Every place has its own particular terminology. This slang may be words or phrases used to describe persons, places, or things that are unique to that place. London, of course, is no different. The Greater London Area has its own particular slang, some of which we’ve covered before on this site. Well, folks, there’s plenty more where that came from, so here are ten more slang words and their meanings that will help you learn to speak like a native Londoner. If there are any we missed, let us know what they are in the comments.
In a previous article on London slang, we covered the word “Roadman,” and it’s from these knowledgeable neighbors that a lot of London slang originates. “Allow it” is one such phrase. It’s pronounced with the “a” and actually means the opposite, asking some to leave off or stop.
Of course, with this term, we’re not talking about heavenly beings but one of the city’s many vibrant neighborhoods. When people start talking about “Angel” in a non-religious sense, they’re referring to the inner part of London that comprises transport fare zone 1. Zone 1 covers roughly the same area as the Underground’s Circle Line and includes Tube stations such as Earl’s Court, Baker Street, Covent Garden, Elephant & Castle, and Angel.
Introduced during the mayorship of Boris Johnson, this term refers to the bicycles available for hire across London. Even though the previous mayor, Ken Livingstone, was the one who proposed the scheme and got it passed, the cycles didn’t come out until Johnson was in office, and, being a keen cycling enthusiast himself, he got tagged with the nickname for the bikes.
This one you’ve probably heard if you have watched the Kingsman films or Attack the Block. “Bruv” is a street slang term that is short for “brother” and is typically used to refer to one’s mates. It started as a Cockney pronunciation of “brother” (or “bruvver”) that got shortened.
And speaking of Cockneys, if you find yourself in East London, you might hear an older Cockney refer to someone as “me old China.” This originates with Cockney rhyming slang in which “China plate” means “me old mate.”
If you’re familiar with the various boroughs in London and how the city’s government is organized, you know that London is largely broken down into Greater London and the City of London. When you hear people talk about “the City,” they are most likely referring to the latter, which has its own separate government (the City of London Corporation) and Lord Mayor.
The term “Inspector Sands” comes from the London Underground and is code that you hopefully won’t hear over the announcement system as it is a notice to Tube workers that there is a fire. The idea is that the term is less likely to cause panic, though at this point, most people who hear it know what it means anyway.
If you take one of London’s famous Black Cabs, you can be certain your driver knows the streets of the city like the back of his own hand. “The Knowledge” refers to the comprehensive test that Black Cab drivers have to pass to be allowed to have a license. Black Cabbies have to learn over 25,000 streets and 320 routes, as well as memorize 20,000 different landmarks. Cabbies will literally study for years, and the first-time pass rate for the exam is roughly 10%.
Since we all have mobile phones now, no one is actually referring to old communication devices. “Walkie Talkie” is the nickname for the skyscraper at 20 Fenchurch Street, which looks exactly like the old walkie-talkies that police officers used to carry. London has plenty of creative nicknames for its skyscrapers, such as “The Gherkin” for 30 St. Mary Axe and “The Cheesegrater” for 122 Leadenhall Street.
In a previous article, we covered that “Ends” is another term for neighborhood. “From Ends” is another way of identifying yourself as a local or someone who’s “from the area.”