8 British Phrases That Americans Don’t Understand

We all know that in Britain, a faucet is a tap, a truck is a lorry and a sidewalk is a pavement. But there are a host of other British phrases that Brits say that leave American’s scratching their heads.

8. He’s Lost The Plot

When a Brit tells you that he  “lost the plot,” what he is telling you is that he’s blown a gasket; lost his cool. It’s a a widely used saying in Britain and is generally used when someone snaps in anger.

7. Donkey’s Years

In Britain, the phrase “Donkey’s years” can be translated to mean a really long time. It has it’s roots in cockney rhyming slang, whereby donkey’s ears (which are long) sounded similar to “donkey’s years” and became a widely used British phrase.

The saying was reinforced by the the belief that donkeys lived for a very a long time.

6. What A Chav

This is a highly derogatory indictment in the United Kingdom that is used to describe a working-class or poor person. They are usually loud, obnoxious, wear lots of fake designer clothing, have dirty hair and large golden hoop earrings.

The closest American analogue would be “white trash” and should generally not be said to a chav’s face.

5. Throwing A Spanner In The Works

Spanner is the British word for what American’s would call a wrench. To throw a spanner in the works, therefore, is to say you’ve thrown a wrench in the works.

It translates into ruining a plan.

4. “You’re taking the piss.”

When you “take the piss” with someone, that means that you’re being unreasonable or taking liberties. For example, if a cashier overcharges you on something, he is taking the piss.

It can also be a stand-in phrase for when you’re mocking or teasing someone, though this is more commonly said as “taking the piss out of” someone or something. For example: “They’re always taking the piss out of John because he likes Taylor Swift.”

3. Please Stop Your Whinging

To whinge is to moan or whine. When you next hear someone c“whinging,” it means they’re whining or crying. The next time your coworker grumbling about something insignificant, go ahead and tell them to stop their whinging.

2. That Is Manky

If something is described as manky, it is gross, dirty or unpleasant. This British phrase hails from all the way back in the 50’s, and it widely believed to be a combination of “mank” (mained or mutilated),  the Latin “mancus (maimed) and the Old French word “manque” (which means “to fail”).

You can also say that you’re feeling “manky” if you’re not feeling well.

1. Chuffed To Bits

If someone tells you that they’re “chuffed” or “chuffed to bits”, they’re saying that they’re thrilled and delighted.

Can you think of any other now of other fantastic British idioms that we have missed out? Feel free to add them in the comments!