One of the things I enjoy about erading Harry Potter is the occasional British-only english word.  I just wish I could find the British versions of the books, that would be cool.  Anyway, I found this page which lists a bunch with definitions.  I knew all but 2.  Here are some favourites:

BARKING. adj. Crazy. See also mad.

CORKING. adj. Excellent; splendid. Like spiffing. Often used sarcastically.

DODGY. adj. Evasive; suspicious; unclear.

NICK. v. To steal.

SPIFFING. adj. Excellent or first-rate (upper-class schoolboy slang, but often used in a sarcastic way to make fun of wealthy or pompous people). George Weasley, mocking Percy: "Absolutely spiffing." Like corking.

WONKY. adj. Shaky or weak. This word was actually used as a little pun in GOF. Hermione asks about a Quidditch Play that she calls the "Wonky Faint," which is really called the Wronski Feint. The pun suggests a weak move, while the Wronski play is really quite fast and aggressive.

Here’s the ones I didn’t know:

NOT A DICKEY (OR DICKY) BIRD. n. Reader "Dibble Helix" reports that this is Cockney rhyming slang for "not a word." Cockney is a London dialect of British English that includes colorful rhyming phrases, such as "Cain and Abel" for table or "dickey bird" for word (SOURCE: Cockney Online). A dickey bird is a type of small bird; one English dictionary indicated it was the hedge sparrow. In The Goblet of Fire, a character says in response to hearing any news, "Not a dickey bird."

LILO. n. An inflatable air mattress made of rubber or plastic. Name comes from a British market trademark for such a mattress. Used in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. "Dodgy Dirk" recalls a huge lizard that punctured his lilo while he was at the beach.

6 thoughts on “Britspeak

  1. Example (with a couple extra thrown in): “After slipping past the dodgy bobbie with what I thought was a spiffing but actually turned out to be a wonky lilo, I was spotted by a barking bloke who saw me nick the not-so-corking goods. Now I’ve been thrown into Gaol and have heard not a dickey bird from the outside world.”

  2. Another example: I find GRUB to be sufficiently suitable for my booting needs, but every now and then I find myself wishing I were back to LILO.

    Oh… wait…

  3. Snogging is ok, but it sounds like a Christmas drink to me, and didn’t make me think it was a great word. 🙂

  4. You know what skiving is, right? I learned that one when I lived in England for a short period 20 years ago, and it appears in the HP books a number of times. Here, we call it “playing hooky.” I have no idea what the etymology of either is.

  5. Yeah, it’s susprising how much of it makes sense in context. Skiving Snackboxes have the purpose of getting you out of class. Perfect!

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