9 words or phrases you need to know when visiting London

Real Londoners don’t speak like the queen, they speak in a much cooler way.

1. Tube

A tube is a cylinder which things can pass through. For this reason, the train tunnels all around London are referred to as the Tube. In New York they say subway, in Paris it’s the Metro, but in London it’s the Tube, okay? Officially, it’s called the Underground, but you can do better than that.

Get the Tube to Embankment and visit the South Bank

2. Alright, mate.

Alright means okay, normal, average, not special, fine (e.g. Yeah, the party was alright). In English we often use it as a greeting, so if you ever heard “or-ait” /ɔːˈrɑɪt/ then it could be someone saying hello to you.

However, they could be asking how you are.  Listen for the intonation of a question at the end of ‘Alright?’ (short for ‘Are you alright?’) in the case that you might have to respond with: Alright, mate. You?

3. Ta.

If you’re leaving a shop and the assistant says ‘ta’ as you leave, don’t stop to have a conversation. They are just saying ‘thank you’. Fanx (thanks), cheers, nice one or ta all mean thank you. Smile and keep walking.

4. ‘Aah´s it goin´, mate?

The London accent can be quite challenging for people who have never heard it before, especially in trendy East London. Cockney is a famous dialect based on words that rhyme with what they really mean (apples and pears = stairs). But most people don’t use it anymore. The accent, however, remains.

‘How is it going?’ is a common greeting in English, meaning ‘how are you?’ but in London the h is silent and the vowels are stressed. So it becomes /æːzɪt gəʊɪn/ or aaah-zit go-win. Just respond with ‘Alright, mate. You?’.

5. Bruv

Bruv is slang for brother. It is a bit like man on the end of a word, or hombre in Spanish. It does not really give any extra meaning but can be a sign of someone being friendly or even aggressive, depending on intonation.

6. Save and Sound.

Safe is good. Sound is good. Usually for people, both of these words can be used to mean thanks, nice one, I like it, great, or any other positive expression.

Say: Safe bruv, aah’s it goin’?

7. Shat ap!

Again, accent is the thing that might cause confusion here. Shut up is a well-known phrase meaning be quiet. It is quite strong though, so avoid using it in polite conversation. But if a big-man tells you to ‘Shat ap!’ then I would recommend doing so.

It can also be used if you don’t believe someone when they tell you something:

A: So, guess what! I’m pregnant!

B: Shut up! You ain’t!

Stormzy is one of the biggest names in the UK Grime music scene at the moment, and his most famous track perfectly demonstrates this amongst other London language.

Embed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqQGUJK7Na4

8. Rudeboy

A rude boy is what you just saw in the video above. A lot of people that grow up in London come from this culture. Some call them chavs or badboys amongst other names but don’t judge a book by its cover. Stormzy is great friends with Ed Sheeran and a very nice guy. However, if you see a rudeboy acting aggressive in the street asking people ‘What you lookin’ at?’ then casually walk in another direction.

9. Swag

Swag is now an international word used by rappers in America and kids all over the internet, but it originated in London. It means that something is stylish or cool.

Say: Bruv, dat ting is swag! = Man, that is awesome!

It comes from swagger, which means to move or walk with confidence and presence. It can also refer to things you get from a shop or something stolen, but you probably won’t hear people using this meaning.

Just nine of the many expressions and phrases that make London one of the most diverse and interesting places in the world.

Written by James R. McCance for Aston School


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