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Favorite British monosyllables

Erin McKean, the lexicographer, evidently on a trip to Britain, commented on Facebook recently: “BrEng is so cute! She just wants to pat it on the head.”

These selections may not be what she had in mind.

Bog: Lavatory, toilet. Not a bathroom, which would have a tub.

Braw: Fine, good, first-rate, a variant of brave.

Bumf: Official forms, memorandums, paperwork. From bumfodder, or toilet paper.

Git: A worthless person, a variant on get —slang for brat, bastard, fool, etc. — from the verb get in the sense of beget. Works best as the culmination of a series of two- and three-syllable adjectives: cretinous pig-faced git.

Gongs: Military medals. Presumably from the resemblance of the disc to the musical instrument.

Loo: Same as bog, but in posher premises.

Naff: Unfashionable, tacky, rubbishy.

Posh: Luxurious, fashionable, elegant. Possibly from push or poosh, a dandy. Probably not from the folk etymology, Port Out, Starboard Home, identifying the better shipboard quarters to and from India.

Prat: A fool, a contemptible or ineffectual person. Etymology unknown to the OED, but an alternate meaning of the word is buttock.

Twee: Affectedly quaint, overdone. (Think of those horrible, horrible houses with every wall and available surface covered with the cutest handmade items. Every time my wife lures me into a crafts store, I break out in a cold sweat and begin to hyperventilate.)

Affectedly quaint, overdone. (Think of those horrible, horrible houses with every wall and available surface covered with the cutest handmade items. Every time my wife lures me into a crafts store, I break out in a cold sweat and begin to hyperventilate.)

Twit: A git with pretensions. Perhaps too widespread now in America to be considered entirely British.

Your suggestions for additional citations are, as always, welcome.

 

 

Posted by John McIntyre at 6:58 PM | | Comments (4)
        

Comments

wanker, which apparently has a much cruder sense in Britain than it does here. Often found on US blogs.

Here I go, trying to be reasonably decorous with British monosyllables, and a colleague springs "wank" on me.

As a native of the British Isles, I have to say that these are all fine words. But I must point out that 'braw' is largely limited to Scotland, you're unlikey to hear it elsewhere in Britain.

I propose the addition of 'ming', vi, to be physically unattractive.

"Braw" is Scots, rather than English, and not slang, but simply a variant on "brave".

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at john.mcintyre@baltsun.com.
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