My American friends are always confused by these
When I’m out with a group of friends that include Brits and Americans, you can guarantee that the Americans will be baffled by at least one phrase we Brits will use.
In a way, it’s quite odd. We all speak English, yet we often don’t understand each other. It’s not just non-English speakers that have trouble understanding what we Brits are talking about.
Here are 9 phrases that have baffled my American friends recently.
#1 — I’m pissed
This doesn’t happen too often (thankfully), but it happened a few weeks ago. We were out celebrating a friend’s birthday. Some of our group overdid it with the alcohol. One guy, in particular, had had far too much. He said, “I’m pissed”.
To Americans, being pissed means you’re irritated or angry. As we’d had a great night up until then, one of the Americans thought the guy was angry about something and couldn’t understand why he was angry. But he wasn’t. I’m pissed means I’m drunk to British people. Big difference.
If a Brit was irritated or angry they’d say they were pissed off.
#2 — Taking the piss
Taking the piss out of someone means to mock them or make fun of them. This is a very common phrase in the UK. If you spend a lot of time there you’ll hear this quite often.
You may also hear people say Taking the Mickey, Taking the Mick, or Taking the Michael. All of these have the same meaning. Why Mickey? It’s from Cockney rhyming slang — Taking the Michael Bliss — Taking the piss. Piss rhymes with bliss. Maybe I’ll write an article on Cockney rhyming slang, as it’s pretty fascinating.
Taking the piss should not be confused with taking a piss, which means to urinate.
#3 — I’m gobsmacked
Being gobsmacked means to be utterly shocked, astonished, or astounded. In other words, you’re so shocked that you cannot speak. Gob is slang for mouth. Gobsmacked literally means smacked in the mouth.
If someone is annoying you with what they are saying, you might tell them to shut their gob. This was quite a popular phrase when I was in primary school.
#4 — Have a chinwag
I have a friend that uses this phrase quite often. She lives far away from me, so we usually communicate via Facebook. But she likes to talk so prefers to speak on the phone rather than text. She will often say… I’ll call you later for a real chinwag.
A chinwag is a long conversation about nothing in particular. It’s just chit-chat. Literally, your chin is wagging. I spoke to her for a couple of hours a few weeks ago. My wife asked what we talked about. But even after those two hours of chatting, there was hardly anything I could point to. It was just a lot of trivialities.
#5 — Have a fag
To have a fag means to have a cigarette. You don’t hear this very often these days as smoking is less prevalent in the UK.
When I worked in an office, the smokers were always going for a fag.
#6 — I’ll give you a ring
Women, if you’ve just met the man of your dreams and he tells you he’s going to give you a ring, don’t get too excited. No, he’s not about to propose and get an engagement ring out of his pocket.
To give someone a ring means to phone them. The phone goes… ring, ring. Well, at least it used to in the old days.
#7 — I’m a bit miffed
I’m a bit miffed means that I’m mildly annoyed. It’s not as strong as being pissed off.
Suppose you went on a date and got on well. You expected the other person to call you, but they didn’t. You’d likely be a bit miffed.
#8 — Everything’s hunky-dory
Hunky-dory means that everything is great and going according to plan. It’s fine, it’s ok.
Suppose you start a new job and your friend asks how it’s going. If it’s going as well as you expected, you might reply that everything’s hunky-dory.
Not to be confused with the great album by David Bowie.
#9 — It’s all gone a bit Pete
This one was more prevalent a few years ago, but is falling out of use a little. This is another example of Cockney rhyming slang. The Pete it’s referring to is Pete Tong, a famous British DJ. What rhymes with Tong? Wrong.
It’s all gone a bit Pete.
It’s all one a bit Pete Tong.
It’s all gone wrong.
You’d say this if something you were working on suddenly fell apart.
How’s that project you’ve been working on going? It’s all gone a bit Pete.
There are plenty more phrases like the above that Americans are baffled by. I’ll try to think of another bunch if you’re interested.
If you have your own favorite British phrases, let me know in the comments.