Britpick reference guide

This guide is to help and inform any fanfic writers, writing for British fandoms understand British phrases, words and customs a little bit better.

I hope you all find this guide useful and if you have any suggestions or queries please do not hesitate to leave a comment on my livejournal and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

I will also be updating this guide as often as I can to make sure it is as informative as possible.



·         British Slang

·         Words

·         Drinking

·         Insults

·         Money

·         TV

·         Parents

·         Places

·         Healthcare

·         Sports

·         Political parties

·         Newspapers

·         Transport



British Slang

The below are a few phrases well known throughout the UK and are often used.

Piece of piss – This means that something is very easy and is no trouble (also suitable: piece of cake)

Doesn’t look as though they have a pot to piss in – This is used to describe a person who looks poor or has little money.

I was absolutely gutted – This means when someone is upset or disappointed with something or someone.

Not my cup of tea – A common phrase which means something is not to your liking.

Detained at her Majesty's pleasure – This means that you are in prison

You are jammy – This means that you are really lucky and a little smug about it.

Off your trolley – Describe someone who is acting crazy.

The dog's bollocks – This means something is really fantastic.

Donkey's years – This means a really long time. Such as ‘I haven’t seen you in donkeys years’, i.e. I haven’t seen you in ages.

Bite your arm off - It means someone is so eager for something that they'll take your arm off. Such as if you gave a kid an ice cream and they eagerly take it from you you say they nearly 'bit your arm off'.

Fanny around – To procrastinate. If you were from the North of England you might say ‘Fannying on’.

Filch – To steal something

Hump - If you have got the hump it means you are in a mood. If you are having a hump, it means you are having sex.

I’m easy - This expression means I don't care or it's all the same to me. Not to be confused with how easy it is to lure the person into bed!

Sod all – This is an expression which means there is nothing. Such as if a box is empty one could say ‘There’s sod all in it’.

Skive – This means to bunk off or ditch something. Such as ditching school one would ‘skive off school’.

You look smart – This usually means someone is nicely dressed.

Spend a penny – This means to visit the bathroom to use the toilet.

Swot – A really clever person who studies hard, a British version of a nerd.

Taking the Mickey – This simply means to make fun of someone. Could also be taking the Mick or taking the Michael.

Taking the piss – See taking the Mickey. Could also be taking the water.

Tickety boo – This means something is going really well.

Left, right and centre – This means you’ve been looking all over the place.

Leg it – This means run or run away. Usually said when you are caught doing something wrong and you need to run away.

Knock off – If an item is a knock off it means it is a stolen item.

How’s your father - This is a very old term for sex which plays on our apparent British sensitivity. Rather than saying the actual "sex" word you could refer to having a bit of How's your Father.

On your bike – A polite way to tell someone to f*** off.

Fanny – A vulgar word to describe the vagina

Queer – A term to describe if something was peculiar or odd. This is not a term to describe someone’s sexual orientation.

Grass - This is a term that means someone snitched. If you were a grass it means you told on someone or if someone grassed on you, it means they told on you. 

Pants -  If something is pants it means it's crap/ rubbish/ horrible.



The below are words that are used by British people. (I have written the American version also to compare the differences).

Please note the American words are not usually used in British Culture.

British = American

Curtains = Drapes

Advertisements / Adverts = Commercials

Arse = Ass

Mate / Friend = Buddy / Pal

Football = Soccer

Jumper = Sweater

Trainers = Sneakers

Autumn = Fall

Bank note = Bill

Solicitor = Attorney

Biscuit = Cookie

Bonnet = Hood (of a car)

Boot = Trunk (of a car)

Caretaker = Janitor

Chemist = Drug store

Chips = French Fries

The Cinema = The Movies

Constable / policeman/woman = Patrolman / police officer

Cooker = Stove

Cot = Crib

Crossroads = Intersection

Drawing pin = Thumbtack

Dummy = Pacifier

Dust-bin / Rubbish bin = Trashcan

Dustman = Garbage collector

Engine = Motor

Film = Movie

Flat = Apartment

Holiday = Vacation

Hoover = Vacuum cleaner

Interval = Intermission

Jug = Pitcher

Lift = Elevator

Lorry = Truck

Luggage = Baggage

Minging = Gross

Nappy = Diaper

Off licence = Liquor Store

Pavement = Sidewalk

Petrol = Gasoline

Post = Mail

Crisps = Chips

Pram = Baby carriage

Pub = bar

Public toilet = Rest room

Queue = Line

Railway = Railroad

Roundabout = Traffic circle

Rubber = Eraser

Rubbish = Garbage / Trash

Sellotape = Scotch tape

Shop = Store

Spanner = Wrench

Staff = Faculty

Sweets = Candy

Tap = Faucet

Term = Semester

Trousers = Pants

Zip = Zipper


Words used to describe being drunk, getting drunk and etc.

