English, with all its spelling, structure, and pronunciation quirks, is not an easy language to learn, but it does have one huge upside: it's flexible and can be used very creatively. Nouns can be turned into verbs (like when you stomach a loss) and vice versa, and new phrases drop in and out of fashion (Think: Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll and Beyonce).

The countries with the highest percentage of English speakers are Ireland (98 percent), New Zealand (97.8 percent), Australia and the U.K. (just over 97 percent), and the U.S. (94 percent). But if you look at those countries on a map, you'll see they're not exactly bunched together in one corner of the world, which is probably why each of them has developed a unique accent and plenty of slang words used primarily in that particular place.

Even in this ever-more-connected world, there are still plenty of slang phrases and words unique to the areas where they're spoken. Here are a few memorable examples, with a video for each to get you in the right frame of mind. (Some are a bit salty, if you get my drift.)


Aussies have a huge country with a low population density, with the populous cities often separated by huge distances. So not all these words are common in all parts of the country.

1. Stickybeak is a nosy person, and while you could probably figure that out without being told, it's such an ideal descriptor that it bears mentioning. "My friend is such a stickybeak; I swear she knows more about me than I do."

2. Walkabout is taken from the aboriginal Australians, who would sometimes go out on a walk that could last days or weeks as part of a spiritual quest. In Aussie slang, it's often used in reference to a missing object: "Looks like my car keys are on walkabout again."

3. Wobbly is basically a tantrum and it's an all-encompassing term that includes both adults and children who get upset and express their feelings: "He threw a wobbly when the waitress brought him the wrong salad dressing."

4. A yobbo is a rude person. It's also fun to say when you're annoyed with someone: "That yobbo cut me off in traffic!"

5. Chunder is a great word for throwing up, isn't it? Somehow it's both less gross and more descriptive at the same time. "I think I'm going to chunder if this boat rocks anymore."

New Zealand

1. Choice: This is such a good way of saying something's "the best," I don't know why it hasn't spread. "That hat is choice."

2. Knackered: When you're feeling tired, worn out, just completely done, either mentally or physically. This word just sounds like being tired out, doesn't it? "I'm so knackered on Friday after work that I can't even muster the energy to go out with friends!"

3. Rattle ya dags: This expression has a very particular origin story. Dags are the bits of poop-encrusted wool that dry out and become little hard "rattles" on the back of a sheep's butt before they are sheared. They make a sound when the sheep runs quickly, and the expression is now used for people, too: "We're going to be late to catch the train if you don't rattle ya dags."

4. Yeah-nah: This is a statement of ambivalence that really means maybe, or could mean that you agree with part of what someone says, but not all, or that you agree with someone to be nice but don't really think they're correct. It's also a polite way of saying no. There seems to be little consensus online among Kiwis, so use it as you see fit.

5. Pack a sad: To be sad or bummed out, this word is also used if something breaks. "I was trying not to pack a sad when my boyfriend left town."


1. On the lash means to go out drinking. "She got fired this morning, so she's out on the lash tonight, attempting to bury her pain."

2. The Jacks is a general word for toilet. Interestingly, many people in Ireland think the word toilet is unpleasant and so euphemisms like this abound.

3. Acting the maggot is when someone is being a jerk. This is such a great insult, as in: "He was acting the maggot last night while we were out at the bar, so I left without him."

4. Glad-eye is the look people give each other when one (or, hopefully, both) are in love — or at least crushing on each other.

5. Donkey's Years refers to something from a long time ago — though some people might use it sarcastically or satirically. "It's donkey's years since I've been out for dinner."

United Kingdom

1. Get your knickers in a twist: This means getting upset by something. "That bully's not worth getting your knickers in a twist over; she's just insecure."

2. Yonks is the same as the American ages, as in a long time. "I haven't seen my best friend from childhood in yonks!"

3. Reem is a newer word that was introduced via a British reality show. Reem means sexy, desirable or cool, and will probably fall out of favor as quickly as it popped up. You can use it everywhere you can use "cool."

4. Not my cup of tea is when something's not your style, sometimes said with a bit of haughty judgment, but often just as a statement of personal opinion. "Those boots aren't my cup of tea, but they're brilliant on you."

5. Chirpsing is a very adorable word for flirting. "Are you chirpsing me or are you genuinely into my collection of vintage political buttons?"

Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.