Modern London slang aka Jafaican (which no one calls it) has replaced cockney as the main street vernacular in the big smoke.
Referred to variously as MLE (Multucultural London English), Grime slang and road talk – modern London slang is very different to the Mary Poppins cockney that most Americans picture when they imagine London.
A derivative of Jamaican slang mixed with African, South American and South Asian – MLE is firmly in place as the main language of the youth of London. Most Brits (and foreigners) will be aware of terms such as ‘innit’ or ‘peng’, often due to music, films and TV. In the same way that American hip-hop slang has become sort of mainstream, or that 90’s dance music terms such as ‘sweet’ or ‘have it large’ have become standard, MLE is heading the same way, despite the protestations of the tabloids and various upper class celebs.
I’ll take it as read that you already know terms like ‘fam’, ‘bruv’ and ‘innit’ (respectively – family/friends, brother/close friend and ‘isn’t it’/yes I agree and understand) and hit you with some more specialised terminology.
So if you want to get ahead of the curve, here are some of the slang terms that middle class white people can use without looking too much like idiots.
1: Is It
Usually used to acknowledge something or to express disbelief or incredulity. ‘Is it’ is used in much the same way as you’d say ‘innit’ at the end of a sentence. Pronounced more as ‘izzziiiiit’ or as a throwaway ‘izzit’, you’ll hear this used a lot by dem yoot (the youth).
“Ah man, they’re playing Christmas adverts everywhere already. I can’t stand that shit.”
A personal fave, you can use ‘Long’ for anything that is tedious, annoying, irritating or even, actually long. For example: “Urgh, I hate job hunting it’s so long” or “It doesn’t matter what you talk about it’s always all about her, she’s so long”.
It can also be used as an exclamation such as:
“Tube delays again man”
Lots of or many, or very. You’ll hear this one all over London and now even non-street people are starting to use it.
“Man I’m so hungover, I had bare cocktails and shots last night”.
Something very good looking, either a person or thing. Shoes can be peng, food can be peng and if you say someone is peng it implies they’re pretty fit.
Heavily used by TOWIE people, so therefore probably not cool for white people, but hey ho.
Fans of the Chicken Connoisseur aka The Pengest Munch will be aware of the term. If you haven’t seen it then I strongly recommend checking out a few episodes (especially the older ones). Cos it’s brilliant.
Solid, normally in terms of a guy who has been working out. Allegedly a derivative of Tonka truck.
“Bruv, you looking tonk man, you been working out”.
Can also be ‘tonks’.
6: Oh My Gosh/Oh My Days
Much like OMG but not quite as American, therefore slightly cooler. Used mostly by London schoolkids but also heard being yelled by drum n bass MC’s.
“Oh my gosh… This tunes a banger”.
Short for banter, this one is already heavily used by non London/non street peeps. Implies having a chat but can also be used to imply a jokey term, if someone is worried that you’re taking the piss for example.
“What you sayin’?”
“Don’t worry, it’s just bants”.
8: Boss (man)
Used in place of ‘mate’, normally to people providing a service. If you don’t want to refer to a bus driver, shop owner, guy in the street or beggar as mate, boss usually works.
“Boss man, what time is the train to Croydon?”
“Leaves in 5 minutes”.
Everyone knows a wasteman. That guy who is lazy, slack, stupid or just a waste of space. Usually used to refer to someone else but if you use it directly to someones face it’s a pretty good insult.
“I have a joint everyday for breakfast man, it opens your mind yeah”.
“You’re a wasteman”.
A good alternative is ‘side man’ which implies that someone is useless or impotent. Less like someone stupid and just someone who isn’t very proactive or doesn’t stand up for themself.
“You gotta stand up for yourself, don’t be a side man, innit!”
To insult someone or ignore someone. You normally ‘throw shade’ – so if you’re regaling a story you’d say: “He asked her nicely, but she totally threw shade”.
However, you can also just use it on it’s own. “Oh my days, did you just shade me cuz?”
There is load of excellent London slang out there, this is literally the tip of the iceberg.
Yours truly has written a pretty comprehensive book (kinda a dictionary) on the subject that you can grab from Amazon. It’s called “What Ya Chattin’ Bout? – A Guide To Multicultural London English, Jafaican & Grime/Street Slang” and is a pretty in depth look at London slang with a little rundown about the history of slang in the city. It’s all pretty up to date as of 2017/2018 so you can swot up on bare chat and be proper nang innit. Ya get me?
- US readers can pick up a copy HERE.
- UK readers click HERE.
- Australians, head HERE.
- Everyone else click this LINK.
So get your London grime slang on and grab a copy today! Innit fam…