Arseholed – This means to be very drunk

Bender – This means to go out for a drinking session at pubs and clubs

Bladdered – This means to be very drunk

Knees up – This means to throw a party / have a good time, ‘have a knees up’.

On the piss – If you are out on the piss it means you are out to get drunk.

Piss up – A drinking session

Pissed – This means to be very drunk

Plastered – This means to be very drunk

Rat arsed – This means to be very drunk 

Ratted - This means to be very drunk

Round – When it is your round, this means you it’s your turn to buy the drinks.

Shit-faced – This means to be very drunk

Sloshed – This means to be very drunk

Pubs and bars
The usual etiquette in pubs and bars is to purchase the drink whilst at the bar before you drink it. In many fanfictions it is described as paying a tab at the end of the night. In most pubs and clubs this is not the general practice and should not be written as such.

Also, in pubs and club, there are no waitresses that serve you. You must go to the bar to order drinks. Waitresses only work in restaurants. 

Food in pubs seems to be a big issue also. Only certain pubs offer a takeaway service of food. Not every pub allows this.



Below is a list of common British insults and their meanings

Arsehole – This is basically just an asshole; however ass is very rarely used in this context.

Billy no mates – Someone who doesn’t have any friends or appears to be sitting alone

Bint – A woman who is quite close to a prostitute

Chav – A working class person who behaves in an uneducated manner

Divvy – An idiot (Div can also be used)

Eejit – An idiot (most common in Ireland)

Gormless – Someone who lacks in common sense

Minger – Someone extremely unattractive

Munter – A female who is extremely unattractive

Numpty – An idiot (most common in Scotland)

Piss artist – A useless drunk

Scrubber – A young lady (teenager) who has loose morals when it comes to sex.

Twat – This is a vulgar term for the vagina and is also a common insult. It can also be used as a verb; if you were to twat something it means you were going to hit it.

Wanker – This is similar to jerk; however jerk is never used.

Knobhead – This is the same as a Dickhead and both are acceptable to use.

Tosser – This is similar to jerk; however jerk is never used.

Shithead – This is similar to a Dickhead and both are acceptable to use.

Bellend – This is the head of a man’s penis.



British money is called ‘Pounds’ and are also known as ‘Sterling’ though this isn’t commonly used, however Republic of Ireland uses Euro’s.

This is a list of currency from the lowest to the highest.

First there are the coins:

One pence
Two pence
Five pence
Ten pence
Twenty pence
Fifty pence
1 Pound
2 Pound

The pounds can also be referred to as:

A quid 1 quid or 2 quid, etc

Beyond this it is bank notes:

Five pound
Ten pound
Twenty pound
Fifty pound

There is not a note that goes higher than this.

Two of the bank notes can also be referred to as:

Fiver (Five pound)
Tenner (Ten pound)

However these are the only two that can be referred to in this manner.



This is a list of the channels that is found on every British Television set.

BBC 1: This is the first channel and may also be called channel 1. BBC stands for the British Broadcast Corporation, but is always referred to as its acronym. It is funded by the television licence which all British people need to pay if they own a TV.

BBC 2: This is the sister channel to BBC 1 and may also be called channel 2.

ITV: This is a network that is not related to the BBC. It may also be called Channel 3. ITV stands for Independent television, which means that it is not funded by the television licence. They get their funding by using advertisements 15 minutes into programming and at the end of each programme.

Channel 4: This is also funded by advertising alone

Channel 5: This is also funded by advertising alone

Freeview: This is a service that provides more channels, a lot like cable in America. However unlike that, this service is free. You get more channels than the basic 1-5 but you do not get as many if you have Sky.

Sky: This is a service that provides over 900 channels, a lot like Satellite TV in America. This service is not free.
There are many different providers to receive these channels other than just Sky. This includes: Virgin Media and BT TV.



