If you’re coming to study in England, you might think the course content is going to be your biggest challenge, but when you’re surrounded by people speaking with strange slang and sayings, you’ll likely change your mind…
Learning English from textbooks and Hollywood movies is a good start to ensuring you have the language skills to study in the UK, but some things need to be experienced before you can fully understand.
From quirky accents in Newcastle and Wales to obscure sayings in Manchester and Bristol, we’ve gone through all the idioms and abbreviations you need to thrive in your university city.
London is a hotspot for international students, with numerous rank topping institutions, diverse culture and great graduate opportunities. You might expect students in London to speak the Queen’s English as you are in her backyard, but regional phrases from the burrows often sneak in.
Here are some phrases you’re likely to hear in London – and everywhere else in the UK since the regional slang travels quickly:
- Skeen – skeen is an adjective used to mean something is ‘shady’ or sly. It refers to impoliteness or sneakiness: “I think I’m going to stay in tonight.” “Skeen.”
- ‘Bun that’ – this basically means ‘forget it.’ If you can’t be bothered to do something or it’s a lot of effort, you would use that phrase. It can also be used to show your dissatisfaction with a situation: “Are you going to the party tonight?” “No, bun that.”; “He said he just wants to be friends even though he’s been flirting with me.” “What? Bun that.”
- Wasteman – this is basically a friendly insult to mean someone is lazy or not totally with it. Someone who parties too much? Wasteman. Someone who stays in on their computer all the time? Wasteman. That person who never turns up to his lectures or study sessions? Wasteman.
- Jokes – you most likely know how to use this in the standard sense, but in London, it’s used as an adjective when something was fun: “That party was jokes.”
Only a couple of hours west of London lies the student city of Bristol. Although it’s not far from the capital, it’s slang couldn’t be more different. In the tradition of the ‘farmer’ stereotype, you’re likely to hear some odd accents and phrases batting about the city.
- Drive – this is probably the Bristol slang you’ll hear the most often as a student in Bristol, as the locals call their bus drivers ‘Drive’. Expect to hear ‘how much Drive?’ when people get on buses, and ‘cheers Drive’ as they depart. It can be confusing, but it’s all part of the city’s charm.
- Duck – this is another informal greeting used for everyone from your best friend to that stranger who held the door open for you. It’s the same as ‘man’ or ‘mate’ – but slightly more affectionate.
- Gurt – this one is a little more obscure, but basically means ‘very.’ ‘Gurt lush’ is the most common combination, but it’s also used with ‘good.’ It’s not too often used, but you may hear it thrown around if you’re hanging out with locals.
A big welcome to our Italian students who arrived in Bristol this morning. We hope you have a wonderful time whilst you are here. #pon #italy #italian #Erasmus #erasmusplus #myerasmus #esn #student #learnenglish #visitengland #visitbristol #Bristol #England #Britain #UK #travel pic.twitter.com/x1KHYFcpjL
— UK Intern Dev (@UKInternDev) June 5, 2018
If you’re heading to the North for your studies, you can expect accents to differ from the English accents you’re used to hearing in British films and TV shows.
With an innate grittiness to this city, the accent and dialect are no different. Here are some of the most common phrases:
- Our kid – no this doesn’t mean you have suddenly given birth, it’s just the Manchester version of ‘duck’ or ‘mate’. It’s used to show alliance with someone else, meaning you’ve got a close bond with them. “Alright our kid, how’s it going?”
- Tram – if you’re a student in Manchester, you’ll most likely be using the tram to get about the city – even if you don’t know it’s called this. It’s basically an electrically powered train that runs from all the major suburbs to the centre, connecting all corners of the county until late in the evening. It’ll be your best friend for getting to lectures on time without worrying about traffic.
- Tea – this one goes for all northern cities, but tea means much more than just the drink (which they also love, FYI). Tea refers to your evening meal rather than dinner or supper. This can be confusing as a friend might ask if you want ‘tea’ without specifying whether they mean the meal or the drink – but don’t worry, they won’t be offended if you ask for clarification.
- Grim – this basically means disgusting. It can refer to the weather, food or just generally gross things. Be warned it rains a lot in Manchester, so you’re likely to hear this word being used a lot!
Even further North than Manchester is its smaller but equally as lively cousin, Newcastle. Renowned for its wild nightlife and leading academics, international students flock to this metropolis. It’s a great city, but the accent can be utterly baffling – even for other English people, let alone those from overseas!
Been home a week and already I am missing the student life in Newcastle
— Jordan Bywater (@Jordanbywater) May 25, 2018
Here are some of the most used phrases:
- ‘Howay’ – this can mean ‘go away,’ ‘hurry up,’ or ‘okay.’ Usually used with slight annoyance, it can be useful to have this word in your vocabulary when trying to get your friends to stop being lazy.
- Out on the town – pronounced as ‘ewt on the toon’, this phrase means you’re going partying in Newcastle. In such an infamous city for its evening debauchery, you’re likely to be using – or at least hearing – this phrase often.
- ‘Why aye’ – this may sound like a strange combination of words, but it simply means (a very enthusiastic) yes. It can be used to reply to questions or show excitement. “Want to meet up later?” “Why aye man!”