What’s Your British Slang IQ?


By: Zoe Samuel

7 Min Quiz

Image: Roy JAMES Shakespeare/Photodisc/Getty Images

About This Quiz

English is not the most commonly spoken first language in the world, but it is the most widely spoken by a vast margin once you include first- and second-language speakers. However, just because over a billion people speak the same language doesn't mean that all of us understand each other. Each culture where English is spoken has developed its own quirks and foibles, and this includes slang.

It is enormously important to know the slang in order to become truly fluent in not just a language, but a culture. Slang is a cousin to idioms in this regard — for example, imagine not knowing what is meant by, "He's leading you up the garden path" or "Your eyes are bigger than your stomach." If you are not familiar with such phrases, you can find yourself at a loss, or think someone is talking nonsense. Similarly, if you don't know slang words, at best, you will be left out of the conversation, and at worst, you will unwittingly cause terrible offensive by using a word that you thought was innocuous but was actually thoroughly X-rated or even considered bigoted.

Picking up American slang is fairly easy, as American TV and movies are everywhere. However, do you know British slang? It's where English came from, so in theory, it should be easy. It's time to find out whether this is really the case!

Which of the below means you're very thrilled?

If you're chuffed, you are very pleased indeed. You may also be made up or stoked. An example of correct usage would be, "I got the letter telling me I got into my first choice university. I'm dead chuffed!"


Which of these is a slang term for Britain itself?

All four answers are indeed ways to refer to Britain, but only "Blighty" is slang. It is old-fashioned and should be used with care. Good usage might be, "Time to get on the plane back to Old Blighty!" Awkward usage would include, for example, "Brexiteers believe that Blighty should depart the European Union."


How might you convey that you are totally amazed?

Your "gob" is your mouth, a mostly Northern and Cockney term that has passed into more general usage. Thus, if you are "gobsmacked," you are speechless and unable to muster coherent words, as if you have been smacked in the mouth. A related entertaining term is "gobby," meaning an impertinent person who talks back to authority figures, as in, "The criminal was advised to remain silent but could not resist being a gobby twit."


Which is a synonym for your "bonce"?

Your bonce is your head! This slang word may be related to a game involving marbles, that was called bonce. It may also share the game's etymological history and be related to the word "bounce." Either way, it's a synonym for another slang word, "noggin."


What might you give someone if you intend to call them on the telephone?

Your mobile phone can make just about any sound you want it to make these days, and indeed, if you have a landline, even that probably makes a somewhat artificial "ring-ring" sound. However, earlier phones had a literal bell and clapper, and this caused "give you a ring" or "give you a bell" to become the standard slang for phoning someone.


Can you identify the relatively gentle way of calling someone an idiot?

"Plonker" is a very mild word, and can even be said with affection. For example, if someone is tripped by their own cat, causing them to drop a piece of food on a clean floor and it is still good to eat, they are a plonker. If they drop it down a storm drain that is full of drier lint because they were looking at their phone, a harsher word may be needed.


Which of the below is the British equivalent of a bachelorette party?

In the U.S., these parties are called a bachelor or bachelorette party. In the UK, a stag night is for the gents, and a hen night is for the ladies. This is because a stag is the male of its species (deer), while a hen is the female of its species (chicken). In theory, they could be called a rooster party and a doe party, but neither caught on.


What has someone lost if they have gone absolutely mad?

If you're reading or listening to a story and lose control of your faculties, you will be unable to track the sequence of events, and will thus literally "lose the plot." Hence, if you go mad in life generally, the British will rather unkindly describe you as having lost the plot.


Can you spot the term that means being very tired?

When you take a farm animal to be slaughtered because it is too old or sick to be any use any more, the place you go to is called the knacker's yard. Hence, being knackered means you are so tired that you are essentially dead with exhaustion, or at least, you are no longer of any use to anyone.


The situation is a total debacle! What slang word should you deploy at once?

If a walk in the park means something is very easy or was handled very well, its opposite might be a shambles. Just as shambling is not proper walking, a shambles is a situation that has been allowed to go completely to the dogs. For example, "They forgot to order any seating or food, and then the roof fell in, so the party was an utter shambles."


What do the following slang words have in common: fiver, tenner, quid, and sausage?

