A little of the vernacular #1

Use of the English language differs greatly on either side of the pond.  For example, asking for the local solicitor will probably elicit a very different response in downtown Indianapolis than on Balham High Road. 

Usually, it is possible to use the context of a particular phrase to discern its meaning. And then there is British slang.  British slang is extraordinarily rich and diverse, and in many instances incomprehensible to the outsider. Recently, several phrases came to light and I’ve listed below the results of our research in to their meanings. 

All round the houses, or just round the houses (sometimes pronounced ‘raaan the haaasiz‘).  This usually refers to taking an indirect route between two known points.  An example might be, “I’m an hour late because the cabbie took me all round the houses.”  Knowing a dozen routes between any two points in the A to Z is every Londoner’s birthright, and an entire lexicon of related phrases has evolved.  For an entertaining evening, go in to a public bar and ask “What’s the best way to get from Tooting Broadway to Putney Heath” or “What’s the quickest route from Thornton Heath Clock Tower to Stepney Green” – you’ll make friends for life.

Kip or, have a kip.  This is usually used in the same way Americans use nap.  An example might be, “Just popping upstairs for a kip.”  Apparently, in the 18th century, kip-houses were places where the homeless could get a bed for the night. 

Bottle, bottle it or bottle job.  In modern times, this usually refers to nerve or courage. If ‘your bottle goes‘, you ‘lose your bottle‘ or you ‘bottle out‘, then you lose your nerve, and are a bottler, or a bottle job.  It seems to come from the Cockney rhyming slang for arse, which is bottle and glass. And so, if you are terror-stricken and involuntarily lose control of bowel movements, you’ve lost your bottle! Recent media headlines in the UK have mentioned ‘Cameron Bottles It!’ or ‘Brown the Bottler’.

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