This is the correct terminology for parents depending on the area in the UK.

In southern areas and some midland areas of England and Wales: Mum and Dad

Some Northern areas of England, some parts of Scotland, Wales and Ireland: Mam and Dad

Other acceptable words are:










Mom should not be used under any circumstances.



Capital cities:

England – London

Scotland – Edinburgh

Wales – Cardiff

Republic of Ireland - Dublin

Ireland (North) - Belfast



The British Health Service is often misinterpreted in fanfiction.

The NHS is a publically funded system that allows citizens (and in most cases non-citizens) free health care.

To receive health care one does not need insurance to pay for it.

Some medical prescriptions may cost money; however it depends on the medication and the reasons for it.

Prescriptions that are free

Contraceptive pills
If you are under the age of 16
If you are 60 or over
If you are pregnant
If you are governmental support
War pensioner
However in Wales all prescriptions are free.



This is a list of sports that are commonly played in Britain.

Football – This is the most popular sport in Britain. It should never be named anything but football. Soccer is a definite no no. The World Cup is a big deal in Britain.

Rugby – Though the most brutal this is considered to be a more middle class to upper class sport. This may be due to the fact that the Royal Family are big fans.

Cricket – Cricket is a very popular game and England in particular can get very competitive with rivalling countries such as Pakistan and Australia. The Ashes is a big deal in England.

Tennis – Though England themselves aren’t known for being the best a tennis, Wimbledon is still considered a big tournament to British public.

Golf – This isn’t as big as it is in America but is still played by young and old people alike.

Sports not popular in Britain

Baseball – This is a game that is definitely not played in Britain and never should any characters whilst in England go to see a baseball game. The closest to baseball in England is rounders, however this is usually only played by children in P.E.

Basketball – This isn’t as popular in Britain as America. Again this is mostly played in P.E at school.

Ice Hockey – In Britain Hockey is not normally played on ice, it is usually played on a field, with a ball instead of a puck and is usually played by girls. Again this is usually mostly played at school rather than for real sport. Ice Hockey that is played in Britain is not an overly popular sport as the ones above.

American Football – The clue is in the title. The closest we have to this is rugby, however with rugby they do not wear helmets or body guards.


Political parties

Definition - A political party is a political organization that typically seeks to influence government policy, usually by nominating their own candidates and trying to seat them in political office. Parties participate in electoral campaigns, educational outreach or protest actions. Parties often espouse an expressed ideology or vision bolstered by a written platform with specific goals, forming a coalition among disparate interests.

A brief list of some of the political parties in Britain

Conservative Party – Also known as the Tories. This party is centre right wing and is the current government in Britain today with David Cameron as the Prime Minister and the head of the Conservative party.
Margaret Thatcher was the first female Prime Minister of Britain and was the head of the Conservatives in the 1980’s. The conservative party is not very popular with the working class or Northern areas of England due to the closures of the Mines, Steel factories and ship yards under the Tories last government.

Labour Party – This party is centre left wing and was the last government before the Conservatives with Tony Blair then Gordon Brown as Prime Ministers. The current leader for the Labour Party is Ed Miliband. They state that they are a ‘socialist party’. Labour have a larger following with the working class and Northern areas of England due to their support of the ‘working everyday man’.

Liberal Democrats – Also known as the Lib Dems. This party is more centred, occasionally having left wing policies and then more right wing policies. Before the general election in 2010 Liberal Democrats appeared to be more in favour of left wing policies, however when forced to decide on a party to coincide with after the election, the lib dems joined forces with the conservatives.



British Newspapers are categorised into two groups, broadsheet and tabloid. A broadsheet is a much bigger paper and is for more ‘hard-hitting news’, whereas a tabloid is half the size and has much more celebrity orientated stories, pun headlines and titillation.

Most popular broadsheets

The Daily Telegraph – This paper is quite right wing in its view of politics and are supporters of the Conservative party.

The Guardian – This paper is considered ‘middle class’ and is left wing in its political views. They supported the Liberal Democrats in the last election.

The Independent – This paper is considered young as it was first established in only 1986. It is quite middle wing when supporting political parties and have only shown the strongest support to the Liberal Democrats.

Most popular tabloids

Daily Mail – This paper was originally a broadsheet but switched to the compact format. It is a traditional supporter of the Conservative party.

