A Guide to British English: What the British Say, and What they Really Mean

I was asked to give Saudi students travelling to the U.K some orientation training, and instead of simply handing them the above list, which I feel is more appropriate if you are in a business/work context, I would make use of my own experiences at uni in London.

The first few days I spent running around doing the things freshers do: registration, trying to find classes, and auditoriums, a place to sit in the cafeteria, etc. I found most of the students were quite friendly, and was setlling in fast, there was just one problem: Every time I met someone and said ‘Hi!’ the ‘ Hi!” would be returned accompanied by an “Are you alrght?” “You alright?

Now the first time, although I was slightly taken aback, by being asked whether I was alright, I’d been rushing to make it to class- so I probably did look a bit flustered. As I continued to get the ‘You alright” thrown at me, I actually went to the ladies’ and gave myself a quick once over, IMHO I didn’t look like I’d been struck by lightning or run over by a bus. I reapplied my Body Shop Strawberry lipbalm, pinched my cheeks, I tend to look pale in the cold, and returned to class. As the day progressed the ‘You alright’ s didn’t cease. Exasperated, I finally yelled at asked someone: ” I’m fine! Why does everyone keep asking me that-do I look that bad?!’

The poor girl, eyes widened, said that she was just being polite..looking at the incredulous look on my face ..she asked ‘Don’t you ask someone when you meet them how they are?’

It started to dawn on me that You alright? =  How are you?    

Now, why wasn’t that in the Freshers’ handbook? Over the next few weeks I discovered other international students, and American students who’d been through the same thing, and being self-conscious freshers had ended up feeling far from alright!

Other terms you might like to keep a note of:

Uni= university -US-school
Read – If someone asks you what you read at university, they mean what was your major at school
Halls= Dorms
Duvet – Most Brits have dispensed with blankets and sheets and now sleep under a duvet. It is similar to a comforter but has a removable cover that can be washed. Duvet’s warmth is measured in togs, 2 or 3 togs for summer duvets and 11 or more for winter ones.
Wicked= Great
Smashing = Terrific
Pants= is short for Underpants not Trousers…
Cheers=Thanks..sometimes G’bye
Quid = A pound in money is called a quid.
Luv, Hun, Ducky= Habibti 🙂
Arse =It basically means the same as ass, but is much ruder. It is used in phrases like “pain in the arse” (a nuisance) or I “can’t be arsed” (I can’t be bothered) or you might hear something was “a half arsed attempt” meaning that it was not done properly.
Bollocks= Not good/Rubbish..
Gutted=Really upset
Naff = Uncool. 
Nosh/Grub= Food
Waffle= To waffle means to talk on and on about nothing
Quite = When used alone, this word means the same as absolutely!
Pear shaped= If something has gone pear shaped it means it has become a disaster. .
Chips – French Fries
Crisps– Chips- Lays etc
Doner – Short for a doner kebab- abit like a Shawerma but ususally the Turkish version
Lemonade – Lemonade in England is a clear, sparkling, lemon flavoured drink  Seven-up and sprite would both qualify as lemonade in England.
Jacket potato – Baked potato 
99 – When you visit England, go up to the ice cream van and ask for a 99. You will get a cone filled with soft ice cream and a Cadbury’s flake – a long crumbly stick of chocolate
White goods – When you visit a British store that sells things for the home you will find a section for white goods. These are the electrical appliances that you have in your kitchen or utility room like fridges, freezers, washing machines and driers. The name is cunningly derived from their colour!

I’ll leave you with this flashback from the nineties, East 17’s It’s alright 🙂

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