Language learning: Essential English

Talk like a brit2TheBigForestIts seems like ages ago, possibly around 1840, when we offered one of our wonderful blog followers a post on the wilder side of English vocabulary. The kind of words you could throw in to a conversation and everyone thinks ‘Ho! Ho! That person is a mighty local and sophisticated Brit’.

Of course it all proved to be more complex than we thought and when our potential blog post reached the proportions of a PhD thesis sweeping through slang, regional vocabulary, the power of forgotten, once popular words and stranger reaches of business English we had to stop and take stock.

So here is the first of a series of our key British words posts. In no particular order just words that should be in your vocabulary as you learn English.

Chortle: A low bubbling laugh often suggesting a knowing and personal humorous moment.

In context: “He was chortling to himself about the newspaper article”

Cockwomble: A purely male insult which has friendly and knowing overtones. Apparently a cockwomble is one of those young guys who hangs around the streets of major UK cities with both hands rammed down the front of his trackies ferreting with his privates like a womble searching for rubbish on Wimbledon Common. I know this is a family blog but we tell it like it is in TheBigForest.

In context: Benjamin has found this word of particular use at high end craft events ‘Hello Sir, you look like a bit of a cockwomble, if I may say so’. (Don’t try this home by the way, particularly if English isn’t your first language).

Outsource: When companies commission or procure essential services from external organisations – they outsourced the People Department – for example. Increasingly used in a slang sense to mean something that is efficient but not particularly exciting.

In context: ‘Did you outsource this curry, Jake, it tastes really bland’

Roake: The thick wet mist that descends on to a beach in the height of the English summer making you go straight from swim trunks to duvet jacket. It’s a regional word apparently – sea roake, sea fret, sea mist. All the same thing.

In context: ‘A day on the beach in Scarborough with the kiddies ruined by the sea roake’

Next up English expressions – got any favourites to share? ‘Bob was a few biscuits short of a tin’, that kind of thing….TalkLikeABritTheBigForest

The images show the British countryside around TheBigForest hut.

About TheBigForest

TheBigForest. A silly artist maker creating in felt and paper construction. Like us on Facebook: TheBigForest. Find us at Twitter : twitter/TheBigForestuk


  1. deemallon

    So it seems “cockwomble” is exactly as it sounds. Too funny!

    • We have never been sure what the act of cockwombling is all about to be honest. Sure doesn’t make a guy look cool. At least now we can shout out ‘look theres a cockwomble!’

  2. This is such fun–now I’ll be looking for a chance to use cockwomble in a sentence! In upstate New York, with its heavy French-Canadian roots, the phrase “jeezum crow!” is used all the time. It’s used to mean, “holy cow!” and I guess was a toned-down version of “Jesus Christ!” I may need to write a blog post about this . . .

  3. 😉 oh thank you, you lightened up my mood considerably with this lovely blogpost. I absolutely LOVE this (and chortled to myself when reading the first lines) and look very much look foreward to all there is to come.

  4. My eternal favourite: It ain’t half black over our Bill’s mothers: a Midlands phrase informing the recipient that rain is imminent and coming in from the West Midlands, specifically Warwickshire.

    Then one I learned this week: Enough to make yer tabs laugh. Which is Nottinghamshire for the item I have eaten is somewhat sour and has made me pull a strange expression, causing my ears to rise.

    • What is it about Bill’s mothers? There is a Yorkshire expression ‘we went round the back of Bill’s mothers to get to X’ to suggest someone took you the exceptionally long way round to get to a destination or you got lost and went on a longer journey than expected.
      Ive heard folks washing kids and saying ‘ lets clean behind your tabs’ when talking about ears.

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