My Everyday English Slang
last update: 8 May 2021
Going through different vocabularies from the past I realised that as a teenage and young man (still sounds impressive, at least in my ears) I had used a multitude of slang words (so from the early-mid-sixties to mid-seventies). I had used them without knowing they were slang, and I had stopped using them for one reason or another, possibly linked with moving abroad. What amazed me was the enormous number of expressions that I used or understood when I was younger, and I am still occasionally surprised to find that one of my 'normal' words turns out to be slang.
What's not on this webpage are all those expressions that whilst they have weathered the ravages of time, don't really capture that period, at least in my mind. Examples such as "don't look a gift horse in the mouth" which dates from 400 AD, or "don't even think about it" which dates from a later period (the 1980's), are not included. So some slang expressions were always there in the background, and others appeared well after the mid-70's. I've tried to focus on what I would have said or understood, and what represents that great period animated by the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Cream, The Who, early Dylan, …, through to Queen, Eagles, ELO, Roxy Music, Bowie, Pink Floyd, Santana, etc. Along the way I have also drop some of the more crude expressions. Even now I can't bring myself to admit that I was quite fluent in their use, but putting them "pen to paper" is another thing.
And as several online resources enjoy pointing out, many of "my" expressions are now "old school", who would have through it!
The first word is "abdabs", as in "screaming abdabs". I can't imagine using it, but I certainly knew it meant extreme anxiety, however I can't imagine the word inspiring terror in me. Perhaps it should have because it was sometimes used to mean an attack of delirium tremens (the famous DT's caused by the withdrawal from alcohol). The word had a certain success through the years 2000-2010.
Abso-bloody-lutely - certainly
I've no idea about the origin of this word, but it's an example of what is called a tmesis, meaning the act of cutting, i.e. cutting up one word to stick another in the middle. This word has become increasingly popular from the year 2000 (Generation Y'ers perhaps).
Acid-head, Acid-Rock - I guess both related to LSD and the idea of hallucinations
An "acid-head" (first recorded in 1965) meant stupid because they knew it was bad for them, but they continued to take LSD anyway. "Acid Rock" is said to have evolved out of mid-1960's "Garage Rock". However, the interest in "acid rock" music peaked dramatically in 1972, and dropped away just a rapidly.
Ackers - money, and I remember for some totally unknown reason the expression "filthy ackers" as the same thing as "filthy lucre", i.e. money obtained dishonestly
I did not know that it was based upon fakka, Egyptian small change or coins. The word "ackers" was a very popular word in the 1600's, but appears to have remained in use. I certainly knew the expression, but I also certainly never used it.
Action - as in "a piece of the action", or a share in the excitement
The origins of this expression involved taking a financial share in an American show business production, circa the 1920's. However the original idea came from the Dutch. In 1602 the Dutch East India Company was formed and offered the opportunity for investment (and profit) in the form of "acties", or "actions" in English. As a phrase "a piece of the action" is very much of the period 1960's to the 1980's, but it is still used today.
Adam and Eve - Cockney rhyming slang for 'believe', as in "would you Adam 'n' Eve it!", but it is also rhyming slang for 'leave'
… and Adam is also now used to mean the drug ecstasy. And actually the apple is never mentioned in the bible, it is just a fruit on a tree in the Garden of Eden (the apple is just a tradition). Experts have suggested it might have been an apricot or pomegranate, and Muslim scholars once believed it was a banana. Many different fruits were once called apples, e.g. pomegranates were once called "apples of Carthage", dates "finger apples", and potatoes "apples of the earth".
Adultery - once defined as "violation of conjugal faith"
The word is not related to adult, but to the Latin "adulterare" or "to pollute, corrupt", which also gave us adulterate.
Afters - the second course of a meal, i.e. dessert, pudding, …
In French you have "amuse-bouche" (appetiser), "hors d'oeuvre" (appetiser/starter), entrée (starter/1st course), main course (plat principal), dessert (afters). It's interesting that in America they call their main course, the entrée. The confusion arises from the fact that initially the entrée was not the starter, and in fact everything started with "entrée de table" and ended with "issue de table", and the entrée could be one of several followed by soup, roasts and then the final course. Then the soup and entrée were swapped around, and it was in fact a hot meat dish served before the roast course (often fowl or rabbit on a spit). The entrée was a more complex meat dish with a sauce. Dishes that were cold, or contained vegetables or eggs, were called entremets.
"Afters" kind of goes along with "starters", but I can't find anything about their origins. The expression was clearly popular in the latter part of the 1800's, but it appears to have again gained traction in the last 10 years.
Couple of additions sent to me:-
"Afters" also meant drinking after closing time. In British pubs everybody was "chucked out" at closing time, expect for a privileged few who stayed on for "afters".
"Afters" was a "punch up" between footballers after a tackle, and if that's true then the "punch up" between rival supporters after the match must have been a "right banquet".
Aggro - trouble-making
"Aggro" clearly means aggression, and probably originated in the late 1960's in Britain, and in particular with the fights between gangs, especially football fans. Despite it origins in the 1970's, "aggro" is increasingly used today, possibly linked to our increasingly violent world.
Ain't - am not
"Ain't" was first recorded in 1706 in England, but it became socially unacceptable (or not "proper") in the early 19th century, however it is still widely spoken.
Airy-fairy - fanciful, unrealistic,…
I don't think I used "airy-fairy" as a teen, but it certain appeared in a poem in 1830, and meant fairylike, delicate and graceful. It later became linked to something impractical but possibly visionary. I remember linking it to "arty-farty" as being pompous and overly showy. However "airy-fairy" is an increasingly popular expression post-2000.
Alec - as in "smart-alec", a person who is irritating because they think they know everything
The term "smart-alec" came from Alec Hoag, a celebrated con man in New York in the 1840's. He would rob his wife Melinda's "customers" while she "distracted" them. He avoided arrest by paying two police officers, but they discovered Hoag was cheating them out of their share and the couple were arrested. The police used the term "Smart Alec" to describe someone who was too smart for their own good.
All the best - good wishes (I still use this expression)
The word "best" has its origins before 900 AD, from the Middle English "beste". It is the superlative of the word "good", and the expression may be a shortening of "I wish you all the best of luck". It has increasingly become a popular expression since the year 2000.
Amateur - not professional and therefore approximative or sloppy, as in "what did you expect, frigging amateurs" when something goes wrong
"Amateur" ultimately derives from the Latin "amator" (lover), and the first reference in English dates from 1775, and as a reference to sport in 1800 (boxing). Calling someone an "amateur", meaning unprofessional as opposed to non-professional, is an insult, and there is also a difference between amateurism (good) and amateurish (bad). A good amateur loves what they do, and they try to be as "professional" as possible, and of course there are amateurish professionals who do poor work.
Anchors - car brakes as in "slammed on the anchors"
I guess it derives from a maritime tradition where the anchor is a method of mooring a boat. In fact anchors are not brakes in the sense that they are not used to stop a moving boat. "Anchor man" is also used to describe the strongest runner or swimmer in a relay team, and it dates from the late 19th century. In the 1930's it also got used for the strongest member of a radio broadcasting team. With women competing in the relay the simple term "anchor" is now used.
And pigs will fly - sarcastic expression of disbelief
A British saying, whereas Americans say "pigs have wings!". "When pigs fly" and "pigs might fly" can be dated back to 1616, which in addition has the pigs flying backwards. One American newspaper wrote "Orville and Wilbur haven't heard the phrase "when pigs fly"…". Not everyone uses pigs, some write about cows flying, and the French and Spanish use "when frogs grow hair" and "when hens grow teeth".
And the rest! - expression of disbelief
"And the rest!" is often used in face of an understatement, as in "I finished it in under an hour", and the reply "And the rest!"
Ape - to become angry, as in "to go ape"
It would appear that "to go ape" has its origins from 1952 as American airforce/marine slang, linked to going stir-crazy when they can't leave the barracks.
Argy-bargy - an argument, or noisy quarrelling
This expression is a late 19th century modification of a Scottish phrase "argle-gargle" meaning the same thing. This is one of those expression that I knew, but never used.
Arse - bum, but also "make an arse of yourself" means to be stupid or irritating
"Arse" derives from Old English "ærs" (tail, rump), and the expression "hang the arse" appears to date from the 1630's. One suggestion is that "arse" is often used in phrases to replace a more crude and unprintable expletive. There are a lot of "arse" related expressions, such as "arse about face" (back to front or done in the opposite way from normal or expected), "arse around" (behave stupidly, waste time), and "arse over tit" (fall over) which contrasts with "fall flat on his arse". Interestingly "bum" has almost always been used more frequently than "arse", no doubt because it is considered less crude, but since 2010 "arse" has outpaced the use of "bum".
Kiss my arse - stop bothering me, go away
This sounds like a recent American expression, but there are satirical cartoons depicting the act that date back to England in 1784. It would appear that it relates to politicians kissing the arses of shopkeepers and small businessmen in order to win votes (given todays politicians, does that shock or surprise you?).
As every schoolboy knows - meaning something almost no one knows
An expression used by Jonathan Swift back in 1621. It involves referring to a totally abstruse subject as if any schoolboy would know it.
Ask a silly question and you'll get a silly answer - sarcastic reply, if your question is nonsense, you can expect nonsense back
This expression probably dates from the late 19th century, and may have evolved from "ask no questions and you'll be told no lies". However there are similar expressions with the same meaning that are more than 500 years old.
Ass - self, as in "I've worked my ass off for nothing"
"Ass" kind of means backside, and in fact comes from "arse", i.e. buttocks. The history or "arse" is lost in time, literally, since it could date back 1000's of years to mean "tail" or "rump". It's possible that the "r" just fell off, and there are examples of this happening. An alternative is that people trying to be polite might have used "ass" (i.e. donkey), rather than "arse" (this is a so-called "minced oath").
Anyway "ass" as slang for "backside" appeared as nautical slang in 1860, and became popular from 1930, but there is evidence that "ass" might have appeared already in the 17th century (Shakespeare mentions a "tender ass" in A Midsummer Night's Dream). "Piece of ass" appeared in the 1940's, and "have one's head up one's …" dates from 1969. To "work one's ass off" dates from 1946, and you could "laugh your ass off" in 1965, and "stick it up …" already in 1953 (this expression might even date from much earlier). There are some related terms, e.g. "bad-ass", "cheap-ass", "dumb-ass", "jack ass", "kick ass", "slow-ass", etc.
Average - a standard reply to all sorts of questions, e.g. how are things, what was school like today, did you enjoy yourself, what was the film like, is she nice, …
The word derives from the French "avarie", a word of Arabic origin that meant "less than total damage to a ship or its cargo". Given that it was between total damage and no damage, it ultimately took its current meaning.
Ay - interjection of surprise, pain, as in "Ay, what's your problem?"
"Aye" suddenly appeared ca. 1575, and became exceeding common interjection by 1600, meaning "yes". In the 12th century it meant "ever, always", and probably derived from "oh yea" ("ay" and "aye" are spelling variants). Around 1350, "me ay" meant sorrow or regret. "Ay" as used today tends to rhyme with "Hey!".
Babe - attractive young woman (I can't remember ever using this word)
Originally it dates from the early 13th century with "baban" which may be nothing more that the imitation of baby talk, later it would be replaced by "baby". In many languages "baba" meant old woman. "Baby" was used figuratively for a "childish person" from the 1520's. The meaning "attractive young woman" dates only from the 1915, although it was used for "young woman or girlfriend" already in 1839. It has been reported that around that time men could call each other "baby" without any romantic connotations. "Baby" only started to take on a romantic connotation in the 1860's, and in fact it only again in 1973 that you could start to call a man or woman "babe" as a romantic nickname. On the other hand, I remember well Sonny & Cher (above all Cher) singling "I Got You Babe" in 1965, so maybe I did use "babe" after all.
Romantic nicknames are a topic in themselves, but you could call your partner "cinnamon" already in 1405, honeys (1513), heartikin (1530), ding-ding (1564), pug (1580), sweetikin (1596), duck (1600), sucket (1605), flitter-mouse (1612), nut (1699), treat (1825), hon (1906), sugar (1930) and lamb-chop (1962). Interestingly the only child you would call today "babe" is Christ as Christmas.
Back burner - set a low priority, as in "put on the back burner"
The origin of the expression comes from the rear ring of a stove, which did not heat up as hot or as quickly.
Back of an envelope - speedy calculation, rough guess
"Back of an envelope" is associated with the way Enrico Fermi practiced physics. However the expression appears to have numerous different interpretations, from someone bragging or doing things out of order, to someone on top of their game. Over the last 10 years the expression has become a bit old fashioned and less frequently used, presumably due to the arrival of email and messaging apps.
Back seat driver - giving unwanted advice
Oddly the "back seat driver" often occupies the front seat next to the driver. This term is quite different from "to take a back seat", meaning to be humble and inconspicuous. And equally it is completely different from "in the driver's seat" meaning to be in control, a term dating from at least 400 years ago, and referring to driving horses.
Bad - good, as in "She's a really bad girl", meaning she is "good" (nudge, nudge)
Frankly I know "bad" can mean "good" but I'm not sure when that dawned on me. We all know that "bad" means "bad", but already by 1771 "not bad" meant "good", and by the 1890's it had taken on a uniquely ironic meaning. With African-Americans, as more and more whites used "bad" as a negative, they adopted it to mean good, i.e. they stood up to injustice. Later it took on the connotation of "awesome, good, excellent" and later still "good looking" and "stylishly tough, smooth".
So "bad-ass" also evolved from being a worthless belligerent, to being a bully and dangerous, then to being a rebel, and finally a very good, tough guy, daring, and intimidating.
Bad news - a trouble-maker, as in "avoid him at all costs, he's bad news"
"Bad news" is said to be a slang term from the 1920's.
Bad news travels fast - a comment on people being more interested in failure than success
The phrase was first found in print between 1582 and 1592, with "evil news fly faster still than good".
Bag or box of tricks - containing everything that's needed
This would appear to be related to what a magician might have in their "bag of tricks", but later also meant the set of skills a person had. Interestingly "box of tricks" in Cockney rhyming slang means flicks (cinema), however "bag of tricks* is a far more popular expression.
Baksheesh - a bribe
Originally of Persian origin and meaning a tip or present, but appears now to mean a demand by beggars, servants and officials. "Baksheesh" has been around since the early 1800's, but is almost certain much older.
Bail out - help someone
Originally it meant a pilot bailing out of an aircraft, and dates from 1928. It made the transition into high finance in 1932. However the true origin might be linked to letting a "bale" of hay through a trapdoor, which would suggest that the expression if far older. An alternative might be to bail out water from a boat.
Ball - a good time, as in "having a ball"
It obviously relates to the fun people had going to balls, as in grand dances parties. But as someone wrote "having a ball" means old people having fun (even if it was a very popular expression until about 10 years ago).
Ball-breaker - a task or person excessively demanding
Origin unknown, but an increasingly popular expression with the younger generation.
Bollocks - testicles, but used to mean nonsense or rubbish, often used in contempt, as in "that's a load of old bollocks"
As a variant on testicles "bollocks" dates from 1744 and "ballokes" dates back to 1382. At that time the word was just descriptive and had no associated connotations. "Bollocks" or "ballocks" was allegedly used as slang for a clergyman, and it is even suggested that the modern meaning of nonsense may have come from the fact that clergymen were notorious for talking nonsense. At the time the word was even defined as "rubbish by the priest". I guess the uses of "Balls" to mean rubbish or nonsense has the same origins.
Balls-up - making a mess of things, as in "what a balls-up"
Generally "balls-up" means a bungled action, a confused situation, or a complete foul-up. In America in 1856 "ball up" meant failing a recitation or examination. One intriguing definition involves the fact that ships should display a black ball from a prominent position by day and a white ball at night to warn other vessels to keep clear. If a ship has lost steerage, power, etc. it must display two black balls, and the captain must instruct the crew to hoist the "balls up" to show that the vessel is not under command. If the vessels runs aground it must hoist up three black balls, indicating a total "balls up".
Bananas - go crazy, as in "she is driving me bananas"
The expression may have derived from the expression "to go ape", but it's true that bananas excite tropes of apes and monkeys. This is very much an expression that emerged in the 1960's. In addition a "banana" is an Asian person who acts like a white person, i.e. yellow on the outside, white inside. And for those who actually read this entry, a coconut is for a latino who acts like a white person.
Bang - have sex
Origin unknown, but can be used in the figurative sense as in "The concert last night was banging" meaning "really good".
Banger - sausage, as in "bangers and mash"
The expression comes from the slight 'bang' when the skin splits open while cooking a sausage.
Banger - old or decrepit car, as in "I'm not getting in that rusty old banger, its a death trap"
Calling an old car an "old banger" is presumably based upon the fact that it makes a noise like a sausage bursting. Others slang words were "jalopy", "bucket" and, of course "death trap". The word "jalopy" is quite odd, and originated in America in 1925-26. One idea is that wrecked cars were sent to scrapyards in Jalapa in Mexico.
Barking mad - crazy, insane
At least one suggestion is that "barking mad" was first used to describe the insane American sport of auto-polo in 1927. Another suggestion is that it refers to Barking in England where there was a mental institution attached to the abbey back in medieval times. It is said that references to this go back to 1826. But in the same year there was reference to a horse going "barking mad" after being bitten by a mad-dog. But most of this information has not been collaborated, and it looks like the earliest well-documented reference is from 1933, and the use of the phrase itself in a modern context might be as young as the 1960. In any case it only gained popularity in the 1980's.
Barmaid/Barman - serves drinks in a pub/bar
"Barman" appeared in 1837, and the American equivalent "bartender" in 1837, whereas barmaid is at least 200 years older (ca. 1658).
Barmy - crazy, foolish
Initially "balmy" meant week-minded or idiotic. Later it was combined with "barm" (a froth that forms on the top of fermented malt liquors), to create "barmy", meaning flighty or excited. By 1896 writers were unsure which to use, and one suggested that there was a person already called "Barmy Billy" of weak intellect, so writers stuck with "barmy". Much later the Barmy Army became an informal supporter group for England's cricket team.
Barrel - at a disadvantage, as in "he has me over a barrel"
The expression originated before mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, when lifeguards placed drowning victims over a barrel, and rolled them back and forth to try to revive them.
Bastard - as in "you lucky bastard!" or "you jammy bastard"
Bastard comes from the old French, and originally referred to 'basts', a kind of bed used by provençal mule drivers. The idea is they must have fathered many illegitimate children because the original expression was "fils de bast", which came to mean a natural child. The idea of a "lucky bastard" appears to date from the 1920's, and it has become a very popular expression in the 20 years.
Batting order - in cricket it's the order in which each batsman will play
In cricket the order of batting is divided into openers (two people), middle order (3rd to 8th batsman), and the tail-enders (the 9th to 11th batsman). These expressions date from ca. 1625. Interestingly the expression "batting order" is often used to explain any kind of ordering from first, second, and so on.
