I Say!

Observatory, Reading & Writing

Well, I’m mystified. I grew up reading American comics and knew most major US slang words (which have probably changed a lot by now) but I stumbled across an American site called The Best Of British, dedicated to British words, and found myself a bit lost. The following words are apparently all still in use here…
The bee’s knees
Blow Me!
Box your ears
Grem (to spit)
Jimmy Riddle
Knuckle sandwich
Luvvly Jubbly
Rumpy Pumpy
Tickety Boo
Toodle Pip
Perhaps this isn’t a slang dictionary at all but a guide to films of the 1950s. Be honest, when was the last time someone told you they were tickety boo? And as for rumpy pumpy…

Of course, the site’s a bit of fun, but I do wonder if American still think we all wear bowler hats (they always seem to feature on the covers of my US editions). Oddly, the one place where you still hear these words occasionally is India!

10 comments on “I Say!”

  1. park town says:

    Yep. Still in use round ‘ere.
    The bee’s knees
    Blow Me!
    Box your ears – me Mum said that!
    Corr Blimey mate
    Dekko – or rather butcher’s (hook)
    Ducks – deary n’ ducks the two who ran our corner shop
    Fagged – fagged out
    Jimmy Riddle – esp after a few pints
    Lurgy – monthlies
    Luvvly Jubbly – Mothers Restaurant in Paphos
    Mufti – dress down day
    Nark – inspector
    Nitwit – Doh!
    Parky – nippy
    Rumpy Pumpy – slap n’ tickle(Still in use round ‘ere)
    Shufti – Butchers
    Tickety Boo – alright (not OK)
    Toodle Pip – ttfn

  2. Mary says:

    Lovely language…long may it survive.

  3. Lou Morgan says:

    Someone once told me that “mufti” was an acronym: My Uniform For Today Is… even at about 10 years old, I can’t remember being particularly convinced by that. Worse, I think it may well have been one of my school teachers who said it. And while I don’t think I’ve *ever* called anyone a “nitwit” (that sounds far too subdued for me), the better part of a decade living in London means you’re quite likely to hear me say someone’s a muppet.

    Now, where did I leave my monocle, what?

  4. Helen Martin says:

    So much of that sounds 1920’s to WW II, but some words are too useful to die. Nitwit is one, although the variant “knitwit” was used regularly of my Mother-in-law, who had remarkable skill. I would imagine “ducks” and “deary” will continue. I used to feel embarrassed for older people who called young people “dear” or “love” and now I hear it coming out of my own mouth!

  5. Martha says:

    I don’t know about other people but Jamie Oliver uses a lot of those phrases. I’ve been known to suffer from the dreaded lurgy from time to time……

  6. I.A.M. says:

    It’s probable that, in the same way Admin doesn’t carry a bumbershoot and copy of the Times under his arm whilst wearing his bowler hat into The City for his work day, New Yorkers aren’t seen stuffing a hot dog into their 40-pound overweight bodies while waving for a cab, and I’m not found running away from a polar bear across the Tundra. Discussing these continuing national images with a cabbie outside of Heathrow earlier this month, we agreed that — no matter what you saw and heard 1st hand — it was impossible to rid oneself of images placed in one’s memory when very young.

  7. The only people I hear talk about the lurgy are admin staff in schools and higher education. But they talk about it a lot. (If it has no known cause or detectable symptoms, came on in less than 24 hours and has excuses the student or teacher from something particularly onerous, then it’s the lurgy…)

  8. M@ says:

    I think many of these are still in good use in various regions of the UK. I hear lurgy, parky and shufti quite a bit up north. I personally say ‘crikey’ quite a bit – think I started off saying it ironically and now it has stuck. And I often sign off emails with toodle-pip, mostly so I can then employ its spoonerism on future correspondence.

  9. Sandy Higgins says:

    I had a good laugh when I read this list! As an American who loves to read mysteries set in Britain, I often run across these words in books, especially those written by American authors. Apparently these terms help give credence to dialogue when one wants to establish the character’s socioeconomic/geographical status. Always makes me wonder if they have actually done their homework…

  10. Daniel says:

    New commenter here, but thought I’d start with an older entry…

    Baccy – Meaning rolling tobacco.
    Grem – Meaning not the act of spitting, but the, let’s call it stuff, that lurks in the throatier deposits of pavement juice, i.e. “Ugh! Look at the grem in that hockle.” (Hockle means “Spit”, if you couldn’t guess.)
    Lurgy – A heavy cold, of course.

    All still in common use in north east England, where I live. In fact, baccy is so prevalent that if someone mentioned tobacco in conversation, even when buying it in a shop instead of from a bloke in the pub, they’d get some strange looks.

Comments are closed.

Posted In