Open Dictionary word of the week: laugh

Posted by on August 30, 2012

laugh (noun)

Are you having a laugh?: an informal British phrase used to challenge something someone says or does that seems ridiculous or insulting to the speaker.

That’ll be twenty pounds please.” “Twenty quid for a bottle of shampoo? Are you having a laugh?

(Submitted from the United Kingdom)

The Brits are pretty subtle with this word laugh. If someone says you’re up for a laugh, well, that’s a compliment. One of the highest compliments in terms of personality traits that one should strive to possess or at least emulate. Especially if you’re ‘always up for a laugh’. As in: “Laine? Yes, you’ll like her, she’s always up for a laugh”. That’s never been said about me, but if it were I’d be having much more of a laugh than I’m having at the moment, that’s for sure. If you’re up for a laugh people invite you down the pub and stuff. That’s what I’m told anyway.

On the other hand ‘are you having a laugh?’ is an insult, a sort of reprimand akin to ‘taking the piss‘. If you’re not familiar with this phrase, Ricky Gervais can help you out. “Are you having a laugh?” (for best effect pronounced: are you avin a laff?) was the catchphrase in Ricky Gervais’ TV show Extras. There’s a montage to watch here. If you’re going to adopt this phrase as part of your English usage, a word of warning: you’ll probably sound daft unless you’re British. But if you’re up for a laugh (like I’m not), give it a go. Let me know how it pans out …

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