The Sun – Infamous for its crude headlines and naked women (there is a topless girl on page 3, which is known as the page 3 girl). The paper changes political views varying on which party is the most popular at the time.

Daily Mirror – Rivals to The Sun newspaper, The Mirror has a slightly more hard hitting view of news. Their political stance is very much on the Labour side and even resort to occasional satire against opposing parties.



Public transport

Buses – When getting on a bus you must give your money to the bus driver, if you are outside of London it doesn’t have to be the correct amount as they will provide change. You will then receive a bus ticket. Pre-paid cards and pay as you go cards may also be used for the bus service. People over 65 receive a bus pass to ride the bus for free.

Trains – The train system in Britain is often criticised and joked about for running late.

The underground system in Britain is called the Metro. However in London it is called the Tube. However some cities in Britain don't have an underground system, some (not all) have tram system instead.



The following is a list of the schools British people attend.

Nursery – This is almost like a playgroup, where children are together and play. They accept children from a few months old to 4 years old.

Primary School – This is a child's first ‘proper’ school. This is where they will begin to learn and will be there for the next five years.

Year names for Primary school

·         Reception – This is for 4-5 year olds and is where they learn the basics, such as the alphabet, reading, colours and art.

·         Year 1 – This is known as the infants years

·         Year 2 – This is known as the infants years

·         Year 3 – This is known as the juniors years

·         Year 4 – This is known as the juniors years

·         Years 5 – This is known as the juniors years

·         Year 6 – This is known as the juniors years


Secondary school – This a school for 11-16 year olds. However this type of school can also be called a comprehensive school, community school, Grammer school or High School, but it really depends on the school itself. Not all schools can be called a High School for example.

Year names for Secondary school

·         Year 7

·         Year 8

·         Year 9

·         Year 10

·         Year 11

Sixth Form – This is a non-compulsory form of education. Sixteen years olds can choose to carry on their education either at their school (if it has the facilities) or another school. This is free as the government pays for this education. This is for two years.

College – This is a non-compulsory form of education. Just as the sixth form this if for 16 years to further the education, however this not set in a ‘school’ but in a college building. It does not have the same rules as school and uniform is not required. This is free as the government pays for this education. This is for two years.

University – This is where some or most sixth form and college students choose to go after completing. It doesn’t have a set age as anyone can apply. This is not a free education and you must pay course fees, however you may get a loan and grant to help pay your way if you are entitled to it. You may also receive student accommodation.

The following is the examinations and qualifications from schools

Year 6 SATS – This exam is taken by year 6 students to determine how well they are performing before they enter Secondary school.

Year 9 SATS – This exam is taken by year 9 students to determine what help they need before their GCSE exams.

GCSE – This is taken by year 11 students. This is the exam that will determine which college they will be able to apply for or if they will be eligible for a job. GCSE’s are very important examination. In 1986 GCSE replaced the previous exam O level’s.

A level – This is taken by college and sixth form students. This is a higher education exam and qualification.

BTEC – This qualification can be chosen by college and sixth form students if they do not wish to take A level. This is purely coursework driven, with no examinations at the end.

Degree – A degree is achieved at University but can come in many different forms.
  • Foundation Degree
  • BSc (Bachelor of Science) - a science degree
  • BA (Bachelor of Arts) - an arts degree
  • BEng (Bachelor of Engineering) - an engineering degree
  • Undergraduate Masters degree (e.g. MEng) - an enhanced four year undergraduate degree including extra subjects studied at a deeper level

Some people will then further their qualifications even more with a Masters.
  • MSc (Master of Science)
  • MA (Master of Arts)
  • MEd (Master of Education)
  • LLM (Master of Law)
  • MBA (Master of Business Administration)

Some people will then further their qualifications to a Masters.

The following is terms used for school.

Summer Holiday – This may also be called six week break or six week holiday. It should not be called Summer Vacation.

Half term – School terms are approximately twelve/thirteen weeks long. After six weeks into the term there will be one week off, which is known as half term.

End of term – The end of term comes at the end of the twelve/thirteen weeks. It usually is during holidays such as Christmas, Easter and etc and will consist of two weeks off.

School trips – This is when classes go out of the school, whether it be a museum, theme park, or to another country for a week, this is known as a school trip. It should not be called a field trip.

Canteen / dinner hall - This is the school cafeteria.

Also Primary school classes do not end at the sound of a bell. This is when a teacher says the time is up.

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