Bat out of hell - go fast
The origin of "bat out of hell" probably came from the fact that bats fly fast to escape light, e.g. the light of a fire. The RAF in WW I, used the expression to mean "to fly extremely fast", but the expression itself was popular during WW II.
Battle-axe - formidable older person, often a difficult teacher as in "old battle-axe"
The original battle-axe was the most powerful arm of man until the invention of firearms, and it was often associated with a strong man. However, the reference to a woman as an "old battle axe" probable dates from the early 20th century.
Beat it - run away, as in "Beat it, go back home"
The old English word "betan" had one meaning "action of feet upon the ground" and this might be the origin. "Beat it" was used by both Ben Jonson and Shakespeare meaning "go". Also the route walked by a policeman was called "a beat", and a route often taken became to "beat a track". Now "beat" does not mean to run away, but its the definition of "beat it". And the expression "beat a retreat" actually comes from the beating of the drums which signal retreat. Interesting "Beat it!" can also be an order to someone to leave you alone, and in "Beat it! I need some time alone".
Bedsit - as in "I found a bedsit, but I have to share the kitchen and bathroom"
Bedsit is a simple rented room furnished with a bed and somewhere to sit. An expression of increasing popularity through and into the 2000's.
Get into bed with … - to merge or become a partner with …, as in "finally we got into bed with our main distributor"
Firstly "get into bed with someone" is not the same as "jump into bed with someone". The idea of merger or partnership is not always so simple, as "the local mayor was in bed with many of the local building contractors", suggests corruption and fraud.
Beeb - the BBC
This is a colloquial shortening of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), dating from 1967.
Beef - complain, as in "stop beefing about it"
Beehive - £5
This is Cockney rhyming slang from the 1960's, and in fact "beehive" meant five already in the 1920's.
Beer Tokens - money and in particular the £1 note
In the 1970's many younger people would spend a lot of money on beer, and I'm told that breweries issued token for their beer (never saw one myself). As inflation hit and prices went rocketing, sometime in the late 1970's a beer cost a £1 note, and it became almost like a beer voucher.
Bees and honey - money
This is Cockney rhyming slang for money.
Beetle - the original VW
The name "beetle" simply came from the translation of the German name of the car "käfer", meaning beetle.
Belisha beacon - a orange flashing light indicating a zebra crossing
The beacon was named after the then Minister of Transport Leslie Hors-Belisha in 1934. A zebra crossing is a pedestrian crossing introduced in the 1930's.
Belly-up - dying, dead, bankrupt
The origin of the word has been attributed to the 18th century American William Douglass, who created the metaphor between bankruptcy and the death of an animal, i.e. "belly-up". Until the 1940's the word was seldom used, but it became an increasingly popular expression in the 1960's.
Below - as in "below 0°C"
The origins are not clear, but it's generally accepted that "below" is used for all temperatures, i.e. "it stayed below 30°C" and "it often drops below zero". Under, as in "under 20°C" should not be used to indicate negative temperatures, but "minus 20°C" is acceptable.
Belt - to rush, as in "he belted for it"
The expression "get something under one's belt" first came into use in the late 1700's, and expressed the amount of alcoholic drinks someone had consumed, and in 1839 it also included food. "Below the belt" to mean unfair, came from pugilism in 1889, and "tighten one's belt" meaning endure privation, dates from 1887. As a verb, to fasten with a belt dates from the 14th century, and to thrash with a belt dates from the 1640's. As an expression "to thrash someone", as in "give him a good belting", dates from 1885. And to sing loudly, as in "to belt out a good song", dates from 1949. In America a ring highway is often called "a beltway", which was first used in 1964. And the southern part of America has, since 1969, often been called the "sun belt". In the British press in 1954 a slightly different meaning was introduced with the phrase "His wife had 135,000 miles driving in the States under her belt, but she still failed". And phrases such as "he wanted to get plenty of Latin and Greek under his belt …" echo the same idea (now one might say the same thing for computer skills). This figurative use of "under one's belt" appears to actually date back to 1753. And an old Scottish saying "My Tongue is not under your Belt" dates back to 1721 (it means you can't make me hold my tongue).
Other meanings include to "belt down" meaning to eat or drink quickly, whereas I guess a "belt of rum" means just a quick glass or swig. Finally "to belt for it" means to move or act fast, and we should not forget that batsmen often give the ball "a good belting".
Interestingly, and keeping on the same topic of the belt, "to buckle down" means to start to work hard, as in "you had better buckle down or you won't pass the test". This expression was often used after WW I, and during WW II.
Belt-and-braces - do something with great care and thoroughness
In Britain the expression dates back to 1921 when a pessimist was defined as someone who wears belt and braces. The Americans preferred the expression "belt and suspenders", which was a "translation" of the first reference in the British press. However, the American expression "belt and suspenders" actually dates back to 1912, when someone wrote to a newspaper asking why men wore both a belt and suspenders. The answer was that optimists wore only a belt and no suspenders.
Belting down - raining very hard, as in "don't go outside now, it's belting down"
Origin unknown, but you also find the expression "pelting down" which provides a much more interesting history. Firstly, the use of pelt for the untanned hide/skin of an animal certainly dates from the around 1500, and through the Middle English word "peltry" dates back to circa 1300. And equally the use of pelt as a blow (e.g. throwing stones at someone, and hurling insults at someone) and pelt as speed, and the repeated beating of wind, rain or snow, also all date from about the same time.
Belt up - be quiet, as in "will you belt up, I'm trying to listen to the radio"
It would appear to have been an expression from the RAF dating to circa 1937. However, it took on a new meaning in 1983 when Britain started to enforce the wearing of car seat belts, e.g. "driver should belt up".
Bender - get drunk, as in "go on a bender"
At least one definition is an extended drinking spree, and named after "elbow bending". Today this is called "binge drinking", and a bender can now mean excessive drug use at a drug party. Another definition put it as a veering of the "straight and narrow".
An interesting alternative, and possible at the origin of the expression, is that in the 1800's the old sixpence was called a "bender" because since it was made of solid silver, people would bite and bend it to see that it was real, i.e. fakes were made of harder materials and did not so easily bend. And at the time the value of a sixpence was enough to get you drunk, because you could drink all day for tuppence. So the expression "go on a bender".
Bend over backwards - to try very hard to please or to do everything possible, as in "he bent over backwards to try to be objective in his judgement"
The expression "bend over backwards" has its origins with gymnastics, but surprisingly it dates back to 920 AD where back bending was considered a prized athletic act. However as a colloquial expression it was first used in America in the 1920's. Some people think that the expression is tinged with excessive submissiveness.
Bent - criminal, crooked, stolen (and also homosexual), as in "when he offered you a 'bent car' he didn't mean damaged?"
Naturally something can be "bent" in the sense of being damaged, and people can also be "bent" (determined) on doing something, possibly harmful. Equally people can have "a particular bent" for a topic, subject, or set of beliefs. As an inclination or disposition to something, it dates back to the 1570's, presumably linked to the idea of something that is not straight or is being defected or turned from its true course (ca. 1530's). The idea of being "bent" towards a particular objective might derive for the Latin "inclinatio", meaning "directed in a course" and dating from the 1690's. There are references to "bent" as being drunk, dating back to 1833. References to "bent" (and the word "crooked"), in the sense of illegal or corrupt, appear to date from the 20th century. It was in the 1980's that bent meaning "queer" or homosexual first appeared in America (i.e. in opposition to "straight"). But there are references in the Britain to being "bent" as early as 1957, and the language at the time was usually aggressively negative.
Berk - fool, idiot, prat, twit
To some people the word "berk" appears to be slight less harsh than idiot, prat, etc., but many references point to the 1930's and Cockney rhyming slang as a shortened version of Berkshire Hunt, which would mean that it is far stronger than other insults (if you know what I mean, nudge, nudge, wink, wink).
Bible - any book that is considered an authority on a topic
The origin of the word "bible" is simply Middle English, via Old French, and from the Latin "biblia", meaning book, and the early meaning of book probably just meant any written document. Later book would have taken on the meaning of many pages bound together. The idea of entering something into a book dates from the early 13th century (i.e. to grant or assign by charter). The "Book of Life" dates from the mid-14th century, and doing something "by the book" (i.e. according to the rules) dates also from the same period (there are abundant references to proceeding "by the book", dating after 1845). You could already "book a performer" in 1872. By 1926 the "book" also meant the sum of criminal charges, and was at the origin of the expression "throw the book at him". And "book of the month" also dates from 1926. And surprisingly, the expression "don't judge a book by the cover" only dated from 1944.
Big Ben - £10
Cockney rhyming slang for ten.
Big-head - conceited person, as in "he's got such a big-head I'm surprised he got through the door"
The starting point is "big" which dates from around 1300, meaning powerful or strong, and possibly from Norwegian "bugge" meaning great man. So by the late 14th century "big" meant great size, grown up or important and powerful. The idea of being conceited dates from the 1570's, and the exact expression "big-head" was first recorded in 1850. The expression "big-head" is also related to the idea of something "going to someones head". And this can be either related to conceit, or to way alcohol or drugs affect the brain. You can also have someone "getting into someones head", as in "she really got into his head". The idea of being "big" in terms of generosity is American and dates from 1913. "Big business" dates from 1913, "big top" from 1895, "big game" (i.e. large animals) from 1864, and "big ticket" from 1956.
Big-mouth - talks excessively, boastfully, indiscrete
As a person who talks too much "bigmouth" is American and dates from 1889.
Big shot - important person
The origin of "big short" is with a 90mm cannon used by the Italians against the Austrians. Garibaldi's American followers called it the "big shot", and this came to mean a big, important person. An alternative is that it derives from "big guns", used to describe gang lords.
Big sleep - death
American slang, having its origin with Raymond Chandler's novel "The Big Sleep".
Big time - at the highest level, as in "finally he made it, big time"
As a general term for a party or fun event it dates from the late 19th century, however as the upper reaches of a profession it first appeared as vaudeville slang in 1909 (and as opposed to "small time acts"). As far as I can tell it really meant more time on stage, and thus more money. It is also possible to like something or someone "big time".
Bilge - to talk nonsense
Originally bilge was the dirty water collected in the bottom of a ship, and was originally called "bulge". So the term is certainly naval, and may be linked to the nonsense spoken by someone who was "bilge free", i.e. drunk.
Bill - police
The "bill" or "old bill" has so many possible origins that you can take your pick. One is that when the police was originally formed by Robert Peel, King William IV ("Bill") was on the throne. Less likely, it could be rhyming from "the boys in blue", i.e. "bill and coo".
Bin - throw away, reject, or abandon a project, as in "finally I had to bin it"
"Bin" originally just meant a receptacle, possible for containing grain, bread, or other foodstuffs. As a receptacle for rubbish it dates from the mid-19th century.
Binge - a spree, as in "binge watching" or "binge-drinking", but can mean "spending spree"
The word first appeared in English in the mid-1800's and meant "to soak", and by WW I it also meant to eat or drink too much (TV "binge-watching" arrived in 2003). I can remember using the word but without a specific significance, or perhaps it was "bingie/bingy", which for me meant dirty and tatty. In any case it looks to be a word that became popular post-2000.
Bird - a young woman, girl
Originally "bird" was used by the Americans in expressions such as "He's a perfect bird of a man" or "He's a strange old bird". "Bird" is British slang for a girl, and dates from 1880.
Birthday suit - naked
An expression known to have existed already in 1771, and probably linked to the clothes worn by English kings on their birthdays. This expression is also probably linked to expressions such "mother naked" and "naked as the day one was born".
Bit - the name for some kinds of coin, as in "a thruppenny bit"
The word "bit" dates from 1609 and was firstly just thieves slang for a "bit of money". Later it came to mean the smallest silver coin. By 1829 in England it referred to a fourpenny coin, and in the 19th century to the silver threepence (thruppence), sixpence, and florin (two shillings or "two bob"). And finally to the wonderful twelve-sided thruppenny bit. In 1967 there was the "ten-bob bit".
Bit much - excessive
A shortened version of "a bit too much" and it is speculated that it has it origins in the late 1800's simply to express excess, and the shorter version "bit much" appeared in early 1920's.
Bit of a lad - someone who is always chasing women
Firstly "lad" appears to derive from Middle English "ladde", ca. 1300. They were "foot soldiers" or "young male servants", and in Britain the word is still used for those who look after horses. Over time the meaning shifted to foolish youth of a lower social status. Lad is often interchangeable with boy, as in "he's only a lad" or "when I was a lad". Phrases such as "He was a bit of a lad, always had an eye for the girls" are quite common, but their origin is unknown.
Bit of all right - an attractive woman
"All right" is a typical British understatement, originally just meaning quite satisfactory, and possible dating from as early as 1150. The sexual connotation is just one possible interpretation, since you can also find expressions such as "Yes, that's all right", "All right, I'll go with you", and "they are all all right, safe and sound".
Bit on the side - adultery, mistress
This expression dates from the late 19th century, and was adapted by British soldiers to mean "girlfriend", before becomes somewhat derogatory with time. The word "bit" is associated with a "little bit of…" so not very much, stressing the insignificance of the subject, as in "a bit too much" or "a bit player". It is used often with a sexual undertone, e.g. "bit of fluff", "bit of rough", "bit of skirt", "bit of stuff", etc. There is also a strong correlation with "bite", as in "get a bite to eat", since a "bite" is just a small "bit" of food.
Bits and bobs - bits and pieces, odds and ends (occasionally "odds and sods")
"Bits and bobs" is English slang for a collection of small items too numerous to name individually. Bits originated from a carpenters tool box containing drills, whilst bobs were routing or screw-driving drill attachments. Originally the expression was "bits and bats" with "bits" being fragments, etc., and "bats" being pieces. The expression was certain in use in 1896. Interestingly "bats" could include morsels of food, but it is likely that "bits and bobs" actually did not refer to any particular type of things, and was probably just a qualifier for "stuff".
Blabbermouth - someone who can't keep a secret
"Blabber" could have emerged as a word echoing the sound of "blabbering", in any case " to blab" as short for "blabber" was used by Chaucer.
In the black/red - in profit/loss
An American expression derived from the fact that accounting records marked net profit or surplus in black ink and net losses in red.
Black and white - as written and thus binding, as in "it must be right, black on white", and also meaning a clear division between two options, as in "its so easy, its just black or white, one or the other"
Black-out - temporary loss of consciousness
The term "black-out" in reference to printed or written material deemed objectionable and covered in black ink, dates from 1888. By 1911 blackouts involved the cessation of lighting in a theatre, and was used to separate scenes in a play or the closing of a burlesque or musical comedy. Blackouts in terms of the loss of electricity dates from ca. 1932. The dousing of lights during an air raid dates from 1935, and the "loss of memory" dates from 1934. It must be noted that something that was "blacked out" dates from much earlier, possibly as early as 1811.
Blag - obtain something through a trick or deception
To "blag" derives from French "blague" (to joke or tell a funny story), which derives from Old Provençal "blager", "to chat". It means to get something for free, by guile or deception. And it can mean obtaining "blagging" confidential information, and it can also mean violent robbery. But you can just as easily "blag" ("cadge") a "fag" or cigarette. I think originally in English it meant a falsehood (ca. 1857), but to rob often with violence appears to be much more recent (ca. 1930). To "blag" in the sense of "cadge", scrounge, bamboozle, etc. appears to have already existed in the 1950's. There are also even more recent references to "blagging" one's way into closed events, etc. (which I think might actually be called "ligging") but that might be a bit after my time (in the 1980's).
Blah-blah-blah - nonsense, boring, worthless talk
The expression initially meant that the listener did not respect what the speaker was saying, and probably dates to the 1800's. By 1918 it meant idle or meaningless talk.
Bleating - complaining, as in "shut up, and stop bleating"
The word derives from the Old English "blætan" and as the cry of a sheep, goat or calf, dates from circa 1500. It is presumed that the animal id whining or complaining, and so a bleating is also, for example, whining about a boss who gives difficult assignments.
Bleeding - to add intensity, as in "bleeding fantastic"
Bleeding, as loose of blood, has its origins in the Old English "bledan". To extort money dates from the 1670's, the washing out of colours dates from 1862, and the figurative sense of suffering dates back to the late 14th century.
Blimey! - exclamation of surprise, as in "Cor blimey!"
Is said to be an abbreviation of "God blind me", as an old expression of shock or surprise.
Blind drunk - very drunk
To be so drunk as to have one's vision impaired, dates back to the 17th century. There is also the word "blinder" meaning a drunken spree. Other expressions meaning to be drunk include "drink like a fish", drunk as a lord", "pissed as a newt", "bombed out of your skull", "one over the eight", "under the table", "up to the gills", and just "tight" (and not forgetting the delicate "worse for wear" or even "under the influence").
A blind bit of notice - ignore, as in "when I asked her, she didn't take a blind bit of notice"
Origin unknown, but looks to be an expression dating from the 1920's.
Blind date - an arranged meeting with someone you have never met before
This is American student slang, dating from 1821.
Blind them with science - explain something that discourages understanding, and hopefully stops them asking questions
Origin unknown, but looks to be an expression dating from ca. 1915.
Blink - out of order, as in "on the blink" meaning it does not work properly or will soon breakdown
This word may derive from the late 1800's when early electric lights flickered on and off, i.e. "blinks". Some sources say the earliest examples of "on the blink" actually references American domestic affairs and the lack of success of a stage show. The earliest reference to a machine "on the blink" appears to date from 1896.
To blitz - a short, intensive action (obviously from Blitzkrieg)
The lightning war (Blitzkrieg) is of course of German origin, but The Blitz was the sustained bombing of Britain in the period 1940-41. Today in Britain "to blitz" something is to liquidise it in a blender, but in American football it's a particular defensive play. More generally "blitz" refers now to any short, sharp to rapid action.
Block - meaning head as in "block-head" for stupid, or "knock his block off" for punch to the head
Interestingly "block-head" derives from the 14th century when head-shaped blocks of oak were used to shape hats and wigs, and the term already meant a person with no brains. A barbers block was a head-shaped piece of wood on which clients could place their wigs. An alternative is that it derived from the block of wood on which the head was placed during an execution, which obviously resulted in brain-death. "Block-head" has many synonyms such as airhead, deadhead, fathead, knucklehead, meathead, pinhead, and thickhead, some being more ancient than block-head. On the other hand "knock his block off" appears to date from London in the 1930's.
Blockbuster - make a considerable impact
The blockbuster was a high-explosive bomb used in the beginning of WW II, and which could "bust" an entire block of buildings. More recently a blockbuster is typically a feature film that becomes very popular and financially successful. The term first appeared in the American press in 1942, and by 1943 had started to take on a metaphorical meaning. There was a wrestler nicknamed "the blockbuster", and there was actually a comedy film called "Block Busters" produced in 1944. Jaws (1975) was the first film to be actually labelled a summer blockbuster.
Bloke - man, chap, fellow, as in "he's a nice bloke"
The modern use of the word comes from America, but it's possible that it's origin is from Hindistani "lake" meaning 'man', or Dutch "blok" for 'fool', or Celtic "ploc" for a large bull-headed person.
