Best Guesses At British Phrases by The Thought Card

During my recent trip to England, I spent some time traveling around the country and one thing has me stumped. I’m still trying to figure out the meaning of British phrases and slang. An “avon” was a “river”, a “till” was “cash register” and a “lorry” was a “truck”.


Can you say that again?

Okay…one more time?

I can laugh about it now, but accents aside, I had a hard time understanding a lot of British phrases and slang words. Although we were technically speaking the same language, it didn’t always sound like it. Silly me for thinking that an “avon” was a “lovely garden”.

No worries though because besides my awful pronunciation, there are plenty of other things that you shouldn’t do when visiting the United Kingdom.

Since I’m not the only person that gets confused by British phrases, I asked a few non-British travel bloggers to join me in sharing their best guesses at British phrases.

The only catch was that 1) we couldn’t use Google, and 2) we had to share the first thing that came to mind.

So these are our best guesses and hilarious interpretations – game show style!

Imagine a loud buzzer flashing an [X] if we guess incorrectly and cheer us on if we know what the heck is going on!


1. Butchers

“Come and have a butchers at this.” by Anna from Would Be Traveller

“Come and try this out.” best guess by Danielle from The Thought Card

“Butchers” = “Have a look” 



2. Apples and Pears

“Get up the apples and pears.” by Fern from The Salty Fern

“Grow a pair!” “Be a man!” best guess by Tryphena from WEDONTSITONCOUCHES

“Apples and pears” =  “Stairs”



3. Sloshed

“He’s completely sloshed.” by Anna from Would Be Traveller

“He’s completely wasted (alcohol).” best guess by Danielle from The Thought Card

“Sloshed” = “Had a lot to drink” 



4. Bob’s Your Uncle

“Your bags are packed, you’ve locked up the house, the taxi is on its way, and Bob’s your uncle!” by Tracie from Tracie Travels

“You’ve done everything you could possibly do, now let’s go!” best guess by Asia from Navigable World 

“Bob’s your uncle” = “And there you have it”



5. Knackered

“I’m feeling really knackered from such a long day.” by Natasha from The World Pursuit

“I feel like getting hammered (alcohol) after such a long day.” best guest by Asia from Navigable World

“Knackered” = “I’m tired”



6. Faffing

“Could you please stop faffing and get your work done?” by Fern from The Salty Fern

“Could you please stop talking so much and get your work done?” best guess by Asia from Navigable World

“Faffing” = “Fussing or doing something unnecessary” 



7. A Bit Dear

“I love this jumper, but it’s a bit dear.” by Carol from Writeful Mind

“I love this jumper but I think it is a bit too much. It doesn’t suit you.” best guess by Shayan and Kanika from Dose of Life

“A bit dear” = “Expensive”



8. Smart

“You look very smart for your interview.” by Carol from Writeful Mind

“You look good. It could also mean you look very put together.” best guess by Shayan and Kanika from Dose of Life

“Smart” = “You’re dressed very nicely for your interview”



9. Lost the Plot

“Have you lost the plot?” by Kylie from Between England and Iowa

“Do you know what is going on?” best guess by Patti from The Savvy Globetrotter

“Lost the plot” = “Gone crazy” 



10. Brass Monkeys

“It’s brass monkeys outside!” by Kylie from Between England and Iowa

“It’s cold outside!” best guess by Patti from The Savvy Globetrotter

“Brass monkey’s” = “Extremely cold weather”



11. Up the Duff

“Our Karen’s up the duff y’know?” by Danielle from Geek Girl Goes

“Our Karen‘s in a bad mood.” best guess by Patti from The Savvy Globetrotter

“Up the duff” = “Pregnant”



12. Chalk and Cheese

“She and I are like chalk and cheese.” by Robert from Soundtrack Of A Photograph

{Considering these two have nothing in common} “She and I are nothing alike.” best guess by Shayan and Kanika from Dose of Life

“Chalk and cheese” = “Different”



13. Scoobie

Tourist: “Excuse me, could you tell me where Edinburgh Castle is?”
Scot: “Sorry pal, don’t have a scoobie!” by Gemma from Two Scots Abroad

“Don’t have an idea. No clue!” best guess by Shayan and Kanika from Dose of Life

“Don’t have a scoobie” = “I can’t help you/ I don’t know/ I don’t have a clue.”



