‘Cheap as Chips’ and Other British Expressions

Where Do Sayings Like ‘Cheap as Chips’ Come From?

Every language the world over has at least a few sayings that make absolutely no sense to outsiders. As someone who probably loves to play hall bingo or online bingo games, you’ll know that “Kelly’s eye”, “blind 10”, and “a duck with a flea” have a history and tradition behind them. Join us as we take a look at sayings like “cheap as chips” and explain (if we can) what they mean.

Cheap as chips

“Cheap as chips” means that something is particularly inexpensive. This expression can be used to refer to a discounted item, something that is typically low in price, or a person who is a miser or is generally reluctant to spend money.

While the origins of this saying are unclear, David Dickinson, who hosted the TV series Bargain Hunt from 2000 to 2004, was well-known for using the term.

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A few sandwiches short of a picnic

Have you ever known someone who doesn’t seem “all there”? Saying a person is “a few sandwiches short of a picnic” is a polite way of saying that they lack common sense, don’t seem particularly bright, or perhaps are downright eccentric.

It appears this phrase was used for the first time in 1987 in the BBC's Lenny Henry Christmas Special.

The bee's knees

Interestingly, bees have six leg joints, but none of these could be likened to a knee! However, this saying has nothing to do with actual bees. Instead, in the 18th century, when it was originally used, it referred to anything that was small or insignificant. In the 1920s, the Americans cottoned onto the saying and it came to mean something that was super cool or uber trendy. (That’s the strange thing about idioms and sayings – time, language and location can put a whole new spin on their meaning!)

An arm and a leg

If you’re an English speaker, you’re sure to have said at one time or another that something “costs an arm and a leg” – which of course, is the opposite of “cheap as chips”! While this is an especially common saying, its origins are in dispute.

One story goes that it came into use after the First and Second World Wars when soldiers often returned from duty having tragically lost arms or legs. The other possible origin is much older, dating back to a time long before photographs existed, when you had to commission a painter to capture your likeness with oil paints. Artists would typically charge according to the size of the painting, which meant that many people chose to have their head and shoulders painted, leaving out their arms and legs, which would have been more expensive.

Irrespective of which story you prefer, there’s plenty of opportunity in everyday life to use this expression.

Bog standard

If something’s “bog-standard”, it’s ordinary and has no embellishments or add-ons. This one goes back too far to be able to pinpoint when it was first used. Obviously, we know that a loo is often called a “bog” in British slang, so that could be a reason why the saying refers to anything that’s particularly common and unglamorous. Lucky Pants Bingo, of course, is definitely not bog-standard and our offering is far from basic! While other sites may host the usual choice of games, we always add a cheeky bit of fun to the virtual world of numbers, spins, arcade games and scratchcards. From a heavily updated list of bingo rooms to the most prized jackpots, we go extra-large in giving you the best experience. Hand on heart, there are no bogs involved here!


When you say, “What a load of codswallop!” you’re really implying that you think something you’ve heard is untrue; it usually involves a story that embellishes a lie. People have been stretching the truth spectacularly for a very long time (whether it’s for their own gain or personal amusement), so it’s difficult to know where this saying first emerged, but we can take a flying leap. Historically, the word “cod” (not the fish) meant “imitation” in popular speech, and “wallop” was the slang for “beer” way back when. This seems to point to "codswallop" being the sort of drivel some people would make up when they’re three sheets to the wind (or, simply, worse for wear).

Curtain twitcher

If you’ve ever lived next door to a nosey neighbour, this saying will undoubtedly resonate (especially if they have drapes!). A “curtain twitcher” is a person who regularly pulls back a bit of curtain to peek out into the street so they can see what the neighbours are up to. Since almost every road up and down the country has at least one “curtain twitcher”, we’re guessing that this saying is as old as the hills.

Steal someone’s thunder

If you were thinking, “This expression could only have come from a playwright”, you’d have hit the nail on the head! “Stealing someone’s thunder” means you’ve upstaged them and deprived them of attention and praise. This saying was coined by 18th-century writer John Dennis.

He found a clever way to replicate the sound of thunder in his theatre productions (something to do with metal balls rolling around a wooden bowl), but his play failed to win over audiences and was shut down; then, to cap it all, his thunder idea was apparently used in a rival production. A furious Dennis was quoted as saying, “Damn them! They will not let my play run, but they steal my thunder.”


When you say, “I’m playing Lucky Pants’ online slots and everything’s just tickety-boo”, it means you’re having a fabulous time and feel that life, in general, is just fine! This quintessential British expression is ironically believed to have come from the Hindu phrase, "?hik hai, babu", which in translation means, "It’s alright, sir.”

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/ 04 February 2022