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Funny English expressions ....

‘Bob’s your uncle’, ‘Going to see a man about a dog’, ‘I’ll eat my hat’ are just some of the peculiar expressions that we use. Do you have some favourite ones, and can you remember who you learnt them from? If you know the meaning behind the phrase, let us know! 🙂

Created By on 27/11/2012

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3rd Oct 2016 06:50:49
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The potential source is the music hall. The earliest known example of the phrase in print is in the bill for a performance of a musical revue in Dundee called Bob's Your Uncle, which appeared in the Scottish newspaper The Angus Evening Telegraph in June 1924.
Bob's your uncleThe expression also formed part of the lyrics of a song written by John P. Long, and published in 1931 - Follow Your Uncle Bob. The lyrics include:

Bob's your uncle
Follow your Uncle Bob
He knows what to do
He'll look after you

The song was sung and recorded by Florrie Forde, the celebrated music hall artiste of the early 20th century.


This has been a useful excuse for absenting oneself from company for about 150 years, though the real reason for slipping away has not always been the same. From other references at the time [around 1866] there were two possibilities: (1) the speaker needed to visit the loo (2) he was in urgent need of a restorative drink, presumed alcoholic .


Charles Dickens used an extended version of the expression in The Pickwick Papers, 1837:
"If I knew as little of life as that, I'd eat my hat and swallow the buckle whole."
7th Jan 2017 17:32:22
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I've got an a**e like Nellie Hunt! = meaning I am a little on the large side. Nellie Hunt was a big woman who back in the 40's use to scrub her steps on her hands and knees and she was so large you could not see the steps!

Oh yeah and my A**e is a cream bun = I don't believe it.

unfortunately most of the phrases I know are a bit rude! <---- not my fault just the fault of those I mingle with 😉
26th Nov 2016 11:00:35 (Last activity: 28th Nov 2016 11:11:53)
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Can anyone enlighten me on this one....''She popped her clogs...down by the bogs...!!''..There`s more to this particular rhyme, evidently. But, i`ll be flummoxed as to what the remainder might be. And...judging by it`s can only be from one of the unique English dialects...although, which one i`m ''chuffed'' if i know....!!
Response from beneDictus made on 28th Nov 2016 11:11:53
I suspect that it may well have derived from the cockney dialect at some point in history. Your mention of pawning has given me the idea. So, therefore, by definition, what better place to find Ye Olde pawnshop then in ''Cockneyland''...where they have been in abundance since the onset of the Industrial Revolution. In fact, that particular dialect is probably more cosmopolitan than most people realise, because, a lot of their words and expressions were brought over here to Oz with the convicts, and First Fleeters.
10th Sep 2016 10:07:17 (Last activity: 28th Nov 2016 06:28:40)
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How about ---- San fairy Ann ---- To me it meant ' I don't care' or is that the whole truth.
Response from KeepRightOn made on 26th Nov 2016 14:18:04
I've only just joined. Not sure whether you ever managed to find out the meaning of San Fairy Ann, so I thought I'd pass on what I was told by an Old Contemptible. It's an English corruption ( aren't they all ) of the French expression "ce ne fait rien". Literal translation is "it doesn't do anything ", but they use it to say "it doesn't matter ". Apparently, the expression Sweet Fanny Adams, meaning "nothing " comes from the same source. I was told that our troops picked it up during WW 1. It was usually accompanied by a "Gallic shrug ". Hope this helps
Response from Greyson made on 28th Nov 2016 06:28:40
Well done KeepRightOn ... you are now head of research ...
16th Oct 2016 12:10:32
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Ayup It's black o'er Bills mothers - I think it may rain later

Ya conna - you can not

Ya wunna - you will not

Ya shunna - you should not

Ya munna - you must not

I bet ya didna ay a clue wot I wor wittlin on about, it's cos way spake proper round 'ere
14th Oct 2016 14:57:48
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I'll go to the foot of my stairs
I think that's surprise / and amazement
A Yorkshire saying I think
If that's any help to you Derby lad
15th Sep 2016 09:45:48
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'Happy as Larry' this is thought to refer to the Australian boxer Larry Foley who always appeared remarkably cheerful, a bit like our Nicola Adams. I wonder if it has anything to do with the number of punches to the head they soaked up?
13th Sep 2016 14:15:21
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My Welsh Gran, who never quite mastered English used to say, 'it's a long road that has no corner shop.' We never understood what she meant because her explanation was mostly in Welsh.

'You are in Dickies meadow' is a Lancashire saying that means you are in trouble.

My Lancashire ex used to say, 'I'm standing here like cheese at 4d.' I never worked that one out!

'Put the big light on' which means switch on the living room ceiling light.

