Enjoy Poppycock Balderdash And Piffle As You Learn Spoken English Ep 385

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How To Learn Spoken English Through Listening

Today we have an odd lesson where we talk about some old-fashioned English words and English phrases, which admittedly you might not hear that much, but when you hear them, you might be interested to know what they are, and how to pronounce them. Just relax and smile as you learn spoken English with us today.

The reason this podcast came about is my daughter was looking at YouTube and watching a video of funny English words. Later I overheard a politician on TV using one of those words. We then talked about list of English words that often mean the same thing, often used in a humorous way which had us both laughing out loud.

It was like re-discovering better times, maybe nostalgic, but funny enough and interesting enough to help our English language students practice some English vocabulary and phrases. Who knows, we might even bring some of these words back to life if you think they deserve it.

I know that we often state and rightly focus on contemporary English phrases and vocabulary, saying there is no point in learning dead English, it’s a waste of your precious time. Today I felt like bending my rule a little bit. Just because I have to tolerate a good deal of UK lock-down rules it feels good and hopefully you will enjoy the humour and take a brief break for yourself to smile and relax today, don't forget to take care and look after yourself.

Most Unusual Words:


Most common 3 word phrases:

Funny English Words3
Words In English2
Is Thought To2
Well Known For2

Listen To The Audio Lesson Now

The mp3 audio and pdf transcript for this lesson is now part of the Adept English back catalogue . You can still download and listen to this lesson as part of one of our podcast bundles.

Transcript: Enjoy Poppycock Balderdash And Piffle As You Learn Spoken English

Hi there and welcome to this podcast from Adept English.

Funny English words

Let’s do some funny English vocabulary today. This comes from a conversation with my daughter. ‘What shall I do for the Adept English short podcast this week?’ I said. My 18 year old daughter said that sometimes, when she’s ‘lost in YouTube’, when she’s following the recommended next video, that she might end up following say, ‘funny English words’. ‘What funny English words?’ I ask. Her answer, ‘Poppycock, balderdash and piffle’!

So English is a colourful language, with many more thousands of words than you really need. And notoriously, one of the difficulties in learning English is the number of words. ‘Notorious’ is an adjective and ‘notoriously’ is the adverb – and ‘notoriety’ is the noun. And ‘notorious’ means ‘well known for [being] something that gives difficulties, well-known for making trouble’.

So the variety of words in English give difficulty, the sheer choice of words you can use makes it harder. But it’s not that you have to know all of them – English speakers don’t know all the words in English. But the choice of words – well, that’s the charm of English too! So let’s go slightly ‘off the beaten track’ today. Let’s learn some words you may come across, which are a bit more unusual.

Poppycock, balderdash and piffle

So poppycock, balderdash and piffle – what do they mean? Well, they’re all different words for rubbish. And not the sort of rubbish that you put in your bin, or send to the refuse tip. No, they mean rubbish in terms of spoken or written word – so nonsense, N-O-N-S-E-N-S-E - that would be a closer word. So poppycock, P-O-P-P-Y-C-O-C-K as in ‘The dog ate your homework? That’s poppycock!’, meaning ‘That’s rubbish it’s not true, it’s just an excuse!’.


Or ‘piffle’, P-I-F-F-L-E – you might read a newspaper article, or hear a viewpoint that you don’t agree with and say ‘That’s a load of old piffle. I don’t agree with that’. And balderdash, B-A-L-D-E-R-D-A-S-H, is used similarly. They tend to be slang words, though you will find the older ones in the dictionary – and they’re often of uncertain origin.

Poppycock is thought to come from Dutch ‘pappekak’ – i.e. ‘soft dung’. I think it’s ‘old Dutch’, not current day Dutch. Balderdash is a random mixture of alcoholic drinks – perhaps it’s [from] the tray that the drips were caught in! And piffle, is thought to be an onomatopoeia – so that’s a sound word, from the sound ‘pffff’ of warm air! Piffle.

Ruder words for nonsense

A ruder way to say that something is rubbish which we use? We say ‘It’s crap!’- C-R-A-P. Do careful with this. Although many people say this informally or to their friends, there may be places where you’d be seen as disrespectful, if you used this word. It’s a profanity – not quite a swear word, but close. And the same goes for ‘Bull’, B-U-L-L.


A photograph of a bull standing guard over a herd of cows. This is not the bull we are talking about today.

©️ Adept English 2020

You might hear ‘That’s bull!’ which is used to mean ‘Rubbish, not true’. But ‘it’s bull’ is short for ‘it’s bullshit’ which is rude, so be careful with that. But there are a lot of other colourful words that you can use instead, to mean that spoken or written words are rubbish, nonsense, made up, not true, not worth taking notice of. These words can still be offensive, but it’s not swearing. So all of the following words mean the same thing – they mean rubbish, the same as poppycock, balderdash or piffle.

A variety of words for ‘nonsense’

  • Tripe
  • Codswallop
  • Baloney
  • Bilge
  • Tosh
  • Drivel
  • Hogwash
  • Garbage
  • Bunkum
  • Claptrap
  • Guff
  • Twaddle

That’s quite a list and there are more. These words are likely to bring a smile to people’s lips sometimes when they hear them. Make no mistake, they’re critical words – but they’re sort of mildly funny too, because they’re ridiculous, silly-sounding words.

English has good words for expressing yourself

There’s something very satisfying about this variety in the English language, especially if you’re feeling a bit annoyed about something and you want to ‘go to town on’ expressing your frustration. You can say these words with feeling.

Download The Podcast Audio & Transcript

‘That’s just codswallop!’, ‘She was talking twaddle’, ‘It’s a load of corporate claptrap’, ‘That newspaper article was drivel!’, ‘Those ideas are a load of old tosh!’ It’s colourful, satisfying language – especially if you’re in a bad mood, without the need to resort to profanity, without resorting to bad words. It’s also slightly comedic, a bit of comedy with your frustration. If you want to have a ‘rant’, R-A-N-T in English, these are satisfying words to use.

Channelling Victor Meldrew

Looking through all of these words, reminds me of a really old TV programme, that was popular in the UK, about 30 years ago. It was called ‘One Foot in the Grave’ and featured a character, called Victor Meldrew, who was always angry. And his anger was funny, it made you laugh.


And words like balderdash, poppycock, piffle, codswallop, claptrap, drivel and hogwash have this slightly comedic quality that Victor Meldrew’s anger also had. ‘One Foot in the Grave’ had simple plot lines, innocent humour – but with s ome funny bad-temperedness. So if you feel like channelling your ‘inner Victor Meldrew’, poppycock, balderdash and piffle are good words to express your frustrations.

Consider whether to focus on the common words too!

Anyway, there are some colourful English words for you – words to use when you think something is nonsense or rubbish. If you feel that you would instead like to focus on the most common words in English, instead of these kind of words I’ve covered in this podcast, then I recommend you buy our Most Common 500 Words Course.

Boost Your Learning With Adept English

Go to the adeptenglish.com website to find it. This course actually gives you a lot more than the most common 500 words as you would find them in a dictionary – because the course covers all parts of a word. So if you take the common verbs like ‘to know’, K-N-O-W, then included are all parts of the verb ‘to know’ – know, knows, knowing, knew, known. It’s fun to look at the stranger words in English, but make do sure that you know the most frequently used words really well as well.


Anyway, enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.




The voice of Adeptenglish, loves English and wants to help people who want to speak English fluently.
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