Know Your London SlangOne Giant Step
London is unique among most cities of its size in its distinctive and famous vernacular. Slang has been a part of London’s heritage for centuries, and the working classes of the East End practically created a whole dialect for themselves, with certain words spreading into British English.
Now, a new generation has taken up the mantle, and modern London English reflects the influx of immigrant communities: a heady cocktail of cultures and traditions. And while it might seem bewildering at first, London slang is easy enough to pick up – the following guide should give you a few helpful pointers.
To learn the language in full, however, it’s advisable to study at a fully-accredited language school such as UIC London.
The benefits of learning at such a school speak for themselves. If you study English classes in London then you will also have the chance to pick up some of the local dialect – more of which follows.
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A shortening of “isn’t it”, this is one piece of slang that practically every native Londoner will use, usually at the end of a sentence. As well as a different form of “isn’t it”, “innit” can also be used as a declarative statement, as in: “Arsenal are great.” “Innit!”
Horses for courses
A classic Cockney phrase, this has overlapped into mainstream use and most Britons recognise it, as well as many English speakers outside the UK.
Originating in the racecourses popular among many Londoners, it essentially means what is suitable for one person might not be suitable for others. Or, one course might be good for one horse, but not another.
An example of many Caribbean influences on London slang, this phrase originated in Jamaican patois, and literally means “them men over there”, but today is used to mean a group of friends, or people, and is no longer exclusive to the Caribbean community.
Photo Credit: Advait Supnekar
This one is a little more obscure, and not as widely used, but it is a wonderful and unusual way to describe a beautiful person, or just anything positively.
Accounts differ as to where it originated from, but the most popular story goes that a group of students at a London secondary school had a collective crush on a Vietnamese girl named Nang, and her name became a byword for anything they liked.
Participating in that grand tradition of reversing a word’s meaning to confuse the adults (similar to the word wicked), sick is another piece of slang which has crossed over into the mainstream, having originally been popularized in London.
There’s evidence it may have first been used in that sense in Trinidad & Tobago in the 1970s, but today it’s a common adjective for anything that is remotely great.