Here at AccentPros the majority of our blog readers–and clientele–are educated business professionals who are trying to learn how to speak English with an Americanized accent. We’d be remiss however if we didn’t acknowledge the portion of our audience that also notify as world travelers, and therefore may be primarily  concerned with how their accent comes across to others when they are traveling abroad.

When abroad, these people  are likely already self conscious about their accent to a certain degree because they are speaking English as a secondary language. This anxiety is only compounded when traveling to a place such as England or the British isles, where all the residents speak a form of English replete with highly specialized phrases and terms. Terms and phrases that if used incorrectly, can immediately label one as being an outsider.

In order to protect against this, it is always beneficial to have a working knowledge of slang terms from other languages and when it is appropriate to use them. To that end, here is a compilation of British English terms and phrases that often cause confusion.

Spend a penny

Visit the bathroom.

Example: Let me spend a penny before we go back on the road.


Head out on the tiles

Go out and have a good time.

Example: We’ll head out on the tiles the moment this exam week is done.


Got any dosh?

Do you have any money?

Example: Have you got any dosh? I left my wallet at home.


Sweet Fanny Adams


Example: “What did you do the entire day?” “Sweet Fanny Adams.”


It’s just sod’s law

Has the same idea as Murphy’s law, which states that what will happen, will happen.

Example: It’s just sod’s law. No matter how hard you try to woo her, she’ll like you when she likes you.


It’s brass monkeys out

It’s cold outside.

Example: Don’t even think about going out without your jacket, it’s brass monkeys out.


A curtain twitcher

Someone nosy.

Example: Stop being a curtain twitcher, it’s none of your business.



Something awesome, amazing

Example: This season’s collection is just smashing.


The dog’s danglies

The best or top notch.

Example: He’s just the dog’s danglies, he’s gotten me out of a few scrapes before.


A bobby.

how to speak English A bobby. A policeman.

Example: Stop acting so suspicious, that Bobby might think you’re up to something.


Give you a tinkle

I’ll call you.

Example: I’ll give you a tinkle once I find out what she needs from you.  how to speak English


A big girl’s blouse

A wimp.

Example: This isn’t the first time you’re doing it, so stop being such a big girl’s blouse.

How to Speak English British phrases series

Accent Pros has a number of ongoing article series on how to speak English, including information on common British English phrases and American idioms.  Be sure to check out other blog posts to find your favorites.  Ready for a complimentary accent reduction tutorial or a free accent screening?  Check out our on-line accent reduction courses  available to students with accent reduction goals all over the world. For consistent access to our idioms series and other how to speak English tips Like us on Facebook or Follow us on Twitter