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THE WORD ON THE STREET The Spitfire Guide to Street Slang

The very first glossaries of street slang appeared in England in the 16th and 17th centuries, lists of the exotic and mysterious words used by thieves, tricksters and beggars to converse in secret among themselves and to bluff and bamboozle their victims. Dictionaries of slang became increasingly popular in the late 18th and 19th centuries, still posing as guides to help the public combat the threat of ne’er do-wells, but actually celebrating the racy, rude vocabulary they were recording. Modern UK street slang’s most striking characteristic is how far, since the later 1970s, it has drawn its vocabulary not so much from white working class speech, old-fashioned latin Polari or Irish as before but from other ethnic groups. The greatest influence by far has been ‘Black British’, a mix of Caribbean patois and slang, hip-hop and rap terminology from the US and expressions probably invented by speakers of Afro-caribbean origin and their imitators within the UK. Most of the best known recent key words in street slang - terms like ‘boyed,’ ‘butterz’, ‘cotch’, ‘hench’, ‘tick’ and ‘tings’ come into this category. Some other words –‘chuddies’, ‘nang’ originate in Asian languages, a few- ‘div’, ‘chav’, ‘dinlo’, ‘wong(a)’- in Roma, at least one important one, ‘wallad’ in Arabic. Minority communities enjoying low status in the mainstream economy and culture rate highest in street credibility, command prestige in the high-rise, in the club or the playground. On an inner-city estate where inhabitants are speaking Somali, Urdu, Turkish at home, their common language these days may not be standard English at all but hybrid slang. For linguists, this new sound of the street which they call ‘multi-ethnic urban vernacular’ or MLE (‘multi-ethnic London English’), and conservatives deride as ‘Jafaican’ or ‘ghetto-speak,’ is an interesting and important phenomenon. Shared by genuine gangstas and all those wouldbes and wannabes, too, its edgy vocabulary; ‘bare’ (lots), ‘blad’ (friend), ‘choong’ (attractive), ‘merk’ (defeat or humiliate), ‘inna’ (nosey or intrusive) and the many terms relating to status may not follow all its users into middle age, but its rhythm and accent show signs of influencing mainstream English, perhaps permanently. Attitudes to slang may be relaxing, too, as evidenced by the latest survey carried out by Spitfire Ale. This groundbreaking poll reveals that only a minority of adults - 34% across the UK think that street slang is too prevalent, while 28% think it’s a healthy evolution of everyday language. So…go street, go nang, chat slang! Tony Thorne [you can send your own slang examples to tony.thorne@kcl.ac.uk]


A

‘Don’t get ampin with me every time you fail.’

Actin’ behaving provocatively Adorkable clumsy but endearing Aggy angry Ah nam to inform on, tell tales about Ahlie synonym for innit or claim to honesty Aiitt! expression of agreement or a greeting Allow it stop it Almshouse, alms poor, inadequate, disappointing difficult or dangerous situation Amazeballs impressive, admirable, excellent Amped excited, agitated Ampin behaving in an agitated way, ranting An’t it a newer version of innit Arms strong, tough Axe to ask

B

‘We don’t want no beef with you guyz.’

B male friend Babe(s) sweetheart, lover, girl Badman(z) ‘big shot’, a tough guy Bae sweetheart, girlfriend Bagga-manz bag a lot (of) Bag someone out to criticise, harass Bait obvious, intrusive Bangin’ attractive, exciting Bantz banter

Bare much, many. Bars rap song, part of a song Bashment party Bayden solvent, wealthy Beast excellent, impressive, admirable, cool Beef disagreement, angry altercation Beggin’ talking nonsense Bell to phone Bennin’ overcome by laughter Bestie best friend Betty girl Bevvie, bev alcoholic drink Bigging up complimenting, praising, celebrating Blad, blud ‘mate’, friend Blag to steal, trick, bluff Blank to snub or ignore (someone) Blem cigarette Bless expression of approval or farewell Blonks big person, usually male Blud close friend Boggin’ stinking Bollerz money Bonk to exhaust oneself, tire (out) Boom exciting, impressive Boom-ting party, exciting event Bounce to depart, flounce off. Bovvered unconcerned, indifferent Boyed humiliated Boyment humiliation Boyz money Braap, blaap a greeting or expression of approval or agreement Brass bad

Brassic broke Bredder someone who copies or imitates someone Bredren friends Brewski beer or another alcoholic drink Bro male friend Bruv brother, male friend Breeze nonsense, rubbish Bruck, brok ruined, in poor condition, ugly Buff physically attractive Bully van police vehicle Bump to trick, defraud, steal from Busted ugly, unattractive Butterz ugly, unattractive

C

‘You can cotch down at mine after the party.’

