My wife and I love the old British comedy series, As Time Goes By, with Judi Dench, Geoffrey Palmer, Philip Bretherton, Moira Brooker, and Jenny Funnell. This is a list of British slang, colloguialisms, terminology, cultural references, etc, from the shows various episodes. Some of these may be part of American English, but are probably not part of common usage. I hope you enjoy it. If you have any additions or corrections, please send them to me at .
A great site for information about As Time Goes By is ATGB Central
And I would like to thank Roger Fermor of the UK, who stumbled upon this web page very early on, and contributed a lot of useful information. When I refer to him below, I call him Rog, as he does.
|1992||The picnic||Chuntering||Make complaining remarks or noises under one's breath. Also used in Branching Out 1994, Book Launch 1993. Thanks to Bonnie at atgbcentral.com - I thought it was chantering and could not find a definition.|
According to Rog, it's derived from and often confused with chanter and its obvious religious associations. Local dialects pronounce differently so 'chunnering' is quite often heard.
|1992||The picnic||Dole queue||Unemployment line. Dole payments are made to the unemployed who queue up for jobs/payout - the dole queue. Related to: to dole out money|
|1992||The picnic||Rock cakes||A chunky hard fruity buns. Jean said they bought these when they were dating in the 50's. Here's a recipe: http://duramecho.com/Food/RockCakes.html|
|1993||A weekend away||a squat||Context: "Perhaps he lives in a..." Refers to living illegally on unoccupied land or in an unoccupied building, usually unknown to the owners.|
|1993||A weekend away||Queue||Line|
|1993||A weekend away||Narky||Judith to Lionel: you've gone all... Means irritable.|
|1993||Misunderstanding||Plaster, elastoplast||According to Wikipedia, Elastoplast is a trademark name of a brand of sticking plaster (what we in the US would call bandage or tape) or medical dressing made by Beiersdorf. (They were manufactured by Smith and Nephew until 2000.)
The name has become a genericized trademark for "sticking plaster" in some Commonwealth countries, including the United Kingdom.
|1993||Misunderstandings||waistcoat||Vest. The British meaning of vest is undershirt. Lionel was confused by the reference to vest in the old American song 'Walking my baby back home'.|
|1993||The book launch||Brassed off||Angry
According to Rog - In the days of horse power, when brass and horse brasses were very popular as ornaments, one of the weekly chores in the household was to clean and polish them. This was quite a skill because the cleansers used, left white smears if not 'buffed up' (polished) thoroughly. One of the sayings resulting from this, was, 'You've rubbed that up the wrong way!' and this led to 'rubbing someone up the wrong way' if you'd annoyed or displeased them. It soon followed that to 'Brass off' was to do likewise and so 'brassed off' became annoyed or displeased.
|1993||The book launch||chatting me up||flirting, hitting on, trying to pickup|
|1993||The Book Signing||Could I beg a cup of tea?||Could I GET a cup of tea?|
|1993||The Book Signing||Food: beans on toast||Here's a link. According to this web site, they have to be made with vegetarian beans, not traditional American baked beans which often have pork or bacon.
According to Rog: This dish is so, because ordinary beans in a rich tomato sauce were the only kind we used to get. Just after WW2 it was a quick, filling meal, that was convenient and cheap to feed loads of kids. Mums always kept two or three tins of beans in the cupboard just in case little Johny turned up with all his mates. Many people still like it, though there are many variations. My favourite is beans, on cheese on toast, with a poached egg on the top. Quite wonderful!
|1993||The Book Signing||Now you are just taking the mickey||Making fun, being sarcastic|
|1993||Visiting Rocky||Off my chum||Rocky says 'you still think I am...'
According to Rog: This is a complicated issue from the use of 'Cockney Rhyming Slang'. For 'chum' read 'chuff' - chuff box or snuff box, which is rhyming for brain box or head. Someone 'off their head' is mad hence - " 'e's orf 'is flamin' chuff mate", as said by a cockney.
'Chuff', being the sound of a steam train, also alluded to a fart, because Olde English used 'chuff' for a puffing of the cheeks. Who's to say that puffing cheeks aren't responsible?
|1993||White Hunter||Beecher's Brook||Judy: I've gotten over you. Lionel: You make me sound like...
