When most people hear the words ‘London slang’ they associate it with cockney rhyming slang, a form of slang that uses rhyming words in place of the actual word you mean to say. For example, ‘stairs’ would become ‘apples and pears’. In reality, though, very few people in London use cockney rhyming slang and you’re unlikely to hear it as a visitor to London. There are some other slang words and expressions that you definitely will here, though. Here are six of them to get you started.
1. Cheers, mate!
Common in many parts of the UK and Australia, ‘mate’ is a friendly way to address a person informally. ‘Alright, mate?’ is a casual way to ask how someone is. The word ‘mate’ is very useful when talking to someone you’ve already been introduced to but whose name you have forgotten. For example, ‘Hello, mate’ is a warmer greeting than just ‘Hello’ for someone to whom you have already been introduced. ‘Cheers’ is a casual way of saying ‘thank you’. Put the two expressions together and you have ‘Cheers, mate’ which means the same as ‘Thank you, my friend’.
This is an expression that is useful to understand but best to avoid when speaking as overusing it can sound annoying to people. ‘Innit?’ is a contraction of the tag question ‘Isn’t it?’ and people use it to prompt a response from the listener. So if someone says ‘Nice weather, innit?’, they are expecting you to agree and say ‘Yes’.
‘Quid’ is a slang word for ‘Pound‘ the unit of British currency. We don’t add an ‘s’ to it to make a plural. This means the price of something is always ‘(number) quid’. For example ‘one quid’ or ‘five quid’.
London has a famous underground railway system which we locals call the ‘Tube’. This is because many of the tunnels are a round tube shape. Although people call it the ‘Underground’ or ‘Tube’, half of the stations are actually above the ground.
5. Black cab
The famous London taxis are actually called ‘hackney carriages’ but in London we just call them ‘black cabs/taxis‘. London taxi drivers have to pass a special exam called the Knowledge to get their license so if you take a black cab, you can be sure the driver will know the way.
6. Boris bikes
On the streets in London, you will see people riding blue bicycles. These are available to hire and can be a fun way to get around the city. Many people call them ‘Boris bikes’ after Boris Johnson, who was the mayor of London when the bicycles were introduced.
When you come to London, you will hear lots of people using these expressions. Make a note of any other interesting words and expressions you hear on your trip to London and share them in the comments section below.