1. n. The love of language

Glosso’s advent: Baubles of Britishisms – Dec 21

by Louise


Day 21

How’s your father.

“Lady Mary and Lord Gillingham are still technically going steady, despite neither of them wanting to stay together, purely down to the fact that they once had some ‘how’s your father’.” — Digital Spy, Nov 3, 2014

“Office-induced stress, high blood pressure, heavy drinking brought on by the aforementioned stress, being handbagged by the wife for indulging in a bit of workplace-based how’s-yer-father, the list goes on.” — Lancashire Evening Post, Oct 22, 2014

A jocular term for copulation. World Wide Words traces it back to the fertile imagination of the music-hall comedian Harry Tate, whose catchphrase was picked up by servicemen in the First World War.


Shag: “Married men and women who try to pass off a one night stand as an ‘opportunistic shag‘ are often in denial about the state of their primary relationship.” — Huffington Post UK, Nov 12, 2014

Roger. From the mid 17th to the late 19th centuries, roger was slang for penis, probably because the name’s origin involved fame with a spear. Subsequently “to roger” became a slang verb form meaning “to have sex with”.

Glosso’s advent: Baubles of Britishisms – Dec 20

by Louise



Day 20

To live at Her Majesty’s pleasure.

“News that notorious police killer Harry Roberts could be released from prison within days could make for a more shocking ending. Roberts is to walk free after 48 years living at Her Majesty’s pleasure, despite being told by a judge he should never be released.” — Burton Mail, 23 Oct 2014

To do time. In jail (or gaol, as some Brits still prefer to call it). To be detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure (or at His Majesty’s pleasure, if the reigning monarch is a king) officially refers to the indeterminate length of service of certain appointed officials or the indeterminate sentences of some prisoners.


Doing porridge: “Toff’s guide to doing porridge. Prison is dangerous for toffs, writes Yvonne Ridley. Here are a few survival rules for high society criminals.” — The Observer, 5 June 1999


Glosso’s advent: Baubles of Britishisms – Dec 19

by Louise


Day 19
Spend a penny.

“Brad Pitt gave a local war hero the red carpet treatment when he invited him to a screening of his latest film. Peter Comfort from Ripple, Dover, had helped the world-famous actor get into character for the blockbuster, called Fury. … Pitt turned to the 91-year-old for advice when filming in Hertfordshire. Mr Comfort said: “They wanted a lot of information to make it accurate and fired a lot of questions at me. Luckily there weren’t any questions I didn’t know the answer to. They wanted to know where we slept, where we spent a penny, the living conditions and what it was like in action, so I told them.” — Dover Express, 23 Oct 2014

To pee. A reference to coin-operated pay toilets, which used to charge that sum before decimalization.

Going to see my aunt
Going to see a man about a dog
Take a slash


Glosso’s advent: Baubles of Britishisms – Dec 18

by Louise


Day 18

Bent as a nine-bob note.

“And Geordie and Sidney learn that if you’re a policeman or a vicar, you’re never truly off duty. Claudette, Johnny’s sister has been murdered, devastating everyone close to her. … Geordie immediately sniffs out that the London copper is as bent as a nine bob note, whilst Sidney makes a huge discovery about Claudette that she kept from all but those closest to her.” — STV, 3 Nov 2014

Dishonest. The reference comes from pre-decimalization in the UK (1971), when a ten-shilling (ten bob) note was valid currency but there was no such thing as a nine-shilling note.

Glosso’s advent: Baubles of Britishisms – Dec 17

by Louise


Day 17

(This is a squid, not a squib)


Damp squib.

“Even when I moved to London, despite the introduction of stricter laws on fireworks by then, there was a touch of rebelliousness about the night. Every year was a challenge to see the official displays without having to pay for them. Once you had your spot … the whole city stretched out before you, smelling of gunpowder and celebrating its revolutionary past. This year, however, November 5 is looking like a damp squib, since I’ll be in Amsterdam. There will be no DIY bonfires here – although the occasion is marked by expats, the sale of fireworks is limited by law in the Netherlands and the only opportunities to celebrate are at organised events.” — The Telegraph, 4 Nov 2014

“Crystal Pite’s stunning new Polaris ends this evening of dance to music by Thomas Adès on a thrilling high – and by then, it needs it. With Adès playing and conducting his own works, it’s a musically rich, dense programme. In dance terms, Pite turns it from a damp squib into a hit.” — The Independent, 12 Nov 2014

Something that fails ignominiously to satisfy expectations; an anti-climax, a disappointment. The Phrase Finder has the scoop on its origins.

Glosso’s advent: Baubles of Britishisms – Dec 16

by Louise


Day 16
Sweet Fanny Adams.

