Top 10 most annoying Britishisms

By Toby Harnden ---------------------------------------
          Well, I rattle off a cheery pre-Christmas blog post about annoying Americanisms and, Bob’s your uncle, my inbox fills up with beastly rotten emails full of effing and blinding. Gordon Bennett! Excuse me, but there’s no need for people to get the hump or their knickers in a twist. I was only just trying to wind you up.
          It’s not like I think we British are the dog’s bollocks. It’s only a laugh, init? So, in the spirit of promoting transatlantic balance, having browned off all those whose country was terribly late for the last two world wars I’ll now gratuitously offend those whose country needed baling out by the Yanks twice in a century.
          So, have a butcher’s at this: my top 10 list of most annoying Britishisms, those phrases that banish any thoughts of homesickness and make me thank the Lord that the land of my forefathers is an ocean away and have a sudden desire to be very rude about the Queen:
1.       “Know what I mean?“
Translation: Meaningless phrase added to the end of a sentence, usually by someone who is either stating the bleeding obvious or is making no sense at all. Sometimes used as an innuendo to imply something dirty’s going on, as in this classic Monty Python sketch.
2.        “Take a pew.“
Translation: “Have a seat.” Usually deployed by a member of the older generation trying to be something of a card. Once you’ve sat down, the same old codger may well ask you: “What’s your poison?” (translation: “What can I offer you to drink?”)
3.        “At the end of the day.“
Translation: “In summary.” The type of long-winded inanity – “when all’s said and done” means much the same thing – is beloved of football managers and airheads like the Spice Girls.
4.        “It’ll sort itself out, dear.“
Translation: “If I ignore it and do nothing then maybe the problem will go away.” Often used by the emotionally stunted British male (probably educated at a public school) telling his wife not to worry, instead of trying to intervene, understand or help her.
5.        “With all due respect.”
Translation: “I am about to insult you.” Sometimes used out of mock politeness, sometimes from an excess of deference to someone above one’s station in class-ridden British society.
6.        “I’m feeling a little poorly.“
Translation: “I’m as sick as a dog, perhaps even at death’s door.” (an understament, or alternatively a wheedling plea by a malingerer or a hypochondriac). In its worst form, a whine by an English person (particularly a Northerner) who wants a day off work because of a minor or imagined cold. Not to be confused with something done badly or with being broke.
7.        “It’s rather warm.“
Translation: “It’s as hot as s***t.” Classic British understatement, part of the national fondness for euphemism rather than telling it straight. I once used this phrase is Las Vegas when the temperature was soaring above 110 degrees. The translation was provided by a bemused local.
8.        “He’s doing my head in, he is.“
Translation: “He’s driving me crazy.” Usually with the all the hs dropped. The superfluous “he is” is tagged on the end of many phrases by the British in the vain hope of giving added weight to what they are saying.
9.        “I’m gobsmacked.“
Translation: “I’m shocked and stunned into silence.” I first remember this being used Bet Lynch in the soap opera Coronation Street, who, for upper crust types, was the epitome of someone as common as muck. A mildly vulgar phrase but, of course, the British are a people much given to over-the-top vulgarity these days, even by “celebrities” on television. As reader Edward Rogers put it (his emphasis) in an email to me: “If you can get Gordon Ramsey to stop using the F-Word as a noun,adjective, pronoun and an adverb, I’ll do my best to stop the phrases that annoy you.”
10.        ”Ah, Bless.“
Translation: “Isn’t that sweet.” Used in a patronising or ironic tone. If someone says this to you and about you, you’ll probably – and justifiably – want to punch them.
(...)       Next up, I’m thinking of a list of useful American words for which there is no British equivalent, like “segue” and “no-brainer”.
BTW, it's rather warm today...