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August 2015

10 English slang terms you may not have heard of

This article ain’t no tosh; you’re likely to learn from this whimmy-diddle.

When learning a new language, understanding slang terms can be both fun and confusing. They often don’t mean how they literally read, causing much embarrassment to the student trying to understand. Today we’ll take a look at 10 English slang terms from the UK and the USA that you may not have heard of.

Tosh (UK)

Apologies in advance to any readers named Tosh, as the word is also another way to say "rubbish". Maybe you're not a fan of all the tosh on TV, or perhaps you enjoy an evening of talking tosh with your friends. Either way, it's a cool way of saying "junk".

Put Up Your Dukes (US)

Fighting isn't the best way to solve an argument, but should you find yourself ready to throw down (get in a fight), you best put up your dukes (your dukes being your fists). Here's one we hope you never hear outside of practice.

Kerfuffle (UK)

A situation where you might need to put up your dukes can also be called a kerfuffle, an older term for a fight or argument. It's a good word as it diffuses the negative implications that associate with the word "fight", as kerfuffle sounds more like a type of Muppet or some sort of tropical vegetable.

John Hancock (US)

In America, you may be asked for your John Hancock. Why, you ask yourself, would you be required to give one of the country's Founding Fathers? The phrase refers to the signing of the American Declaration of Independence, when one John Hancock, a prominent revolutionary, signed the document in a most stylish way. Today, John Hancock is another way of saying “signature”.

Damp Squib (UK)

When everything goes wrong, you might have a damp squib situation. This is literally true if your squib (explosive) happens to be damp, in which case it probably won't go ka-boom. Metaphorically, things are a damp squib when they fail to work as planned.

For the Birds (US)

Not really interested in something? You might say it's for the birds. Just look at our feathered friends flying so high in the air without a single care. If something is deemed frivolous and trivial, it's likely better suited for them. We've got more important things to do on the ground, anyway.

Bollocking (UK)

Oops, you did it again. Now your boss and/or loved one will really give you a good bollocking (punishment). We all make mistakes, and severe consequences often follow. At the very least, it should remind you to do the dishes on time.

Whimmy-diddle (US)

Not quite sure what that thing you're looking at is? You've got a real whimmy-diddle on your hands, as one from the American Appalachian region might say. Whimmy-diddle (much like doohickey or whatchamacallit) refers to an item or toy that you don't feel like (or fail at) naming specifically.

Scrummy (UK)

You'll know this term when you bite into your first piece of battered and fried haddock in London. "It's delicious", you think. "No, not just delicious. It's positively scrummy!" It's a cute way to say how much you enjoy the taste of something.

Take a Rain Check (US)

When it rains hard and an active baseball field is soaking wet, the game is postponed for later. This is called a rain check. Today, the term taking a rain check is ubiquitous in America, used to refer to the postponement of all manner of personal activities.
Want to learn more fun linguistic facts? "Like" our page on Facebook. This is already the last item on our list, so we'll need to take a rain check on more fun.

Picture: (c) Fotolia, Orlando Florin Rosu

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