Bloody - to intensify or stress something, as in "bloody awful" or "you can bloody well do it yourself"
Bloody has been an objectionable adjective in Britain since the 1800's, but before that it just meant "very". It need not have a negative connotation, e.g. "bloody awesome" and "bloody chuffed". Some say the use of "bloody" references back to the blood shed on the Cross. "Bloody" can be used a lot, presumably because it's less offensive than other expletives, but there are signs that the younger generation use it less than old people. Other similar expressions include "bleeding", with "bloody 'ell, watcha your bleeding attitude, mate".
Bloody-minded - pig-headed, obstructive, vindictive
The first use of "bloody minded" appears to be in Shakespeares King Henry VI, Part III, dating from 1592. It refers to someone being bloody minded enough to have a child.
Blow - to leave, as in "let's blow this place" meaning "let's leave"
"Blow" comes from the Old English "blowan" meaning "to blow wind, etc., breathe, kindle, inflate, etc." Blowing noses dates from the 1530's, whereas "blow money" dates from 1874, "blow a fuse" dated from 1902, and blow an opportunity from 1943. To "blow" as to leave a place, appears to be American and date from 1969, but there is a suggestion that "depart suddenly" dates from around 1902. "Blow me down", as a maritime expression appears to date from 1781, and surprisingly "to blow hot and cold" dates from the 1570's. You would have to have waited until 1967 to "blow your mind".
An alternative is to "blow" as in hit hard with the fist, dating from the mid-15th century. "Come to blows" dates from the 1650's, but "blow-by-blow" only appeared in 1921 (obviously for prize-fighting).
Blower - telephone, as in "he's on the blower"
Clearly "blower" originates from the Old English "blawere" (to blow), and was used in the 12th century for horn-blowers. In 1795 it was used for mechanical devices that blew air, and in 1922 it was a colloquial word for a "speaking-tube", hence the extension to the telephone. There is a strong argument for its use as a speaking tube much earlier that 1922, probably more likely ca. 1830's.
There are numerous other expressions relating to blowing, e.g. "blow away" (to defeat or kill), "to blow in" (to arrive), "to blow out" (extinguish), "blow over" (subside), "blow up" (inflate, explode), "blow a fuse" (explode with anger), "blow hot and cold" (to change one's opinion), "to blow off steam" (vent pent-up emotion), "blow one's cool" (lose composure), "blow the lid off" (divulge a secret), etc.
Blow the whistle on … - to reveal secret information on …
Originally people actually blew whistles to call the attention of the police. Started in Britain, but it was the American police force that were first called "whistleblowers" (ca. 1883). The expression "whistle blower" was retained in modern language by the blowing of a whistles by basketball or football officials after a foul has been committed. The modern-day sense appears to be linked to the reports of the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam (1968). So over time "whistle blower" changed to "whistle-blower", and then in the 1970's to "whistleblower".
Bluebottle - policeman
The word was first recorded in ca. 1545, presumably describing the fly called a "blue bottle". Otherwise "bluebottle" is simply registered as an antique word describing an old-style police uniform.
There are an enormous number of "blue-" related expressions, such as "blue blood" (nobility), "blue boy" (policeman, and origin of "boys in blue"), "blue cheese", "blue-collar" (manual workers), "blue moon" (rare occurrence), "blue-mould" (on cheese), "Blue Peter" (flag), "blue streak" (vividness), "blue water" (open sea), etc.
Blue in the face - shouting, arguing or excessive effort, often ignored by others
The basic idea is that if you are shouting or speaking a lot, you run out of oxygen, and your face turns blue. The expression appears to have been used first in 1864.
Blue murder - to scream or shout in alarm, as in "she screamed blue murder", which is a description of the intensity of the scream and not the words shouted or screamed
The expression does not necessarily have to involve murder, for example "that bank is getting away with blue murder" means that they appear to do what they want and ignore all the rules. So questionable actions are ignored (i.e. "blind eye" and "deaf ear" of the authorities). The origin of "blue murder" is said to be the translation of the French word "morbleu", which is a mid-17th century word expressing annoyance and surprise. Originally it was "Mort Dieu" ("God's death!") but was probably toned down over time. The French also have another "blue" expression of terror or astonishment, "scare blue", which is a toned down version of "sacre Dieu".
Blurb - what is written on book covers, meaning little more than advertising and usually totally unmemorable
The origin of "blurb" dates from 1907, and the book of Gelett Burgess "Are You a Bromide?". The publisher distributed the book at the annual dinner of their trade association with a comic bookplate drawn by the author. On it he had lifted a sweet young woman from a tooth-powder advertisement, and added some nonsense about a "Miss Belinda Blurb".
Bob - a shilling, as in a "worth a bob or two" meaning expensive
Always expressed singular, you had "thirty bob" or a "few bob" (which actually meant and still means a lot of money). The word was so popular you even had the local cubs and scouts offering "bob a job". Today "bob" appears to just mean money, but still it means more than you think, since "he's worth a few bob" actually means he's well-off.
The word "bob" may have been inspired by Sir Robert (Bob) Walpole, who was at different times UK treasurer, Chancellor and Prime Minister, but the word was first used some 65 years after his death. However, it's possible that it dates to the late 1700's and is connected with the church and bell-ringing, since "bob" meant a set of changes rung on the bells. For example, it is thought that schilling comes from the Germanic *skell" meaning sound or ring. Another option is the link to the "bob" of a masons "plum-bob". Another suggestion is "bob" derives from slang for half-penny, which in turn derives from the French "bas billon" meaning debased copper money. "Bob a nob" meant in the early 1800's "a shilling a head" for meals, and a "bobstick" was a shillings worth of gin.
Bobby - policeman
The word "bobby" presumable came from Sir Robert (Bob) Peel, the British Home Secretary who remodelled the London police force in 1830.
Bodge/Botch - to make a mess of a job
Firstly, to "bodge" something is a British expression meaning to be clumsy and do a poor quality job, often as a repair. Secondly, to "botch" something is to do a task in an unacceptable or incompetent manner, i.e. to ruin, to spoil or destroy. So "bodge" derives from the Middle English "bocce", to mend, and certainly dates from before 1865. However, "a bodger" is a chair maker, so completely different from the term "bodge". The word "botch" is said to be a Victorian term derived from Thomas Bouch who is thought to have been responsible for the Tay Bridge Disaster in 1879. It must be said that Bouch had successfully developed the first roll-on/roll-off train ferry service and helped in the development of the caisson and use of lattice girders, but he is known for "a botched job".
Boffin - scientist or inventor
The origin of "boffin" is obscure. For some reason the word was very popular between 1860-70, and again around 1900.
Bog - lavatory
"Bog" appears to be a 16th century Scottish/Irish word meaning "soft and moist" ground. The guess is that a hole dug in the ground, and used as a toilet would eventually look like a bog. It's not surprising that "Bog roll" just means a roll of toilet paper.
Bogged down - difficult to complete what you are doing, as in "I'm bogged down and can't see a way to get to the end of this work"
The obvious suggestion appears the best, it just means stuck in deep mud/bog/swamp, which slows you down. A classic quote is "to be bogged down by red tape" ("red tape" was much associated the the two world wars).
Bog-standard - very standard, no refinements or options, as in "John drives a bog standard car, cheap bastard"
Originated in Britain it means something ordinary or basic, but it only appeared in the 1980's, although many people like me remember it from earlier times. One unlikely story goes that "BOG" stands for "British or German" who established engineering standards in Victorian times. Another suggestion is that it actually means "box standard" in that it is just how it comes out of the box, however the expression "box standard" does not appear to exist.
Bollocks - nonsense, rubbish, as in "what a load of old bollocks" or "he gave me a right bollocking"
It would appear that the word comes from Old English, and in one definition it refers to a twin pulley block found at the top of a ship's mast. However, more appropriately in the 18th century priests sermons were colloquially referred to as "bollocks". It has been said that the Sex Pistols album "Never Mind the Bollocks" avoided a ban under British obscenity laws for just this reason. Later "bollocksed up" came to mean messed up, mixed up or spoiled, and "bollocksed" means broken beyond repair. Finally, "I'm bollocksed" means tired.
Bolshie - bloody-minded, pig-headed, obstructive
The word "bolshie" is a simple corruption of "bolshevik", who were the left-wing or radical reformers of the Russia Social Democratic Party. It was in 1903 that the majority (Bolshevik) accepted the views of Lenin. It was the Bolsheviks who overthrew the Russian government in 1917.
Bomb - drive fast, as in "he bombed it down to the coast"
It's interesting to note that in Britain "bomb" is positive, stressing its explosive force, whereas in America its destructive power means that it is used in the negative sense. For them a theatrical production "bombs" means failure, whereas in Britain it would be associated with a success as in "it made a bomb".
Bomb proof - untouchable, as in "they can touch me, I'm bomb-proof"
The expression certainly dates from ca. 1950, or earlier. There are WW I military references to "holding a bomb proof job", i.e. a safe job. Of course if such a job turned out not to be as safe as originally envisaged, it would be a "bombshell" to those holding that job. "Bombshell", as an unpleasant surprise, has been around since 1960.
Bone-idle - lazy as in "bone tired"
"Bone-idle" appears to date from 1830, and various versions ("bone-lazy", "bone-sore") have retained the same basic definition. "Lazybones" is said to date from the 16th century. "To the bone" has always meant deep, through to the marrow, etc., as in "I feel it in my bones", "Frozen to the bone", "Cut to the bone", "bone dry", etc., and then you have other expressions such as "bone of contention". I've read that "bonfire" was originally "bone fire" where they burned animal bones they had collected throughout the year.
Bonkers - crazy or mad, as in "she is totally bonkers"
The word "bonkers" is a British term that first meant "slightly drunk", but may have had its origins in the navy.
Boobs - woman's breasts
This is just one slang word for woman's breasts, and it was first seen in print in 1932, but certainly existed before. A boob can also mean foolish or stupid, and this definition might have come from the Spanish "bobo" meaning "dunce", which comes from the Latin "babus" meaning stammering. The word "Booby" dates the late 16th century and meant also "fool" or "dummy", later birds of the Sula genus were called Booby. Later "booby" was associated with a number of other expressions such as "booby trap" and "booby prize". It is believed that the origin of "boobs" actually is linked to "bubbly", possible either from the German *bübbi" meaning "teat" or more likely simply via baby talk such as "buh-buh". In any case the first reference to "bubby" or "bubbies" used to describe breasts, dates from 1686, and it is these words that resulted in today's "boobs".
To book/booked - reserve something, or to be stopped for a bad deed (e.g. yellow/red card in football) or criminal activity (e.g. arrested by the police)
Firstly, the word "book" has many meanings linked to recording or registering something, such as officially "placing a bet on the books". This sense was already found in the 13th century. It was in the 1700's that "book" also acquired the meaning "to reserve", producing the expression "booked up" and "fully booked". Also in the 1700's, "book it" meant to study intensely, a bit like "hit the books" today. There was a black American expression of the 1930's where "to book it" meant to run away quickly. "Book it" also had a sense of "bet on it", and in the 1800's the "book" became the place for registering bets. We use today the expression "booking in" and booking out" of a hotel, which some have suggested comes from the days of ocean liners where you "booked passage".
Boozer - public house (pub), as in "when he left the boozer he could hardly walk"
The word certainly derives from a certain Booze who, in circa 1840, distilled and sold his booze under his own name. However "booze" is Middle English for "to drink deeply". In Britain "booze" is associated with beer and ale, whereas in America it's associated with hard liquor.
Bottle - nerve, courage, as in "to bottle it"
"Bottle" means courage, as in "she's got a lot of bottle", but the expression "to bottle it" means to chicken out or give up for lack of courage. It would appear that in 1846 "not much bottle" or "no bottle" meant useless, or no good for anything, and this is probably at the origin of the expression. Americans still prefer "chicken out". This expression has no relationship to unsuccessful performers being "bottled off" by a crowd throwing bottles, nor is it related to emotions being "bottled up".
Bottom line - the final result
The "bottom line" is the sum to total at the bottom of a financial document, and as such it first dates from 1831. In my opinion it also means conclusion, as in "the bottom line is that you don't want to do it".
Bottoms up - empty you glasses when drinking, as in "bottoms up, I'll get the next round (of drinks)"
There is a story that in the 18th century the English navy recruited men by offering them a King's shilling. If they accepted, the recruitment was considered consensual (the practice was stopped in 1879). One trick was to drop the shilling in their beer, and by drinking the beer it was as if they had accepted the coin. Bar owners started to serve beer in glasses and warned people to look in the bottom by saying "bottoms up!". This story is certainly a myth. It more likely that it is just a toast, an expression to lift your glass and drink. It would appear that the expression actually dates from the early 1900's. This is a great little webpage about the equivalent expression in different cultures.
Bouncer - someone employed to eject troublemakers or drunks
As you might expect a "bouncer" is someone expert in bouncing people, e.g. thumping them. The terms appear to date from 1833 and covers bully, braggart, enforcer, etc. In American in 1879 there is a reference to a bouncer being a cross between brakeman and bruiser on trains, and who was responsible for ejecting tramps. In Britain in 1883, bouncer was a "chucker out", who selected the "gayest of the gay" (i.e. drunkest) and bounced him.
Bovver boots - steel-studded boots, can be an offensive weapon
Bovver probably derives from "bother", related to aggro, and later football hooliganism. Fans were even warned that to attend a match they would have to remove their boots. The Bovver boot has always been associated with Dr. Martens, and with people looking for "bovver" (i.e. trouble).
Bovver boy - skinhead, lout
A bovver boy was a young person (usually a skinhead) behaving violently in Britain in the 1960's. And of course there were also "bovver birds" as well.
Bovver was really an imitation of a working-class Londoner pronouncing "bother", as in "a spot of bother". However bother dates from the 18th century and could mean annoyed or even deaf, and Victorian and Edwardian lades could be heard saying "Botheration!" when vexed. There are even the very polite English expressions "its no bother at all" and "please don't bother yourself".
However "bovver" was part of a world of understatement, with "a good seeing-to" meaning murder, "having a word with" meaning a maiming. So "bovver" was just extreme aggression, and it became the signature word of skinheads. In the 1970's British working-class skinheads, and in particular the so-called chav-girls always answered everything "not bovvered", "Am I bovvered?", or "Does my face look bovvered?", and in fact "bovver" was Word of the Year 2006.
Box clever - cunning, shrewd, skilful
The phrase originated in 1910 when in an account of a boxing match, one contestant was praised for "boxing clever".
Brass - money
The word "brass" describes an alloy of copper with tin or zinc, and the word was originally Anglo-Saxon. The earliest reference is of "peasant's brass" and dates from 1597, whereas the well known expression "where there's muck there's brass" dates from the mid-19th century. This expression suggests that there is money in dirty or mucky jobs, i.e. if you are willing to get your hands dirty. There is also a proverb "muck and money go together", dated to 1678.
In Elizabethan times "brazen" meant "seamless imprudence" and is at the origin of the expression "bold as brass". Later the British used "brass hat" for high-ranking military officials, and the expression was adopted by Americans in WW I and streamlined to "top brass", etc. in WW II.
There are few other more specialised expressions associated with coinage. One is "right on the money" which comes from surveying. They used steel rods hammered in to the ground as "benchmarks", and over time they became difficult to see in the viewfinder. The trick was to place on the benchmark top a shiny coin, which would be visible in the viewfinder, and so their measurements would be "right on the money". This expression today means doing something right on budget. "Money for old rope" means money that is easy earned. The mention of "brass tacks" comes from the used of brass tacks to hammered into a table and set at standard distances. When selling fabric or cloth, the supplier would "get down to brass tacks" in measuring out the material the customer was ordering. Today the expression means getting down to the details of a business or transaction.
Brass Maggie - £1
The story goes that the coal miners strike (1984-85, so outside "my period") coincide with the introduction of the new pound coin. Given the conflict that was ragging at the time, the coins was nicknamed a "Brass Maggie" because it was "a hard, unpopular brassy piece that thinks it's a sovereign". A typical expression was "I wouldn't give a Brass Maggie for that", i.e. something overpriced but of low value.
Brass monkey weather - bitterly cold weather
The story goes that cannonballs were stored on deck on a brass frame or tray called a monkey, and named after the "power monkey", i.e. boys who ran the gunpowder to the ship's cannons. It was said that in cold weather the brass would contract slightly and the cannonballs would fall off, thus the expression "cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey". The problem with this nice expression is there is no known use of a brass monkey on a ship, brass is unlikely to contract that much, cannonballs were not store on deck, and the original expression was actually "freeze the tail off a brass monkey", so no mention of cannonballs.
The alternative mentioned in the Wikipedia article is that the reference is to small Japanese tourist items of the three monkeys, as in "hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil". And the mention of the tail above, was also accompanied by similar expressions with nose, ears and even whiskers, along with "its hot enough to singe the hair of a brass monkey".
Brassed-off - fed-up, disgruntled
One suggestion was that it was linked to navy cleaning brasswork as a punishment. Another suggestion was that it followed from "brass monkeys", and that being out in the cold you would be "brassed off". The expression may have been around in the late 19th century, possibly linked to the navy term "brass-rags" meaning to quarrel (raggies were friends or at least partners in polishing stanchions, etc.). The expression "brassed-off" was particularly popular starting in 1939 and though to about 1950. This would suggest that it was linked to military service, and probably associated with "browned off", although being a shade milder. There is the suggestion that in 1939 it meant "to reprimand severely", another suggestion from 1941 was that it meant "fed-up", and yet another suggestion is that it was linked more with boredom that menial work. Another text mentioned that you could be "browned off" or "brassed off", but worse still you could be "completely cheesed off".
One finally comment, totally outside the above descriptions, is that brass being relatively soft, engineers would dull new drill bits to stop then bitting into the brass. And the drill bits were called "brassed off".
Bread - money
The use of "bread" for money is an underworld term dating from 1935. It could be related to the link between bread and one's livelihood (e.g. "taking the bread out of someone's mouth"), but probably is more likely linked to "dough" another word for money".
It interesting that "bread and honey" was Cockney rhyming slang for money, and then "bread" was then rhymed with "poppy red", which was finally shortened to "poppy" (so becoming another word for money). Bread appears in the Bible as also linked to money, and we also have the expression "earning a crust" meaning making enough money to pay for one's daily bread.
Break - usually for good luck, as in "I got a break, and then it was easy", but a "bad break" is bad luck
The word "break" might come from a medieval tradition that performers would pause or break their acts to collect money. In the late 19th century when criminals went to trail or left prison friends would collect money to help them "get a break" or have some good luck.
Have him for breakfast - something easy to do, or a person easy to beat, as in "if he tries that again, I'll have him for breakfast"
Breather - a short rest, as in "wait a minute, give us a breather"
Apart from the obvious meaning, origin unknown, but it would appear to date from the beginning of the 20th century.
Breeze - something that was easy
Originally it was adopted by John Hawkins from the Spanish "breza", the northeast trade winds. Its original meaning was a lovely refreshing breeze, but by the 17th century it had also acquired its modern definition.
