After 15 years of marriage, The Boffin and I still cross our communication signals like all couples do. We join the Mutual Irritation Society over my mumbling. It’s simple. I mumble to myself to process my thoughts. He automatically assumes something is wrong and asks if I am OK. I get annoyed that he assumes that I am angry yet again. He gets annoyed that I am annoyed that he is looking out for my welfare.
And so it goes.
When it happened yet again this morning, we knew it was a blog post. The Boffin said, to him, it’s an environmental thing. Where he grew up, muttering to yourself meant that you were angry, and he can’t escape that social conditioning.
There is a popular Twitter account called Very British Problems that has even turned into a TV show. It discusses the stages of anger.
Rising stages of anger:
Slightly put out
The Boffin thinks that needs to be compressed a bit.
In order to severity:
1) Look everywhere else but at the person
2) Shake your head slowly, outside of their peripheral vision
5) Stare aggressively at the back of the offender’s head
6) Invade the offender’s 2ft personal space radius
7) Engage them in polite conversation. Persist until they leave.
I can’t help but think his being in America so long has him resorting to the nuclear option of engaging in polite conversation. And I am not sure where writing letters falls into this.
Regardless, back to our marriage, he knows when I am truly angry because I am a slow burner who goes silent. I can control my temper very well, and someone can intervene to keep me calm and reason with me when I am on the edge.
But when I go…well, as far as having a “fight or flight” impulse, The Boffin has stated that there is not much flight in me. I mostly have “grenade or baseball bat”. Let me put it this way, whenever I take a The Big Lebowski personality quiz, Walter Sobchak always shows up.
It is a case of my husband knowing my true personality vs. a conditioned response.
Some will say we are perpetuating stereotypes by proposing this idea. It is a valid comment. Of course, not all Britons mumble when they are angry and not all Britons would interpret mumbling as anger.
However, we are also talking about communication and how society agrees on what gestures and actions mean. Verbal language is hard enough, and we have dictionaries and other reference materials as guides. The Boffin is not the first British person who has interpreted my mumbling as “She’s in a strop,” which is something I have never encountered on this side of the Pond. My mumbling has been interpreted as confusion over here, which is a different stereotype altogether.
So I can only give you my narrow experience with this, and I know it is not definitive. It would be interesting to hear how others have had their actions interpreted internationally.
Strong Language is a blog that help you rationalize your filthy mouth because it adds an intellectual bent to it. If you want to dig deeper in the history and the hows and whys of the art of swearing, this is the place to go. Enjoy!
Shit has been with us an awfully long time—it appears in Old English as scitan—yet we can’t seem to agree on the past tense of the verb. Is it shit? Shat? Shitted?
My theory for why we haven’t settled this issue has partly to do with its ‑it ending, which, based on similar verbs in English, can get pulled in several different directions as we try to derive a past form. And because shit is vulgar, we generally use it less often than other verbs ending in ‑it.
Not exhaustive, obviously, but an example showing the relative frequency of English verbs that SHIT might emulate.
So rather than having a past tense at the ready, maybe we build it on the go, by analogy:
I thought I would connect two nouns with a conjunction for today’s round of British expressions that should come Stateside.
1. Done and Dusted – the state of being completed including the finishing details. This one is especially good if you live with someone who will move items and not take the opportunity to dust while the opportunity presents itself. Then you can present the case of making things done and dusted, right, Boffin? (Cough, cough)
2. As Different as Chalk and Cheese – being superficially alike but radically different underneath. The idea is that chalk resembles some cheeses as far as it is white and crumbly, but can be abrasive and lacks the appeal that cheese provides. Donald Trump and his gardener are as different as chalk and cheese.
3. Bits and Bobs – assorted stuff. “My mum has bits and bobs around her house. My dad has bits of Bob around his house. The police are investigating.”
4. Arse over Tit – falling or tumbling over – “I was so drunk I fell arse over tit.” I always wanted an art critic to work this expression into a description of a Picasso painting. “One can see the ethereal qualities of the milkmaid’s arse over her tit.” A woman can dream.
5. At Sixes and Sevens – a state confusion or pandemonium. Here we go, being discriminatory against two perfectly good numbers. What is so confusing about being at sixes or sevens? The sixes and sevens serve nice cups of tea, have a lovely selection of biscuits, and talk about interesting things like books and current events. I, personally, find it rather befuddling hanging out at the eights, thank you very much. They smell funny and drone on about this odd connection between global warming and the migrant bat population of Uzbekistan.
6. Hundreds-and-Thousands – nonpareils, i.e. spherical sprinkles. They are so called because it is impossible to count them. According to the Boffin, you would put them on ice cream or on a trifle for a kids’ treat. Just a few spots of color can make a dessert cheerier.
