Culture Shock: Language Differences

I love language! I’m a poet and an aspiring journalist; my minor is in creative writing..did I mention that I love language? Let’s talk about some British jargon that shocked me right into the culture.


  • Pants usually refers to underwear. I discovered this after a conversation at the dinner table when I was sharing my excitement about a new pair of pants that I bought. Should’ve said ‘trousers’ instead, to spare myself of the perplexed gaze from my flatmates.


  • ‘Cheers!’ is another way of saying ‘thank you’. When I hold the door open for someone, they’re not waiting to pull out a glass & have a toast on the spot.


  • ‘Ta!’ is yet another way of saying ‘thank you’


  • Chips are what I’d usually call fries. Crisps are what I’d usually call chips (Pringles and ting). Get it?


  • ‘Y’alright?’ Now I still don’t understand this one. It’s normal for a stranger to greet you by saying ‘Hi! Y’alright?’, and I’m usually ready to say “I’m fine, thanks!”, but they’re not usually expecting an answer. But then  sometimes they do! I never know whether someone genuinely wants to know how I am, or if they’re just acknowledging my presence.


  • (the) Washing up‘ is actually a noun, referring to dirty dishes. While I might say that I’m about to ‘wash the wares’, a British person would say that they’re going to ‘do the washing up’. Accordingly, dishwashing liquid  is called ‘washing up liquid’.


  • Knackered means tired/worn,


  • Taking a piss/taking the piss essentially means that you’re making a fool out of something/someone (Trini equivalent would be a ‘mamaguy’). If someone asks “Are you taking a piss mate?”, they’re not asking about your urinary practices, but they’re essentially saying “Are you being serious?”. Someone from London might even say that you’re ‘boying it


  • ‘Pissed’ however, refers to a drunken state (e.g. she went out on Friday and got pissed)


  • To be sick usually specifies that vomit is involved, rather than a general feeling of unwellness. ‘Sick’ as a noun also refers to vomit itself (i.e. there was a bit of sick of the floor)


  • ‘To be poorly‘ is what I’d usually call being ‘sick’. This includes other symptoms like coughing


  • Soz’ was originally an internet slang for ‘sorry’, but you’ll find many young people saying it aloud, because saying sorry is in the British blood, so they needed to find a whole new way to present it sometimes


  • Tupperware refers to reusable plastic food containers


  • Crockery refers to plates, cups bowls etc


  • Fit refers to anyone who’s physically attractive. e.g. ‘Jane is well fit’. The young Londoners would call Jane a ‘peng ting


  • Buff, on the other hand, refers to just about anything good. This is another youthful London slang, and is a little bit confusing as you’d usually associate it with someone who’s muscular. But even a good meal can taste ‘buff’.


(This list is a working document, so I’ll keep adding to it, ever so often!)