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Top 10 Britishisms That Confuse the Rest Of the World

VO: Richard Bush WRITTEN BY: Paul Grover
We can be an eccentric bunch – can’t we! Welcome to WatchMojo UK and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Britishisms That Always Confuse the Rest of the World. For this list, we’ll be looking at the British behaviours and mannerisms that often leave the rest of the planet scratching their heads, and hopefully we’ll supply some sort of clarity in the process. So, here goes… Special thanks to our user WordToTheWes for submitting the idea on our interactive suggestion tool: WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Top 10 Britishisms That Always Confuse the Rest of the World


We can be an eccentric bunch – can’t we! Welcome to WatchMojo UK and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Britishisms That Always Confuse the Rest of the World.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the British behaviours and mannerisms that often leave the rest of the planet scratching their heads, and hopefully we’ll supply some sort of clarity in the process. So, here goes…

#10: Euphemisms

Sometimes – well, a lot of the time – classic British politeness can get in the way of us Brits expressing our true feelings and saying what we actually mean. And, while other countries do use euphemisms, few throw them into casual conversation quite as willingly as we do. So, if we reckon that someone’s “kicked the bucket”, that someone hasn’t actually kicked anything… because they’re dead. If someone’s “getting on a bit”, then they’re old. If they’re ‘not the sharpest pencil’ then they’re ‘one sandwich short’, and by that we mean they’re ‘not the brightest’, as in they’re dumb. If you’re “strong and stable”, you’re probably on the brink of catastrophe. It’s pretty simple, really.

#9: Plane, Train and Bird Spotting

Similar to how the Hollywood paparazzi might stake out a spot for hours to get a snapshot of the likes of Kim Kardashian or Leonardo DiCaprio, a contingent of hardy Brits do the same for… um… the South Eastern Service to Three Bridges. Hey, it’s stillmore entertaining than the Kardashians, and certainly more useful. But, it’s not just trainspotting that tickles British fancies, there’s also the exhilarating rush of plane and bird spotting. Which gives a whole new, more literal meaning to the phrase; “Is it a bird? Is it a plane?” Because, it’s both. What luck! Thank heavens we didn’t write “Superman”, right?

#8: Using Two Taps Instead of One

As if the humble downstairs loo wasn’t enough to blow the minds of non-Brits in the first place, once they’re inside, anyone who’s not from these parts is soon struck with the shocking realisation that there’s not one, but two taps! As cultural stereotypes kick in, they ponder whether one is for lager? Or tea? But no, rather than hot and cold water coming from the same place, for most Brits it comes out of two entirely separate openings. They’re usually labelled, or colour coded, but what if they’re not? You could soon find yourself scolded, or uncomfortably frozen. Blimey, the fun!

#7: Hot Drinks in High Summer

Record breaking high temperatures. Everyone’s flocked to the beach like sweaty sardines. Shops have run out of electrical fans. Doctors’ surgeries are inundated with heat stroke complaints. Still... You can’t say no to a cuppa, can ya? The planet could be hit by a solar flare direct from the sun and someone somewhere would stillbe sticking the kettle on. While anyone from outside the UK would likely take the obvious action of hydrating themselves with an ice-cold beverage in extreme heat, Brits aren’t stereotyped as tea drinkers for nothing! And, it’s scientifically proven to help cool you down, anyway – just sayin’!

#6: Car Boot Sales

In the technological age, you can order goods from anywhere in the world, at any time, straight to your doorstep. Whatever the cost, condition, or necessity of any item, it’s but a button-click away from being yours. But even the heady highs of contemporary living won’t stop a Brit from setting their alarm to wake at six in the morning to see what bargain they can land in the middle of a muddy field, from out the back of somebody’s car. The argument that it’s easier to trade online doesn’t deter the sellers, either. Because why bother making daily treks to the post office to drop off endless eBay parcels, when you can just hand it over for cold hard cash on a windy Wimbledon common?

#5: Sarcastic Protest Slogans

While we’re all too used to protesters brandishing signs decorated with angry slogans, straightforward ire isn’t really our style. Instead, we like to get creative and crack a few jokes for good measure. This particular trend was no more evident than when US President Donald Trump made a controversial trip to the UK in 2018. Such headings on display were, ‘Trump - as welcome as a world cup 3rd place play off’ and ‘that hair is a horcrux’. It’s yet to be confirmed if J.K. Rowling herself was holding that particular placard. Or if Voldemort’s face lives on the back of Trump’s head.

#4: The Sending and Receiving of Greetings Cards

OK, so this one’s not something that only happens in the UK. But few places write, post or proudly display anywhere near as many cards as in Britain. Having an array of birthday cards lovingly assembled across a shelf or mantlepiece just isn’t as common elsewhere. Nor is stringing up your Christmas cards to dangle across the living room wall. Or having multiple stores along most high-streets dedicated to the token gestures, in their various forms. Because don’t forget, it’s not just the obvious cards that Brits exchange, there’s also ‘congratulations!’ cards; ‘Sorry it’s late’ cards; ‘Thank you for your Thank You Card’ cards. The list goes on.

#3: Not Tipping as Standard

In some parts of the world, and in North America especially, tipping is practically mandatory. But here, it’s definitely optional – and it’s an option to be thought long and hard about, before taking! It’s true that, should someone from the US choose to work as a waiter in London, for example, they may be left dumbfounded at not receiving a few extra quid from clearly satisfied customers. However, most Brits will (sometimes begrudgingly) pay up out of plain ol’ fashioned politeness, and the lack of a guaranteed tip means that British bosses don’t have an excuse to supply unreasonably low wages. For every cloud…

#2: Saying Sorry When You’ve Not Done Anything Wrong

Sorry, but Brits dotend to say sorry a lot. And, a lot of the time we aren’t even that apologetic about whatever prompted our apparent regret. You might say it when you’ve simply misheard what someone has said, at no fault of anyone’s. You might start asking for a favour by strangely apologizing for it first. Hey, even when someone elseclearly has done something wrong to us – like barging past in the street – we’ll more than likely find ourselves saying sorry to them, and basically apologising on their behalf so they don’t have to! Please world, just tell us you forgive us, so we can all move on! Woah! That was a little demanding. Sorry about that.

#1: Creative Swearing

Being the cheeky gits that we are, us Brits have come up with various unique swear words, that if used to insult an outsider, can even leave that outsider not realising that they’re actually being insulted. The daft sods! For example, if someone calls you a pillock or a numpty, chances are they don’t believe that you’re very bright. And, if you don’t understand that, then your numpty status only increases! Elsewhere, we have a myriad of mis-directing terms to describe how drunk someone is or was… And, when it comes to voicing our own frustration, there’s a plethora of pretty weird ways to do so.
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