We love to talk about the differences between American and British English, from elevator/lift to trunk/boot, different spellings and mutually incomprehensible slang. It is fascinating, perhaps because it illustrates so clearly how what was once one language has become two.

There are many blogs on the subject. But what could be more interesting than the rude words section of a dictionary of British slang (ask any schoolchild)?! Written by a Scotsman living in the US, The Septics Companion Insults section is a good read, full of solid words like bollocks, plonker and arse. (Thanks to @lynneguist on Twitter for the link.) Other, non-rude, dictionary entries include gubbins, palava and yonks. I would add: pranny – a silly idiot, in a friendly way, cf numpty.

Our wonderful words wank and wanker are included, but not in the Insults section for some reason. And the very straightforward definition (“one who masturbates”) just doesn’t cut it for me. It’s so much more than that: a very offensive insult spat out with derision, disbelief at someone’s idiocy, a description of something’s uselessness. And it comes with an optional hand gesture!

I admit, it is one of my favourite swear words. But it’s so hard to describe the very essence and multiple personality of the word, it’s no wonder speakers of other Englishes can come a cropper* when trying to use it.

*there’s a possible future blog post in this phrase, I think!