14. Language Timothy

“Language Timothy!” by Fern from The Salty Fern

“Seems like a scolding of someone using bad language.” best guess by Tryphena from WEDONTSITONCOUCHES

“Language Timothy” = “Watch your language” 



15. Tough Boobies 

“Tough boobies.” by Fern from The Salty Fern

{HA! Ummm…} “Too bad?” best guess by Tryphena from WEDONTSITONCOUCHES

“Tough boobies” = “Tough luck” 



16. Booble

“Do you have a bobble I can borrow, my hair is in my face.” by Fern from The Salty Fern

“A bobble is a hair tie…{I think}” best guess by Tryphena from WEDONTSITONCOUCHES

“Bobble” = “Hair tie”


Share YOUR favorite British phrases!

28 replies
  1. Trevor says:

    “Brass monkeys” means bloody cold and is a shortening of the Cockney (London) for the expression “cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey”. A similar phrase os “cold enough to freeze a pawnbroker’s balls off” (the sign outside pawnbrokers’ shops in Britain are three spheres arranged as a triangle).

    “Having a butchers” is short for a butcher’s hook ( Cockney rhyming slang for having a look).

    “Bobby” means a bobby pin used to fix a lady’s her in a bob style.

    “Faffing about is polite version of “farting about ( i.e. aimlessly or uselessly).

  2. Rosie says:

    I love how even English speakers technically speak the same language, yet there are so many differences! I’m teaching English in France at the moment and included an activity on British and American slang last week, which was pretty entertaining – a couple of my favourite words/expressions are “chinwag” (a chat) and “yonks” (ages/a long time). I use knackered (and a synonym: whacked) quite frequently, along with a fair number of the examples you listed above. When I was in America I found it strange asking for the “cheque” and seeing trousers branded as “pants” in clothes shops.

  3. ilive4travel says:

    Great to read as a brit, it seems weird that someone would not understand what we are saying!! Knackered is something I say all the time, would never think that someone wouldn’t understand me!!

  4. mags says:

    I knew most of this from having so many English friends and coworkers, but I’m stilled surprised by a few. I just recently learned that a “flannel” was a wash cloth.

    • The Thought Card says:

      Mags, I would have no idea that a flannel is a wash cloth — I immediately thought of a shirt for some reason haha!

  5. Sally says:

    I have some lovely friends (mates) in East London, and every time I left their houses, they used to say ‘mind how you go.’ I guess it was like ‘take care.’ Also the word ‘pissed’ meant extremely drunk, as opposed to the American ‘very angry’. Chips for french fries and biscuits for cookies. Missing England! Thanks for this walk down memory lane. Love these language differences!

  6. Suzanne (PhilaTravelGirl) says:

    I heard many not all of these – I guess it depends on where in UK

    My friends and colleagues in London used these sayings a lot

    “The weather is pants” or someone says “pants” always makes me laugh
    “Taking the piss” need to make sure it’s “the” and not “a” as different meanings

  7. Corinne L Simpson says:

    Haha! As a Brit, I was half thinking “how could people not know what that means?”, and half thinking “I haven’t even heard of that!”. I think a lot of it comes down to local dialect. I’m from the South, and we have completely different words for things than in the North. I used to work in a cafe and Northerners would come in asking for things like “cobs” and “baps” and I’d have no idea what they were asking for… they wanted a bread roll!

  8. shobha42016 says:

    I’ve heard of most of these in regular conversation. I think apples and pears is less common because it is cockney rhyming slang.

  9. 2traveldads says:

    Um, that’s hilarious. I am for sure going to start using “up the apples and pears.” My kids will learn to use that too.

  10. Curious Claire says:

    Haha as an English girl I loved this! I understand why some confuse people but others are just so normal to me it’s weird that people don’t know what it means. I assumed everyone knew what knackered and up the duff was! haha

    • The Thought Card says:

      First time I heard knackered and up the duff was during this post. I’m going to start using both – has a ring to it!

  11. Robert Doyle says:

    I knew some of these (not counting my own contribution) but never heard of several of them! You should do a reverse post with some bloggers not from here and some American phrases and slang words! Thanks for letting me be a part of this Danielle!


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