This is a play on words. Beecher's Brook is a steepechasing fence in the Aintree (Liverpool) Grand National Stakes. You "get over" a fence physically when the horse jumps over it. Judy is "over" Lionel emotionally, not physically.
|1993||White Hunter||Fish fingers||Fish sticks|
|1993||White Hunter||Snogging||Kissing, etc.|
|1993||White Hunter||Whinging||Whining (whine)|
|1994||Branching out||Jacket potatoes||Baked potatoes, often with some kind of filling - cheese, chili, tuna, etc.|
|1994||Moving in||Under the cosh||Under threat. Cosh as in a weighted stick used as a weapon. Alistair asks Lionel if he is under the cosh.|
|1994||Problems, problems||Tuck us up||Madge 'in hospital' saying Mrs Bale will be in to... Presumably means "tuck us in."|
|1994||Rocky's wedding day||An MOT||Rocky uses this to refer to a medical checkup. I found a reference to MOT as the certificate given by the Ministry of Transportation (thus, MOT) when a car has passed its annual test - maybe it is used as a term for the results of ANY annual checkup.
Per Rog, this is again the use of English humour to convey a point. The Ministry Of Transport test (the annual car check up after 3 yrs on the road) used as an euphamism for 'Medical Examination', which shall remain nameless because it may be unpleasant.
|1994||Rocky's wedding day||he's beginning to get up my nose||Alistair with car following close - like 'up my butt'? Or just 'annoying'? I could not find another example of this.|
|1994||We'll always have Paris||a dirty weekend||a weekend fling. Jean uses this in reference to their trip to Paris (or maybe to what it would have been when they were dating originally).|
|1994||We'll always have Paris||It's pouring WITH rain||Lionel and/or Jean say this in Paris. We would say "pouring rain" or just "pouring." Also used in The Affair (1995)|
|1994||We'll always have Paris||swanning off||The context implied "gone away."
Per Rog: The 'swanning' here implies a devil-may-care (care-free) attitude to all and everything else, with a strong sense of irresponsibility. (Swans just swim around preening and posing whatever else happens)
|1995||A house full of women||a bit of a cheek||Judy and Sandy said that forcing Lionel to accept Sandy into the house was "a bit of a cheek." Our slang (somewhat old-fashioned) would be "rather cheeky."|
|1995||A house full of women||a good wigging||a scolding. Jean ask Lionel if he is going to give the girls "a good wigging."|
|1995||A house full of women||A sort-out||Clean out a storage area. Also called 'a clear out' in 1994 'Living together, but where?'|
|1995||Getting rid of Gwen||Gave him 'the push'||based on context: Dumped him|
|1995||Improvements?||a carry-on film||Jean, commenting on her character's short skirt. I did not write down any more of the context, so I am not usre about this, but there was a series of movies, referred to as the Carry On films, made between 1958 and 1978. The titles were all "Carry on (somethng)". They were low budget comedies, and included, presumably, women in short skirts.|
|1995||Improvements?||Hunting pink||Red - actually scarlet - jacket and related attire worn for a fox hunt.|
|1995||Judith's new romance||Bubble and Squeak||Fried left-over potatoes and greens (with perhaps some onions added for flavor) - from atgbcentral.com.|
|1995||Judith's new romance||loo||Lionel talking about film crew: they even bring their own loos - meaning bathrooms.
Lots of other uses in the series, of course.
|1995||The Affair||Pimms||This is a brand of bottled alcoholic beverages. The most popular is Pimms No 1, a light, gin-based drink. It can be served over ice, or in a mixed drink, usually with fruit.|
|1995||Wedding day nerves||a big ginger girl||a red head|
|1995||Wedding day nerves||archibald heatherington nastyface||What Lionel gave as his name at the wedding. There are just a few random references to this name on the internet - no details. If anyone has any information on the origin of this name, let me know!|
|1995||Wedding day nerves||Netball||Usage on show implies it is a girl's game, but it seems to be played by men and women, separately. It appears to be a variation on American basketball. Information is available here: http://www.england-netball.co.uk|
|1995||Welcome news||Kanoodling||Jean, laughingly explaining what they were doing while hiding from Alistair, behind a tree.
To engage in caressing, petting, or lovemaking.
Per the Dictionary of Sexual Terms: petting amorously or sexually.
|1996||At Death's Door||Ciila Black||A batty woman in hospital thinks Jean is Cilia Black.