All of these are terms that mean various denominations of money, or simply cash itself. A fiver is a five-pound note, a tenner is a ten-pound note, and a quid is a single pound. Sausage is a more complex one — it hails from Cockney rhyming slang. "Sausage and mash" rhymes with cash, thus "sausage" means cash!


What is a banger?

In the U.S., a banger is an old, clapped-out car. However, in the UK, a banger is a particular category of sausage. Not all sausages are bangers, however. A banger is typically a nice big breakfast sausage, though it may be made of pork, lamb, chicken or beef. "Bangers and mash" (also known as "sausage and mash") is a very popular dish.


Which synonym for healthy and well-exercised is used to describe people who are attractive?

If a man or woman is described as "fit," this means they are very attractive. A "fit" person in this sense need not necessarily be "fit in the athletic sense, as it is a purely aesthetic judgment on the viewer's part. Calling someone "fit" is very informal and probably not an appropriate description in a professional setting, but it is not demeaning and can be said to the person's face, as in, "I think you're well fit, would you like to go for a drink?"


Which of the below is a synonym for the term "nicked"?

If your car has been nicked, it means the paint has been chipped. If a police officer says, "You're nicked!" then you have been arrested. If your car has disappeared, it has been nicked! This versatile word should be used wisely, as it is appropriate in a huge variety of situations.


Which word describes someone who is completely bonkers?

Are you totally nuts? If so, then as long as you are British, you could be correctly described as a nutter. This word is not particularly rude and may be spoken admiringly. For example, "You parachuted from 12,000 feet? You're a nutter!"


It's just a little bit. Which of these will do?

A "tad" is a slightly fussy and very polite way to describe a small amount. For example, "How much cheese would you like on your pasta?" "Just a tad, please, it's already quite cheesy." The best use of this word is to express ludicrous levels of understatement, in order to prove just what a stiff upper lip you have. For example, "Goodness, you've been mugged. Are you upset?" "Just a tad."


You are very upset by bad news. How will you describe your state?

When you feel as though you have been punched in the gut by terrible news, it's correct to say that you are "gutted." This is a slightly informal word and probably not appropriate in a formal report, but it will be universally understood.


If you'd like to express your appreciation for a small but delightful treat, which would be the best option?

"Lovely jubbly" is arguably the term in British English that is most analogous to the Danish concept of "hygge." It means something that is very nice, in a specifically warm and safe way. It can describe something as small as the feeling you get when you take off a boot that has been chafing, or something as big as when you come inside from the freezing rain and wind, and someone offers you a pair of fluffy slippers, dry clothes, a cup of tea, and a sleepy puppy to snuggle.


The floor is dirty. With what device will you clean it?

"Hoover" may be a brand name, but in the UK, it has become a generic term, in the same way that "crap" used to be the name of toilet pioneer Thomas Crapper and now refers to, well, things that happen in toilets. Hoover is not actually the most popular brand of British vacuum cleaner, a crown held by Dyson, but it was the first; hence, it is the name that caught on.


What is meant by the slang term "kip"?

If you'd like to take a quick doze, the slang term "kip" is the correct way to describe it. The etymology here is slightly unclear, but it appears to hail from a 19th-century Irish slang word for a brothel, or possibly a Danish word for a hovel or hut. The way to say it is thus, "I'm knackered, I could go for a quick kip on the sofa."


Which of these British curse words does NOT derive from blasphemy?

Crikey, blimey, and bloody all have holy connotations, as they are contractions of longer phrases that invoke Christ, God's blood, or our Lady (i.e., the Virgin Mary). They were shortened to create three rather PG-rated curses that can be used in almost all circumstances, but do consider avoiding them if you are in a church, as this is the polite choice!


What does it mean if you say you're going to have a cheeky choccie?

Anything you want to do but probably shouldn't do is "cheeky" in British slang. Thus, a cheeky choccie means chocolate that is surplus to the amount of chocolate that you really ought to be consuming!


What word describes a bad movie and something that you have thrown away?

Rubbish is the stuff that goes into the bin (that's a trashcan to Americans). It is also, however, a way of describing an experience, place, or idea that is so bad that it should be discarded as if it were literal rubbish. For example, "John says we should try to sell a five-wheeled car, but he's obviously talking rubbish."


Which of these slang words does NOT mean that something is improper, suspicious or creepy?

