Lost in the Pond Returns with 7 British Phrases For ‘Getting Upset’ Not Used In the U.S. – British Slang


There aren’t too many nations in this world that can hold a candle to the British when it comes to moaning and whining (and I say that lovingly, as a Brit myself). Whether they are standing at the back of a particularly long queue or simply lamenting the gloomy weather, the British know how to get upset in style. It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that British English (BrE) plays host to numerous words along this theme. Listed below are 7 such words.

1. Benny on

Chiefly a northern phrase confined to Yorkshire and surrounding counties. e.g. Gemma got a right benny on when she found out Gareth had sold her Doctor Who collection.

2. Get your knickers in a twist

Similar to the American variant, get your panties in a twist. e.g. Gareth was told not to get his panties in a twist over Manchester United’s latest defeat.

3. Strop

Similar in many ways to “benny on” in that it can be preceded by the word “throw” and is often followed by the word “on”. e.g. Gemma looked like she was going to throw a strop right in the middle of the supermarket. OR Gareth got a strop on when he realised the chip shop had sold out of chip butties.  

4. Mardy

Chiefly confined to the north and midlands. e.g. The fact that all the pubs closed after 11 made Gareth mardy.

5. Mouthing off

A more verbal/aggressive form of getting upset, usually involving expletives. e.g. Because Gareth was getting his knickers in a twist, Gemma decided to start mouthing off behind his back.

6. Wobbly/wobbler

Similar to “benny” and “strop” in that the word is often preceded by “throw” or followed by the word “on.” e.g. Gareth got a wobbler on when the referee issued a red card to United’s Wayne Rooney. OR Gemma threw a wobbly when she realised Benedict Cumberbatch wasn’t going to feature in Star Wars: Episode VII.

7. Whinge

Similar in both meaning and spelling to “whine”. e.g. Gemma was whinging about the fact that Gareth kept mispronouncing “scone.”

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  1. avatar says

    Mare: same pronunciation as a adult female horse. Possibly Southern England only, short for nightmare.
    Emily had a mare when she found out Gail had borrowed her favourite skirt.

      • avatar says

        As a Brit – I’ve experienced it used and used it myself to express getting upset. Both having a mare, throwing a mare….

  2. avatarMacken says

    1. Benny On, Strop, and Wobbly/Wobbler are all akin to “Throw A Fit” in the U.S. “Mark threw a fit because his team lost the game.”
    2. The southern U.S. uses “Mouthing Off” but it more relates to a child being disrespectful to an authority figure. For example, “Todd mouthed off to his Momma, and was slapped in the gob for it.”

    • avatarS says

      Actually people all over the US use mouthing off to the exact same meaning. In the Midwest I mouthed off behind my bosses back, in California my cousin mouthed off recently when her husband angered her. We mouth off a lot when mad on this side of the pond!

  3. avatarTom says

    “Mouthing off” is used pretty universally in American English to denote either talking back or to talk out of turn. It’s certainly not only a Southern term.

    • avatarMarilyn Crosbie says

      We use it in British Columbia, Canada as well. I think TV shows influence all of us making some phrases less regional.

  4. avatarJohn Evans says

    Then there’s the Australian joke from the 1970’s about moaning Brits:
    A jet airliner lands at Sydney Airport. How do you know it’s full of Pommies (Brits)?
    Because when the engines have stopped, you can still hear the whining.

    • avatarSoos says

      I first heard “whinge” when I went to live in Australia, as in “Whingeing Pom”, but it is now very common in the UK. I was more used to “whine” but I am from the South East as maybe “whinge” already existed in other parts.

  5. avatarSandra Herb says

    I’m a Scouse. We don’t winge or whine. We just get on with it. I thought all my British counterparts were the same And living in the land of whinalots (America).. I still stand by the saying…” It is what it is..” and a s a Scouse…I just get on with it….
    Oh, and a strop is some-one with an atitude…as in “feeling stroppy today”.

  6. avatar says

    In addition to “strop,” you can use a variant when starting to throw a wobbly: ‘Jane decided to get all stroppy about the fact that John wasn’t home for dinner and hadn’t phone!’

  7. avatarCorinna says

    I’m not sure if it’s British, but I am fond of ‘Wouldn’t it just rip your nightie?’ for something really annoying.

  8. avatarTess says

    There’s a good one used in the Stoke-on-Trent area that I’ve never heard anywhere else – SNEEPED. Example copied from the Urban Dictionary – Her best friend was sneeped when Susan asked someone else to be her bridesmaid.

  9. avatarLeila says

    As a Londoner I’ve never heard “Benny on” but I have heard ‘cob on’ used the same way. And I believe that “stroppy” relates not to the razor sharpener but is a shortening of obstreperous.

  10. avatarKimberley says

    We definitely “mouth off” on the left side of the pond, and we “get our knickers in a twist,” as well as it’s variant, “getting our panties in a bunch.”

  11. avatar says

    Completely off-topic but I just read your bio and see that you’re from my hometown of Indy! My family and I relocated last summer to Belgium (Mons/ or as we call it “Belgian France” because we’re 5min from the border) and have been to London several times so far (far more than Paris which doesn’t require a train/boat) and will continue to go (until my husband can find a job there, LOL- completely serious). We’re planning trips outside of London (we did Stonehenge (rip off) a few years back) for the summer (and further on) as well as Avebury (worth it). As much as I love London I definitely want to explore further north (my family is from Anglesey and Cumbria, etc.; I still have family there but they’re in the home counties) -anything I should look out for, etc.? (Also, sorry for the total derailment/hijack of your post!)

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