Learning to Speak English – The Seven Strangest British Sayings

You’ve probably heard the famous George Bernard Shaw quote about America and Britain being “two nations divided by a common language”. Everyone knows the common terminology differences like trunk/boot, elevator/lift, truck/lorry, etc. But after working in the UK for four months, I’ve collected some that you probably haven’t heard – sayings that are commonplace over here but sound genuinely bizarre to my unrefined American ears. 

So, without further ado, here’s my list of the seven strangest things I’ve actually heard people say while living in England:

  1. cock-a-hoop – overjoyed, ecstatic, as in “She’s all cock-a-hoop about that new car”.
  2. faff – fool around, waste time, as in “Stop your faffing about!”.
  3. Bob’s Your Uncle – there you go, there you have it, as in “Take exit 4, turn left and Bob’s Your Uncle!”
  4. donkey’s years – a long time, as in “I haven’t played cricket in donkey’s years”
  5. having kittens – feeling nervous or concerned
  6. trundle – to ride a bicycle
  7. teaching your granny to suck eggs – telling you something you already know

In the interest of cultural exchange, feel free to suggest your favorite Britism (or Americanism) in the blog comments below. But enough faffing about – I’m all cock-a-hoop over today’s weather and it’s been donkey’s years since I’ve had a trundle. Cheerio!

2 thoughts on “Learning to Speak English – The Seven Strangest British Sayings”

  1. Geordie saying (Northern English)

    He/She’s like one-o-clock half struck.
    A face that would spyen a coo. (Turn a calf off its milk)
    There’s a rabbit off. “Something wrong”

  2. The American greeting “What’s up?” is the worst for me. I can’t help but interpret it as “what’s wrong?” As such, I never know how to answer.

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