Brew - a pot of tea, as in to "brew up a pot of tea"
To "brew" is to allow time for the taste of the tea to be extracted from the leaves by the hot water (yet "brew" is really slang for beer). There is an expression "builder's brew" for a strong cup of tea. The phrase "brew" comes from Middle English but just referred to a drink or potion. So "brew up" is just the process of making a good "brew".
"Brew" can be used metaphorically, as in "brewing up a plan or plot", "trouble is brewing", or "a storm was brewing out as sea". Interestingly, in both Britain and India, tea can also refer to the evening meal.
Brick - a loyal, dependable person
The word "brick" appears to have come from King Lycurgus of Sparta, who was questioned about the absence of a defensive wall. He replied, pointing at his men, "every man is a brick". It's also used for a dependable friend.
You can also say that someone is "as thick as a brick" (i.e. stupid) and there is even the expression "build like a brick shithouse" (which means solidly built, but which some people actually used to describe women of a certain morphology).
Bricking it - frightened, as in "I was bricking it"
Basically it means "scared shitless" or "shitting bricks" (other might suggest "scared silly"), and there is a similar expression in French with "avoir les jetons" or possibly "chier dans son froc".
Bright spark - clever person
The only thing I've seen on this is an oldish reference to "Teach wit's bright spark by chimie aid to gleam", dating (I think) from about 1750. There is a related expression with "he had a sparkle in his eye" (also found with "twinkle in his eye"). And there is the idea of a "spark" describing the "instant chemistry" between people, but you can also have a disagreement "where sparks fly".
Broad - woman, as in "what a dumb broad"
Possible originating in the 1920's and meaning a promiscuous woman, it now just means a respectable young woman. The Americans may have derived the same word, but related to broad breasts and buttocks, allowing for a less respectable use of the term.
Broad brush - general outline
Apart from the obvious meaning, origin unknown but probably dating from about 1890.
Broke - short of money, bankrupt, as in "I'm broke"
This meaning was first recorded in Shakespeare Merchant of Venice (ca. 1596) with "he cannot choose but break" referencing the "shattering of his worldly estate", i.e. bankrupt and financially ruined. Of course there are plenty of similar expressions, such as "I'm skint", "don't have a penny to my name", and "don't have two pennies to rub together". It is also possible to "break the bank", and it would appear that a certain Charles De Ville Wells won, in 1891, enough money to "break the bank" in Monte Carlo.
Brolly - umbrella, as in "it's brolly weather"
The word dates from 1866, and is just a clipped and shortened word from umbrella. In the past big umbrellas have been called "gamps", and it would appear that Americans once called the brolly a "bumbershoot", possibly from "umbr" mixed with shoot as in -chute in parachute. I've also see the phrase "brolly hop" used for a parachute jump.
Broody - taciturn, moody, sullen, as in "he's a broody sort of bastard"
It would appear that in the early 16th century "broody" meant "fit to bread", but by 1851 it meant "inclined to think long and deeply". It's possible that a modern definition is again "full of maternal yearnings", I guess "broody" is related to "broodiness", i.e. the incubation of eggs.
Brothel-creepers - suede shoes
A type of suede boot with crepe rubber, used in WW II, but why "brothel" is unclear. A "silent shoe" might be quite useful, however the Americans called them "brothel stompers" (which sounds like they may have had some difficulty in keeping quiet). The shoes were popular with Teddy Boys and Punks, and now many other subcultures.
As an aside shoes were often used as proof in the divorce courts. Two pairs of shoes would be left outside a hotel room (one mens and one ladies pair). A photograph was enough to suggest adultery. Later the level of proof was increased and hotel maids were paid to jump into bed for a few photographs. Some wrote they were called "dry tarts" or for some unknown reason "lemon tarts".
Brown bread - dead, as in "You're brown bread, mate!"
This is more Cockney rhyming slang, and "brown bread" has been around forever.
Browned off - disgruntled or depressed
This is British service slang, dates from 1938, and originally meant angry or annoyed (it might date back to 1880 but there is no proof). It has been suggested that in 1883 something that was "browned" meant ruined or rendered useless, i.e. if fruit was "browned off" by the damp or cool weather, they were rendered useless. It is not clear why the meaning now means depressed or bored.
Brownie points - marks in one's favour or credit
One suggestion is that the points derive from Brownies, 7-10 year old Girl Guides/Scouts, who do good deeds. However, it is possible that it refers to the brown points that were used to buy meat during WW II rationing. But it might refer to "brown-noser", which appeared around 1939. The guess is that it percolated into the military as a sarcastic comment, and then by 1951 gained traction with the general public.
Brush-off - to dismiss or snub, as in "she quickly gave me the brush off"
This is clearly related to brushing an imaginary speck off a shoulder. The term is said to have originated in 1820, but to have become popular in the 1930's. Initially it meant to "give someone the air", but now it just means dismiss and move on. There is a hint in one of the many definitions of "brush", i.e. meaning "move briskly", and dates from around 1670. So brushing past someone as if they don't exist, and you also have "brush something off", as in cleaning, which also dates from the early 1600's.
Brush up - to revise on a subject
To "brush up" in the sense of reviving or refreshing one's knowledge, dates from 1788.
Bubbly - champagne
Already in the 1590's things could be "full of bubbles", but you had to wait until 1910 for bubbly water, 1920 for bubbly champagne, and 1939 for bubbly people.
And we should also remember that already in 1720 the "South Sea Bubble" burst, giving us another definition of "bubble" (whereas the earlier tulip mania of the 1630's was not called a "bubble"). The word "bubble" became quickly associated with trickery and deception, later it took on a meaning of fragility, emptiness and worthlessness.
Buck - dollar
The word "buck" may have its origin in animal skins that were classified as "bucks" and "does", the "buck" being more valuable.
Bug - an error in a machine or computer, a person who is obsessed by something (e.g. "got the bug"), to irritate (e.g. "to bug someone"), and to hide a microphone in a room
The word "bug" originally had nothing to do with insects, and it's not clear how, why and when the link was made. As an irritant the expression was first recorded in the 1950's in America. The idea of a bug causing an error in early computers has been debunked, since the word was already used before the first computers, and it probably derives from bogey, a "real thing that causes worry".
Bugger - a person (e.g. "a poor bugger"), could be mildly derogatory (e.g. "silly bugger"), or to irritate (e.g. "to play silly buggers")
First recorded in ca. 1350 the Middle English was "bougre" and before that from Latin "Bulgarus" or "heretic", but actually literally meaning someone from the Balkans which was at the time associated with heretical sects who allegedly had deviant practices. It would appear that in America "he's just a little bugger" means a child, but that was not the case in Britain, where the use of the word in print was actionable for many years.
The word "bugger" is associated with numerous expressions, e.g. "bugger about" (to waste time, as in "'s just been buggering about all day"), "bugger all" (meaning "nothing"), "buggered" (emphatic negative, as in "I'm buggered if I know"), and "bugger off" (to leave, as in "bugger off, and leave me in peace"). There are substantial variations in the use of "bugger", as with "bugger the cost", "silly old bugger", "a friendly/cute little bugger", "they are playing silly buggers", "I'm buggered" (as in tired), "bugger me" (not literally, but as an expression of surprise), etc.
Bull/bullshit - to talk rubbish, as in "another load of bull from the prime minister"
The use of "bull" as a lie or exaggeration may have passed into English from the French "boule" meaning fraud, or it could have come from "cock and bull story" which dates back to at least the early 17th century. Bullshit was first recorded in America in 1914, but was probably older.
Bum - to beg or cadge, or to get a bad deal (e.g. "that's a bum deal")
Interestingly, there is an expression "a hobo will work, a tramp won't, a bum can't". The use of "bum" was first recorded in 1855 and was used to describe foraging soldiers. In English "bum" meant both a drunk and buttocks (and initially it was not a vulgar word), and in German "bummer" was a high-spirited, irresponsible person. However, today "a bum" has lost it's nobility and just means a no-good person.
Bump off - to kill someone
Bump also means both a knock or blow, and also the resultant swelling. The origin of the expression is unknown, but it appeared around the time of WW I.
Bundle - a big roll of money, as in "he's worth a bundle"
Obviously the origin is simply "bundle" as in a collection of things, which is from the early 14th century, and the Old English "byndele", or "binding". To "make into a bundle" dates from the 1620's, and when people slept together clothed this was called a "bundle" in 1781. "Bundle some off" dated from 1823, and "bundle up", as in wrap in warm clothes dates from 1853. "Bundle of money" dates from 1899, and a "bundle of nerves" from 1938.
Bun in the oven - to be pregnant
The phrase is modern in that it is said to have been first used only in 1951, however it would appear that the womb has been referred to as an oven since the 17th century.
Bunk - run away, as in "to do a bunk"
The origin of "bunk" as a form of bed probably dates to the mid-17th century. The idea is that "bunk" means nonsense comes from "bunkum", a simplified spelling of "Buncombe". In 1820 a certain American Felix Walker, spoke in the US House of Representatives, and people realised he was talking irrelevant nonsense. His answer was that his constituents expected him to make a speech about Buncombe, so "Buncombe", "bunkum", and "bunk" became shorthand for nonsense. To "do a bunk" has meant to run away since 1870, and appears to have been an expansion of its meaning, as it changed from nonsense to trickery and dishonesty. Remembering that "bunco" meant a con or swindle using dice or cards, and so "to do a bunk" implies a dishonest escape of one sort or another.
Business - to be really good, as in "That car is the business"
This is "busy" and "-ness", and from the mid-14th century meant "state of being much occupied or engaged" (replacing busyness). The idea of a livelihood activity dates from about the same time, and by the 1590's it was also "what one is about at the time". The sense of trade, etc. dates from 1727. So a business letter dates from 1766, the business card dates from 1849, and "business as usual" from 1865. To "mean business" is from 1856, but "mind your own business" dates back to the 1620's. You can "be the business" meaning really good, or cool, but I don't know the origin.
Busker - playing music in the street for money
"Busker" has meant an itinerant entertainer since 1857, and comes from "to busk" or offer good for sale in bars and taprooms. An older definition, puts "busk" to mean "to cruise as a pirate", dating from 1841. The Germans had a sailing term in the 1600's about "pulling about or tack". The French "busquer" meaning "to seek", and the Italians and Spanish have "buscare" and "buscar" respectively, for selling from place to place. The idea is that the English "busk" might have come through this route.
Bust - raid by police, as in "the police busted the world's biggest video-game-cheat operation"
There are references dating to 1897, where thieves "bust a house open" or "stick a bust". Also it appears "to bust" someone, as in "to arrest them" also is a 19th century term. We see this expression in use today with "he was busted for selling drugs".
Butch - a woman who is assertively masculine, as in "I find her just a bit butch"
The exact origin is unknown, but may derive from "butcher" (ca. 1870's). I've also seen an early 20th century reference to "butch" meaning "tough kid". Also in the 1930's it referred to a gay male's masculinity, before shifting to lesbian masculinity in the 1940's.
Butcher's - to have a look, as in "it will cost you, if you want to have a butchers inside"
I also remember "have a dekko" meant more or less the same thing. "Have a dekko" comes from "dekho" a Hindi word meaning "look", and appeared in 1856. There was also "take a shufti", another expression imported from the Arabic "šufti" meaning "have you seen". "Have a butchers" or "have a gander" were local London expressions. Cockney rhyming slang is "butchers hook" for "look" (as is a Captain Cook). "Gander" is just a reference to a goose's habit of stretching out its neck when looking for predators.
Butterflies in the stomach - tremors of apprehension or excitement
The original reference dates from 1908 with a sad feeling and "butterflies in his stomach". The modern definition comes form 1943 and was a description of a training parachute jump.
Butty - bread with butter and something else (e.g. "jam butty")
Clearly, as in the definition dating from 1827, it refers to bread with butter in it, but today you can have a "fish butty", or a "chip butty" or probably an "anything butty". Today I think two pieces of bread with some butter would actually be the only thing people would not call a "butty", or would they call it a "butty butty"?
Buzz - rumour, news, or call someone on the phone, as in "give him a quick buzz"
"Buzz" comes from Middle English and dates back to around 1350, and as expected was the sound bees make. "Buzz", as in rumours and gossip, came from the early 1600's, and it took the meaning to be busy in the 1620's. "Buzz off" came in 1914, but appears to have initially meant to ring off the telephone (at the time they buzzed to signal a call). In 1922 you could "give someone a buzz" by calling them on the telephone. You find this expression still today with "Buzz off, I need to concentrate". To "buzz someone" as in to fly low over them, dates from 1940. The V1 rockets were called "buzz bombs" in 1944.
Buzzword - impressive sounding but meaningless word
"Buzzwords" date from 1946, came from Harvard University, and was a way to help students get better results, i.e. help student recall items of importance. The results was that student appeared to master subjects because they mentioned all the right words. There are hundreds of buzzwords listed on Wikipedia, from alignment to win-win. If you are looking for a few good ones, try disruptive, streamline, organic growth, leverage, and mission critical, but you might have to look up the meaning of hyperlocal, offshoring, reverse fulfilment, growth hacking, and of course don't every forget to finish with sustainability and privacy (always good for a round of applause).
Cabbie - a taxi driver
"Cabbie" dates from 1948.
Cack-handed - meaning left-handed, or clumsy
Being left-handed, this definition is not easy. "Cack" comes from the Old English "cac-hus", meaning to void excrement (mid-15th century). And cack-handed, or cag-handed has meant left-handed and awkward since 1854. Evidently it does not take long to mention that people would use their left hand for cleaning themselves after defecating, thus left hand equals cack hand. However the the first citation for cack handed dates only from the mid-19th century, and the reality is that "ceck" or "keck" simply meant awkward or clumsy, without any reference to excrement. I've also read that there is "caggy-handed" as well, avoiding the mention of "cack".
And just to cover all the bases, left-handed in different cultures means, sneaky, mistrustful, not working properly, the "dark side", inside-out, ill-omened, wrong, bad, disaster, accident, impolite, rogue, strange, stupid, crooked, maimed, sinister, twisted, unfaithful, illegal, badly made, the Devil, lizard, jinxed, wry souled, a woman, freak, weak, obstinate, non functional, and finally FAVOURABLE (thank you to Sweden).
Cadge - ask for or obtain, as in "he was always trying to cadge a quid off his mates"
The Middle English (ca. 1400's) for a peddler was "cadgear", and initially "cadger" meant "to carry". To "cadge" as to beg, dates from the early 1800's, and it was probably someone begging but trying to look like a peddler.
Cakehole - mouth, as in "shut your cake-hole"
"Cakehole" dates from 1943 and in probably service slang in the British airforce. The Americans adopted "pie-hole" in the 1980's. Don't mistake it for "cake face" which means some with too much make-up on.
Call it a day - go no further, as in "we have been driving since early this morning, so I think it's time we called it a day, and start looking for a hotel"
The expression started out as "call it half a day", dating from 1838. Whereas "call it a day" dates from 1919, and "call it a night" from 1938. It just means the end of work, and time to go home.
Camp - effeminate mannerisms
This could date from as early as the mid-17th century, and may derived from the French "camper" , to pose or portray. Later it would mean to put yourself in "a bold, provocative pose". From here, and with the exaggerated actions and gestures (ca. 1909) it probably meant to play up the affected and silliness for a "camp" effect (ca. 1960's).
Can - toilet, as in "I need to go to the can"
"Can" as an airtight container dates from 1867, and as a toilet from 1900. In America, since 1912, "can" has also been used to mean "jail", whereas as "the clink" was preferred in Britain (Clink Prison was one of England's oldest prisons). In each of these cases the word itself was probably is use before being finally put to print.
Cancer stick - cigarette
Cigarette is just French for a small cigar, and the slang expression appears to be Australian.
Can of worms - a complicated issue or situation, as in "I don't want to know, it's just a can of worms"
Origin unknown, but probably to do with fishing. The expression has been around since the 1920's.
Carry the can - be the scapegoat, take the blame, bear the brunt, as in "he was left to carry the can"
The exact origin is unclear, but many think it is of military origin from the 1920's. For some the "can" was explosives, for others it was more likely beer. In the navy there is an expression "carry the keg" which relates to carrying a grudge. Many think that given the preference for cans, it may be of American origin, although in Britain they had the expression tin can, which could lead one to think of the responsibility for not spilling a can of beer.
Cash in - to profit from, as in "he cashed in his chips, and ran for it"
Certain the word "cash" existed in the 1593, and derived from the French "caisse", or money chest. As a verb "cash in", it appears to date from ca. 1935.
Cat in hell's chance - not very likely, as in "your team doesn't have a cat in hell's chance of winning the cup"
The original expression was "no more chance than a cat in hell without claws", and dates from 1759, and the claws appear to have been dropped only in 1783. In 1892 the phrase given was a lack of peace in hell for cats, and not a lack of chance.
Certified - insane, as in "if he's not already certified, he should be"
Just means that someone is "officially certified" insane, bonkers, mad, …. In this sense it's one level higher than just being insane, and suggests that the person should be "locked up for good".
Chancer - taking foolish risks, as in "be careful with him, he's a chancer at everything he tries"
Certainly the idea is that the person is a unscrupulous or a dishonest opportunist. It appears to be a phrase in use between the mid-18th century through to about 1800, where if fell out of use. However I can remember it being used a lot, as in "he's a right chancer", said with just a tinge of admiration (ca. 1970). There is also the expression "to chance his arm", pretending to be someone they are not.
Chap - man, as in "he's a decent chap"
Chap is an abbreviation of "chapman" a wandering peddler, and both chapman and cheap derive from "chop", to barter.
Charlie - fool, as in "I felt a right charlie"
This may have some relationship to London night watchmen who were called Charlies, after Charles I, who looked to curb street offences by improving the night watch. Or it might refer directly to Charles I, who made "a right charlie" of himself by getting his head chopped off.
Charming! - ironic response, as in "Charming! I must say, and up yours too"
Of course you have to start with "charm" from the Old French "charme" meaning magic, song, etc., and ca. 1300 "charm" also meant to recite or cast a magic spell. From the mid-15th century "charm" meant to win over, to treat pleasingly, to delight, but its definition weakened over time, until in the early 18th century it was just to "highly please". I can't find any references to the ironic "Charming!", but it appears to have become a more popular expression since 2000.
Chat up - to talk, flirt, seduce
"Chat up" has its origin in the 15th century, with the Middle English "chatt", short for chatter. Today "chat' is used in many different ways, e.g. "quick chat", "drop in for a chat", "have a right chatter", "he's a right chatterbox in class", etc., and finally "chat up" as in engage in flirtatious conversation. You also should not forget the importance of the online chatrooms. It is said "chit chat" (gossip of a group) originated in the 13th century, but the first reference dates to 1710, as being the "custom of foolish people".
