British Humour Explained (with examples)


(rousing music)

- Hello everyone, and welcome back to "English with Lucy."

Today, I've got a very different video,

but it's been extremely highly requested.

A lot of you have been telling me

that you don't understand British humour

or that you would like to understand British humour.

So today, I'm going to talk you through British humour,

help you to understand it a little bit more

and give you some phrases that you can also use

to participate in British humour.

So, our sense of humour can do two things.

It can make people feel excluded

because they don't understand what's going on,

and it can also make people feel offended

because it can be, or it can appear to be quite offensive.

But don't worry, we're going to cover all of that today.

This video might be one of the most important

videos I've ever done on my channel.

Humour, the British sense of humour, is very important to me.

Quickly before we get started,

and no, this isn't sarcasm but we will cover that later,

I would like to thank the sponsor of today's video.

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Right, let's get on with this very humorous lesson.

So, what is British humour?

Well, I'm gonna break it down into eight categories.

But in general, we just love to ridicule and make fun of

every day life, the absurdity of every day life.

One of our most popular comedians is Michael McIntyre.

And literally all he does is make witty remarks

about every day life.

He makes us laugh about ourselves.

And the things that we do that we don't even think of,

he makes us analyse them and think,

wow, that's ridiculous.

I'll leave a link to some of his videos

and his work in the description box below.

So first, let's talk about irony.


This is when we highlight when something is different from

or the opposite of what is expected.

This is incredibly important in British humour.

An example of irony could be,

our local fire station burnt down last night. (laughs)

Obviously, you would not expect a fire station to burn down.

You would expect that they would take care of their building

just as they take care of other buildings.

That would be very ironic.

We love highlighting these ironic situations,

we love highlighting irony,

the irony of every day life.

Another example could be,

"You know our friend Pat, the marriage counsellor?

"Unfortunately her and her husband are getting a divorce."

We would find that very very funny.

Obviously, we'd be sad for Pat and her husband

but, the irony would not be lost on us.


Phrases we can use.

So, if somebody says something to you

that you think might be ironic,

you can say, ugh, the irony,

oh, the irony.

Or, you could also say, oh, how ironic.

Or better yet, say nothing at all, just smile.

Just a coy smile would be fine.

Now, one step on from irony is sarcasm.

This is something that we are famous for.

Sarcasm uses irony to mock or ridicule.

A great example of British sarcasm in it's purest form

was actually performed by my father

at his father's, my grandfather's funeral.

We like to make light of any situation here in the U.K.

Before we start, my grandfather had a great sense of humour.

He was always laughing

and he would've absolutely loved this.

So, my dad was put in charge

of writing the eulogy for the funeral,

and he also had to read that eulogy out in the...

I was gonna say cockpit.

(plane whooshing and beeping) It is not a cockpit.

What is it?

(door opening)


- [William] Yeah.

What's that place where you do a reading in a church?

(crickets chirping)

(idea light pinging on) Pulpit!

Thank you, I got it. (door closing)


So, he had to give this reading of the eulogy in the pulpit,

at the front of the church,

to everyone who was attending the funeral.

Now, because this eulogy was so long

they divided it into two parts.

They were gonna have a little break, and his sister,

my aunt, Marie, was going to choose three songs

that Yeti really liked, that reminded her of Yeti.

And she was going to put them in this interval.

So, all was going well, she turned on the songs very well.

But when it came to turning the music off,

it was quite abrupt. (laughs)

It was literally like.

(classical music)

(music abruptly stopping) (record scratching)

And my father, still using his funeral voice,

with not a smile on his face, just said,

"Beautifully faded out, Mary."

And then just continued delivering this eulogy,

and it was hilarious.

But I did think, had my students been at this funeral

they would have been so shocked and offended

that my dad would make a joke at this funeral. (laughs)

My granddad would have loved it,

and the whole family found it hilarious.

And actually, that's a really good example

of deadpan or dry humour, which we'll talk about next.

