Understanding the English language fully can be a struggle, there are so many weird and wonderful ways of saying things without directly saying them, making for a truly confusing experience when trying to listen and take part in conversations.
This is taken to a whole new level when factoring in different places around the world that have their own vocabulary of slang to help describe things. Today we will look at a few popular sayings in the UK which might help you understand your British friend or even impress them with your new knowledge!
Cockney Rhyming Slang
Rhyming slang originated in London in the early 19th century, thought to be used to outsmart police. It has since made its way into common vocabulary over the years, and some of it is used quite regularly today!
Before we get started, imagine traveling to London and going to an ATM only to be faced with these options. Can you guess what they mean? Find out at the end of this post. And yes before you ask, according to this BBC article, there are actually ATMs in London that offer ‘cockney slang’ as a language!
By Cory Doctorow – https://www.flickr.com/photos/doctorow/12254374885/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=103653230
By Cory Doctorow – https://www.flickr.com/photos/doctorow/12254540373/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=103653475
Okay, let’s get started and take a look at some of the most useful English slang to learn first.
Pork pie means to lie, for instance, “Mary, are you telling a pork pie?!” As you can see, the word pie rhymes with a lie, but there are also different ways of saying this “Mary, have you been telling porkies”.
Taking The Mickey
Taking the mick or mickey means to make fun of someone and is a rhyming slang that evolved from another rhyming slang.. I don’t blame you for leaving now haha! In a sentence, it sounds like this “Hey Mary, are you taking the mickey out of me!?”
The form it evolved from is used equally as much but is less friendly “taking the piss”, is often used in more hostile situations, whereas “taking the mickey” is much more common to be used between friends.
Pig’s ear can mean to make a mess of something, for instance, “You’re making a right pig’s ear of dinner” can be said if someone is bad at cooking and is ruining dinner, or “You’ve made one hell of a pig’s ear out of painting that room”.
To take a look at something, it is said most commonly as just butchers for instance “Hey Mary, let’s have a butcher at your new phone!”.
You can also replace ‘butchers’ with ‘gander’ this has the same meaning, but its origin comes from the term ‘Goose & Gander’ referring to a female goose, and to take a look at something and move your neck like a goose.
Slang for knackered, which means tired, so you could say “Sorry Mary I can’t make it tonight, I’m absolutely cream-crackered”
Okay now we’ve got some basic English slang covered, let’s move on to some even silly ones, some of these are less commonly used, but they really give you an idea of just how weird and wonderful the world of British English slang can be!
Meaning disordered, this one is a great one to say as it sounds like the thing it means, and it’s also just fun to say! For instance, if your suitcase isn’t organised and you just stuffed everything into it, you could say “your suitcase is all higgledy piggledy”.
Maybe you can guess this one. It means a fart, again with this one it’s just a simple rhyme with a tart, but commonly when spoken, you only say raspberry for instance “Mary, did you just blow a raspberry?!”.
Meaning very small, famous for its use in the classic kids’ nursery rhyme ‘the itsy-bitsy spider’. When used in a sentence it could sound like this “I’m starving, I only had an itsy bitsy piece of toast for breakfast”.
Now that you have a few insights into how cockney rhyming slang works, take a look at the pictures of the ATM again and see if you can guess what the options are?
Well, how did you do? Okay here are the answers:
Some moola for ya sky rocket? : Some money for your pocket?
Ya rattle and tank balance? : Your bank balance?
Sausage & mash : Cash
Charlie Sheen : Screen
Dog & bone : Phone
Okay now you’ve learned some ‘sure to impress’ British slang, go out and practice them! If you can master some of these, you will start sounding like a local in no time!
If you haven’t already, check out some English-speaking TV shows that will help with your listening skills.