The English language is full of wonderful and downright weird phrases. My grandmother, after eating a very large dinner would exclaim that she couldn’t possibly eat any more as she was “Podged up to the eyeballs!” I have no idea whether this is just a saying that originated in the Midlands or it’s known throughout the UK as a whole. As English speaking people, we tend to hear them every day without giving the phrases much thought. It becomes a part of who we are; and they can be very different according to the region you were born in or where you live.
I think some of them are very funny; but I have no idea where the majority of them came from and why they are used in certain areas and not others. A very common one is to inform someone, when they are walking on a slippery surface or in the dark, to be careful as they may fall ‘arse over tit’.
- As bent as a nine bob note – One interpretation is that this describes a corrupt or dishonest person. There was no such thing as a nine bob (shilling) note, so it would have had to have been counterfeit, hence the saying. There are many variations, and there’s an option to invent your own. Not often used in court by judges, however.
- Going like Billyho – Someone or something travelling very fast. I used this today but I have no idea where it comes from.
- Take a butchers – It means to take a look. Rhyming slang after ‘butchers hook’.
- Done up like a kipper – This can mean beaten up or framed for something. In the midlands it is used to mean that someone has made themselves look lovely for a night out, but that is just a regional term.
- To flog a dead horse – Be unable to find a solution to a problem and then to give up. It is said that the origin lies with an apocryphal effort by a rag-and-bone man to persuade his carthorse to get up and work, long after he has become unfit to do so. Still in general usage, and popular with mothers who naively expect their kids to do the washing up on time.
- Phiz or Phizog – Face – This is from a 17th century shortening of physiognomy (the study of the face and expressions). Uncommon these days, but I think we should bring it back.
- Sling your hook – Telling someone to go away. There are more effective alternatives.
- Warts and all – To know everything about a person’s life, including the bad bits.
- Lost the plot – A euphemism for ‘gone crazy’, not commonly used as literal. One recent example was the leak of Tarantino’s script for ‘The Hateful Eight’, but this exact circumstance occurs rarely.
- Bee’s knees – Awesome. Because bees’ knees are very awesome.
- Getting your knickers in a twist – Getting ‘stroppy’ or confused. As we all know, perplexity causes one’s underwear to become troublesome.
- It’s monkeys outside – It’s very cold. From ‘brass monkeys’. I hope that’s edifying.
When I was a child, I often stayed at my grandmother’s for the weekend. At bedtime, she used to say to me “You need to climb the hill to Bedfordshire”, a form of which is conjured in many households with young children to avoid being stern about bedtime, so that one’s easy to understand – but I defy anyone to calmly figure out the origin of “I haven’t seen you for donkey’s years!“.
Oh, I almost forgot – I really have no clue what ‘Podged up to the eyeballs’ means. It’s possible that my grandmother made it up, but I use it to describe being drunk or stuffed full of food, and await the glorious day when I hear someone else use it! Of course, I expect someone to point out that it’s a perfectly normal term in somewhere-shire, and I probably just overheard it a long time ago.