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From the movie "Atomic Blonde"

The main character, Lorraine, is briefed by her bosses about a secret document, the list, which can expand the Cold War for another 40 years, if Russians have it.

If the Russians get that list, we're all buggered sideways.

I suppose it's some kind of British slang, but it doesn't make any sense to me. Especially the "sideways" part.

closed as off-topic by Kris, Skooba, Drew, AmE speaker, David Dec 20 '17 at 17:10

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  • @Spagirl: I disagree. Kris's link gives no explanation of why Brits often say things like Fuck me sideways with a bargepole!, but that type of whimsical flourish rarely occurs with Bugger me! (= I'm astonished!). In any case, OP's context is We're buggered / fucked (= We're in a very bad situation, which is a somewhat different usage rarely involving anything being inserted sideways. – FumbleFingers Dec 20 '17 at 16:42
  • @Spagirl It doesn't make for an answer because an asker is expected to do some background research like looking up a dictionary or just Google the expression before posting. I was only being helpful to the OP. – Kris Dec 21 '17 at 10:20
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Americans rarely use bugger anyway, so OP's cited example is very definitely a British slang usage. But the BrE "standard" exclamation is Fuck me sideways! (2,270 hits in Google Books) rather than Bugger me sideways! (441 hits).

But both versions involving "sideways" are normally used to express surprise, rather than to convey the negativity of some outcome or condition. It's also worth noting 270 written instances of Fuck me sideways with XXXX, where XXXX is some almost randomly chosen object such as a rusty poker, my uncle's marrow, a chainsaw, a wooden stake (that's just the first four nouns after with in my search; they're all extreme examples of things you certainly wouldn't want used as a "dildo" in penetrative sex, regardless of the orientation or orifice! :). You might think extensions like that emphasise the surprise, but in practice I'd say their main purpose is to inject a note of levity (and reassurance that the unexpected situation isn't necessarily being perceived as a bad thing).

Regardless of whether the intention is to convey surprise or negativity, most speakers recognise the fuck versions as (potentially, at least) more offensive than those based on bugger. I therefore suspect that quirky extensions such as ... sideways with a red-hot poker occur more often with fuck, simply because they distract attention from the taboo word itself (tending to amplifying the substance of the assertion by focusing on whimsy rather than profanity).


In short, I think sideways in OP's example is a relatively uncommon "flourish" for the context. Personally, I'd usually use the more highly-charged fucked, but if I wanted to distract attention from that I might add something like If it does, we'll all be fucked six ways from Sunday (that's 190 hits in Google Books).

  • Look here: lostinthepond.com/2013/09/… – Kris Dec 21 '17 at 10:18
  • @Kris: I haven't seen Atomic Blond, but IMDB tells me that it's about an undercover MI6 agent (British Secret Service). On checking, I see the director David Leitch and screenwriter Kurt Johnstad are both American, so they probably wouldn't realise that sideways is somewhat "non-idiomatic" in the exact cited context. Not that they'd necessarily care - it sounds "quirkily British" to the AmE ear (just plain "quirky" to my BrE ear), and I've no doubt they're more concerned with "impressions" rather than true authenticity. Idiomatic swearing is quite precise in some respects, I think. – FumbleFingers Dec 22 '17 at 14:43
  • My comment wasn't about Atomic Blond at all but about bugger in AmE. – Kris Dec 24 '17 at 12:31
  • @Kris: Sure. And my point was that although we might expect idiomatic BrE profanity from the central character in the movie (because she's a British Secret Service operative), we should bear in mind that the writer and director are both American. So people shouldn't assume Lorraine's vernacular accurately reflects BrE. The main thrust of my answer is to point out that I at least think that We're buggered sideways is a clumsy/non-idiomatic attempt to "Briticize" what would more naturally be expressed as We're [totally] fucked on both sides of the pond. – FumbleFingers Dec 24 '17 at 13:14

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