7. Twig and Berries – penis and testicles – Heard in an Austin Powers movie, this expression needs to be included to check off the genitalia requirement for top 10 lists. It also sounds like an adult breakfast cereal. (Made you hungry, didn’t I?) There is also a juice line in the United States. Don’t ask me what’s in it, and I don’t want to find out.
8. Short and Curlies – pubic hair – You use this one when somebody is in a compromising position. “He’s got him by the short and curlies.” I have heard somebody misuse the word literally with this expression. I could only assume there was manscaping going on.
9. All Piss and Wind – all talk and no action. I was going to include the synonymous all mouth and no trousers. But the Boffin explained that it is a sexist expression stemming back to a time when men made the decisions, hence being without trousers if they were ineffectual. The men, not the trousers. Although trousers are not effective, if no one wears them. But I have no issues with unworn trousers. They can’t control whether someone puts them on. The issue is the sexism. All piss and wind, it is. Leave the trousers alone. Unless you want to wear them. But it’s a moot point anyway, since there are no trousers.
10. Belt and Braces – being very cautious – Braces in the U.K. are suspenders in the U.S. So if you are wearing a belt and braces, you are overly cautious. You probably need new trousers too. I bet you stole the trousers that the mouthy male chauvinists lost in the expression above. You should see someone about your issues. Being fearful while taking other people’s pants is no way to live.
When I leave my house, I sometimes forget that the language that I use with my family is not the language that the rest of the country uses. Even though the world is getting smaller through technology, there are still words and terms that have not reached mainstream American English that, I think, would add a bit more flair to it.
Laughing gear – n. mouth. This is usually used by saying, “Get your laughing gear around this,” while handing someone something to eat or drink. Yes, it is a more colorful way of saying, “Here you go.” I do enjoy that, which is why I am including the term. However, the giver really does not need to tell me to put the item in my mouth. I know what do with food, considering I have kept myself alive for almost 42 years. I figured that biscuit was not meant be used as a suppository.
Wazzock – n. a an idiot or fool. Most of the time when I have heard it used, the recipient of the label was the pompous, know-it-all type. We have our own wazzocks on both sides of the Pond. We are probably related to some of them. It’s pretty mild as far as insults. You can say this in front of your grandmother at Christmas dinner. Heck, you can even call her one at Christmas dinner. I don’t care. Do what you want.
Naff – adj. a combination of unfashionable, tacky, cheap, and tasteless. 2) pointless and worthless. Some people also use it as a verb by telling someone to “naff off.” There is no equivalent word for it in American English at all, so we need it. And maybe I don’t have to laugh like an 8-year old when I pass one of these. I am pretty sure international franchising is off the docket.
Knackered – adj. extremely tired. This word just conveys the feeling better than pooped, exhausted, dead on my feet, or any other term I can pull from my mental thesaurus. You can just feel yourself in the yard…with the retired horses…without an ounce of energy left in your bones. This word is enough to get your spouse to cook dinner or order in while you watch videos of Russians injuring themselves on YouTube.
The Dog’s Bollocks (testicles to Americans) – n. something really, really good.“Mum, that stew you made was really the dog’s bollocks!”“Son, you say the kindest things!”No one has ever been able to explain to me why dogs’ bollocks achieved the gold standard as far as testicular quality. Perhaps there was some sort of cosmic animal bollock competition in the style of the Eurovision song contest.“Gerbils – nil points.”Your guess is as good as mine.
Gormless – adj. clueless or stupid. Obviously, one is clueless because one lost one’s gorm. To be without one’s gorm is a bad thing. Remember that, kids.
Trump – v. to fart. I only included this because I just want flatulence associated with The Donald…you know, a wazzock. A hairstyle resembling Weetabix (shredded wheat) gone wild just isn’t enough for me.
Bog roll – n. toilet paper – I just want to try anything to get rid of the term “bathroom tissue.” Bog roll really reflects the tone of what the stuff is used for. Bog. Roll. Bleah. Bathroom tissue is one of those made up advertisement euphemisms that only overly delicate crazy people would use in real life. Shit happens, and we need to clean it up.
Whinge – v. to whine, moan, or complain. Rhymes with hinge. Another term that goes along with it is describing a chronic complainer as someone who can “whinge for Britain.” I love the thought of an Olympic competition based upon our mildly stereotypically annoying traits. The USA would definitely take gold in “worst fashion while abroad,” “eating too much mediocre food and thinking it is good,” and “not knowing socialism if it walked up to them and bit them in the ass.”
Meat and Two Veg – n. the penis and testicles. The best dick slang ever. It should be the new name of The Journal of Urology.
And on that low tone, I must ask, do any of you have any nominees for your favorite British slang? Feel free to comment below, if you do.