12 Things British People Call Each Other
19th cent in the sense of ‘nonsense’, but its derivation as a nickname is less certain, although I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a diminutive of ‘kosher’, someone who scavenges in the sewers, especially in London during the Victorian era. The word ‘tosher’ was also used to describe the thieves who stripped copper from the hulls of ships moored along the Thames.
Tog / Todger / Tonka
Cheeky name for a fast London lady, ‘tog’ being the suggestion that she sleeps around so much that she identifies partners by the tog ratings of their duvets.
Todger and Tonka are more endearing and are used by men about men, as they have more than a hint of manhood size about them, Tonka implying a certain size and strength, as in ‘Built like a Tonka’ from Tonka trucks.
This predates Rodney but seemed to pop up a lot in the seventies although it first came into use in the early 1950s, a plonker being someone who has failed to do something correctly, but also vulgar slang for, ahem, a penis.
My father always used to call me this, meaning ‘ignorant person who fails to know something everyone should know’, and someone used it again toward me today on Twitter – it’s not an insult, though, more jocular than you’d expect. Hard to imagine it’s not Christian and Victorian in origin.
One of the very many terms of endearment, usually passing between two men oddly enough, adopted by hipsters and trustafarians who’d like to sound a bit street in the Hoxton/Shoreditch/Dalston nexus.
Biffo, Pongo, Spotty etc.
During WWII the average age of an RAF pilot was 19 and they were often drawn from the upper classes. Blokes in pubs still truncate friends’ names to their RAF names to denote ‘posh pal’, particularly if you’re away for a weekend in the country. Preceded by ‘I say’.
White Van Man’s choice of hurled epithet at cyclists, just one of the many masturbatory (self) abuses that are usually accompanied by the back-and-forth motion of a cupped hand.
Darlin’/ Darling / Sweetie
All-purpose sign of Londonness quickly adopted by everyone who moves here, along with ‘Sorry’. Immortalised by Brenda Blethyn in the Mike Leigh film ‘Secrets & Lies’ in her catchphrase ‘You all right, sweetheart?’ or ‘You all right, darlin’? Put the G on the end of the latter, though, and you get Chelsea Girl and Media Boy-speak. Funny how class can be denoted by the addition of a single consonant. The Old English for ‘darling’ was ‘deorling’, then ‘deyrling’ in the 1500s, and finally darling. ‘Sweetie’ is more affected, and primarily used on Ab Fab. See below for correct use ‘Sweetheart’ and ‘darlin’.
Ah, the ubiquitous ‘Cheers mate’, heard all over town, especially when someone holds open a door to let you through first, or as in ‘Oi, mate, you dropped something.’
Theoretically if you own your own estate (or have a mortgage) you are entitled to put ‘Esq.’ after your name, and I was always told that esquires were liable for jury duty, so ‘Squire’ denotes respect. It has passed out of use a bit since the ‘Nudge,nudge, wink, wink’ sketch in Monty Python – you still hear it used from working to middle class, but rarely the other way around.
Muppet/ Spoon/ Noddy
The so-called ‘Muppet Wing’ of a prison is where they put the mentally disturbed inmates, therefore ‘muppet’ is someone who does something stupid, as is ‘spoon’, usually used in the third person – ‘he’s a total spoon’. ‘Noddy’, from Noddy-No-Mates, also Noddy in Toyland (small ridiculous figure with bell on head) and slang for condom.
Love/ Hon /Dear/ Duck
Used by both sexes, ‘Dear’ dates the early 14th Century, from Old English ‘deore’ meaning valuable or precious and therefore loved. Duck remains more in common use in the Midlands, as ‘Pet’ is in the North.