Five derogatory American phrases and their more effective British equivalents


THE British public have become familiar with American put-downs, but do they do the job as well their British alternatives? Let’s find out.

‘Don’t be an ass’ vs ‘Don’t be an arse’

Are Americans referring to the bottom, ie. the part of the body which emits shit, or a type of donkey? It’s unclear, and asses – the four-legged kind – are useful and carried Jesus many a time. The British ‘arse’ is unambiguous and better for it. Try to ignore the fact that you’re effectively saying ‘Don’t be a bottom’, because that would make you an arse.

‘You’re a real jerk’ vs ‘You’re an utter wanker’

Lexicographical research shows ‘jerk’ is unconnected to masturbation, ie. ‘to jerk off’. So what’s the point? It’s clearly not referring to the meat product, as that would be like saying ‘You’re a real chorizo’. Again the British version wins, because the victim is a grubby self-abuser who can’t get a girlfriend and wanks all day. They also suffer from creeping blindness and hairy palms.

‘Bite me’ vs ‘I couldn’t give a f**k’

What sort of insult is this? You sound like 1970s sitcom wanker The Fonz. Also the biting element is weird, suggesting Hannibal Lecter gruesomely gnawing that cop’s face off, which is surely not the conversational territory you were aiming for. Or it suggests a playful nibble, and an insult should never give the receiver an opportunity to counter with a witty Wildean riposte like ‘Why, are you gay?’ The British ‘I couldn’t give a f**k’ has none of these problems.

‘What a total dipshit/dillhole/dickwad’ vs ‘What a massive twat’

Calling someone a portmanteau of non-offensive words will only raise curiosity as to what a dillhole is. It might stun them into silence as they wonder if American have a special cavity in their kitchens for the storage of dill. But generally avoid wishy-washy slurs from across the pond and instead use the tried and tested ‘massive twat’ to guarantee offence.

‘Go figure, you do the math’ vs ‘Just f**k right off’

Dismissing someone with the phrases ‘go figure’, or ‘you do the math’ makes you sound like a character from The Big Bang Theory, or worse still, Blossom. To promptly get rid of someone deliver the classic British ‘Just f**k right off’ and avoid the suggestion that you’re still, weirdly, doing homework.



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