But first, a couple of phrases you can use

when you are attempting to use sarcasm.

If somebody misunderstands you and gets offended,

you can say, I'm being sarcastic.

Also say that with no smile, 'cause that's quite funny.

Or, that was sarcasm.

So, if you're worried that they might not understand,

as soon as you say something sarcastic you can say,

I absolutely loved your dancing.

That was sarcasm.

So yes, as mentioned before, deadpan or dry humour.

This is when you say something amusing or funny

with a very straight face and a very serious tone.

The best jokes are delivered dryly.

This is more of a tactic,

because you know that your joke is funny,

you have the confidence and intelligence

to know that what you've said is funny,

because you've said it with a straight face

but people have still laughed.

It can add that extra shock factor.

This is why it's so easy

to offend people with British humour.

We often confuse Americans because they,

their humour. I love American humour.

But their humour is more obvious and in your face.

So sometimes, if we say something

that appears insulting with a straight face.

Well, they would normally make a joke like that

with a smile on their face,

or making it obvious that they're joking.

So there can be some confusion.

Next we have my favourite one, which is wit,

making witty comments.

This is making quick and intelligent remarks and comments,

preferably with a straight face.

This is all about being quick thinking and clever.

We love feeling in awe of someone

when they make a completely unplanned or off-the-cuff joke

that fits in perfectly with the conversation.

This can be really really hard for non-native speakers.

I experienced exactly what you're experiencing in Spanish.

Because I'd want to make a quick comment,

it would come into my head,

but by the time it actually came out of my mouth

the conversation had moved on.

So to make witty comments and to be witty,

you have to be really clever and really quick,

and good with your language skills.

To be described as witty in the U.K.

is the mother of all compliments, it really really is.

So if anyone ever says, that was very witty

or, you're very witty,

you should take that as a really really big one.

Next we have self-deprecation, self-deprecating humour.

This is one that you may have seen

in a lot of my videos actually,

it's quite an easy one to do.

But it's hard to not overdo it actually,

it can just get depressing after a while.

This is simply making fun of oneself,

like me making fun of myself or you making fun of yourself.

We don't like to show off too much in the U.K.

This is a very important component of British humour,

and culture actually.

Americans might say, America is the greatest.

And Brits might say, Britain is a great place to visit

if you don't mind poor weather and questionable food.

We love making fun of ourselves,

whether that's ourselves as a person

or ourselves as a nation.

Other examples.

Going into work and saying, ugh,

I look like I got dressed in the dark this morning.

Or, talking about how bad you are at cooking,

I'm so bad at cooking I could burn water.

They're just little comments that are quite amusing

that we throw out, and they are making fun of ourselves.

Then we have innuendos or double entendres.

These are amazing. (laughs)

This is when we intentionally say things

that could be interpreted as taboo or sexual in meaning.

These are a huge part of British culture and British humour,

because they're so easy to slip in anywhere,

because they're not directly offensive or rude.

But once you know the meaning of them,

it can be quite shocking to see

that they are in the newspaper

or in a children's TV programme.

An example could be, there's a plate of sausages over there,

would you like to give her one?

Well, to give him or her one means to

give them sexual intercourse, I guess.

And obviously, the fact that sausage is involved

make this more emphasised.

But actually, sexual innuendos and double entendres

can be found anywhere, especially in headlines of newspapers

and in general conversation.

I remember being around six years old.

My childhood home was very near to my lower school.

And I was sitting underneath a hedge,

so I was hidden from the path that led to my school,

and I was watching my dad do work in his vegetable patch.

So I couldn't be seen,

but people could see in and see my dad.

And I heard one of my teachers

walking along with another teacher, say to her. (laughs)

Say to her companion, "I'd rather see his meat and two veg."

And I remember going, "Daddy, why did Mrs. (mumbles)

"want to see your meat and two veg?"

And he obviously went very red.

They had gone by then, but I remember him telling

my mom about it over dinner and her being shocked

and also laughing loads.

