How to Sound Like a Local in London
Americans and Brits both speak English, but sometimes it sounds like they speak a different language all together. An American asking for a cookie (that’s a biscuit, in British) or a flashlight (they say torch) can result in curious stares, while a Brit inquiring about the lift (elevator), a jumper (sweater), or a lorry (truck) can be a serious head-scratcher.
As a visitor to London you may have no idea whether you want to “snog a bruv” or “answer the dog n bone” or what to do if someone asks if you’re "Hank Marvin."
With this guide, soon enough you’ll sound like a local and that’s a good thing, init? (For the record, that’s a contraction of "isn’t it" used rhetorically at the end of sentence.)
Here are some tips on how to sound like a Londoner—accent not included:
In Line vs. Queuing Up
No one stands in line in London, instead they queue up, as in, “We are queuing up for the Tube (subway).”
If someone ask you if you want a cuppa or a brew, that’s a cup of tea (don’t expect coffee). Say thanks with a simple, “Ta!”
Dog n Bone
A phone is a phone, unless you call it a “dog n bone” as in, "Answer the dog n' bone, mate!" The phrase comes from Cockney rhyming slang for a landline telephone, but now applies to any old cell phone.
Blokes, Bruvs, and Mates
Head down to the pub for a pint, if you’re in the mood for a beer or cider with a friend. A “bloke” is a man, while a “bruv” is a dude or a bro, and a mate is just a friend of any gender.
When you’re at the pub, there might be a match on. Remember that “football” is not the NFL you watch on Super Bowl Sunday, but soccer and most Brits have their favorite club and will fight you over it—or if you ask them to change the channel on the telly (that’s television).
Snogging and Shagging
If you meet a cute someone at the pub, you may find yourself “snogging” (kissing) or even “shagging” them (the equivalent of "hooking up"). If you change your mind or aren't interested, bid them farewell with a quick, “Cheers.”
If after a few pints, you find yourself hungry, tell someone you’re flipping starving or Hank Marvin (really) and they’ll point you towards “a sarnie” (a sandwich).
Chips vs. Crips
If you’re just peckish (a little hungry) have some chips (french fries) or crisps (potato chips).
Biscuits and Pudding
If you’re craving something sweet have biscuits (cookies) or pudding (as dessert is generally called).
Skint, Take Away, and Chuffed
If you don’t feel like eating in a restaurant—or you’re feeling skint (that’s broke), find a take away (take-out restaurant or food cart) that serves up curry or fish and chips and you’ll be quite chuffed (pleased).
'Bang Out of Order,' Gutted, Corker, and Nob
If the takeaway is out of chips, though, that’s bang out of order (unfair) and you’ll be gutted (extremely sad). If someone gives you their chips, they’re being a real corker (stand-up friend) and if they don’t share, call them a nob (a jerk).
If you drank a little too much and are “hanging” (short for hangover), ask the hotel maid to hoover (vacuum) the hallway outside your door later.
Fancy means either wanting something or someone, as in: “Do you fancy that bloke or is he just a mate?” Or “Do you fancy going shopping in Marylebone?”
Rubbish and Tosh
Rubbish means trash, but also something you don’t enjoy as in “Nickelback’s music is rubbish.” “Tosh” is utter nonsense as in: “You hate Nickelback? Tosh.”
The “high street” is similar to “main street,” but in London there are no rural connotations. Instead it’s the main shopping street filled with high street fashion, which means retailers like H&M, Topshop, Warehouse, and Whistles. Shop for “jumpers”(sweaters) and trainers (sneakers).
Don’t ever mention a “fanny pack” as it means something quite rude. Opt for a “bum bag” instead or simply carry a tote.
If you get caught in a rain storm without a brolly (that’s an umbrella), don’t announce that your pants are wet—in the UK, “pants” means underwear. “Trousers” is the word you’re looking for.
'Cheap as Chips'
A quid is more or less equivalent to “a buck” as in “30 quid is too much for that jumper.” If you’re looking for something inexpensive, the phrase “cheap as chips” might be useful, as in, “I’m looking for a souvenir for my mother-in-law that’s as cheap as chips.”