Britpick English Vocabulary
For every fanfic writer who has English characters or sets their stories in modern day Britain, this may help you in your writing.
There is a whole dictionary of British words that may seem
baffling to non-native speakers (and I include Americans in here, LOL). On the
other hand, some of these may well be in use in the USA and elsewhere, but they
are English in origin. To help translate and to give you some tips about how to
make your fanfiction set in England or using English characters more authentic,
I offer the following words from M to Z:
worthless, dirty and unpleasant
Brits call a phone, not “cell”
of Transport, now used only to refer to the annual car inspection that it has
pass in order to stay on the road as licenced. Then you pay the car tax on top.
tacky, unfashionable. “Naff off” is a slightly less rude way of
saying “piss off” or go away.
an American calls a diaper.
to influence or thwart by dishonest, underhand or illegal means; to steal
an American calls “normalcy”
Off you go Go
away and get down to work. Not rude.
uncouth or obnoxious individual
On the back foot
Defensive, put under pressure; derived from the game of cricket
Outwith A Scottish word that means beyond or outside.
certificate given when employment is terminated. “Handed my p45”
Page 3 Risqué,
refers to the bare-breasted models who used to be on page 3 of the Sun
Brits put into their car engines (not “gas”); well, not if it’s
diesel, but you get the idea.
refer to the field on which football or cricket is played. “Get onto the
Ponce/ponce about/poncy Ponce is Victorian word for a man who lives off a woman’s earnings (”kept man”), then it became a synonym for a pimp. Ponce about is to behave in an affective or ineffectual way. Poncey means pretentious or affected. Three different words and usage, so be careful to pick the right one.
bad. Honk is a synonym; “You honk” means you’re offensively smelly.
“You’re telling porkies”.
“Port Outbound, Starboard Homebound” The side of the ship with the
most expensive cabins. Now just used to mean a person, place or thing that is
classy, fancy, expensive. Associated with upper-class Brits.
Indian origin; in Hindi it means
“cooked; ripe”; now generally used to describe something that is
legitimate, good, genuine, for real.
hot, sexy. You can see how Brits would react if an American bloke introduced
himself as “Hi, I’m Randy” which actually happened to me when my
sister brought her latest boyfriend around to meet me.
poor quality; “good money for old rope”.
Americans call GPS.
Send to Coventry To
ostracise, ignore, avoid their company, treat as if they didn’t exist. Thought
to originate from the English Civil War, where Royalist troops that surrendered
were sent to the West Midlands town of Coventry to be imprisoned.
disorganised, mismanaged; relating to “shambles” which is the noun
form. Some medieval English cities had a poor quarter known as The Shambles,
some of which still survive as tourist areas- York and Brighton, for example.
an American would call a dumpster.
Rumble strips, speed humps/bumps to slow car traffic.
underwear: pants, vest.
Sticky wicket Difficult
circumstances; originates from Cricket, where the wicket is damp, making the
bounce of the ball awkward and batting therefore unpredictable.
tempered and argumentative
Suck it and see When
you try something new and you don’t know whether you will like it; originates
with British boiled sweet (candy) flavours that you’ve not had before.
or peevishly sensitive
Throw a wobbly
Become very angry or upset
who masturbates a lot; a wanker
this one is like “while”; same meaning, but Brits use whilst a lot
more than while when it is used as a conjunction or an adverb. “John made
the tea whilst Sherlock sulked on the sofa.”
in a persistent and irritating manner.
collection of money made for a good cause; “Sally had a whip-round the
office to be able to buy Lestrade a decent retirement present.”
chatter or babble aimlessly and continuously about nothing important
long time. May have originated from “donkey’s years” or an amalgam of
years/months/weeks. First seen in print in the 1960s.
Zebra crossing Pedestrian
crosswalk. Not pronounced “zeeebra” but rather “zehbra”
If you’ve run across any other words in a story set in
Britain or with English characters that made you raise an eyebrow in confusion,
do tell me and I will add it to the list.