'Going for a camp' in East Lancashire has nothing to do with tents, it means to go for a chat with a friend.
11th Sep 2016 10:51:14
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put t'wood in t'hole,.... lancashire for shut the door.....,
put pan on....make a pot o tea, my Mam's fav.
27th Nov 2012 08:53:50 (Last activity: 2nd Sep 2016 14:24:01)
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"I'll go to the foot of our stairs"

does anyone know where this came from.? my dad used to say it. but never did ask
Response from cwtchy grandma made on 14th Aug 2015 10:01:31
A funny story about the innocence of children ......
While out in the car with my 5 year old grand daughter we passed a grave yard . She asked me what the stones with writing on were for ?
I said in a simple way that when someone dies we put their names on a stone to remember them .
Her Great Grandma died in Dec so I knew what was coming next , has Gu got her name on one because she is in a Heaven . She was happy that she has and on we went .
On return journey about 4 hours later on passing same grave yard she said ."your name will be on one of those soon Grandma because you are old ."
I am 60 !!!
I still love her to bits !
Response from Silversurfers Editor Original Poster made on 14th Aug 2015 11:12:45
That reminds me of a funny story ... we were driving to a pub for lunch, and I said to my daughter "they have an assault course there" She said "when do you eat that then?" Don't you just love the innocence of children? 😉
Response from Munsterlander made on 22nd Aug 2015 23:06:20
Brilliant-similar to my mother telling me the other day that one of her grandsons told her she looked very very old (She is 84) my mum thought it was very funny and just said "yes well I am very old!!"
Response from celtwitch made on 2nd Sep 2016 13:46:18
It's just an expression of surprise, a variation is 'I'll go to the back of our house.'
Response from jeanmark made on 2nd Sep 2016 14:24:01
Out of the mouths of children - many years ago a friend of mine was taking her 5 year old granddaughter on an outing to the beach. Once there they past a little boy have a wee, the little girl looked and then turned to my friend and said "That's a handy thing to take on a picnic".
22nd Aug 2015 23:07:42 (Last activity: 2nd Sep 2016 14:08:04)
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One of the Silversurfers commented on Facebook today about words we don't use much and she said "rascal"...I think its true as my elders used to say "you are a cheeky little rascal!"
Response from mollyh made on 8th Nov 2015 22:40:06
A rascal was also the name of a scone in my granddads home.
Response from celtwitch made on 2nd Sep 2016 14:08:04
A 'Fat Rascal' is a spicy scone in West Yorkshire.
2nd Sep 2016 13:52:11
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'Happy as a sandboy.' Back in the days when our ancestors wrote with quills dipped in ink, a fine sand was used as a blotter. Small boys would hawk it round the streets and it was in their interests to be cheerful as no-one buys from miserable people.
5th Aug 2016 12:32:46 (Last activity: 2nd Sep 2016 13:42:31)
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Last time I made a comment, I got blocked from the Facebook page
Response from Silversurfers Editor Original Poster made on 5th Aug 2016 13:09:49
Did you Alan ... not sure why?
Response from Alan247 made on 6th Aug 2016 11:53:49
Me neither, I logged in one day, only to find I was denied access, I have been blocked, the only thing I can think of was I put a joke up, somebody took it the wrong way and reported it for being " utter filth "
Response from celtwitch made on 2nd Sep 2016 13:42:31
You are a very naughty boy...can we have more filth please?
2nd Sep 2016 12:42:18
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"Look at the time and not a chid in the house dressed", I have no idea where that comes from!
2nd Sep 2016 11:01:43 (Last activity: 2nd Sep 2016 12:01:48)
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The Royal Navy gave us a few sayings that are still in use today...a square meal. This comes from the square dishes their food was eaten from, a raised lip around the table edge, the dishes were put on the table, the raised lip would prevent the dishes moving as the vessel pitched. Pipe Down to tell somebody to shut up, this was when the whistle, known as pipe was blown as a signal for the sailors not on duty to retire to their hammocks, the sailors were piped down and had to be quiet. Money for old rope being another
Response from Wilf made on 2nd Sep 2016 11:42:35
I was told recently that the term "saved by the bell" was because in the 1600s the rich gentry were buried with a string from the coffin tied to a bell above their grave just in case they were not dead they could ring it! Hence the expression!
Response from Alan247 made on 2nd Sep 2016 12:01:48
That's also the expression...working the graveyard shift
2nd Sep 2016 09:28:53
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I still use at times the expression ------- Ayup ----- it can mean good morning, or good day, or beware, and many other things. I did not learn it from anyone in particular it was just one of those natural words from where I come from.
10th Feb 2016 20:17:52
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As an English woman in Scotland I have had to get to grips with some on the Scottish sayings such as "Long may your lum reek" meaning always having enough prosperity to have enough coal for the fire.
15th Sep 2015 05:15:01
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"Not the sharpest knife in the drawer" referring to a naive person.
Sally Ann
27th Nov 2012 10:49:12
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I know this one aswell! (Think it's definitely north of the Thames). But, sorry, can't help. However, The Radio Times runs 'Dictionary Corner' which answers questions like yours, so they might be worth contacting. Two very good books on such colloquialisms are 'Shaggy Dogs and Black Sheep' and 'Red Herrings and White Elephants' both by Albert Jack, but I can't see this one in either. Now intrigued myself to know the answer!

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