Read on for clues about what it all means.
Posting an article on British slang is bound to provoke shouts from language purists: ‘That’s not correct English!’ In some ways, they’re right. Slang is usually absent from English dictionaries and is often different in each region around the world where English is the official language. You probably never hear any of the words listed below in your English lessons. But if one day you enter a pub in England itself, especially in a university town, chances are that a few of these phrases will come in handy.
a brew (noun)
Let’s start with the basics. This one comes from the verb ‘brew’, which means ‘prepare a drink’. So it follows that ‘a brew’ is slang for ‘a cup of tea’, though it can also mean ‘a beer’, or even refer to some illegal substances. If in doubt, assume that it means tea and note it’s not just young people who use this noun.
I hear you’ve had a bad day. Shall I make you a brew?
‘Gut’ is the verb used to describe slicing open a fish and removing its internal organs (its ‘guts’) so that it can be cooked and eaten. If the fish were alive and had an opinion, it would say that being gutted is extremely unpleasant, uncomfortable, unfair and downright painful. That’s why we use ‘gutted’ to describe an extremely unpleasant feeling from our point of view: bitter disappointment.
I had tickets for an awesome concert, but my train was late so I missed it all. I’m absolutely gutted!!!
‘Lairy’ rhymes with ‘Mary’, but means the exact opposite of a well-behaved, obedient saint. Imagine a football fan stereotype – let’s call him Larry – who is gutted that his team just lost an important match. Because of this, Larry decides to go drinking and then starts looking to start a fight in the street with fans of the winning team. He is obnoxious, confrontational, and most of all, angry.
Larry’s friends: Larry, there’s no need to get all lairy about it! It’s only a football game.
In some parts of London, ‘rough’ means ‘cool’, ‘nice’, and generally ‘good’. But it’s more commonly used to describe something which is bad. For example, our friend from the previous example Larry would probably feel ‘rough’ the morning after his lairy drinking session.
Larry: Oh no, I feel really rough this morning.
And, if he was feeling really bad, he might say that he was feeling ‘butt-rough’. Both ‘rough’ and ‘butt-rough’ are also used to describe an ugly person’s looks: men or women can be described as ‘butt-rough’, or ‘butters’ for short.
Most women love David Beckham, but I think he’s butters.
When it comes to describing a person’s looks, ‘fit’ is the opposite of ‘butters’. Of course, ‘fit’ also means that somebody is athletic and in good health, so you really have to pay attention to the context in which it’s used.
Doctor to a patient: Tests show that you’re fit and healthy.
Woman to man: You’re fit. Can I have your number?
mardy (adjective and noun)
This one comes from the North. Or at least, north of London – you won’t hear it used much in the South unless you’re listening to the Arctic Monkeys’ song ‘Mardy bum’. As the song lyrics explain, somebody who is ‘in a mardy’ or ‘feels mardy’ is in a generally bad mood, upset, and sulky.
Artic Monkeys lyric: ‘Now then Mardy Bum/I see your frown/And it’s like looking down the barrel of a gun’
lash (adjective, noun, verb and pretty much any category of word that you want it to be!)
Back down South, the word ‘lash’ means drinking and drunkenness. This word has as many variations as there are cocktails in the world: you can ‘be lashed’ (drunk), ‘pre-lash’ (drink before attending a party), ‘go out on the lash’, ‘get your lash on’, ‘lash up’, ‘join the lashional front’…the list goes on.
I went out on the lash the night before…best night of my life!
There you have it you have now expanded your youth dictionary and can enter any pub in the UK and hold a conversation. I’ll give you some more insights into the lingo of under 30s in my next blog post.