You Alright?


Today’s lucky British-ism that will be dissected is, “are you all right?” This is a particularly important phrase to unpack considering its nuanced distinction in interpretation across borders.

The simplest way to describe the difference between its uses in America versus in Britain is to explain the reaction it typically elicits. If you were to ask “are you alright?” to someone in America, the question recipient would most likely think you are insinuating that something is wrong. This is a very sensitive reaction, and so the question is usually only used when someone is in distress–for instance, if you notice that your friend is eating Del Taco despite being within walking distance to a Taco Bell, or if someone is listening to country music at any point in time.

In Great Britain, on the other hand, the phrase, “are you alright?” should actually be likened to something like, “how’s it going?” or “what’s up?” In effect, it is much more cordial and has a much lighter connotation. In fact, sometimes shortened to “you alright?” which actually sounds more like “y’a-rite?” and often even further shortened to just “alright,” this phrase perfectly captures the essence of British communication: just considerate enough to be polite, but short and simple enough to not have to spend any effort.

Such energy must be saved. Too much talking might tire the throat, setting off an inevitable chain reaction where your throat soreness causes you to 1) finish last among your friends while chugging your pints on a Friday* night at the pub, leading you to 2) become the butt of their banter, severely diminishing your self-confidence. 3) Your wife picks up on this discouraged demeanor, but upon enquiry, you refuse to tell her the truth out of pride, and when that leads to damaging marital problems, you 4) sadly realize you’re British and therefore devoid of any meaningful communicative ability. So, unable to work out your differences, 5) your marriage spins into a death-plummet, like a plane without one of its wings, as your hopes and dreams, once safely fastened into reclined first class seats, are now flung into obscurity. Your marriage, which was destined for the peaceful island of Kauai, instead 6) hurtles straight into an active volcano, and so is incinerated into a swamp of molten lava-covered plane parts. So don’t be that guy. Save your words, save your marriage.

Stay tuned for more British-isms. Until next time!



*Or Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday



The British-ism that we’ll dissect today is “isn’t it,” or more accurately, “init.”

In both Britain and America, this particular phrase is often used to end a sentence. For example, you might sarcastically tell your friend on a rainy Manchester morning, “proper barbecue weather, init?” This is standard. This is logical. Not just because it’s a Mancunian being sarcastic or because it’s raining in Manchester, but because the “isn’t it” makes for a sensible conclusion to the phrase.

Where things get tricky is when the “isn’t it” finds itself not so logically placed in sentences. My first encounter was while discussing route-running with another receiver on my football team (yes, they play American Football in England) and he said, “I always think I’m open, init.”

I always think I’m open, isn’t it. What? Is that supposed to make sense to me?

My first impulse was to say, “No, as a matter of fact, it is not. The only thing open is the massive hole in your grammatical logic.” But, defying British custom, I let the moment pass uncommented, and merely nodded.

As I soon found out, he was not the only one ending any and all sentences with a casual “init,” and that, in fact, it’s just common slang in Britain. And like all great phrases in this day and age, “init” transcends syntax. There is no sentence that can’t be “init”-ed. So there it stands, like a gigantic middle finger to every primary school language teacher, eviscerating grammatical standards into a cool mist.

So for those of you who appreciate this particular piece of British slang, you now have a foolproof way of Britishing-up any sentence. And for those of you, like me, who appreciate their proper grammar, just smile and nod when you hear it—the moment will be over soon.

Stay tuned for more British-isms. Until next time, init!

~ Lucas

Nice One!


To continue our inspection of British-isms, today we’ll tackle the phrase, “nice one.” Like many other expressions, “nice one” is a common thing to hear in America, but means something slightly different when said by a Brit.

In America, “nice one” is often said to someone who has just made a joke. For example, if friend A is trying to make fun of friend B, and friend B snaps off a comeback that crumbles friend A’s soul into a little pile of ash, friend C (observing but not involved until this point*) might say “nice one!” to congratulate friend B for his excellent joke.

In Britain, however, “nice one” is not limited to congratulating joke-tellers; in fact, the expression is far broader in meaning. As such, my first encounter with the phrase was quite confusing. I told a friend I would meet him at his house at 7:00pm, and he responded “nice one.” I was very confused:

Did he think I was making a joke? Is 7:00pm not a good time to meet someone? Had I just stumbled upon some crucial cultural faux pas? Did I just inadvertently make a death threat to the Queen and could expect MI6 to burst through my door to arrest me at any second?

You can imagine my concern. All for naught, though, as it turns out the expression merely means something to the effect of “cool” or “good.” My friend was just affirming my plans to meet at 7:00pm. No faux pas, no death threats, I was in the clear.

As I learned that day, and as you all are now learning, the expression is an affirmation, a way of saying that what has just transpired is good and well. So, the next time someone British says “nice one” to you, you should feel great about yourself, because while you may not have delivered a soul-incinerating joke, you definitely said something good.

Stay tuned for more British-isms. Until next time!


*Someone who sits back during an insult battle and only congratulates the good insults is the worst kind of person. Friend C should definitely not be trusted in a crisis.



Fresh off of a year spent living in England, I thought it appropriate to share over the next several posts many of the differences in language used between America and our neighbor across the pond. Instead of focusing on spelling differences (honor vs. honour; donut vs. doughnut; realize vs. realise), I thought I would inform you about colloquialisms and words that hold entirely different meanings once you’re in the land of Queen Lizzy. So whether you’re trying to provide authenticity to a British character in a novel, or in correspondence with someone from Britain, trying to decipher this language that looks a lot like English, but surely can’t be, I hope this will be useful information.

Today we tackle the most important–and often challenging–word, “cheers.”

Cheers, as used in America, is a word you say when you clink glasses before taking a drink. It’s limited. It’s weak.

In Britain, however, they took ‘cheers’ and turned it into the fulcrum of their lingual identity. It’s really the perfect British word—just polite enough to be socially acceptable, but not strong enough to constitute a meaningful social engagement. In fact, legend has it that every time you use the word you get bumped up a spot on the list of heir to the throne. And have you ever tried to say “cheers” in a posh London accent? It just sounds right.

While its more formal use is to replace “thank you” or “congratulations,” the British also use “cheers” to greet people, say goodbye, and even just to acknowledge someone else. While hearing cheers in those circumstances in America might take you off-guard—as it did me—knowing this information really makes the word quite easy to use.

Just in case anyone is still unsure, here are some examples of when and when not to use the word:

Appropriate times to use the word, “cheers”:

-When somebody holds a door open for you.

-When your friend offers you free Taco Bell.

-When your wife finally gets that raise she was working so hard for.

Inappropriate times to use the word, “cheers”:

-When somebody insults you.

-When your friend offers you free Del Taco–they clearly have horrible taste in food and you should seriously consider re-evaluating your friendship with this person.

-In response to someone who just said “cheers” to you. This is very bad and awkward, please never ever do this.

Stay tuned for more British-isms. Until next time!