london short lets

This is what Londoners mean when they say…


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, add some wry 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, my 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. This is a friendly, innocent way to address someone, usually a woman, a girl, or a child.

Alright?” This is usually mumbled or thrown at you in passing by someone, and may sound more like “owrigh?”  You probably understand that you are being asked if you are alright, but this one word enquiry 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 say “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. Londoners are not actually saying sorry for something they have done when the word is used in this way.  It’s a way of letting you know that they are going to talk to you, or ask you something and they are getting your attention.

Cheers.”  A contender for the most confusing single word. What may spring to mind for tourists and visitors when associating this word with London, is a merry group of people in a pub lifting their pints of warm ale and saying “Cheers!”  No. This does not happen.  When Londoners say cheers they mean 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 to refer to each other, but girls can use it too. A similar American equivalent might be dude, perhaps? If you are called “my china” in London, this also means friend.  This 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 charming man you have been chatting with after he kindly 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 a pint (.47 litres of beer) or the drink of your choice 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-rah or ta-dah! (Not to be confused with ta – see first example.)  This rather lyrical way of taking your leave is used in London and all over England, especially in the north. 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!

So there you have it! Visit London with us and you’ll never be confused about London English again.