Chav - uncultured, anti-social
The word "chav" simply means "child, and with "chivvy" has been around since the 19th century. Frankly, I can't remember ever hearing it used during my teens, but since 2000 it has come to define a working class person (grouping together all the usual stereotypes, i.e. stupid, anti-social, uncultured, etc.) but with money to buy designers clothes (they love Burberry) and them mix them with sports shoes, baseball caps and bling (fake jewellery).
Cheapskate - stingy person
It looks as if this is an American construction using the word skate (a common fish) taken from blatherskate (a gabby person full of nonsense or hot air), part of the chorus of a popular 17th century Scottish song "Maggie Lauder".
Cheers! - drinking toast
Initial "cheerio" meant good bye or good health, but it gradually became cheers, which can also means thanks, when acknowledging a small favour. The early medieval meaning for "cheer" was face, and by that, expression or mood, ca. 1225. By the mid-1400's the classical phrase was "what chere be with you?" before drinking. The custom of touching glasses is said to date at least from 1820. The reality is that it maybe much earlier. One total myth is that it initially started by sloshing the contents of the glasses together so that you could not poison the other. Another idea was that clinking glasses would frighten demons away, but the problem was that at that time most people drunk with wooden tankards or clay cups that wouldn't make much of a sound. However, some Germanic tribes would bang their cups on the table before drinking to knock out ghosts. The Greeks would deliberately spill some wine before drinking, because the first drink should be taken by the Gods. But possibly the true origin is that people would fix small bells to the handles, so that when cups were touched they gave off a nice tinkle. How that Sumerian drinking tradition got into English pubs is another question.
Cheesed off - disgruntled, fed up
May be linked to "hard cheese" meaning the same thing. It was probably a British military tradition that people would be annoyed when the cheese was hard (i.e. old). The first references is supposed to be from 1941, which linked "browned off" with "cheesed off". There's one explanation for "big cheese" which is that it was an American expression dating from 1899 (as "main cheese"), and then later in ca. 1910 as "big cheese". However, there is another British oriented suggestion. In Hindi "thing" is "chiz", and in the early 19th century this word came back in the form "the big chiz" when the expression "the real thing" was fashionable. So the idea is that they morphed into the "the real cheese". It then crossed the Atlantic (the "pond") and finally came back "big cheese". Many uses of "big cheese" were derogatory comments about self-importance.
Chew - eat, as in "this is a bit chewy for my taste"
The Old English was "ceowan", meaning to "bit, gnaw, chew", and in 1725 a "chew" was a wad of tobacco, "chewing gum" appeared in 1843, and in 1906 it was a kind of chewy candy. Already in the late 14th century you could "chew over something" (think over), and in 1885 you could "chew the rag" (probably British army slang for discuss). Again army slang from WW II you could "chew someone out".
Chick - girl or woman, as in "what a hot looking chick" or "three cool chicks"
As far as I can tell the first references to a "chick" is from 1927, and it is now often considered an offensive term.
Chicken - cowardly, as in "he chickened out at the last minute"
It is said "chicken" was already in use in the 14th century to mean cowardly, but to "chicken out" appears to date from only 1934 (as a verb). Shakespeare used "they flye Chickens" as a noun in Cymbeline (1623). There is an odd history concerning a chicken. Recruits to the Union Army (1864) were supposed to have been given a chicken. They were to take it home, clean, dress and cook it for dinner. If they came back the next day they would be shipped off for the Union Army. The names of those who did not return were printed in the local newspaper. But a family member could replace the missing man and save the family from shame. It's probably not true because there are no references to this story. There were earlier references to people being "game chickens", probably referencing cock-fighting that was only abolished in Britain in 1835. Certainly in that context "chicken" was not associated with cowardice.
Chicken-feed - a pittance, as in "I was hoping to win big, but all I got was chicken-feed"
The origin is in the fact that chickens were fed grain too poor for any other use. And it was first used to describe how riverboat gamblers would pick up "chicken feed" from small-town suckers. "Chicken feed" was already a *paltry sum of money" by 1897.
Chin - talk
Besides being the lower part of the face, and overlapping with "cheek" and "jaw", you could from the 1590's "press affectionately chin to chin". To "chin" as in "gossip" dates from 1883, and "to bring to the chin" from 1869 meant to raise a fiddle and play. To "take it on the chin" arrived in 1924, from puglism. And most important of all, from 1913, you could be an optimist and "keep your chin up".
China - mate, friend, pal, as in "how's things, my old china"
This is pure Cockney rhyming slang, with "china plate" rhyming with "mate" as in friend.
Chinky - Chinese
"Chink" dates from about 1880, and "chinky" first appeared in 1878.
Chinless wonder - someone upper class who is gormless (the "wonder" is ironic)
It would appear to have been an American phrase first used in 1910, but the actual intended meaning was not clear. You had to wait until 1918 for a link between "chinless" and royalty.
Chippy - a fish and chip shop, as in "after the flicks (cinema) lets pop by the chippy"
One obvious meaning for "chippy" is a carpenter (may be of navy origin), however Americans also called a prostitute a "chippy*. Here the word refers to a fish and chip shop and those who work in it. The "institution" of fried fish certainly existed in 1839, because it's referred to in Oliver Twist. It is thought that selling fried fish with chip may have started in ca. 1860.
Chip on one's shoulder - resentful, envious
In 1830 it was reported that in America when two people wanted to fight, one would place a chip on their shoulder and demand that the other knock it off, and it came to mean "looking for a fight". There is of course the expression "chip of the old block". This expression started out as "chip of the same block" (in 1621) and meant to be the child of someone an be of the same value. In 1642 the expression changed to "chip of the old block", which much later changed to "chip off the old block".
Chocolate-box - something sentimentally pretty, but overly conventional and boring
The "expression "chocolate box" was first used in ca. 1865, but by ca. 1900 "chocolate-box" started to take on the idea of excessive decoration.
Choosy - fastidious, as in "she won't go for you, she's too choosy"
"Choosy" appears to be American, and dates from 1862.
Get the chop - sacked
Origin unknown, but Americans tend to say "get the axe". One reference points to the use of the expression by the British airforce, meaning to be shot down and killed or injured. However the expression appear to have started to be popular only in the mid-1950's.
Chop chop - hurry, quickly
The original "chop, chop" was pidgin English and came from the word chopsticks, which itself came from a Chinese name for eating implements meaning "the quick or nimble ones".
Chuck - to throw, as in "it's not worth anything, just chuck it away"
The word "chuck" was first used in ca. 1580, but its origin is uncertain, but the word is related to cuts of meat as well as blocks or logs of wood.
Chuck out - throw out, as in "chucking out time" for the pub closing time
Chuffed - pleased, as in "you could see it from his smile, he was dead chuffed with himself"
The origin is "chuff" which means swollen with fat (ca. 1520), but it was first recognised as meaning happy in 1860. However there is the alternative with "chuff" meaning "a coarse, fat-headed, blunt clown" (i.e. rude) from the mid-15th century, and even in 1832 it meant "displeased and gruff". "Chuffed" appears to have been first used in 1957 as "pleased". There appears to be also the word dischuffed meaning gruntled (or should that be disgruntled).
Chum - close friend or pal
This word dates from 1684 and probably from Oxford University slang, possibly a shortened version of chambermate (i.e. room mate).
Cig/ciggie - cigarette, and in "have you got a ciggie for me mate"
Except the obvious abbreviation, origin unknown. My guess is that "ciggie" comes from WW II, but it appears to have gained a new popularity over the last 20 years.
Cinch - easy to do, as in "once you know the trick, it's a cinch to get it right"
The word "cinch" came from the Spanish "cincha" (saddle firth) and was a strong belly band used on hose saddles. It came to mean a firm hold or tight grip, and then as an American term something sure and easy.
Back in circulation - someone who is again free from romantic ties
Origin unknown, but it looks as if the expression originated in the 1920's.
City slicker - smooth person from the city, as in "those city slicker don't know their left from their right"
This expression sounds very American. There is a clear negative connotation, possibly created by "country bumpkins", and which might date back to the around 1915. One might think "slicker" would suggest someone sharp and clever, therefore the term is understood to be somewhat sarcastic.
Civvies - civilian clothes as opposed to uniforms
The basic sense of the word is someone not in uniform, thus it's likely to be a military slang probably from WW II. The British had the expression "civvy street" for civilian life.
Clammed - closed, silent, as in "I kept my mouth clammed shut"
To "clam up" means to be silient, quiet, or refuse to speak, as in "the witness clammed up". It's an American idiom first seen in the 1910's, and obviously inspired by clams that shut themselves tight when attacked.
Clanger - embarrassing mistake or blunder, as in "he dropped a clanger"
"Clanger" has it origins in Latin and Greek, meaning to ring out or resound, and that means it's an easy to see/hear "blunder", and that it "rings out" (at least metaphorically). It looks like the expression "drop a clanger" appeared around 1942, and was associated with the British army. There is a suggestion that "drop a clanger" replaced "drop a brick". I've not seen any references, but I would guess that a word like "clanger" must date from earlier times.
Clapped out - worn out, as in calling a old car a "clapped out banger"
Interestingly, one suggestion is that the expression "clapped out" comes from hunting. When a hare stops to catch its breath, it sits on its hind legs, and it's heavy breathing give the impression that it's front legs are clapping. A hare that stops running is "clapped out". Franky, almost any alternative sounds more plausible. "Clapped out" is far more likely to be an American aircraft after WW II that was no longer safe to fly. But you don't need to be a machine to be "clapped out", e.g. "I was too clapped out to go to yoga yesterday". There are lots of equivalents out there, e.g. "battered", "seen better days", "beat up pile of junk", "the worse for wear", etc.
Like the clappers - very fast, as in "he came past me going like the clappers"
It would appear that this expression was used a lot by the Royal Air Force during WW II (1942). Although there is an earlier reference (1934) mention a car "that goes like the clappers". And of course the "clapper" is what rings inside a bell, so there were references mentioning peoples tongues "going like the clapper of a bell" (1823).
Claptrap - nonsense, as in "I've never heard a bigger load of claptrap"
The word "claptrap" was first recorded in 1727, and was a playwright's trick to catch applause, and only later did it become to mean pretentious, insincere, and empty language.
Take to the cleaners - to cheat or swindle someone, as in "the banks are taking their customers to the cleaners by jacking up the interest rates"
This appears to be a 20th century expression, and means to take someone's goods or money, leaving them destitute. This could just as easily be through gambling as in the courts. It probably derives from the earlier expression "to clean someone out" (ca. 1921), usually associated with gambling and "fleecing a dupe". Now with the advent of dry cleaning we have a new expression. There was a nice reference to a race track as being "the greatest cleaning establishing on the continent". Another nice expression when the victim of a knockout in boxing is "sent to the cleaners" (1907).
Clean up - make a considerable profit
This expression meaning to "make a profit" dates from 1878, and to "make a large profit" from 1929. There is also a reference to "cleaning up the bases" in baseball (1910), i.e. getting those already on the bases in so they score.
In the clear - innocent, no evidence against someone, as in "I wasn't in the country, so I'm in the clear"
As you can imagine "clear", dating from the 1300's, means many things, including light, shining, bright, beautiful, entire, whole, etc. and later absolute, excellent. etc., not forgetting a "clearing in the forest". By the mid-14th century it took on meanings such as "make clear" (explain, lucid), "make clean" (purify, clarify), "clear the air", "loud and clear", as well as "prove innocence and vindicate" (as with our expression "in the clear"). Also by then expressions such as "clear weather", "clear sky", "to clear up", etc. pointed to nautical expressions such as "clear the coast" (ca. 1520). In the 1580's "clear" meant "free from murkiness", in the 1670's "to clear" as in "out of the way", and in 1791 "to clear" could mean "to leap over". In 1719 you could make "a clear profit", in 1701 "clear your voice", find a "clear space" (1715), "clear the deck" (1802), "clear out" (1825), and in 1881 you could "clear your throat".
Clever-boots/-clogs - clever person (possibly said with a sarcastic tone)
In the 16th century "boots" was a term for "fellow", so we had "clever fellow", which in the north of England was easily converted to "clever-clogs". Later you could find "smooth boots" meaning a flatterer, and eve n"sly-boots" meaning a cunning or crafty fellow. "Clever-dick" is a similar expression, but meaning "obnoxiously clever".
Clobber - to hit, assault, as in "he got clobbered from behind"
This use of "clobber" appears to be British Air Force slang from 1941, possible relating to bombing. It might be that the US Air Force took the word back the US, and it caught on. It appears to have be used often in the American sports press with titles such as "Trail Blazers got clobbered by the Knicks" (1990). There was a period 1970-90 when "clobber" was more popular in Britain, but now America is the main user of the word.
Clobber - clothes and stuff, as in "she kicked him out, and chucked his clobber in the gutter"
This use of "clobber" dates back to the late 19th century. You could "clobber up" meaning to patch up old clothes, dating from 1851. It might have it origins with a "clobber" or type of dark paste used to cover breaks in old shoe leather (but I truly doubt it).
Clock - face
We all know the word "clock", and maybe we know that the word derives from the Latin word "clogga", or "bell" ("ticking" was already used in the 1500's). But we are interesting in the metaphorical use of the word, and in particular the fact that "clock" has been slang for the human face since 1870 (as has "dial"). Then came to "clock someone" as in to time them (ca. 1880). To "clock someone" was American slang to watch patiently someone, dating from 1929. It can also mean to "catch sight" of someone/something (1935), as in "I clocked a traffic warden doing her rounds". To "clock" someone can be to follow them, as in "get on his daily" (i.e. to "tail"), dated to 1967. And there is "to clock" as in measure the speed of a car, e.g. "he was clocked doing more than a ton (100)".
Perhaps most importantly "clocked" is also slang to strike someone the face forcefully, as in "I clocked him one, square on the jaw" (1932), or "I cleaned his clock" (1940's). Some sources put both in the mid-1900's, which might be more reasonable since "fix someone's clock" dates from 1904.
Clock in/out - register time of arrival and departure at work, as in "he clocked in late"
Since the 1800's time clocks (with punch cards) have been used to record workers arriving and leaving. They clocked in (punched in) and clocked out (punched out). I wonder if the result was the expression "time is money" (but no because this expression dates from 1748), or "time flies" (no again, this is even older if you remember "tempos fugit", which dates back to the 1st century BC).
There is also "on the clock" meaning to be working, which dates from the early 1900's, and it can also mean to "run out of time" which is similar to "against the clock". And not forgetting "working round the clock", but you could also "run down/out the clock" as in "playing for time". And finally in our Internet world we have "clocked up one million subscribers". And hopefully everything continues to work "like clockwork".
Closet - out of secrecy into the open, as in "coming out of the closet"
The "closet" originally referred to any drinker who tried to hide his drinking from others, and only in around 1959 did the American terms first get applied to gays.
Clot - fool
"Clot" is the Old English "clott" meaning "a round mass or lump", and we already had "blood clot" in the 1590's and "clotted cream" in 1799, although there was "clouted cream" already in the 1540's. At one point in time "clot" also was a fool or stupid person. Dictionaries appear to occasionally mention "clod" and "clutter" along with "clot". It would appear the "clod" was originally a "clot of blood", then became a lump of earth, and later also "stupid person". So there was a time when "clot" and "clod" were dirt or mud. But some sources also mention clutter as being a *clotted mass, to clot", which later became a "confused heap" but also "noisy turmoil".
In an interesting aside, one expert noted that many words that start with the "gl-" sound produce glowing, glistening, glittering objects, and the "sl-" sound produces slime, slops, slithering, and sleazy politicians, so the "kl-" sound produces clot, clod, clatter, cloud, etc. or images of things disorderly or dirty.
Cloth ears - not listening or responding, as in "Oi, cloth ears, are you listening to me!"
The expression "cloth ears" appears to originated in the weaving mills in the north of England where the noise and the dust was tremendous. After a while the workers adapted and became quite good a lip reading as well. The deafness was called "cloth ears" just as "boilermakers's deafness" came from working in the steel mills. However the first reference to "cloth ears" dates from 1912, but it was probably in use from the 1880's or before. There is a certain idea that "cloth ears" also suggested that someone was either stupid or not listening to you.
Cloud nine - a state of euphoria
It would appear that a very large cumulonimbus in September 1896 was called "cloud 9" in a new classification, and so it became known as the tallest floating cloud on Earth. This explanation has been questioned since there are 10 levels of classification, so why pick out the 9th? Another explanation is that the 10 levels started at 0, so cloud 9 was the biggest after all.
On the other hand there are many clouds that have kind of nicknames, e.g. "seventh heaven", "cloud seven", "cloud eight", "cloud nine", "cloud ten", "cloud thirty-nine". The earliest reference to "cloud nine" was in 1946, but "cloud seven" has more or less the same "heavenly" description as cloud nine. Another expert suggested that in Dante's Divine comedy the ninth circle of heaven was nearest to God.
Clout - heavy blow, influence, as in "He's a heavy hitter, he has clout where it counts"
"Clout" refers to power and political influence (ca. 1860's), based on the meaning of "force" or "punch" (14th century).
In the club - pregnant
"In the club" is a British expression for being pregnant, dating from 1936, but probably known before then. Other expressions include "bun in the oven" and "in the pudding club" (1889). One must be careful, because before this expression took form, there was a real pudding club, with puddings as prizes.
Not having a clue/clueless - ignorant or incompetent
Tracing clue, or clew, first goes back to 1393 with a ball of yarn or thread. Much later "clues", balls of thread, were used to "thread" people through labyrinths and mazes. This soon led to "clue" being something that points the way or indicates a solution, or solves a mystery. However, "clueless" appears to be Royal Air Force slang from the 1930's.
Cobblers - nonsense or rubbish, as in "I've never heard a bigger load of old cobblers in my whole life"
Originally a "cobbler" repaired shoes, and they used a "cobbler's awl" to punch holes in the leather. According to one source (from 1934) "cobblers" meant "balls" because it rhymed with "awls", but at least since 1968 it has its present meaning.
Cock up - make a complete mess, as in "I was left stranded, I know someone must have made a cock up, but who?"
The origin of "cock" was "a spout or short pipe serving as a channel for passing liquids through", and we can see how it might then have been used to define other things.
Codswallop - rubbish, nonsense, drivel, as in "you're talking a load of codswallop"
The origin is unknown. However there is a very nice folk origin (i.e. fake), with a certain Hiram Codd, and English soft drinks maker in the 1870's. His idea was to produce fizzy bottled lemonade. He placed a glass marble in the bottle as a stopper, the pressure from the fizzy pop forced the marble against the neck to firm a seal. This was called a Codd-neck bottle. At the same time "wallop" was a slang term for beer, so some have put the two together and obtained "codswallop" as a derisive term for a soft drink by true beer drinkers (since cod was slang for joke, as in "a load of cods"). One problem is that "wallop" as slang for beer appeared much later that the drink of Mr. Codd, plus the spelling is wrong, and finally "codswallop" only appeared in in 1963, more than 80 years after Mr. Codd's drink. The nicety of this folk origin is that there was in addition a wooden device that was placed over the neck of the Codd-neck bottle, and with a push (wallop) the glass marble was dislodged from the neck.
