The world over, we have been collectively gobsmacked by the British decision to leave the European Union. Shocked and dismayed, we have been left without vocabulary, and not only because of Brexit, but the expressions the Britons have used to describe their own state of mind. We offer examples of the best of these Britishisms:
Gormless: Felix Salmon, a writer at Fusion, delivered this word meaning dull, stupid and simply lacking a shred of wisdom. Salmon used it to describe the failure of Britain’s leader to foresee the avalanche to follow should he schedule a vote on Brexit. The June 23 decision to leave the EU, Salmon wrote, “happened with a wholly unnecessary vote, which was called by Britain’s gormless prime minister, David Cameron, for the sole purpose of trying to engineer a tactical advantage in last year’s general election.” The word is one of those non-sensical things: there is no agreed definition of gorm, for example, the quality that Cameron is accused of criminally lacking. Yet, it must be one of the English language’s most wonderful onomatopoeias: One can detect immediately that it is a deeply embarrassing inadequacy.
Omnishambles: This is the other outcome of Brexit–everywhere it left omnishambles in its wake. In the markets, in the EU, in Britain itself. It is much better than the mere word shambles, and even shambolic, a derivative that no one but Brits have ever used. We never heard of this word, but we like it, and those wishing to describe the impact of Brexit do too, having used it liberally after the vote. And though its meaning seems patently obvious, some, like London composer Alex Groves, wanted to make sure everyone got it.
Crapspatula: Again, a terrific onomatopoeia. We have never heard this word, either–and in fact, as far as we can tell from Google, not many other people have. It’s clearly a general denunciation of a person and his or her character. But, hearing it in proximity with Brexit, we can pick up its emotive depth. Such as when David Tyler, a London-based producer of TV comedies, used it to describe Nigel Farage, the leader of the pro-Brexit UK Independence Party.
Witless cocksplat: This bit of self-explanatory profanity may be the best Britishism of the day, so designated by Twitter admirers (see comments below the link). It’s the handiwork of Tim Footman, a UK music writer who delivered the riposte to Donald Trump after the appearance of this later-deleted tweet (right) on arriving in Scotland the day of the referendum. As Footman so wickedly noted, there was no cheering in Scotland, which voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU.
Square root of bugger all: Bobby Friedman, a journalist and playwright, fired out this tweet when it became clear that everyone–including in this case the hallowed financiers in the city of London—guessed the completely wrong outcome. The definition of this extraordinarily succinct expression is nothing. But in order to express the correct outrage at the obliviousness of Britain’s best minds, it was not sufficient to say, “You don’t know squat.” Nope, that wouldn’t have been sufficient at all.