Cane it do things to excess Car because CBA, ceebs ‘can’t be arsed,’ an expression of indifference Cheeky alcoholic drink Cheez excellent Chenzed exhausted Chief stupid and/or irritating person Chirps chat up, flirt with Chuffed delighted, satisfied Criss, kriss attractive, cool, fashionable Chuddies underwear Chung, choong very attractive Chirpsing flirting Clankin’ stinking, repellent Clappin’ out of date or worn out, usually to describe clothes, when

referring to people: exhausted Clock to look at Co-D accomplice, fellow wrongdoer Cotch (down), kotch to relax, rest or hang out Cray, cray-cray outrageous, exciting Creasin’ laughing Crepz shoes, trainers Crew gang, group of friends Crump terrible, excellent Crutterz in poor condition

D

‘Someone hacked my phone I was totes devo’d.’

Da bomb (something) excellent Dark negative unpleasant Dash to give, pass, throw Deep unpleasant, negative - impressive, powerful Deets details, specifics Dench attractive, impressive Deurr (brain) stupid person Devo’d, devs upset, disappointed Dinlo stupid person Div, divvy foolish or strange person Don outstanding male, leader Do one go away Dope excellent Dopper fool Drapsin’ intimidating, extorting Dred dreadful, terrible, bad, cruel Drum house, home, Dry boring, unfunny


Duck out to exit, go away Durkboi stupid male Duss’ to exit, go away

E

‘Meet me down my endz.’

Endz area, neighbourhood Extra intrusive, irritating, exaggerated

F

‘We got well fixed up over that phone contract.’

Fam, famo family, friend Fassy, fossy despicable, unmanly Fatboy gym (rhyming slang) Feds police. Feen a male stranger Feenin’ (for) craving something Fittie an attractive person Five-O the police Fixed up tricked, defrauded, fooled Flat roofin’ stressed out, exhausted Flexin’ showing off, behaving provocatively Fluff nonsense Fraff nonsense Frass unpleasant, repellent, unattractive From endz street-smart Frontin’ showing off, behaving provocatively

G

‘I tried to get next to her but she just gave me air.’

G male friend - boss, (gang-) leader Garms clothes Gas fast-moving, quick-witted. Gazin’, gazzin’ gazzlin’ staring - relaxing Ginnulz/jinelz fraud, con, con-man Give air to snub, ignore (someone) Gobby talkative Gobsmacked amazed Goppin’ ugly, smelly, repellent Grimy good, admirable, authentic, tough Gyaldem, galsdem group of females, girls

H

‘After all those carbs I feel like such a heffa.’

Hammered exhausted Hangin’ ugly, repellent Hank starving Heads people Hectic, hekka excellent, exciting Heffa overweight female Hench strong, fit, tough Homey friend, neighbour Hoodie male on the street Hot mess overwrought but attractive person Hotted humiliated Hottie attractive female

Hype excessive, exaggerated, ‘OTT’ Hypin’ showing off, exaggerating Hubz, hubby boyfriend

I

‘I said I want a cab, innit. Not a cabinet!’

Immense excellent, impressive Inna nosy, intrusive, annoying Innit all-purpose question tag at the end of statements Izzit? ‘Really?’

J

‘When they saw my new ride they were well jel.’

Jack to steal Jacks, jax alone Jakes police officers on foot Jam to relax Jar alcoholic drink Jel, jelly jealous Jokes amusing, enjoyable Jook, juke to rob or steal Jug alcoholic drink

K

‘Yo, that girl looks kriss.’

Kip (down) to sleep Kotch, cotch to chill out, relax, rest Kriss attractive, cool - feeling bad, exhausted

L

‘I totally saw those two lipsin’ behind the car park.’

Laterz a farewell Lickle little Linkin’ dating, going out with someone Lipsin’ kissing Long, longage, long-flex lengthy, time-consuming, tedious Lush good-looking, enjoyable

M

‘Jez just got merked in World of War.’