She was a British singer, and, I think, a host of British game shows on television. Quite a long list of appearances listed in the Internet Movie Data Base, but very few pictures. There is one here: http://www.mikewalsh.com.au/photo.html.
|1996||Avoiding the country set||Food: black pudding||Another word for blood pudding or blood sausage - made by cooking down the blood of an animal and adding meat, far, or filler. Server for breakfast.|
|1996||Broadcast plans||Remaindered||Alistair's office delivers some copies of "My Life in Kenya" to Lionel. Lionel says his book has been remaindered and sold at half-price.
According to Wikipedia, a remaindered book is one whose publisher has allowed it to go out of print, and is liquidating their remaining unsold copies by selling them at greatly reduced prices.
|1996||Lionel's New Hobby||glove puppet||Lionel commenting on what Alistair is about to take out of his briefcase - 'it's not going to be a ...'
Glove puppets are similar to sock puppets, or other simple hand puppets, but with amrs that were controlled by your fingers.
|1996||Lionel's New Hobby||Lollipop man||Jean says 'can you see Lionel as a...' when dlscussing what Lionel can do so he won't be bored.
A lollipop man or woman is the British colloquialism for a crossing guard, called that because of the stop sign the hold up to stop traffic.
|1996||The Country Set||panteknica||Not sure I have the right spelling of this. It seemed to be a reference to a large car, or a truck.|
|1996||The Country Set||Spanner||a wrench|
|1997||Alistair's Engagement||Mystic Meg||According to Wikipedia, Mystic Meg is a British astrologer and psychic who has regular astrology columns in the News of the World and The Sun. She came to greater public notoriety when she hosted what became a regular item on the first broadcast of the National Lottery draw in 1994. Her image also appears on various astrology-related books and merchandise.|
|1997||The Psychotherapist||Light the old blue touch paper||Related to a rocket launch? Alistair trying to get Lionel started with his 2nd book
Related to setting of a firecracker, with perhaps some connection to Guy Fawkes and hisplan to blow up Parliament back in 1604.
|1998||(unknown)||Fairy cakes||Cupcakes, perhaps with fairy wings made from part of the cupcake. Here is one link and here is another, for more information.|
|1998||An Old Flame||St Trinians girls||Sandy was going to a party where all the women were to be dressed as a St. Trinian's girl, and Lionel and Alistaid were not sure it was appropriate. She ended up going in a conservative version of the costume.|
The St. Trinian's girls were characters in a series of cartoons, books, and films after WW II. The girls were somewhat evil, rather than nice. Here is a link to a Wikipedia article.
|1998||the bypass||bypass||A highway extension to bypass a town|
|1998||the bypass||he who is tired of london is tired of life||A quote from Samuel Johnson.|
|1998||the bypass||Jarrow marchers||Protesters in 1936 who marched from Jarrow to London, looking for jobs during the depression. Here is a link to a Wikipedia article.|
|1998||The New Neighbors||brown sauce||Lionel needs some for his sausages. The same as our A1 Steak Sauce, but often used on sausage or bacon in the UK.|
|1998||The New Neighbors||J cloth||Jean was cleaning stonework while watching new neighbors - Lionel questioned use ofJ cloth. J Cloth is a brand name of a cleaning cloth.|
|2001||The bathroom||Christmas cracker||Lionel was using a screwdriver that came from a ... We would call these party poppers - small cylinders that make a pop when you pull a cord or ribbon, and often contain a little gift.|
|2001||The bathroom||Cistern||A cisterm is the part of a toilet that holds the water until it is ready to be flushed.|
|2001||The bathroom||Got legless||Drunk - perhaps extremely drunk.|
|??||A tender woman ... or just a crackpot?||An identity parade||A police line-up|
|??||A tender woman ... or just a crackpot?||Pay rise||A raise|
|??||Nothing to fear but fear itself||Busker guy||Street musician|
|(various)||Custard tarts||These were small, packaged pastries that Lionel loved. Cannot find any examples of these for sale online.|
|(various)||Fry-up||A full English weekend breakfast - fried eggs & bacon, with regional variations.
Per Rog, there is also a case for this being the using up of all the leftovers. During and after WW2, when food was scarce here, all leftovers were fried up together and turned into a meal. Sometimes bread, extra vegetables and gravy were added, but the fry up was just that.
|(various)||Proper nouns used with no article: got cramp, in hospital||The British use certain words without an article - for example, "in hospital" instead of "in the hospital."|