Out to Monty Python's Flying Circus.
  • Nature Cat has the titular character using the term "Tally-ho!" as his catchphrase.
  • Colleen, the English member of the Road Rovers, uses British slang on a regular basis.
  • On Star Trek: Lower Decks, Ensign Rutherford accidentally accesses a hidden switch on his implant that lets him cycle through various modes, one of which gives him a Cockney accent.
    "'Ello. Chim-chimurri. What's all this, then?"

Video Games

  • When you are arrested in Grand Theft Auto: London 1969, the police say "You're Nicked!" This appears on screen instead of "Busted!" When you die, it's "You're Brown Bread!" (Cockney Rhyming slang for dead).
    • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has the Clucking Bell (rhyming slang for "fucking hell").
    • Sometimes, when you hit a certain pedestrian's car in Grand Theft Auto IV and cause it to crash, the driver comes out and yells "Oh you bloody idiot!"
  • During the first flashback in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, Harry Flynn says "Bob's your uncle" after describing the plan to steal an oil lamp from the Istanbul Museum.
  • Unsurprisingly, seeing as it was translated and had the voices provided in England, all of the main party characters in Dragon Quest VIII have British accents (ranging from Angelo's posh uppercrust speech, through Jessica's slightly more worldly but still classy speech, to Yangus's Cockney accent) and use a fair number of these Stock Phrases. Yangus is particularly prone to just about every cliche in the book. (He also mangles his attempts at a high-flown vocabulary, but that's another trope.)
  • The Penguin's East End accent in Batman: Arkham City allows him free usage of a few of these terms, including calling Bats "wanker".
  • The Robot Sergeant from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fast Forward is fond of the collective phrase "'Ullo, 'ullo, wot's dis den?"
  • Tons of these are used in Fable. Mostly just the word "arse."
  • Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare had plenty of these thrown around (which is justified since it proclaims Britain and the U.S. working against Russia and Qurac). For example, right at the very beginning of the game, a coworker tells you you've done a "proper good job, mate!"
  • 'Berk' is an Outer Planes expression for an inexperienced traveler, appearing frequently in Planescape: Torment and occasionally in Neverwinter Nights.
  • Dragon Age: Origins: Since Ferelden is Fantasy!England some of these do tend to show up, frequently 'sod' and 'blighter' (though due to the Blight that last one has a different meaning in Thedas).
  • In the American release of Tomba! 2: The Evil Swine Return, when being given something, the character who gives it to you says "I've only got one of the little buggers". In the UK release of Tombi! 2, this was changed to "one of the little guys".
  • The page image for Quintessential British Gentleman is the titular character of Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure. The dialogue is text based and strewn with this, but it's notable in that the voices, which are Speaking Simlish, have stock British phrases as the only audible parts, though mostly with the protagonist. His use of "Good Show!" is rather iconic, and is used on the title screen and right before he transforms into a Humongous Mecha (which, for some reason, has him drinking Tea with nobles.
  • Lots of these phrases can be heard in the English dubs of Xenoblade Chronicles 1 and The Last Story. Not at all surprising, as both were dubbed by British voice actors for a strictly European release before the US release got the same dubs.
  • In Guild of Dungeoneering, the "Cuppa" off-hand is a cup of tea that replicates the Apprentice's "Flame Strike" spell, probably by letting you throw hot tea in enemies faces.
  • Pokémon Sword and Shield, being set in a Fantasy Counterpart Culture to England, has fun with these. At one point a policeman challenging you to battle asks "'Ello 'ello! Wot's all this then? Fancy a scrap with a copper?", and frequent references are made to having a cuppa.
  • The Witcher games frequently use the more vulgar ones from the list. They're also quite fond of "ploughing" which, aside from the metaphor, does not typically refer to farm work.