We made up one of these terms, but all of the others refer to a situation or a person that trigger's one's Spidey sense. "Suss" is short for suspicious; thus, correct usage for all three terms might look like this: "This dodgy bloke was looking in the window. The whole thing's seriously off, definitely a bit suss."


What part of an animal is used to describe something very excellent indeed?

Bees do have knees, but there isn't anything particularly unusual about them. It's possible that the term came about because bees' pollen sacs are on their knees, and thus, this is where you will find the sweetness. However, this is a slang term that simply must be taken on its merits. If something is absolutely great, it's the bee's knees!


If something is going to be very fiddly and/or far more effort than it is worth, what might you call it?

A faff is anything that isn't worth the time, concentration or effort that it would require. For example, if someone asks you to clean the kitchen using a single tissue or attach wheels to a cucumber, this might be considered a faff. Also useful is the phrase, "Don't faff about," which means, "Stop wasting time/effort," but in the context of laziness or procrastination rather than a compulsory waste of time. Correct usage might be, "Stop faffing about with Fortnite and get in the car!"


What is a derogatory word for a street thug and/or person of low class?

Calling someone a "chav" is akin to the American term "trailer trash," though "chav" is without any racial connotation and is applied to men and women irrespective of their ethnicity. It is a very rude word that conveys that you think the person is not just trashy, but also stupid, rude, uncouth, poor, ignorant and prone to violence. We do not recommend using it, as it can make the speaker sound like a snob.


What word that you should absolutely never use in the U.S. just means a cigarette in the UK?

While this is a very improper word to see in print if you are American, it is a perfectly acceptable slang word in the UK, which means a cigarette. This means that if you are British and have an American guest coming over at the same time as your smoker friend, you should warn them, lest they think your friend is a terrible homophobe. Similarly, never ever use this word in the U.S., as it is an abusive, homophobic slur that could seriously hurt someone's feelings.


A very rich man in a top hat walks in. What might someone call him?

A toff is a posh person who probably went to any of half a dozen hyper-elite and exclusive boarding schools and may well have several surnames. They speak the Queen's English and are noted for being out of touch with the concerns of ordinary people. As you may have gathered, this is a derogatory term to call someone, and probably best to avoid in polite company!


Which of these conveys that something is very easy, or that something is an opportunity to be very lazy?

If you're just dossing around, then you are doing nothing — but importantly, you are doing nothing when you have nothing to do! Dossing is not the same as procrastinating. It may not be a productive use of time, but it's not necessarily bad. By association, if something is so easy that it felt like nothing at all, then it is a doss. For example, "Rowan is so good at programming, it makes fixing the computer a total doss."


Two people have started a fight at a sporting event. What are they?

This is a term of Irish origin and may come from a song about the thuggish and antisocial Hooligan family. It is most commonly seen in a commentary on the bad behaviour of football fans. For example, "The match was marred by violence when hooligans threw a chair onto the pitch."


Can you figure out what chap, geezer, and bloke have in common?

There are many kinds of men in British slang, and it is important to know the nuances of the terminology. A chap is a posh fellow who is probably reasonably harmless and nice. A geezer might be a little bit of a criminal, but he's not going to hurt anyone who is on his side, and may simply be a regular working-class guy. A bloke is a generic man of indeterminate class background, who is probably a good egg unless the term is qualified by an adjective specifying that the bloke in question is bad news.


Which of the below is a modern slang term for a friend?

"Pal" and "chum" are both British slang for a friend, but they are old-fashioned and will jar the modern ear. The term du jour is "mate," which is an all-purpose word that fits any level of formality, any class background, and both men and women. For example, "My best mate is a really class act, I was out of toilet paper, and she came over with more at midnight."


What beverage are you enjoying if you are having a "cuppa"?

You might put other drinks in a cup, but they are not a "cuppa." This national favourite is the British go-to option in literally every situation. Injured? You should have a cup of tea to soothe your pain. Heartbroken? A cuppa will cheer you up. Your team just won the game? Time to celebrate! Let's put the kettle on!


When something is "sorted," what situation applies?

"Sorted" is what you say when you have finished something to your satisfaction. You can't do a sloppy job then claim, "sorted," however — the term only applies to a job well done. For example, "I turned in my homework early and got an A! Sorted!"


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