“Every expat in LA has to decide which way they’re going to go at some point, and it seems a hell of a lot easier to potter around muttering away about sweet Fanny Adams, barge poles and seeing a man about a dog than to adopt a ghastly transatlantic whine, have the fat sucked out of my thighs and injected back into my lips (so that I’m literally – to borrow from one American humorist – ‘kissing ass’).” — Celia Walden in the Daily Telegraph, 6 Nov 2014

In 1869, British seamen started getting new rations of tinned mutton. Distinctly unimpressed by this foodstuff, and possessed of a dark humor, the sailors joked that it must be the butchered remains of Fanny Adams, the victim of a brutal murder a couple of years earlier. Her name, with “sweet” in front of it, quickly became a euphemism for ‘sweet nothing’ throughout the armed services, and eventually passed into general usage. For Brits, it means zip. Zilch. Zero. Nada. Sod all. Its abbreviated version, “Sweet F. A.”, can also translate to the more vulgar “sweet f*** all”.

The Curtis Museum in Alton tells the full grisly story of sweet Fanny Adams.

*   *   *

Glosso’s advent: Baubles of Britishisms – Dec 15

by Louise


Day 15

To jack something in.

“It’s not even nine months since Johnny Murtagh retired from a riding career that confirmed him one of the greatest jockeys this country has ever produced. … That he jacked it in at 43 was a surprise, but only to an extent, considering the context of a life spent battling weight.” — Irish Times, 3 Nov 2014

According to Wikipedia, “in the British idiom, the object may appear before or after the particle. If the object is a pronoun, then it must be before the particle.”

To give up or chuck something in — like a job, or studies.

Glosso’s advent: Baubles of Britishisms – Dec 14

by Louise

The Duke And Duchess Of Cambridge And Prince Harry Attend The Inauguration Of Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden

Day 14

Up the duff.

“But whatever Christmas and New Year have in store for Weatherfield it seems tradition that someone either gives birth or dies at this time of year, and as none of the characters are up the duff, it is likely someone is about to meet their untimely demise on the cobbles.” — from a TV soap preview in the Manchester Evening News, Oct 20, 2014

Knocked up. i.e., pregnant. (See Glossophilia’s earlier post on pregnant words.) As Phrase Finder explains, “One of the numerous slang terms for the sexual organs, or more commonly specifically the penis, is pudding. … Dough is another word for pudding and duff is an alternative form and pronunciation of dough.”

Also: up the spout*: “Euan, Kathryn and Nicholas Blair, the children of the ex-PM, 58, had to endure the horror of knowing that their parents still Did It even though they’re old, when Cherie, 57, got up the spout with Leo at 45.” — Daily Mirror, 15 Nov. 2011

In the club.

In the pudding club. “Paula Lane Pregnant With First Baby: Just a couple of weeks after Jennie McAlpine (Fiz Stape) announced her pregnancy, we find out that another Corrie actress is also in the pudding club.” — Coronation Street blog, 5 June 2014

* Up the spout has another meaning: no longer working, or unlikely to be useful or successful. World Wide Words has the scoop.


Glosso’s advent: Baubles of Britishisms – Dec 13

by Louise


Day 13

Put a sock in it.

“When Field got to the pushing phase, Williams helped out… by singing a song from Frozen. His bride nicely asked him to put a sock in it.” — on Robbie Williams tweeting his wife’s labour. Yahoo Celebrity blog UK, Oct 28 2014

A Brit’s way of telling you to shut your mouth.


Shut your cakehole. “Cheryl Fernandez-Versini was shaking with fury after a row with Simon Cowell at X Factor auditions. … In the end Geordie Cheryl, 31, blew her top at Wembley Arena in London. She snapped: ‘I am gonna give him a slap. Shut your cakehole.'” — Daily Star, 4 Aug 2014

Belt up.

Glosso’s advent: Baubles of Britishisms – Dec 12

by Louise


Day 12


An unpleasant or obnoxious person. Eric Partridge explains its origins in the Dictionary of  Slang and Unconventional English: “A sodomist: low coll.: mid-C. 19-20; ob.-2. Hence, a pejorative, orig. and gen. violent: late C. 19-20. Often used in ignorance of its origin.  


Sod off (f*** off): “The effect on Rita is shown through the breakdown of her marriage to her lummox husband Eddie, played by big-voiced everyman Adrian Der Gregorian, but his character is so irritatingly simple you want her to tell him to sod off.” — London24, 6 Nov 2014 (also see Dec 5’s advent post). Stack Exchange explores sod off in more depth.

Sod it (f*** it) “It’s a big challenge. I have had a few of those recently with charity things I have done and I thought ‘sod it’ this year! I feel tough and I don’t want to do it when I am too old! It is going to be an experience and I want to have fun.”” — Melanie Sykes in Daily Mirror, 11 Nov 2014

Sod all (nothing): “f you’re desperate to avoid anything remotely pumpkin-shaped, here are three great club nights that have absolutely sod-all to do with Halloween and everything to do with top tunes.” — Time Out London, 30 Oct 30 2014

Sod’s law (what Americans know as Murphy’s law): “Mossop had surgery on his troubled right shoulder when he arrived at Parramatta, having initially dislocated the joint in the 2011 Challenge Cup Final. Three games into his return, he suffered a fresh injury to his other shoulder. … “I had just been rehabbing it, rather than having surgery,” he explained. …“Parra wanted me to get it sorted, which ruled me out of the first eight weeks of the season. Then, sod’s law, I came back and I did the other shoulder, which I’d not had any troubles with.” — Wigan Today, 12 Nov 2014

Also you sod and sod you.