Miles Kington: We Britons may be short on ideas – but never on words

Click to follow
The Independent Online

It's been a long time since I offered foreign readers a lesson in my inspirational language series, English as a Third, Fourth or Fifth Language.
The whole point of this is to reveal that while we British have a very small range of ideas, we do have a huge range of ways to express them. So, for instance, as well as learning the basic "I don't know", you also learn all the alternatives such as "search me", "haven't the faintest", "ask me another", "you've got me there", etc etc, etc, which all mean more or less the same.
Today we are looking at some of the different ways in which the British can express caution and ask for patience. You will often hear us asking you to take it easy, using expressions such as "steady on" or "mind where you're going" or even, when tense and depressed, "what do you bloody well think you're up to?" or "what's the big idea, mate?".
If you choose the wrong expression to reply with, you may find yourself in more of a linguistic exchange than you had bargained for, so you would do well to memorise as many as possible of the following phrases, most of which you will hear in this country. They are all are useful independently, and many will be useful in a chain of exchanges.

Oopsie doops
Hold on
Whoa there, Nellie
Easy does it
Take it gently
Steady, the Buffs
Hold your horses
Mind your backs
No hurry
Take the strain
As you were
Steady as she goes
Cool it
Softly, softly, catchee monkee
No pushing at the back
Just a mo
Hold on a tick
If you DON'T mind
What's the problem, mate?
Please take a numbered ticket
Await your turn
Stay in line
Keep behind the yellow line
Keep to the left
Keep to the right
Buy your ticket before boarding
You MUST have a valid ticket
Cashier number NINE, please!
Here is an announcement
We regret to announce the cancellation ...
Due to unforeseen circumstance
We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause
That's the way it goes
Too bad
Oh well
You talked in your sleep last night
Oh? Did I?
Yes.
What did I say?
You said, "Whoa there, Nellie!"
Did I?
Yes, you did.
Oh ...
Do you know anyone called Nellie?
No
But you were dreaming about someone called Nellie.
Was I?
You must have been. You addressed her by name.
Well, I did know a girl called Nellie once.
Ah, ha!
But YOU were talking in your sleep as well.
Was I?
Yes.
What did I say?
You said, "Steady the Buffs!"
Did I?
Yes. Did you ever know anyone called the Buffs?
No.
Are you sure?
Come to think, I did know a bunch of lads once, called The Buffs ...
Who were they?
Just an old regiment.
What old regiment?
The East Kent Regiment.
Very close to them, were you?
No.
No?
No ... Well, quite close.
Ah ha!
Nothing serious.
I think having erotic dreams about a regiment is serious!
Steady on ... Hold your horses ...
Just a sec ...

Did you get the idea?

Good!

You will notice we got a bit off the subject towards the end, just then.

But that is also typical of British conversation!

If in doubt, please go back to start.

Comments