Also a "cod piece" was a "testicle bag", and a "wallop" was to hit, so "codswallop" could mean being hit by a "testicle bag", a totally unpleasant idea. Here is a great discussion of the origin of "codswallop". And there is an additional expression, a "cod walloper", which just might be a type of fishing vessel, so maybe "codswallop" was to do with the cod-fish. There is some evidence that in 1928 a "cods wallop" was "a woman who cannot keep her mouth shut", so could "codswallop" actually be describing a person. If you want to know more, read the above link.
Comeback - recovery, ultimately a successful return after a long break or a series of failures
This would appear to be an American expression, dating from 1908, but based upon a verbal retort found in 1889.
Come clean - tell the truth, confess, as in "when presented with the evidence, he came clean"
This is an American expression from ca, 1904, meaning "not sullied by untruth". There are a few other similar English expressions such as "to get it off your chest" and "make a clean breast of it" (1752). And other English expressions "keep one's hands clean" and "keep your nose clean" date from 1711.
The word "clean" comes from Old English "clæne" and meant both morally pure and food "not forbidden by ceremonial law to eat". By the 15th century it had often been replaced by "clear" and "pure". "Cleaned-out" as in left penniless dates from 1812, "clean sweep" dates from 1938, and "clean" as being drug free, dates from the 1950's.
Come it - pretend, exaggerate, or to be aggressive, as in "don't come it with me"
Origin unknown, but probably an old expression.
Come off it - stop your nonsense
First recorded in the 19th century, it was in the mouth of Lady Brett Ashley, a character of Ernest Hemingway.
Come on - do this, get moving, go faster, sexual invitation
"Come on" can mean a request to hurry or go faster, or simply a request to do something, as in "Come on, you can't stop now", but a "come on" can also be viewed as a lure, or even a sexually oriented invitation. You can find the expression in "Come on, it's not that bad", "Come on, stop kidding around", "Come on down", "Come on, stop complaining", or "Come on, you've had enough" (as in alcohol ). These type of expression are more exclamations of disapproval or irritation. Some of the expressions, such as *come on" date from the mid-15th century or earlier, where "on" meant "forward", as in "come forward". "C'mon", is the verbal phrase of "come on", dating to 1929.
Con - confidence trick, as in "lucky, I spotted the con from the beginning"
Just after the American Civil War, one of the most common frauds was the sale of fake gold mine stock. One option was ask investors to make a small advance just "as a sign of confidence", money they would no longer see. This was called a "confidence game", and those who used the trick became "con men". Over time the expression became con-game or con trick.
Conk - nose, but also to break-down (i.e. "my car just conked-out")
It would appear that it is a temporary coined from WW I, perhaps based upon the noise of an engine stalling. Previously "conk" meant to be "hit on the head", or "punched in the nose" (1821) because "conk" was slang for nose (1812). There are suggestions that "conked out" predates the WW I reference, with motorcycles "conking out" on hills (1911).
Cook - falsify, as in "cook the books"
As you can imagine the word "cook" has a long history, but you can imagine "make fit for eating" can be converted to "make fit for inspection", as in "cook the books". In fact "to manipulate, falsify, alter, or doctor" appears to date from the 1630's. "What's cooking" as "what's going on" dates from 1942, and "cooking with gas" to mean "doing well or thinking correctly" dates from the 1930's.
Cool - self-possessed, or just very good, pleasing, …
It is not sure where "cool" as a term of approval came from, but it could come from the British "cool" which meant imprudent or insolent. By WW I it meant clever or shrewd, and later still it meant great and excellent. The idea that cool meant to be under control and dispassionate, came from a different root, and dates back to the year 1000. It is this definition that is found in the works of Chaucer and Shakespeare.
Cool it! - calm down
The American idiom "cool it" just means to ask someone to behave more calmly and stop being angry and aggressive. Of course "cool" was first used in ca. 1000 to describe the lowering of the temperature. Later it meant to lose the heat of excitement or emotion (Shakespeare used the word often). Shakespeare also used "cool" in the sense of becoming "cold with fear". To "let something cool down" after heating it, dates from 1490. Certainly in 1918 "cool" meant "self-control and composure", but it is based upon the idea of "cool" as "unflappable" which dates to the 1800's. So keeping "cool" had both a physical and figurative meaning. "Cool" as in "calm" and "very nice" pop up in jazz songs, post WW II. I think the Americans used "cool" to mean "to knock out", and also they called jail "the cooler".
Cop/Copper - catch by the police
The origin of "cop" is English meaning "to catch or capture", and dating for 1704 (presumably along with "copped"). It is not linked to copper buttons, badges, or words like "constable", etc. It is possible that "copper" derived from "cop". "Cop a plea" dates from the late 19th century, and involves pleading guilty to a lesser crime, thus escaping a worse punishment. A "cop shop" is a police station. There are 100's of slang words for policeman, but the one's I used/knew were bluebottle, bobby, cop, copper, pig, plod, flatfoot, rozzers, and of course the "panda car" (see full list).
Because "cop" meant "to catch or capture", you could also "cop a job" (1868) or even "cop an attitude" (1976). And not forgetting that in the 1930's you could "cop a feel" if you were lucky.
The Americans appear to use "cop" more for a detective, whereas in Britain it is more for a policeman.
Cop out - to evade an issue, or back-down and compromise
"Cop out" dates from some 500 years ago, and meant "playing empty the cup" or boozing. "Cop a plea" dates from ca. 1925, but to "cop out" as in to evade an issue dates only from the 1960's. I can remember calling some people "he's a right cop out" meaning totally useless and unreliable.
Coppers - pre-decimal small coins
This "coppers" means the small coins that circulate pre-decimatisation (1971), and possible still used for the smallest penny coins. Th name came from the colour, when the coins were almost pure copper (so technically a bronze alloy). The decimal pence coins became copper plated steel coins in 1992 (which made them magnetic). You also have "for a few coppers", slang for something costing less than £1 (i.e. peanuts).
Corker - attractive woman, or something outstanding
In 1837 "corker" meant an "unanswerable fact" that would settle an argument, and later it became "something astonishing" (1880's). There is a suggestion that originally it might have meant a "hard or finishing blow", which might well have also settles some arguments. In 1891 it also meant someone (man or woman) or something that was very good. One story is that "caulkers" is the sealing of a ships deck boards by hammering in caulk (a kind of fibrous material) and sealing with pitch. The idea was that this work was done by women, and the manual effort ended up giving them a shape "pleasing to the eye". However, you can use the expression "corker" for almost anything good looking, e.g. a prize vegetable can be a "corker".
Cost a bomb - very expensive, as in "watch it, she will cost you a bomb"
There are a number of similar expressions such as "cost a packet" (ca. 1520), "cost an arm and a leg" (1901), "over the odds, "cost a pretty penny" (1710), "cost a fortune", "pay through the nose", "cost the Earth", "break the bank", "cost a small fortune". etc. Of course you may be able to afford it, because "you make a bomb/packet". Interestingly one explanation (more like a tale) of "pay through the nose" is the suggestions that when the Danes conquered Ireland they installed a tax by "counting noses", thus the expression. The Italians appear to have used a similar expression in 1666. My best guess might be the Italian version with Florentine bankers working in London at the time.
Cotton on - to understand, as in "it took me a while to cotton on"
There are a number of suggestions, but they all turn around the idea that cotton sticks to almost everything.
Cough up - to hand over or "pay up", as in "finally I had to cough up the dough (money)"
Initially "cough up" meant to disclose, and only took this newer meaning in the late 19th century, probably as American criminal slang.
Cowboy - and unqualified and irresponsible craftsman
Cowboys were rustlers of cows, but by the mid-19th century it was used for anyone who headed cattle on horseback. The idea of a reckless person came from Hollywood movies.
Crack - to try, as in "to have a crack at it", and witticism with "wisecrack", and a form of cocaine
"Crack" is Old English "cracian", meaning make a sharp noise, or loud, abrupt sound". "Have a crack at it" would appear to be an expression dating to 1834, whereas "at one crack" (or "in one go") appears to date from 1872. However, "crack" originally meant "do a thing with quickness or smartness (1793), as in "crack shot". The "crack of dawn" suggests a certain immediacy, and a "crack of thunder" suggests a certain speed, and possibly unexpectedness. "Get cracking", dating from 1937, also suggests an immediacy. "Wisecrack" comes from sometime in the 1900's. "Crack" as a form of cocaine, dates from 1985.
Crack a joke - to make a joke
Origin unknown, but it was first registered in 1732, and may have come from the idea to "speak or say" something funny. Some sources point to the 1400's for its true origin. "Crack a smile" dates from 1835, whereas to escape notice and "fall through the crack" dates from 1975. A "crack-drained" person, who we would not consider demented, was first heard in the 1630's.
Crack down on - to suppress, as in "we must crack down on street violence"
The expression "crack down on" appears to date from 1935, but as a verbal phrase may have existed early as 1915. The thought it that it derived from "to shoot at". However as a single word "crackdown" it appears for the first time around 1900.
Cracker/cracking - a good looking woman
In America cracker came to mean a poor white person and it is now so offensive that it is a racial epithet and its use is considered a hate crime. I've seen nothing on the idea of a "cracking piece of skirt" except that it appears to be expression from the early 1970's.
Crackers - mad, as in "he's totally gone crackers"
Origin unknown, which is odd since I was far more likely to use "crackers" than "crackpot"
Crackpot - crazy idea (e.g. crackpot idea) often proposed by a crackpot
"Crackpot" appears to date from 1611, meaning a "person with an impaired mind". However given that "pot" was slang for "head" it is thought that the expression might go back to the 1400's, or even earlier. In the 1880's it meant a stupid person, but it slowly took on its present day meaning, a person with senseless or lunatic notions.
Crap - worthless goods, rubbish or nonsense, and defecate, as in "the moment I saw the packaging I knew it was crap"
Thomas Crapper developed and manufactured the modern toilet bowl. American soldiers in WW I saw it and brought it back to home. However the reality is that the Dutch word "kappe" (scraps) has been used through the ages for offal and excrement. It would appear that "crap" as in "to defecate" dates from 1846, only 9 years after Mr. Crapper was born. It would appear to have emerged from the much earlier Middle English "crappe" for "grain that was trodden underfoot in a barn", and then took on the idea of "cast off" or "discard". Here we have the link between "cast off" and "to defecate". The idea of "crap" as rubbish or nonsense dates from 1898.
Crash - a computer breaks down, to crash out is to go to bed, to gate-crash is to go to a party uninvited
"Crash" is from the 1570's as a word for "break in pieces". From 1718 it meant "falling down or to pieces". A "financial collapse" dates from 1817, both a collision and a"crash landing" from 1910, "crashing" a party dates from 1922, "being a "crashing bore" from 1930, a "crash program" from 1947, "crash out", as in sleep, dates from 1943 and became popular in the mid-1960's, a "crash course" from 1958, and finally a failure of a computer program dates from 1973 (that's nearly 50 years ago).
Crazy - insane person, but people "can work like crazy", and it can also mean a very good idea
Originally "crazy" dates from the 1570's but meant "broken, impaired, full of cracks or flaws". The sense of being "deranged" only emerged in 1927, but you could already "drive someone crazy" in 1873. Interestingly "stir-crazy" meant, in 1908 "a man whose mind has been affected by serving long sentences", and it more or means the same thing today. So in the 1850's you might not yet be crazy, but you could be "nuts, as in "off one's nut". Mind you, you would have had to wait until 1968 to "go bananas", unless you were "a sexual pervert or degenerate", then you could be bananas already in 1935. That seems about right because in the 1930's homosexuals were starting to be called "fruits". In the 1960's the Canadian government used a lie detector to "root out" homosexuals, and they called it a "fruit machine".
Creep - an unpleasant person
The obvious definition of "creep", to "move along the ground" comes from the Old English "creopan". From the 1300's "creep" meant to "move secretly and evade detection" or to "move slowly, feebly", and in 1818 it was reduced to "imperceptible motion". Creep to mean a "despicable person" dates from 1886, although "creeper", as in "gilded rascal" was recorded in ca. 1600, and the word also meant thieves that robbed customers in brothels. "The creeps" was used by Dickens in 1849.
Crib - cheating at exams
The use of "crib" to "pilfer or take furtively" dates to about 1740. It's possible that it derives from the use of cribs or wicker baskets to hide stolen goods, i.e. everyone in early markets carried the same baskets.
Crikey - is an exclamation of surprise, as in "Crikey, I did not see you hiding there"
"Crikey!" is a "euphemistic alteration of "Christ"", or just another word to be used to avoid cursing and blasphemy. Other words of the same sort include "Sugar!", "Holy Cow!", "Crap!", …
Cringe! - acute embarrassment
To "cringe" dates from the 1570's and means "to bend with servility or fear". "Cringe-worthy dates from 1990.
Crummy - lousy, as in "the whole place was crummy, and the food was shit"
Hoboes begging for food would often receive bread and baked good that were so stale they were literally turning to crumbs. Initially registered in the early 1900's, it quickly became "anything cheap or inferior".
Crumpet - nice looking women, as in "a nice piece of crumpet"
It would appear that "crumpet" rhymes with "cheeky strumpet", and the word was first recorded in 1936, but certainly dates from earlier times. I've read that some people use the expression "a thinking man's crumpet" for intelligent and good looking women.
Crush - infatuation (often short-lived), as in "my first schoolboy crush was for …"
Obviously "crush" means to "smash, break into fragments", etc., and ca. 1600 it meant "to humiliate, demoralise". We would have to wait to 1884 to find "crush" meaning "to be infatuated with", and the expression "have a crush on …" dates from 1903. Interestingly until "crush" came along, people would use "mash" to mean "head over heels", so between "mash" and "crush" there is a certain relationship. Why "mash" you may ask. In fact it's a Romani word for allure or entice.
It you were not into "mashing" you could "spoon". In the 1820's you might be "spoony on someone" and if you were to "spoon with a lady" you would be exchanging goo-goo eyes and whispering baby talk. The word "mash" remained a sweetheart and a dandy until the mid-1880's.
Cuckoo - a mad person
The cuckoo got its name from the one-note song it repeats over and over again, and by the 16th century it had become the symbol of stupidity.
My cup of tea - my preference, or the opposite "isn't my cup fo tea"
Tea has been drunk for centuries, and it was a Dutchman who first mentioned its use as a drink in 1598. The English have a vast number of words for tea, e.g. "Not for all the tea in China", "I could murder for a cup of tea", "Rosie Lee", Storm in a tea cup", … It was in the early 20th century that people could become "my cup of tea" and by the 1930's anything with which you could have an affinity was your "cup of tea". The negative *not my cup of tea" appears to have emerged during WW II. A "cuppa" was first recorded in 1925 as British slang in a P. G. Wodehouse story. And always remember a "cuppa" is always tea, and never, never, coffee or other beverages. It would appear that the British drink 160 million cups of tea a day.
Cushy - easy, safe, comfortable, as in "take the job, its a cushy number"
This word either derives simply from cushion, or comes from British soldiers returning from India with the Hindi "khuush", meaning pleasant, happy, easy (1915). There is also the definition "soft, useless person", dating from 1898, hence "cushie" means "soft, flabby".
Daft - mad, as in "don't be daft, can't you see …"
"Daft" comes from the Old English "gedæfte", meaning "gentle, becoming", this "mild, well mannered" in ca. 1200. By the 1300's it meant "dull, uncouth, boorish", and by the mid-15th century it meant "foolish, fool, idiot", and then quickly "crazy" (1530's). So it was forever then linked to "daft" meaning "halfwit, idiot". In all cultures what started out as "mild and friendly" inevitably becomes "stupid and dull".
Today "daft" implies a certain amusement and benevolence, i.e. "silly". Similar expressions are "mad as a March hare", "mad as a hatter" (both from Alice in Wonderland), "daft as a brush" etc. Some suggest that "daft as a brush" came from "soft as a brush" where the "brush" was a foxes tail, and "soft" also meant stupid. But most agree that it actually came from a 14th century saying "mazed as a brish" where "mazed" meant "dazed, insane, crazed, confused", and "brish" was dialect for "brush".
Dago - Spanish, Portuguese or Italian speaking
Probably a corruption of the common Spanish name Diego, which was already used in Elizabethan times for any "swarthy" Spanish or Portuguese seaman. In the early 20th century it was also used for Italian workers "day come, day go".
Damn - expression of anger or frustration
The word "damn" ultimately derives from the Latin "damnare", to condemn (ca. 1300). The legal sense is "pronounce judgement upon", however today it's a mild oath, but still frowned upon in some quarters. In the 16th century "damn" was a profanity, and in the 17th century it was a "curse". The profanity started to soften in the mid-18th century. "Not worth a damn" dates from 1817, "not care as damn" from 1760, and "that damned …" from 1812.
Dead as a dodo - stupid
Less than 100 years after being discovered the "dodo" was extinct. "Dodo" is a corruption of the Portuguese "dondo", meaning silly.
Dead from the neck up - brainless
Since the early 1900's "dead from the neck up" has meant, not surprisingly, someone who is really, really, stupid.
Dead loss - completely useless, as in "don't let him near a hammer, he's a dead loss at everything practical"
The origin of "dead loss" is said to date from the 1700's, although both "dead" and "loss" originated in the 14th century. I guess it truly means so "useless" as to be totally unrecoverable.
Dickhead - idiot, as in "they stopped making dickheads when you arrived"
It is said that Godfrey Derrick was a hangman and many of his victims were sneak thieves and picklocks who carried short daggers. These came to be called dirks after Derrick, and later the word was used for penis. However "dickhead", as an expletive, only appeared in the 1960's, but "fathead" existed in the mid-19th century.
Dicky - ill, shaky, insecure, as in "dicky ticker" (bad heart)
The original meaning was a nursery word for small bird (1781), a donkey (1793), a seat in a carriage for a servant (1801), then a kind of "detachable front shirt or collar" (1811), a small bird (1851), and a "leather apron" (1874). "Not say a dicky bird" means "not say a word" (ca. 1930). It also can been used as "I've not heard a dicky from them since the wedding". Also with rhyming slang you have "dicky dirt" for "shirt" (with a collar). Surprisingly, there is not much on "dicky ticker", yet almost everyone family will use the expression sometime in life.
Dig - to enjoy, as in "I dig all that type of music"
The original sense dates from 1935 and meant "to understand", possibly from the Celtic "twig" (to understand) or the West African "degu". So the best example, is simply "I can dig that". As far as I can tell, it's always been a counter-culture expression.
Digger - an Australian
Dig up - look for something, as in "dig up dirt on someone"
"Dig up" or "dredge up" clearly means to find someone's past transgressions, with "dredge up" dating from the 1500's, and "dig up" from the 1300's, but not always with this specific meaning.
Dim - dull, stupid, as in "dimwit"
"Dim" acquired the the slang sense of "stupid" in 1892, and was added to "wit" meaning mental capacity. Along with "nitwit", "dimwit" came in the English in 1822 as a form of American college slang.
