On a personal level, I’m disappointed more than a third don’t know a right “idjit” can also be known as a “wally”, as the full name of my old school (Walthamstow Hall) was fondly called Wally Hall by countless old girls.
My first headmistress there had been a missionary in Africa and was given to ticking off girls with reproving phrases that had last been popular in the mid-19th century. Anyone wearing too much make-up was termed “a painted Jezebel”, while boarders who snuck out of dorm to see boyfriends were “lamentable guttersnipes” or “trollops” (another term unknown to the young, according to the researchers), or even “whores of Babylon.” It’s only occurred to me in recent years how much fun she was having with her tirades.
It’s time to take a leaf from my old head’s book and start using outmoded expressions that unleash Dickensian splendour on the unsuspecting listener. I’ve taken to saying “gadzooks!” (a curtailed version of “by God’s hooks”) when I’m astonished. I also talk of brigands when I really mean petty criminals.
A friend was recently discussing launching a campaign to relaunch the word “smashing” as an endorsement for the kind of good-natured, charitably inclined women who are the backbone of every WI group and volunteer scheme – with an annual award for The Most Smashing Woman in Britain that could run alongside Best Kept Village.
The richness of the English language as spoken in Britain – its elasticity of meaning and ribald humour – is our national superpower. We abandon bounders and bonking at our peril.
Word up: how to converse with the yoof of today
If some or all of the words below mean absolutely nothing to you, it’s clear what the problem is: you’re suffering from being under 30. If, however, you understand all these words and wish to communicate with a young person, you may need to have them translated into modern parlance (though they likely don’t say “parlance” now; they probably say “TikTok” or something.). So here’s a glossary for those wanting to speak like a Generation Z-er.
Sozzled > Tanked
As in: “Yeet, I was so tanked last night I forgot about my Snapstreak.”
Bonk > Netflix and chill
(Nope, they’re not actually watching Tiger King, though it might be on in the background.)
Randy > Thirsty
As in: “She is so thirsty for Ryan since his glow up.” (Glow up means an upgrade of one’s physical appearance. Keep up, OK?)
Wally > Idiot
As in: “You’d have to be an idiot to not believe Greta.”
Boogie > dance
As in: a search term you might type into TikTok.
Brill > Lit or sick
As in: “The party was so lit, I was tanked.”
Lush > Sick
As in: “Those kicks [shoes] are sick, sis. What site did you order them off?”
Minted > Drippin’
As in: in gold and diamonds. Obvs.