Wednesday’s Word: berk

This week I am returning to one of my favorite topics, four-letter fools, according to the world of British slang. A couple weeks ago I wrote about prats. This Wednesday’s Word in berk. Is a prat and a berk the same thing? Some dictionaries list them as synonyms, but some also point out some distinguishing characteristics of a berk. One is that it is not “excessively rude” to call someone a  berk. The Wiktionary suggests a berk is “an idiot, in an affectionate sense.” The Grammer Monster says “berk is a derogatory term for an idiot or a fool, but it is considered less harsh.”

(Image by Caroline Martins)

There are tons of synonyms listed for berk; just of a few of my favorites: booby, ding-a-ling, dingbat, dipstick, dolt, doofus, dumbass, dunderhead, muttonhead, nincompoop, ninnyhammer, pillock, pudding head, yo-yo.

Boris Johnson

I tried to think of known real world examples of a berk. Being as it’s British, one of the first to come to mind is Boris Johnson. Of course I’m far away and Boris’ tomfoolery has no direct bearing on me. There’s a U.S. Congressman from Georgia, Andrew S. Clyde, who said before a congressional hearing that when Trumpists invaded the Capitol on Jan. 6, it was like a “normal tourist visit.” Unfortunately for this berk, he forgot about the very publicly accessible photos that show him trying to barricade the doors of the Capitol to keep out these “tourists.”

As for images of a berk, here’s what immediately came to mind.

Mike Pence

Berk does have some different meanings in other languages. In Albania, a berk is a goat. A Dutch berk is actually a birch. In French it is the equivalent of yuck. And in Turkey a berk is strong, hard, robust and violent. ranks the word berk, based on its frequency of use, as #51,279.

Perhaps some of these sentences, from Word Finder, will inspire some more usage.

  • All Henry had done was poison a chicken which the berk had then insisted on eating.
  • First of all, he appeared on television like he was some kind of game-show berk, not a businessman.
  • He probably looks like an absolute berk in this outfit.
  • What half-arsed plot was that berk hatching now?
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3 Responses to Wednesday’s Word: berk

  1. Haha have never heard this word! Maybe I’ll start to use it 😊

    Liked by 2 people

  2. imogenglad says:

    As a Brit, I definitely feel berk is a slightly more humorous and less offensive than prat. It seems to have fallen out of favour a bit though, I feel I haven’t heard it for a few years, or prat for that matter. If I was avoiding outright swearing I’d be more likely to call someone a spanner than a berk or a prat, pillock and wally used to be really popular too. Also wazzock! And numpty!

    Liked by 2 people

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