Visiting London For the Olympics? Consult Our Handy Guide to Britishisms!
The London Olympics this summer seem to have created a wave of British fever that’s undeniable. If you’re visiting London for the first time for the Summer Games, you might have a bit of culture shock. That’s where we come in.
We’re lucky to have actual Brits on our staff here at TheFW to educate you on the many finer points of London’s culture and slang.
Here are our top tips on fitting in and not making a fool of yourself while visiting London this summer.
- While you may call underground public transit the subway or train, in London it’s called the Underground or the Tube. But just like New York City’s subway system, there are plenty of rats to keep you company during your commute.
- When travelling by car: if your vehicle breaks down and you need your hood checked out, remember to ask the engineer to take a look at the bonnet (even if it sounds like something from the eighteenth century to you).
- If your trunk won’t open, it’s the boot of your car that needs fixing. Ask for the trunk and you’ll make Brits think of the thing that protrudes from an elephant.
- Lastly, if you run out of gas, be sure to ask for a petrol station. Otherwise we Brits will think you want to carry out some kind of science experiment.
- So you’re getting ready for a night out. If you’re getting dressed with a friend and you want to tell them they look great make sure you don’t tell them you like their pants. This is a rookie error, since in London pants equal underwear. So complimenting someone on their pants may lead to them thinking they’ve forgotten to put on a crucial part of their wardrobe. The replacement word is trousers.
- Nightlife in London is buzzing, so if you want to go out and make the most of it whilst sounding like a native Brit, get really smashed rather than plain old drunk. Also acceptable: “soused,” “blotto,” “pickled,” and “Russell Brand.”
- If someone suggests a night out and you want to go, avoid saying “I’m down.” In England that would mean you’re feeling a bit depressed. Replace it with “I’m on it.”
Food and drink
- Remember, french fries are called “chips.” And you douse them with vinegar instead of ketchup.
- If you’re offered blood pudding, don’t be afraid. Londoners aren’t all a bunch of ravenous vampires. It’s actually a type of sausage made with dried blood. What? Like that’s any grosser than the Arby’s Big Beef and Cheddar.
- Never ask for eggplant, because when you arrive in London it’s aubergine. The same goes for zucchini which is courgette on our side of the globe. Not to be confused with corgis, which are the cutest dogs ever.
- Lastly, don’t assume the only conversations we Brits have are about tea and the Queen. Nine times out of ten they won’t be!
- When you turn on the TV (or telly), you might recognize some familiar shows. That’s because you Yanks stole all of our best shows. So look for ‘The Office,’ ‘Pop Idol,’ ‘X-Factor’ and all your favorites that were once our favorites.
- The West End theater district is a great place to catch ‘Ghost,’ ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ and other movies-turned-musicals before they hit Broadway.
- If you head out to the cinema, keep in mind that Dame Judi Dench is legally required to appear in all of our movies.
Bob’s your uncle – This does not mean that a man named Bob is actually your uncle. It actually means “there you go” or “you’re all set.”
Git – A stupid person
Geezer - An old stupid person
Bomb – If an idea goes off like a “bomb,” it means it was really popular. The same goes for an event that went down like a bomb. CLEARLY THIS HAS A DIFFERENT MEANING IN AMERICA.
Guv’nor – Old-timey Cockney expression for a “boss.” Spoken by boot blacks and orphans/street urchins who have names like Oliver Twist and The Artful Dodger. If you hear the phrases “Shine ya shoes, guv’nor?” or “‘Ello Guv’nor,” you might have traveled back in time to the 1800s.
Wicked - Cool/awesome. Also a musical you can see in London’s West End.
Allow that – To not allow something. Example: “Do you want me to bring the car round? Nah allow it, we can walk.”
Codswallop - Used to describe something that’s either untrue or as ridiculous as this word sounds. The equivalent of talking baloney. (Example: “Blood pudding tastes good? That’s codswallop!”)
Good luck and enjoy!
– Written by Shulamit Aberbach, Ruth Waxman, Georgia Krell and Nick Nadel