EVER WONDERED WHAT THEY’RE ALL ON ABOUT WHEN YOU VISIT LONDON? READ ON.
The London turn of phrase…capital city slang! We are talking about words and expressions typical of London that are strange, quirky and unfamiliar to foreigner visitors and sometimes also to English speakers. English has the highest vocabulary of all languages and when you throw in Cockney Rhyming Slang, some dry English humour and a cheeky way with words, what do you get? London English! Educate yourselves with this guide and you’ll parley like a local in no time when you visit London. They’ll never know you’re from out of town!
“Ta, luv! ” This means thank you, dear. Ladies, please don’t think that a man is being suggestive or amorous because he is using the word love to address you in London. A foreign friend of mine was a little surprised when she was called this by a market vendor who was handing over her change; she didn’t know what to make of it and what his next move would be. This is a friendly, innocent way to address someone in a casual manner.
“Alright?” This is usually mumbled or thrown at you in passing by someone and may sound more like “owrigh?” You probably get that you are being asked if you are alright, but this one word enquiry is a bit like a nod, using words. It does not require you to launch into a lengthy and detailed account of your sore throat, or the fact that you left your umbrella on the tube this morning. Just shrug and throw back a “fine, yeah,” or something equally vague and mono-syllabic. It’s the London way.
“Sorry, but can you…” Americans who visit London or live here say that the English are constantly apologising for everything because they seem to start most sentences with the word sorry. Used in this way, sorry is not an apology for wrong-doing, but a way of starting a conversation or getting your attention. A polite, English heads-up, I suppose.
“Cheers.” A contender for the most confusing single word. What may spring to mind for tourists and visitors in London here, is a merry group of locals in a pub lifting their pints of warm ale and toasting the fact that it’s Friday. No. This does not happen. Most of the time, cheers means thank you, as in “Cheers, mate.” It can also mean goodbye, as in cheerio, so keep your wits about you.
“Mate.” A mate is a friend, as in “I was out with my mates last night.” It is usually used by men and boys in affectionate reference to each other, but girls can use it too. “My China” also means friend and this, of course, is from the Cockney Rhyming Slang: china plate – mate.
“Fancy.” This version of fancy is not describing the chocolates in Fortnum and Mason’s or the dress code for the Queen’s garden party – it means like or want. If the local chap (man/guy) you have been chatting with after he directed you to the British Museum says “Fancy a pint?” this means “Would you like a drink?” If you fancy him, (are attracted to him in an amorous way), you may want to join him for said pint (.47 litres of beer) in the nice little pub (public house/bar) around the corner. If you don’t fancy him at all you could say “Cheers, mate, but I’m off to the British Museum!”
“Ta-ta” This means goodbye and can be pronounced ta-ra or ta-da! (Not to be confused with just one “ta” – see first example.) This rather lyrical way of taking your leave is used in London and northern England. It is also used in Ireland and on the Isle of Man! The actual history and origin of this one remains a bit of a mystery which is intriguing for a term so widely used. But it’s fun to use, wherever it came from!