It doesn’t matter how much time your English teachers at school spend explaining the differences between American and British spelling or how often they tell you to pronounce privacy (with a short “i”) instead of priiiiiivacy. With American TV-Series, books and adverts abound, most non-native English speakers will likely end up with American vocabulary and a ‘weird’ accent.
There is not much you can do about the accent, only practice – my tip: listen to the BBC and you’ll get it eventually.
As far as vocabulary goes, here are some very useful tips:
– a biscuit is a biscuit, not a cookie
– something goes in the bin, not in the trash
– don’t use “awesome” too often
– and most important: don’t finish your sentences with “Dude!”
In addition to that, here are some great, funny and very British expressions, which will help demonstrate your grasp of Her Majesty’s English and earn you respect with her subjects:
“Wonky” is used to describe something that is crooked or not straight, e.g. he has a wonky nose, that shelf is wonky.
It might look, like someone just made this up or drunk-texted it, but the word dates back to the 18th century, meaning astonished. How flabbergasting!
Not a rival to a popular chocolate bar, but a rather cute way to describe ladies’ undergarments.
This is really confusing for people who visit the UK for the first time, as it’s not only used as a toast when raising one’s glass “Cheers!” but can also be used to thank someone, to end a conversation or simply to say goodbye.
Rubbish – noun & adjective
“Rubbish” is another very useful word that may be used in a lot of different situations. As a noun it can simply refer to litter, which belongs in the bin, not trash (see above). Similarly it can be used as an adjective to describe something or someone (not very nice!) as being poor, worthless, very bad or worse… e.g. “His new song is rubbish!”
A funny expression I found online along with this humorous description: “The invisible substance emitted by anything awesome, inherently making itself, and anything it covers, awesome.”
Please see warning notes re frequent usage of “awesome” above. “Awesome sauce” on the other hand, is safe and can’t be said often enough.
Shenanigans or Malarkey
“Shenanigans” was one of my favourite words long before I even knew what it meant, namely nonsense. As it turns out there is a wealth of words on offer to paraphrase “humbug” including another favourite of mine “Malarkey”.
knackered – adjective
Another great word that reminds me a lot of “knickers” (although there is no relationship to my knowledge) – it’s a quintessentially British way of describing that something or someone is extremely tired or worn out.
If you’re bored of calling your better half “my dear” or you simply like to stand out from the crowd, you should definitely go with “snookums” – defined by the Urban Dictionary as an endearing nickname, often with a gentle note of sarcasm or humour – also a small blue dinosaur from Moshi Monsters….
We hope you have enjoyed Clara’s journey through Her Majesty’s English and will find use for some of the words and expressions – which will have you sounding more British than 007 in a jiffy.
Join us again next time for more of our favourite foreign words and expressions!
Next up: French