And it took me a couple of years

to understand what they meant.

Obviously, meat and two veg means a man's private area,

I guess, because of the shape of.

Anyway, let's not go too far into it.

But it took me a while to understand.

But yeah, that's a good example of sexual innuendo.

And obviously, it was my teacher saying it,

she shouldn't have said that.

Next we have banter.

Ugh, banter is rife in the U.K.

This is playful teasing, that can actually be quite harsh.

It's normally used with our friends and family,

people that we are close to,

that we know we have that rapport with.

But we can also use it against other cultures,

especially Americans, Germans and French.

There seems to be some good banter going on between us.

It's very common in pub culture and lad culture.

So for example, if a male friend

is starting to lose his hair,

well, he will probably be picked on

and teased about that in his group of friends.

But don't worry, it's just banter.

It can be quite offensive sometimes

and covered up as banter.

But, in general, it's a really funny thing.

There is a difference between banter and witty banter.

Witty banter is much more intelligent and clever.

Banter can just be teasing sometimes with an excuse.

I love it though, I think it's hilarious.

A common form of nationwide banter is

the rule that if anyone in a pub anywhere

drops a glass and it makes a noise,

everyone has to go, way!

And it's so embarrassing for that person.

It's happened to me, it's happened to most people.

But yes, make sure you join in with the, way!

But don't start the way,

if you're in a pub in the U.K. (laughs)

Lastly, we have puns or play on words.

This is just wordplay.

It's making funny comments

by bending and using the language.

This is something that we love to hate.

We all go ugh, and groan when we hear a bad pun.

But we might go, ooh, very good,

if we hear a really clever one.

It's very common to see puns on shopfronts, shop names.

For example, there's a fish and chips shop

called The Codfather.

Play on words with the Godfather.

We have a hairdressers called A Cut Above the Rest,

which is hilarious, kind of.

There's a kebab shop called Abrakebabra,

which I think is brilliant.

A bakery called Bread Pitt. (laughs)

And a greengrocers called Planet of the Grapes.

Hilarious, love it.

They are terrible but brilliant

and they are very very British.

In fact, if you search shop-name puns on Google

you can spend a good couple of hours

laughing at the creativity of these shop owners.

Right, I think we've covered

most of the bases of British humour.

If you have any other doubts, please comment them down below

and will try and help you out.

And also, let me know about any similarities

or differences with your culture and language.

I'd also love to know if you have any good puns or jokes.

Always up for a laugh when I'm checking my comments section.

It divides up the hate quite nicely.

Right, that's it for today's lesson.

I hope you enjoyed it and I hope you learned something,

and I hope it cleared up

a couple of your doubts about British humour.

Don't forget to check out Lingoda,

the link is in the description box.

And you can use my code, lucy11 to get 20% off

all Lingoda packages for your first month.

Don't forget to connect with me on all of my social media.

I've got my Facebook, I've got my Instagram

and I've got my Twitter.

And I shall see you soon for another lesson, mwa.

(outtake reel beeping) Today,

a little bit of a different video, but a highly (mumbles).

Lingoda is an online language e-school.

Language e-school. (laughs)

I am e-Spanish. (laughs)

My e-launuage e-school.


Lingoda is an online language.

Something is echoing.



Oh, it's 'cause I cleared this room.

There used to be loads of stuff on the floor.

And now it's clean, so it's echoing.

(outtake reel beeping)


(door opening)


Ooh, with mango.

Thank you very much.

Do you want to say hello?

He's been on the farm.

- [William] Sponsored by Adidas.

- No, you can't do that.

Now I have to take it off. - Sorry.

- (laughs) No, it's fine.

Just disclaimer, he's not sponsored by Adidas.

But, if they're interested, he would be well up for that.

- [William] I wish.

- See you in a bit.

(door closing)



Another example could be.

You know your friend Pat, the marriage counsellor?

(laughs) God, why I speak today?

Why can't I speak today?

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