Dip - steal, as in "pickpocket"
Originally Old English "dyppan", meaning "to plunge". It went though a variety of meanings, from "sink or drop" in the late 14th century to "lower and raise (a flag, etc.) from 1776. You had the act of "dipping" in the 1590's and finally by the 19th century is was a "sweet sauce for puddings, etc." as well as "juices and fat left after cooking meat". Probably the modern sense of dip (1962) is a re-coinage of the old meaning.
On the other hand from the 1920's "dip" also meant someone stupid, with "dipshit" being the more emphatic version. To "dip" or "dive" as in "pickpocket" dates from 1817, whereas the expressions "dipper" and "dipping-bloke" came into use in the mid-19th century. There exists a piece of furniture called a "pickpocket dip", which is designed to help young thieves train their skills.
The word "dip" is quite simple and could be used to describe many other things, e.g. a pocket inkstand (19th century), to "pawn" lands (from mid-17th century), to get into debt (ca. 1670), to fail an naval examination (late-19th century), "to dip one's beak" or "wet one's whistle" (19th century), and "to dip into one's pocket" for something expensive (1887).
Discount - a reduction in price (I loved discounts even then)
The word "discount" comes from the French "déscompte" because it involved "selling by the count", i.e. buying 10 but only paying for 9.
Dish - attractive person
The word "dish" might sound typically American, but in fact Shakespeare's Cleopatra was called Antony's "Egyptian dish".
Ditch - discard or abandon, as in "we then ditched him overboard"
To "ditch" as in "to throw into a ditch" dates from 1816. However the word "ditch" derives from the Old English "dic" which also gave us "dike", and meant a long narrow excavation in the ground, usually to drain water. So excavating the ditch made the dike. Even in the 14th century, ditch was used as a type of fortification or marking of boundaries. During WW II an emergency landing in the sea became known as "to ditch", possibly because the English Channel is often called the ditch.
Doddle - something easy or simple to do, as in "it's a doddle"
"Doddle" has been used in Britain since the 1930's, and the origin of the word in unclear, but in the mid-17th century it meant to nod or shake your head. By the mid-18th century it meant to toddle or dawdle along with a slow and easy walk, and this might be the origin of its present meaning. A couple of other expressions mean more or less the same thing, e.g the well known "a walk in the park" and a "cakewalk" (which I had never heard off). The word does not appear to have crossed the Atlantic.
Dodgy - stolen, illicit, as in "at that price, you knew it was dodgy"
In 1855 it meant "evasive, artful or cunning", and gradually became also to mean unreliable, even potentially dangerous as in "that dodgy old machine will kill someone one day". Obviously the original word was "dodge" to evade or sidestep, a bit like "what him, he looks a bit dodgy" (which is more in tune with American slang).
Dog end - a cigarette-end, and thus something poor or mediocre
The suggestion is that it derives from the 1920's as a corruption of "docked end", a cigarette that has been nipped off and kept for later.
In the dog-house - in disgrace
Could simply mean that someone out of favour was sent out alone in the cold, i.e. where the dog was (references to a dog house go back to the early 1600's).
Dogsbody - the person who does all the menial tasks
According to Wikipedia dogsbody was a semi-sarcastic colloquialism for a junior officer or midshipman (dated from 1818). Earlier it was the name for a soaked sea biscuit or pease pudding made largely from dried peas.
Dog's dinner (also a dog's breakfast) - a mess
A "dog's dinner" could also mean ostentatiously dressed with many colours and accessories, as in "dressed up like a dog's dinner", and could include military full dress. The idea of a dog's dinner meaning a mess dates from 1902, and the same definition for a dog's breakfast dates to 1890. There are early references to shop windows being chaotically dressed, as a dog's dinner, and equally to women dressing with lots of different bits, like a dog's dinner.
The dole - unemployment benefits
The "dole" has been used since the 13th century to refer to a charitable gift for the poor, deriving from "doling out" gifts of money or food (the Old English was "dal" meaning to share). Being "on the dole" originated with British soldiers returning from WW I and looking to find a job. In America it's called welfare.
Doll - child's toy
I have to include this definition, because it's so non-intuitive. It would appear that "doll" was originally the nickname for Dorothy. In the 16th century it became a popular name for a mistress or loose woman, and a century later, perhaps because such women were considered "playthings", "doll" because the name for a child's toy representing a human being.
Dollar - $
The "dollar" was a slang term for an English Crown, with "half-a-dollar" slang for the half-crown. This was because their size and appearance were similar to the dollar. The word itself "dollar" originally derived from the German "Thaler" and earlier from the Low German "dahler" meaning valley (which is the origin of the English "dale"). This derived from the fact that the silver was mined from "Joachim's Thal" (now a spa town in the Czech Republic). And naturally the Cockney's were there with "Oxford scholar", rhyming slang for "dollar".
To be done - caught, arrested
We all know "to do" and "done", meaning to "finish, complete, perform" etc. It was also on the 1590's a word of acceptance of a deal or wager. You can here Americans saying "you done gone …", which dates from 1827. We have "done for" as in ruined from 1740, and as doomed from 1803, whereas "done in" is from 1917. To "do for" was to want to "ruin, damage or injure fatally" and dates from 1752. An interesting one is "done and dusted" meaning signed in ink and "dusted" with power to dry it, and this came to mean "the deal is done". The problem with this last one is that there is no recorded use of the expression before 1964, and of course blotting paper dates from the 1400's.
The origin of "to be done" as in caught or arrested is unknown, but the British slang there are a number of expressions meaning the same thing, e.g. "pinched", "busted" or "nicked". "To nick" or catch dates from ca. 1620, but much later it also could be used metaphorically, as in "Wait, I'll nick a rickshaw", i.e. to stop one. Nick also meant both a police station and prison, but these expressions are from the 20th century. "Pinch" meaning to steal is from the 1650's, but to "get pinched" is claimed to be American from the early 1960's.
Do one's thing - express one's self, do what you want
As an expression "do one's thing" appears to date from 1841, but only came into wide use in the mid-1900's, and in particular as a counterculture motif in the 1960's. I remember it well.
Do one's nut - become enraged
This is just like "losing one's head", and dates from 1919. Americans are relegated to using "go ballistic" or "flip out". Naturally "nut" just means head, as in "football nut" or "off his nut". Another British slang expression is "go spare" which first appeared on the 1940's, and derived from losing one's job (it later took on a more general meaning in the late 1950's). It would appear that in 1931 a mental hospital was called a "nuttery", and naturally it was full of "nutters". In earlier time a "nutter" collected nuts, and a "nuttery", you're guessed it, was a place to store nuts.
Dope - drugs
The word "dope" comes from the Dutch "doop" meaning sauce or gravy. It was already in use in 1807 and by 1872 it was used for any preparation contain unknown substances. As a word for drugs, "dope" was already in use in 1895. It's not clear why "dope" also came to mean information or knowledge, but its use started in 1901.
Dopey - dull, stupid
It was in the 1890's that stupid people started to be called dopes or dopey, as if under the influence of a drug.
Dosh - cash, money
The origins of "dosh" as money are unclear, but in 1914 it meant temporary shelter and was related to "doss", so one suggestion is that it was money use to rent temporary shelter. In any case by 1944 it meant money. The suggestion is that it meant a reasonable sum, or spending money, and not a fortune. One suggestion is that it derived from the sum need for a "doss-house" or cheap room. There is a suggestion that the word migrated to America in the 19th, and re-emerged as a popular British word again in the 20th century.
Doss/dosser - sleep (often rough)
"Doss" is a British word (Americans would say "flop") meaning to sleep. It also includes those who slept rough, or in a doss-house. The word might have derived from "dorsum" (back) presumably because one would sleep on one's back on the ground in temporary shelter. A dosser would be a tramp in America.
Doublethink - holding two contradictory beliefs
This comes from one of the classics, 1984, which warned about a coming dictatorship and police state, so linked with Big Brother and Newspeak.
Dough - money
One of the many slang words for money, and dating to the mid-1800's. Clearly an alternative to using "bread". In the 1940's "dough" often meant counterfeit money.
Dozy - lazy, dull, stupid, as in "he was a dozy bastard" or "what a dozy twat" or "dozy git", or even "dozy pillock", but could also just mean "the music is making her dozy" in the sense of sleepy
The word "dozy" appears to date from the 1690's.
The drink - the sea
The origin is unclear, but it's been in use for some time. The Mississippi was the "big drink" in 1857, and as a large body of water it was already used in the 1850's, but "in the drink" might be older.
Drives me up the wall - makes me mad
The origin of this expression is unknown, but it clearly describes the idea of escaping by climbing up a wall.
Drop-dead - a term of dislike as "why don't you just drop dead?", but also can be used to describe a "drop-dead" stunning girl or simply "a drop-dead dress"
"Drop-dead gorgeous" has been in use since the early 1970's, and was probably used before then. More generally the term "drop-dead" to mean excellent was already in use in 1962. However the meaning of dislike was in use in America in the 1930's, and as a curse it dates back to 1908. The reality is that "dead" is used a lot, both in the positive and negative sense, as with "dead shot" and "dead loss".
Drop-out - a person who opt's out
A "drop" comes from the old English "dropa" meaning a drop of liquid, and the idea of dropping something was already in use in the 1630's, but "drop out" already dates from the 1550's in the sense of withdrawing or disappearing from a place. The failure to continue school, etc., is an America expression from the late 1920's.
Dry run - a rehearsal
At least for the last 100 years "fire run" was used in America when fire departments were called to a fire, and "dry run" was already used in 1888 to describe a trail run by a fire department, i.e. not involving water (wet runs were mentioned in 1896). There were even dry run races between different fire department teams. "Dry run" also appeared in 1932 as military practice without ammunition, and even the navy could do dry runs at sea! There are suggestions that the military expression could date from as early as 1914. There are suggestions that "dry run" could actually be much earlier, and involve the building by carpenters and masons of structural components to check before finalising the structures with pins or cement.
Duck - to avoid, as in "when I saw him, I quickly ducked into a side street"
The word "duck" comes from Old English "dūce" (diver) and the verb "dūcan" (to duck). The idea of dodging something dates from the 1520's.
Duckie - a term of endearment, darling
The word "duckie" appears to be same a "ducky" and certain was a term of endearment "darling" by 1819. The suggestion is that it may have derived from a Northern European word such a "dukke" for small child or doll (the same way a "poppet" came from the French "poupee"). It has nothing to do with a rubber duckie, which was only patented in 1950.
Dud - worthless
Dud is ammunition that fails to fire. It would appear to have meant clothes in the 16th century, and worthless clothes or rags in the 17th century.
Dude - a dandy, guy, as in All the Young Dudes
From the 1870's "dude" was someone who dressed fashionably (a dandy), and by the 1970's it was a mainstream slang word in America.
Duffel bag - a popular type of large canvas bag named after Duffel in Belgium
Duff up - to beat up
"Duff" itself has several meanings. Firstly, "up the duff" describe a pregnant woman, whereas a "duff" was a flour pudding boiled or steamed in a cloth bag (but "in the pudding club" was also another expression for being pregnant). Secondly, it means something that is useless, broken or of poor quality (and I remember an old person being called a "duffer"). And third, "duff up" is also used as in *some kids duffed up the bus driver", but the origin is obscure.
Dumbo - slow-witted
Derives from "dumb" and dates from 1951. It's not related to the Dumbo the elephant, which was just a play on the name Jumbo.
Dump - a dirty, unpleasant place, or to abandon (e.g. "to dump her")
"Dump" is another word with lots of different useful definitions. The oldest definition comes from the 16th century, when people could be depressed or "down in the dumps". In the 18th century it meant a short, fat person, and resulted in the word "dumpy". A third meaning was a deep hole in a river bed or stream. In the 19th century "dump" became a cardboard display but based upon the verb "to dump" and dating back to Middle English. Here we have the idea of throw down, drop or discard. In WW I a dump became a place to store ammunition and provisions. It is the cardboard display that led to the negative sense of a run-down house.
Dustbin lid - rhyming slang for 'kid' (child)
Dyke - lesbian
Dyke initially described a well dressed man, and only started to be used to describe lesbians in the 1950's (as a derogatory term). By the late 20th century "dyke" had been claimed as a term of pride and empowerment.
When I get a chance I will start to expand the definitions and descriptions of the following in the same way as I have done for A, B, C, and D.
Here are a few things to make you think whilst you're waiting for me to start with 'E'.
These were no "goons", they were all the "droppers" who knew how "to fog". The "hatchetmen" were standing around the table, "packing". One was first to put his "bean shooter" on the table, another put his "gat" there, and others their "heaters". The next put his "rod" on the table, another his "squirter" , and the rest put their "irons".
One had left his "sister" at home and had come up on a "rattler". The parking outside was crowded, and all were keeping the "hogs" running, just in case. Our "pro's" were gentlemen, they all had "skirts" sitting waiting for them. One had left his "babe" sitting pretty in a "bent car", another broad was in a "boiler", and another "chick" was in a "bucket". There was a "dame" in an old "crate", the "doll" was in the "Flivver", and the "frail" was in a "heap". One guy's "bim" was sitting cool as cool in an "iron". Another guy had left his "girlie" with her mom, and another's "twister" was in a "hack" going to see her "croaker". The oldest of them had left his "Frau" at home, but had come with his "moll".
They were all here for business, you know "do the Big One", send someone to the "Big Sleep", to "bop" someone, "bump them off", give someone a "Chicago overcoat", do a "chilling", "croak" someone, like "cut them down", "drill" someone, "knock them off", "pop" someone, "rub therm out", give someone a "wooden kimono". You get the idea?
The client clearly wanted someone important "zotzed", so it was really all about the "berries", the size of the "wad", the "dough", the "geetus", the "jack's", "rhino's", "scratch", "sugar". You know we are not just talking "lettuce", so are we talking 100's of "large ones"? No, forget "C's", think "wads of grands". Whoever won the contract, would "have the bees", because they were to be paid in "ice".
Ear to the ground - to know what's happening "on the street"
Eat - worry, as in "what's eating you"
Eff - swearing, as in "effing and blinding", and "eff off!" meaning go away
Elbow - to dismiss, as in "I gave her the elbow"
Eyeful - attractive or striking girl, as in "get an eyeful of that"
Eyetie - Italian
Fab - wonderful (can't imagine I said that, but I probably did)
Face-ache - ugly, miserable looking
Face the music - go through an ordeal or severe reprimand
Fad - fashion, as in "winklepickers were just a fad"
Fag - cigarette (gasper)
Fag end - the worthless or unpleasant part or end of any situation
Faggot - male homosexual (usually shortened to "fag")
Not the faintest - not having the least idea
Fairy story - a lie
Fancy - to desire sexually
Fancy one's chances - act conceited to arrogant, as in "he fancies his chances with anything in a skirt"
Fart about - to waste time
Farthing - a quarter of an old penny, whilst not being slang it could be used as in "I wouldn't give you a farthing for it"
The origin of the word is from Old English "feortha" meaning fourth. The word "farthing" was first used around 1280.
The word "fiver" dates from the mid-1800's, and is still used today.
Pull a fast one - to cheat or deceive
Fat chance - no chance at all
Fed up - bored
Feel like shit - feel ill
Feel rough - have a hangover
Feel up - caress sexually
Fiddle - cheat, swindle
Fiddly - difficult to operate
Figures - as expected, as in "that figures"
Fingers crossed - hope or pray for success (or to avoid failure)
Fishy - dubious
Flake out - fall asleep from sheer exhaustion
Flash - overly smart
The flicks - cinema
Flipping - a derogatory intensifier, as in "my flipping car broke down"
Flip side - the b-side of a record
Flog a dead horse - to continue to talk about a long forgotten topic, or to try to find a solution to an impossible problem
Flutter - to place a bet
Go fly a kite - get lost
Folding stuff - money
An expression first recorded in the 1930's, but possible coming from America with "folding green".
Footie - slang for football
Fork out - to pay, often reluctantly, for something
Freak - odd looking, or a fanatic about something odd (e.g. "that freaking cool")
Freaked out - not thinking straight, as in "I freaked out over nothing"
Frog - a French person
Fruit - a homosexual
Fuzz - police
Gaffer - boss
Gander - to look
Geezer - a person, as in "old geezer"
Get cracking - to get a move on
Get knotted - angry expression of refusal
Get off with - to establish a relationship with a girl
Get stuck in - start the hard work, eat, or start a fight
Get stuffed! - exclamation of refusal
Get the chop - be dumped or sacked
Get the drift - to understand
Get's up my nose - someone you dislike
Git - fool, as in "he was a right git"
Give over - to stop it!, as in "give over, and put your hand back on the wheel (of the car)"
Gob - mouth, as is "shut your gob"
Gogglebox - television
Golf ball - radar dome (I actually working in one in 1972)
Goolies - testicules
A "goli" is Hindi for ball.
Gordon Bennett! - expresión of surprise, contempt, disgust, frustration
Gormless - stupid, clumsy
Go through the roof - to fly into a rage (also hit the roof)
Greaser - a "rocker"
Groovy - excellent (I probably used this term a lot, God help me)
Grot/grotty - bad, rubbish, crummy (I know I used this term for almost all the time)
Gutless - cowardly
Gumption - initiative, common sense, courage
Guy - man, chap
Half-pint - a short person
Ham-fisted - clumsy
Hammer - to defeat severely, as in "Spurs hammered Arsenal"
Hang on - to wait
Hard cheese - bad luck
Hassle - fuss, trouble
Hate their guts - to dislike intensely
Hat's off to … - to praise or admire
Have it away/off - sexual intercourse
Heap - an old dilapidated car
Hit the roof - become very angry
Hit the sack - go to bed
Hollow legs - someone who drinks a lot
Hooker - Americans also called a strong drink a "hooker"
Hook it/throw your hook - to leave or run away quickly
Hooter - nose
How come? - why? how?
