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Talk like a true Brit: 8 British expressions to master

Do you know your “Guv’nor” from your “blimey”? How about “reckon” or “bonkers”? Although foreigners often look on in confusion when British people use expressions like this, depending on where you’re from in the UK, some of these expressions might not make any sense to you either. From the hilarious to the ridiculous, there are plenty of sayings that are key to learn if you want to sound like a true Brit (and fit in wherever you find yourself on the beautiful British Isles.) Here’s my list of some of the most wonderful and bizarre (or, occasionally, both!):

1. “Blimey!”

How do you say it? “bl-EYE-mee”

What does it mean? Used primarily in London, but now all across the UK, to express surprise, excitement or alarm.

Where did it come from? Invented in the late 19th century as an altered form of the phrase “God blind me!”

2. “Reckon”

How do you say it? “REH-kon”

What does it mean? Used across the UK to show that you think something is so, or that you believe something.

Where did it come from? Originally from the Dutch “rekenen” and German “rechnen”, which mean ‘to count up’.

3. “Full of beans”

How do you say it? As it’s written.

What does it mean? Used to describe someone with lots of energy and enthusiasm.

Where did it come from? Some people say it came from Australia; others say that it relates to coffee beans. Really, nobody seems to know.

4. “Bonkers”

How do you say it? “BONK-urrs”

What does it mean? A funny word for calling something (or someone) crazy, mad or eccentric.

Where did it come from? Supposedly from the sound of hitting something (‘bonk’), related to a blow to the head.

5. “On your bike!”

How do you say it? “Onn yur byhke”.

What does it mean? A polite but slightly confusing way of telling someone to leave. Even more confusing if you actually do depart on a bicycle.

Where did it come from? Nobody knows. The mysteries of language!

6. “Row”

How do you say it? It rhymes with cow.

What does it mean? The British way of saying ‘argument’, in which you have a noisy discussion or debate with someone.

Where did it come from? Nobody knows. The mysteries of language (again)!

7. “Give you a ring”

How do you say it? It rhymes with “sing”.

What does it mean? Americans say “I’ll call you” but in the UK we say “I’ll give you a ring”. Just don’t expect an actual ring on your finger.

Where did it come from? Presumably from the sound an old telephone made.

8. “Guv’nor”

How do you say it? “GHUV-nah”.

What does it mean? People in the East End of London – known locally as Cockneys – say this when they’re addressing someone of higher status than themselves, although it’s usually used as a joke.

Where did it come from? Probably from Victorian times, when people needed to show respect to those in a position of authority.

Think you’ve got the hang of these quirky British sayings? Put them into practice on your next trip to the UK and you’ll fit right in. Happy traveling!

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