Ever wondered what we are all on about when your visit London?
We are talking about words and expressions typical of London that are strange and quirky to foreigner visitors and to some out of town English speakers, too. The English language has a high vocabulary and when you throw in some local humour, a cheeky way with words and perhaps something obscure and unique like Cockney rhyming slang, 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.
“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. This is a friendly, innocent way to address someone in a casual manner.
“Alright?” This is usually mumbled or thrown at you in passing and may sound more like “owrigh?” This one word enquiry is more of a statement than a question. It does not require you to respond with a 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 ” yeah,” or something equally vague. That’ll do nicely.
“Sorry, but can you…” Americans 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, if you like. “Excuse me”… is used in the same way.
“Cheers.” A contender for the most confusing single word. Nostalgic tourists may imagine a merry group of locals in their local pub lifting pints of warm ale and toasting the fact that it’s Friday. No. 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.” Similar to the American pal or buddy, it is a rather masculine word, but also used by girls to describe each other. China also means friend and this, of course, is Cockney Rhyming Slang: china plate – mate.
“Fancy.” Fancy is not describing the chocolates in Fortnum and Mason’s or the dress code for the Queen’s garden party – it can also mean like or want. If the local chap (man/guy) you have been talking to after he directed you to the British Museum says “Fancy a pint?” this means “Would you like a drink?” If you fancy (are attracted to)) him, 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, also in Ireland and on the Isle of Man! The actual history and origin of this phrase is a bit of a mystery, but it’s fun to use.
“Quid and pee ” These are, of course, slang words for English money. A quid is one pound and pee or P is short for pence or penny. Tuppence is two pennies. The predecimal monetary system in the UK was a little more complex with its shillings, ha’pennies, farthings and bobs, but they were such lovely words for old coins.