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Tuesday, July 20, 1999 Published at 11:41 GMT 12:41 UK


Curse of the British

Along with fish and chips and wet weather, Britain is now being characterised as a nation of bad language.

Apparently, we just cannot help it. Many of us in the UK are "virtually dumbstruck" without recourse to a four-letter word.

The Lonley Planet travel guide has published a phrasebook preparing foreign visitors for the colourful side of British culture.

It says the British seem to "love swearing" and seem to swear "more than other nations".

Potential visitors to the UK are told that "large numbers of the British people" drape their entire discourse around popular four-letter words and resort to even more colourful descriptions with regular aplomb."

Estuary English guide

It also taps into the consciousness of two of the nation's favourite pastimes: football and drinking. Tourists are told that at most football matches, the terraces will resound to expletive-filled refrains.

There are also 65 different descriptions for being drunk and synonyms for fantastic, idiot or fool and ugly or smelly.

A spokeswoman for the publisher defended the book, and said: "We are not saying people should swear but we want visitors to know what to expect."

And for those who want more of a cultural tour than the Tower of London can afford, there is a guide to Estuary English.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair is cited as having dropped his ' Ts' while speaking of a "better Britain".

'Oroit, me old lover'

Estuary English was a term devised in 1984 by linguist David Rosewarne. It refers to the Cockney-influenced accent, which has come to be identified with the Thames estuary - Essex, North Kent, and the capital itself.

Even the late Princess Diana was reported to have affected a smattering of Estuary English in her speech.

Regional accents and regional slang are given full coverage - which will aid the perplexed visitor while they tune into the nation's soaps such as Eastenders and Brookside.

The guide informs them of the different ways of saying hello, from "Watcha" in London to "Ay up" in Liverpool and "Oroit, me old lover" in Bristol.

The guide also pokes fun at public transport.

"Because they are overloaded and unable to cope, the train and Underground companies have for many years followed the eminently sensible policy of pricing their potential customers back into their cars," it says.

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