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Swear Words in British English Posted by on Apr 4, 2012 in Culture, English Language, English Vocabulary

How is your English swearing coming along? If you have been following the English blog over the past few days then you know that we have been covering the topic in full force.

Today we will take a look at some of the specific swear words used in British-English. While many of the same swear words and phrases that are used in American-English are the same in British-English, a few extras and differences exist. This list is by no means a full list of the swear words that exist but it is enough to get you started.

  • bloody hell = The meaning on this one changes a bit depending on the way you say it. So, if a car passes really close by someone you don’t know, almost hitting them, you might say “bloooody hell!” meaning “sheesh.” But if you hit your thumb with a hammer when you were trying to hang a painting, you might shout “bloody hell!” and this time it means something more like f**k!
  • piss off/bugger off/sod off = As swearing goes this is pretty mild and basically just means “go away.” You can also use it when someone irritates you and you no longer want to continue discussing things with them (but are happy for them to remain right where they are).
  • slag = Promiscuous woman
  • tart = Promiscuous woman (less offensive)
  • tosser or wanker = Something along the lines of “jerk” perhaps a tiny bit more offensive.
  • bollocks = Quite similar to cr*p

The Two Finger Salute

If you have ever been about to embark on a trip to the United Kingdom and have been receiving some good natured advice from your family and friends you might have been told to be careful with what you do with your fingers. At the time it might have seemed like some odd advice but it was good advice.

Take a moment now and raise your index and middle finger while clenching in your other fingers. Oh go on, no one is looking. Now spread apart the two raised fingers a bit so you have made a “V” shape. Once you have that all set, adjust your hand so that your clenched fingers (the palm side of your hand) are facing you. Congratulations, you have just given someone the two finger salute.

The two finger salute means basically the same thing sticking your middle finger up in America means. The origins of the gesture are a little unclear but the most popular urban legend* is that it stems from a “gesture made by longbowmen fighting in the English army at the Battle of Agincourt (1415) during the Hundred Years’ War. According to the story, the French were in the habit of cutting off the arrow-shooting fingers of captured English and Welsh longbowmen, and the gesture was a sign of defiance on the part of the bowmen, showing the enemy that they still had their fingers .” -Wikipedia

*urban legend = stories that may or may not have been believed by the person passing on the story

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