Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Top Ten British Words 2 (according to Merriam-Webster)

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary have issued a second set of ten British words they like. This has given me the impetus / excuse to do another little exercise, this time in the guise of a very short story. It's meant to be quite colloquial, so don't take it as an example of excellent English to follow.
This time one of Merriam-Webster's words (bollocks) is listed by Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary as 'taboo, slang', so unless you know what you're doing, best avoid it. I'll say a little bit about bollocks after the exercise.
So, first of all, go over to Merriam-Webster to see the definitions of the words, and then come back and do the exercise.

Exercise - Fill the gaps with words from the box Click and Drop

I was feeling a bit (1) , so I went for a meal in a club I know. It's a bit of a dive but the nosh is really top notch. It's owned by a guy called Mike. He used to work in a club himself, where he was basically the general (2) : part-time cleaner, part-time bouncer, part-time vegetable washer; you name it, he did it. One day his boss gave him a right bollocking for something he'd apparently done. But Mike, who can be a (3) bugger himself sometimes, had given back as good as he'd got - "Don't you get (4) with me!", he'd shouted back at his boss, "you can keep your lousy job!" and with that he'd walked out on the spot.
I'd met him a couple of days later and he'd told me all about it - "Hard (5) , mate"- I'd said. "Don't you worry about me", he'd said, "It's no skin off my nose, and anyway what the gaffer had said was just a load of (6) ." I met him again a few weeks later, and he was feeling well (7) , I can tell you, having just opened his own club right across the street from his old job. Where he got the money from, I've no idea; I thought it probably wiser not to ask. He moved in pretty shady company, did Mike, and had always been up to some (8) deal or other, even when he was working at the other place. – "wheeling and dealing", he called it. I could never work out why he had put up with such a dead-end job when he had this going on, on the side.
Anyway, the club had been a bit of a shambles when he bought it: (9) chairs, with tables to match, and the customers weren't that much steadier on their feet either. But as far as he was concerned, it was the dog's bollocks, and after a lot of hard grind he'd managed to reopen to the public. Mind you, the opening night was pretty (10) ; he'd forgotten to apply for his drinks licence, the daft bugger, and staff were running back and forth to the drinks shop. Actually, chaos would be the best word really. But you have to hand it to him, the grub is the bee's knees.


The word bollocks is basically slang for testicles, and like all good English swear words, it is of Anglo-Saxon origin. And like that other slang word for testicles – balls – there are quite a few expressions made from it, most of them negative.
According to the BBC, bollocks was seen (in 2000) as the eighth strongest swear word in the UK, and a large majority of people thought it should not be used on TV before 9pm.
  • Oh, bollocks! I've missed the bus. - mild exclamation / interjection
  • That's (just a load of) (old) bollocks - nonsense, rubbish
  • Bollocks to that! - to hell with that!
  • A kick in the bollocks - something bad that happens to you, a big setback
  • Did England win last night? Bollocks, they did! - in other words, no!
  • To give somebody a bollocking - to get angry and give somebody a row (usually said of somebody in authority)
  • I've been working my bollocks off. - I've been working very hard. (would perhaps sound strange coming from a woman!)
  • The dog's bollocks - the best, something excellent

Three similar expressions

These all mean something like the best, or just what I wanted / needed.
  • The dog's bollocks
  • The bee's knees
  • The cat's pyjamas


  • Never Mind The Bollocks Here's The Sex Pistols was the debut album of that emblematic British punk band.
  • British playwright Harold Pinter is known to have used the expression 'chuffed to the bollocks' on occasion. Two Merriam-Webster words in one expression
  • Cockney rhyming slang for bollocks is apparently Jackson Pollocks (as in the US modernist artist). As the second word is often dropped in rhyming slang, a load of Jacksons thus means a lot of rubbish.
There's lots more of this sort of stuff at Wikipedia.

Related posts

The English Blog has a list of expressions connected with balls here, together with a rather rude but very funny advertising video for Axe


1. peckish, 2. dogsbody, 3. stroppy, 4. shirty, 5. cheese, 6. bollocks, 7. chuffed, 8. dodgy, 9. wonky, 10. shambolic

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