In/out - fashionable/unfashionable
Into … - interested in …
In stitches - can't stop laughing
Itchy feet - desire to travel (I've always had itchy feet)
Jab - injection, vaccination
Jam - trouble
Jam jar - rhyming slang for car
Jammy - phenomenally lucky, as in "jammy bastard" (I remember using that a lot)
Jaw - talk
Jerry - German
At the origin of a number of spin-off slang expressions, e.g. jerry-built, jerry-rigged
Junkie - an addict
Kaput - finished, broken
Karzi - toilet
Put the kibosh on it - to thwart or prevent, ruin something
Kick - thrill
Kip - to sleep
Have kittens - to make nervous or agitated
Kip - to sleep
Kiwi - New Zealander
Knackered - physically exhausted
Nicker - £1
Knickers in a twist - agitate or flustered (or even panic)
Knock around with … - keep company with …
Knockers - breasts
Knock off - to steal
Knuckle sandwich - a punch in the mouth (fist between the teeth)
Kraut - a German
Latch on - to understand, as in "we had to explain it three times, before he latched on"
Layabout - a lazy person, a loafer
Leak - urinate
Leave cold - fail to impress
Letcher - a lecherous person
Left-footed - Roman Catholic
Lefty - socialist
Leg it - to run
Leg over - sexual intercourse
Leg up - to give assistance
Like - somewhat, as in "it was a bit dark, like"
Lip - cheek, impudence
Liquid lunch - drinking at lunchtime
Loaded - rich or drunk, so "he was loaded" could be either, depending upon the context
Lolly - money
Loo - toilet
Looker - attractive girl
Loony bin - lunatic asylum
Loud-mouth - boastful
Lumber - a trouble or problem, as in "I was lumbered with it"
Mad - very good, crazy, cool
Make a bomb/packet - make lots of money, become rich
Make a go of it - try to succeed
Make a meal out of it - put unnecessary effort into something
Make a monkey out of … - make a fool of …
Manky - dirty, felling rotten
Marbles - sanity, and in "he's lost his marbles"
Miles away - daydreaming
Mind boggles - too absurd, ad in "It's mind boggling"
Miss - female teachers were always called Miss
Miss out - to lose an opportunity
Mockers - to thwart or frustrate, as in "to put the mockers on it"
Mods (and Rockers) - Mods were fashion conscious teenagers (Rockers were not)
Moggie - alley cat
Moo - silly old woman
To motor - to drive fast
Movies - cinema (and also called "the pictures")
Muck about - play the fool, as in "stop mucking about and get on with the job"
Mug - a fool, and later to rob with violence
Muggins - a fool, a person taken advantage of, as in "he was a right muggins"
My foot! - as in "She said she was sorry, my foot! She couldn't give a damn"
Naff - vulgar, tasteless
Nail - to get right, as in "she nailed it"
Nancy boy - a homosexual
Nark - to annoyNatter - to talk aimlessly
Nature calls - go to the toilet
Neat - pleasing or attractive
Necking - kissing, and more
Needle - irritate, as in "he kept on needling me, and finally I let fly"
Nice one - congratulations
Nick - good condition, as in "it's in good nick", but 'nicked' means to get arrested
Nicker - £1
Nifty - agile
Niggle - to nag
Niggling - irritating because of a poor minor detail
Nip - Japanese
Nit - a fool, as in "he was the class nitwit"
Nob - head, rich person
Nobble - hinder, sabotage
Noise - support, as in "making the right noises", but also means just platitudes, and could mean to talk about or discuss
To get up someone's nose - to irritate them
Nosh - food, as in "it was a good nosh up" meaning a large meal or feast
Nosy - busybody, as in "nosy parker"
Not on - not acceptable
Nut - the head, or a crazy person (nutter), or to butt someone's forehead with your own
Nutcase - mentally ill
Nutter - mad
Nut-house - mental hospital
Nuts - testicules
Here is a little half-way test. Can you tell what this conversation is all about (answer at the bottom of this webpage)?
4got 2 call K8 4 her bd.Was studyin.Shes noyed an will nvr 4give me.I h8 xams.M/b well celebr8 on da wknd.Goin swimmin 2gether tmrw, w/e da WX 4cast says.
Oddball - eccentric
Odds and sods - bits and pieces
Off-beat - unconventional
Off-colour - indecent, distasteful
Off the cuff - spontaneous
Old hat - out of date
Old man - the head, boss, …
Once over - quick glance, as in "I gave her the once over" which could be referring to a girl, a car, or even an apartment
One-armed bandit - fruit machine
On the up -
Orbit - to be very angry, as in "go into orbit"
Over the hill - old
Over the moon - delighted
Over the top - exaggerated
Pack it in - stop talking, or doing foolish things
Packet - lots of money, as in "footballers earn a packet"
Pain - annoying, as in "you are becoming a pain in the neck"
Paki (but pronounced packy) - a Pakistani
Panda - a police patrol car
Pansy - homosexual, or at least effeminate
Paralytic - drunk
Parky - cold
Pass the buck - evade responsibility
Past it - too old
Peanuts - not enough money, as in "the pay is peanuts"
One part of the famous expression "if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys".
Peckish - moderately hungry
Pee - urinate
Period! - that's final, stop, as in "I won't discuss it, period!"
Phoney - false, fake
Piddling - trivial, as in "it was so piddling, I don't know what the fuss was all about"
Piece of cake - anything easy to do
Pig - policeman
Pig's ear - a blunder, botched job
Pillock - idiot
Pinch - to steal or rob
Pinhead - fool, as in "you could see he was a pinhead, just by his looks"
Pint-sized - a small person
Piss - urinate
Piss about - to waste time, to mess about, as in "stop pissing about, and get back to work"
Pissed - drunk
Pissing it down - raining hard
Pissed off - fed up, annoyed
Piss off - to leave, but also means to irritate someone
Piss-poor - bad, feeble
Piss-taking - mockery, as in "taking the piss"
Play silly buggers - to mess around
Play up - cause trouble
Plonk - wine
Plonker - stupid person, as in "he was a right plonker"
Poker-face - betraying no emotion
Polack - Polish person
Polish off - to finish, as in "to polish off the last piece of cake"
Ponce - effeminate posturing man, pimp
Ponce about - aimless, behave in an ostentatious or effeminate manner
Poodle - to go, as in "I'll just poodle off to the pub"
Poof/poofter - male homosexual
Poo! - disgust, unpleasant smell, and faeces as in "dog poo"
Bob by -
Poppycock - nonsense
Porridge - prison
Posh - smart, as in "then we went to a posh restaurant"
Powder one's nose - go the toilet
Poxy - inferior, rotten, disgusting
Prang - crash or damage a car
Prat - buttocks, but also a stupid or foolish person
Proper - meaning real
Pricy - expensive
Prissy - fussy, prim, prudish
Private eye - private detective
Proper do - fine party
Psycho - psychopath
Psych out - intimidate or scare
Psych up - prepare for an ordeal or challenge
Pud - pudding, desert, seconds
Puke - vomit
Pull someone's leg - to fool or tease
Pull one's socks up - to try harder
Pull strings - to use one's influence
Pull the plug - to withdraw support
Punch up - fist fight
Punt - to gamble, or to attempt, as in "to take a punt"
Punter - customer
Pusher - seller of drugs
Pushing it - getting near to a specific age, as in "she's pushing 60"
Push your luck - to take a risk, as in "don't push it, or I will thump you (hit)"
Pushover - something that is very easy to achieve
Pushy - forceful, assertive, ambitious
Put down - reject or snub
Put one's face on - apply makeup
Put on hold - delay
Put out to grass - retire someone
Quack - doctor of medicine
Queen - homosexual
Queer - homosexual
Quid - £1
Quids in - doing well
Rabbit on - to ramble on, boring
Radical - excellent
Rag trade - tailoring and dressmaking
Rain-check - postpone to another date
Rake-off - take a commission, often excessive or even illegal
Randy - lecherous, as in "that teacher was a randy old git"
Rap - talk, as in "rap music"
Ratbag - unpleasant person
Rate - to think highly of something, as in "she didn't rate him"
Rat on - to betray
Rat race - hectic work and lifestyle
Rave - enthusiastic, but also a dance party or rave-up with ravers
Raw deal - harsh or unfair treatment
Reg - car registration number
Rhubarb - nonsense
Rib - to make light-hearted fun of, or tease, someone
Right on! - indicating approval
Rings a bell - sounds familiar, as in "his name rang a bell"
Rip-off - over priced, overcharged
Rocker - people who like motorbikes
Off your rocker - you are mad
Rocket - a severe reprimand
Rock the boat - disturb the status quo
Roller - a Rolls-Royce
Rollicking - a telling-off, as in "I didn't do anything, but he gave me a rollicking anyway"
Root about - to rummage for something
Root for - to support
Ropey - poor quality
Rough up - to beat up
Round the bend - crazy
Rozzer - police
Rubber - condom
Rubbish - to criticise
Russki - Russian
Rusty - red-hair
Sail close to the wind - take risks
Sap - a fool
Sarky - sarcastic
Sarnie - sandwich
Sausage - money, as in "I haven't a sausage"
Scam - fraud or swindle
Scarper - run away
Scatty - slightly mad, feather-brained
Score - seduce someone (or more)
Scram - beat it, get out of here (probably from the German slang schrammen)
Scrape the bottom of the barrel - take the worst quality, or whatever is left
Screw - sexual intercourse
Screw up - to do badly, or bungle something, as in "he had it made, but then he screwed up"
Screwy - crazy
Scrounge/scrounger - cadge or beg
Scrub - to cancel something
Scrubber - common or working class girl, or quasi-prostitute
Scouser - someone from Liverpool
Scrumpy - cloudy cider
See it coming - inevitable, as in "we all could see it coming, but he couldn't"
See red - get very angry
Seaya! - leaving, as in "Seaya at the pub"
Sell out - to betray a cause
Send-up - to mock
Set back - to cost, as in "how much did that set you back?"
Sewn up - already settled, as in "what's was the point of trying, when it was all sewn up in advance"
Shack up - to cohabit, live together
Shades - sunglasses
Shafted - broken beyond repair, extremely exhausted, cheated or ripped off
Shag - sexual intercourse
Shagged out - very tired
Shandy - a mix of lager with lemonade
Shit - faeces, anything poor quality, unfair treatment, also means in trouble, used as a strong expletive "Shit!", and can be added to almost anything, e.g. shit creek, shit-faced, shithead, shit-hot, shit-scared, shitty, …
On a shoestring - on a very tight budget
Shot down in flames - utterly defeated
Shove off - to leave
Shower - a group or worthless people, as in "they were a high shower, smoking behind the cycle shed"
Shrink - psychiatrist
Shut-eye - sleep
Shyster - anyone not acting correctly
Sickening - annoying, unfair, rude
Skint - almost penniless, as in "I'm almost always skint"
Skip it! - it doesn't matter
Skive/skiver - to evade work or responsibility, as in "skiving arab" or "skiving a-rab", where 'arab' just meant someone who was not a mate (friend)
Slag - worthless person or promiscuous woman
Slag off - to disparage, run down
Slant/slope - oriental person
Slash - urinate
Sling one's hock - to leave
Slippery - clever, cunning, as in "he was a slippery bugger"
Slip up - to make a mistake
Slob - a person who is slovenly, slow, dull, as in "once a slob, always a slob"
Slut - girl who "sleeps around"
Smarmy - insincerely polite, toady, as in "the class smarmy-pants"
Smart Alec - a know-all, offensively clever
Smartarse - offensively clever
Smashed - drunk
Snip - bargain, as in "I could never resist a snip"
Snog - to kiss, as in "she could snog for the country"
Snooty - supercilious, as in "every class had its snooty prat"
Snuff it - to die
Sod all - nothing, as in "and when we had finished, I was left with sod all"
Sodding - pejorative intensifier, as in "my sodding car won't start"
Sod it! - exclamation of annoyance
Sod off! - go away
Sod's law - if something can go wrong, it will
Something else - great, wonderful, as in "that was something else!"
Souped-up - a car that has been modified, supercharged
Spade - a black person
Spend a penny - urinate
Spew up - to vomit
Spit it out! - confess, tell all
Spiv - flashily dressed, near criminal
Splash out - to spend a lot of money on something
Split - to leave
Sport - someone who behaves correctly, as in "he's a good sport"
Spot-on - totally correct
Square - old-fashioned
Square peg - someone in the wrong job, or in the wrong place
Stab - to attempt, as in "I'll have a stab at it"
Stand up - to leave someone waiting, fail to turn up, as in "she stood me up"
Starkers - naked
Steamed-up - angry
Stick-in-the-mud - dull, staid, old-fashioned
Stir the shit - to stir up trouble
Stoned - drunk, taking drugs
Straight - heterosexual
Straight up! - honestly
Sticky wicket - difficult situation
Stone the crows - surprise
Stroppy - angry, obstreperous
Get stuffed/Stuff it - I can't be bothered to do that
Stuffy - prudish, staid
Sucker/suckered - gullible, easily fooled or cheated
Suck it and see - try without knowing what might happen
Swan around - to parade, wander aimlessly, as in "he would swan around looking like a right prat"
Swot - study for an exam
Taff/taffy - Welshman
Take apart - utterly defeat
Take a punt - risk on something
Take five - take a short break
Take for a ride - dupe or swindle
Take on board - to listen, understand and adopt
Take the mickey/Take the piss - make fun off, to mock, deride, tease
Tanner - sixpence
Tart - promiscuous woman
Tart up - to dress up, put on make-up, to improve or decorate a place, as in "tarted up, she looked half-decent"
Tearaway - a reckless person
Tear into - attack vigorously
Tell off - scold or rebuke
Ten bob - half £1
Tenner - £10
Thick/thickie - someone stupid
Throne - toilet seat
Thrupence - a three pence piece (bit)
Thug - (goon)
Titch - small person
Ticking-off - telling-off
Tiddler - anything small
Tight-arsed - stingy, mean with money
Tip - rubbish dump, and possible someone's room/house/car
Tipping it down - raining hard
Tits - woman's breasts
Toddle - to go, as in "you just toddle off now"
Toffee-nosed - snobbish
Ton - 100, as in "he was doing at least a ton (100 mph)"
Ton of bricks - reprimand or punish, as in "she'll be down on you like a ton of bricks"
Tosser - a stupid or irritating person
Trip - drug induced hallucination
Trust you! - ironic response
Turn off - to disgust or repel
Turn on - excite or inspire
Twat - a term of abuse, as in "he was a right twat"
Twit - a foolish person
Umpteen - an unspecified big number
Up yours! - exclamation of refusal or defiance
Vanilla - ordinary
Veg/veggie - vegetable
Wacko - crazy, eccentric
Wacky - unusual
Wall - serious difficulties, as in "up against the wall" or "hit a wall", but can also mean driving someone crazy as in "driving me up the wall"
Wallop - resounding blow
Wally - mild form of idiot
Wangle - contrive or obtain by cunning, as in "she was able to wangle anything from her mum"
Wannabee - someone wanting to be like someone famous
Want in/out - want to be included/excluded
Wash out - to cancel
Watch it! - 'be careful' as a threat or warning, as in "watch your language, or you're out"
Wavelength - to think like someone else, as in "to be on the same wavelength"
Way-out - extremely eccentric
Weido - an eccentric
Welly - make an effort, as in "Com'on, give it some welly"
What the hell … - intensification of 'what', as in "what the hell do you think you are doing?"
Wheels - a car
Whinge - to complain frequently
Wicked - really good
Wind up - to provide or tease
Wonky - damaged, unsteady, shaky
Wrap up - to stop talking immediately, as in "will you wrap up, I'm listening to the radio"
Write-off - damaged beyond repair, as in "you will just to write it off"
Wonky - unsteady, not straight
Yack-yack - to chatter constantly, as in "stop yacking, and do your homework"
Yank - an American
Yob/yobbo - a lout, uncouth, as in "you must stop seeing that yobbo"
Yonks - ages, long time
Yuck! - disgusting, as in "Yuck! Where did you get that haircut?"
Yummy - delicious food
Zilch/zippo - nothing
Zing/zippy - lively, energetic
Zone - concentrated, totally focussed, as in "at that moment I was really in the zone"
You can use the Google Books Ngram Viewer
Complete Dictionary of Cockney Rhyming Slang
English Language & Usage
I forgot to call Kate for her birthday tonight because I was studying. She‘s annoyed and will never forgive me. I hate exams. Maybe we‘ll celebrate on the weekend. We‘re going swimming together tomorrow, whatever the weather forecast says.
Thank you for reading down to the end, and here is a last little Random Test. Do you know the meaning/sense of these?
-gate, as in "Zippergate" (look it up if you don't know the reference)
Here's an easy one - "addleheaded"
And what about - "advergaming"?
What could "ark-building" mean? Well, the you could have had "ark-building" weather for the last three days, and we all know what that means.
I think I might have mentioned "artsy-fartsy" but anyway here is a better definition. It's just someone who tells you some things really "new", intellectual and totally obscure (like a new music trend, or something), just so they can feel better than you.
"Atlas-like" is anything you are having difficulty carrying.
I had no idea what "scrobbling" was, but what a cool idea, now check out the Wikipedia entry for Last.fm.
"Belligerati" - wonderful sounding word, but it actually means authors who advocate war, aggression, and imperialism.
Still trying to decide if I should subscribe to Instapundit.com.
Googlism - not useful, but somehow compelling …
"Homodiegetic" - Having read the definition, I am none the wiser… but now I wonder why such a word exists
"Idiotarian" - now this is a word that should exist, because there are a lot of them about
"Immanentize the eschaton" - another incomprehensible expression, and it has it's own Wikipedia entry, which does not help
What we need more of, are people who practice litotes.
"Meatspace" - the real world
Irrelevant, but worth a read - 50 Famous Misquotations
Napster - I remember it well, and it's history is worth a read
In the future will there just be a "Netocracy" and a "consumtariat"? Firstly, we may not even have the chance to find out, and secondly does anybody care?
One of the most underused prefixes is "non-". You can make it what you want, but it's really power is that it can sit between extremes, e.g. you can either be "confused" or "lucid", but sitting between them you could have "non-confused", implying you not quiet lucid, but you're working on it. You could also be "non-licid", which might imply that you could be lucid if you wanted to be (and you're certainly not confused), but it does not interest you enough to make the effort to be fully lucid. Another example is between "rich" and "broke", there are a few intermediary steps such as "poor" and "well-off", but now you could be "non-broke" meaning that you have just enough in the bank to make you feel (relatively) rich, as compared to the past and in confrontation with your peers. "Non-" could be very useful when addressing everyone who does not have English as a mother tongue. Now, we can call them all "non-English". Another idea, what is opposite of "drowsy"? "Awake" might be too strong, so you could simply be "non-drowsy". We can also simplify life by replacing "LGBTQIA+" with "non-straight" (you could also try "off-straight"). I would argue that we don't exploit enough "off-", "on-", "open-", "out-", "over-". Just an idea, because I like prefixes.
"Othering's", a nice word to cover "the rest", as in "I'm ready, I've done my packing, washing, cleaning, shopping, and othering's".
We have shortened words in the past, e.g. influenza became the flu, television the telly, bicycle the bike, so we can now start to shorten some other words. My first example is "prolly" for "probably", there must be other long words that are ripe for the chop ("wknd", "schol", "secnd", wrting lik pepol spke). On top of that we can then use the space freed up to include more pwful wrd combos, e.g. "unflabbergastable", which are difficult to compress.
Why is the world so tied to the fight between "Republicrats" and "Demopublicans" in a country they have never visited, and would prolly get shot iftheydid?
Getridof some spacesaswell, e.g. "wudprolly" short for "would probably". But I know this is probably onestptofa.
Sorry to be back with my prefixes, but how would you replace "semi-amusing", "semi-complete", "semi-early", "semi-nerve-wracking", "semi-unique", …? And if you are already using "super-size", "super-small", etc. then you're already on my side. There are some tricks you will have to master, and one is knowing when to avoid prefixing, as an example, humans are not "un-alien", because you know that a good percentage of humans are in fact "totally-alien". But once you have mastered the English prefixes, you can start with the foreign inspired ones such as "uber".