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Regional Flourish: The 39 Steps Glossary of Slang

A Dig Deeper Article by Production Dramaturg Louise Casemore


Set amidst a sweeping range of locales throughout the United Kingdom, much of The 39 Steps and its multitudes of characters is a linguistic love letter to the Scottish countryside. In a story spanning the West End of London to the remote highland hills, there are a variety of British references and dialectical inflections along the way, evoking the manner and sound of the UK in 1935.


Bog – wetland or swamp

Bunk – hurried departure or escape

Charlady – a hired house cleaner similar to a maid

Communication Cord – emergency brake system on UK trains

Compere – character trope, energetic host of a variety show

Cor Blimey – British slang, expression or annoyance or surprise, derived from “God blind me”

Corker – British slang, something that is humorous, impressive, or surprising

Crofter – someone who works and often resides on a small farm

Fay Wray – 1930’s film actress and star of King Kong (iconic damsel in distress type)

Garibaldi – biscuit or snack cookie

Heather – commonplace plant variety in Scotland

Inveterate – stubborn person who would be unlikely to change or be swayed

Itinerant – someone or something that is travelling or moving around

Ken – Scottish slang, to know or understand

Liverish – British slang, feeling sick or unwell

Moors – uncultivated land without forest, signature terrain of the Scottish countryside

Mr. Memory – character trope, variety show guest whose talent is being able to answer any question

Munch-like – reference to the classic Edward Munch painting “Scream”

Pound Note – reference to British currency, akin to a dollar bill

Pudding – British slang, dessert

Race meeting – occasions where a series of horse races are held

Trilby – a hat, similar in style to the fedora

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