Mans I, me, myself Mandem, mansdem boys, a group of males, friends Man up to be more manly, resolute Marvin very hungry Mcfittie physically attractive individual Meaty excellent Meffa ‘low-life,’ Meg socially awkward, unglamorous girl Meh an expression of indifference, boredom Merk, murk to insult, defeat or trick (someone) Messed up incapacitated, dysfunctional Messy excellent Mingin’ stinking, repellent Mint cool Mis-sion, mish task, project Moist bad, disappointing


…much? expression of ironic emphasis as in ‘desperate, much?’ mocking a friend’s romantic failures Mug someone off (to attempt) to trick, make a fool of Mullered exhausted, destroyed Munter ugly, unattractive person Muppet foolish, irritating person

N

‘Dat DJ is bare nang.’

the Nads excellent Nang, nangin’ good Neg to criticize, denigrate Neek, neeky earnest, awkward, unfashionable (a blend of nerd and geek) New tedious Next man unimportant person the Nipples (something) excellent Nyam (up) to eat, relish

O

‘Don’t worry, the olders got your back.’

Obvs obviously Off the hook cool, appealing, fresh, exceeding one’s expectations Older senior companion or sibling Om-nom-nom expression of relish, satisfaction On top (of a situation) out of control. On your ones alone Owned humiliated,

ridiculed, defeated

P

‘She’s not just overly hot, she’s peng.’

Ps money Par something unfair Peng attractive, excellent Phat excellent Piff, piffy, pith excellent Po-po police Prang frightened

R

‘I totally rinsed my credit cards an’ now I’m brassic.’

Radio outdated Raggo, ragoflex improvised, hasty and/or flamboyant, provocative Rammed overcrowded, full (of a venue) Random(er) unknown and/or uninteresting person Raps fast-moving, quick-witted Rated good Raw, rah harsh, unfair Reem excellent Reh teh teh ‘et cetera, et cetera’, an expression of impatience or indifference Renk (displaying) an overconfident, domineering attitude Rents, rentals parents Rep reputation Represent to behave impressively, self-confidently Ride car Rinsed used up, emptied, overdone

Ripped muscular, physically well-toned Road street-smart Rock to wear, display Roll with keep company with, hang out with Rude boy, rude-boi streetsmart male Ruffen street-smart male,

S

‘The way he busted those moves on stage was like so sick.’

Safe, safa ‘cool, good, sweet’ Scran food Scrappers underwear Screw-face, screw to look in a hostile way Scrutzy dirty, unkempt Seckle settle down Seen, skeen expression of agreement or solidarity Shabby impressive, fashionable, cool Sharking chasing females Shook nervous Shorty girlfriend Shower excellent Shrapnel money Sick, sick up excellent, inter-est-ing, cool Skanky disreputable, poor quality Skeen expression of agreement or solidarity Slack immoral, disreputable Sleb celebrity Slipped trespassed on someone else’s territory, left one’s neighbourhood

Snash money Snarky sarcastic Soz, sowwy an apology Spit lyrics/bars to sing or perform Spud good - stupid person - to high-five (someone) Squallay to leave, exit Stabby irritated to the point of violence Stabz police officers Standard expression of agreement or approval Still said at the end of a statement to add emphasis or finality Stush, stoosh keep quiet, shut up Sucked stolen Swag confident, cool attitude - extreme, scary - bad, disappointing Swear down expression of agreement Sweet pleasing, satisfactory Swiftie alcoholic drink Switched angry, agitated

T

‘Don’t mess with him, bruv, he’s tonk.’

Tax to steal Teek old, old-fashioned, outdated Tek mobile phone Tell over to inform on someone or talk about them behind their back Tick excellent, cool Tidy excellent, satisfactory


Tight impressive, skilful - friendly, close Time a long time Ting(s) object, person, stuff Tinnie, tin alcoholic drink Tonk heavily built (person) Totes completely, very Trek long, tedious journey True-dat expression of agreement Twos (someone) to go halves, share with

V

‘Man that last-minute goal was vicious.”

Vexed, Vexin’ irritated, angry Vicious excellent, impressive Vom to vomit, or an expression of disgust

W

‘Dat new bro-step track is well wafty.’

Wack bad, inferior, disappointing Wafty unsound, second-rate Wagwan, wag1 greeting Waldo fool Wallad foolish and/or despicable male Waste, wasteman, wastage worthless male Watch a warning, ‘beware’ Wettin’ running

Whotevs expression of indifference Wicked excellent, cool Wifey girlfriend Whip car Wong money

Y

‘Those posh yatties really do my head in.’

Yard home Yatty, yat female, girl YOLO ‘you only live once’, expression of defiance, indifference or bravado (the) Youth, yoot young people Younger junior companion or sibling

Z

‘Man I need to grab some zeds, I’m flat-roofin’.’

Zeds sleep ‘zup? greeting Zoned, zonked exhausted, distracted

[This compilation copyright Tony Thorne and Spitfire Ales 2014]


The Word on the Street  

The Spitfire Guide to Street Slang

The Word on the Street  

The Spitfire Guide to Street Slang