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English Slang For Perplexed Tourists

by T. O' Donnell

I watched the British version of 'Big Brother' recently. That's the television show which is a human hamster cage. Viewers go 'ooh' and 'aah' over the one they like or dislike, and vote to decide who leaves the house. In the interim, the contestants do tricks for the amusement of the public. The last man in gets £100,000. The production company makes millions. All contestants lose any shred of dignity and anonymity.

The 2005 version had an Essex boy and Essex girl on it; modern cockneys. Their speech was replete with annoying, redundant phrases; verbal filler, if you like. This 'got on my tits' (nerves) so much I decided to compile a list of these phrases. Now any visitor to London and surrounding areas can understand the natives.

- Respect: Very much in demand by those least deserving of it; street hoodlums, wide boys, geezers, Z-list celebrities, and rap acts from Chipping Sodbury.

- Aow Roight?: Hello, is all well (between us)?

- Right?: Interrogative used to punctuate sentences. A trick to ensure your audience is listening, to what is probably banal e.g. "I went inna caff on the high road, right? and this geeza looks at me funny, right?, an' I wasn' doin nuffin', right? and so I says to 'im, I says ...

- Cheers: Thank you. Derived from the drinkers' salute.

- At the end of the day: Meaning 'when all is said and done'. A cliché. Emphasises what comes after, which is also banal e.g. "At the end of the day, you've got to look after yourself, know woh a mean?"

- know woh a mean? (Know what I mean?): Emphasises what comes before it, also usually banal. A verbal trick, to get the listener's attention. Used by those who aren't sure they're expressing themselves clearly. Which is most of the time.

- Seriously: Another 'emphasiser'. Means 'I am serious about the following' e.g. "Seriously, I am well pissed of with you, Craig". Or as a question: "My mate (friend) Sandra's had a boob job (breast enhancement)". To which one replies: "Seriously?".

- To be honest with ya: Meaning, I'm not usually. I am, rather, being earnest. An overused phrase. What follows it is not guaranteed to be sincerely meant, or trustworthy.

- Which is good: A hint on one-upmanship, and disingenuous. e.g. "I won a grand on a scratchcard yesterday. Which is good".

- Scary: Might frighten a two year old. Used by women or gays to convey faux distress. A bad hairdo can be 'scary'. A spider making a sudden dash for the plughole is 'scary'.

- As it 'appens: A hint of one-upmanship here, e.g. "I was down the dogs (at the dog track) yest'day, as it 'appens" (happens).

- 'Th' pronounced as 'F': As in 'Wan, Foo, Fwee, Foah' (One, two, three, four). There is a definite sense that this is deliberately done. A reversion to a child-like speech-impediment.

- Oi dan't kna nuffin' abaht it: I don't know anything about it. Said with an air of grievance, as is ...

- Oi dunno, DO I?: You should somehow be aware of my ignorance, possibly by telepathy. This phrase is key. If you can penetrate to its reproachful, whinging core, you will understand the modern Englishman or woman.

- No disrespect to: I am about to criticise the following person, but do not wish take responsibility for so doing i.e. I AM disrespecting so-and-so.

- Sweet, or 'Sweet as' (a nut): Response to a manoeuvre successfully accomplished, or an unexpected bonus. Often said when you've earned something you're not entitled to e.g. you've robbed a warehouse of two hundred cartons of Benson and Hedges cigarettes, and got away with it. 'Sweet!'.

- Sha ap! (Shut up): I disagree with what you are saying, but haven't the wit, patience or vocabulary to repudiate it, so I'll tell you to 'Sha ap' instead. Repeatedly.

- I'm not 'appy (about ...): I am a Lord of Creation, hear my wrath.

- End of (End of story): I have made a final pronouncement, no more need be said on this subject.

About The Author: T. O' Donnell ( http://www.tigertom.com ) is an ecommerce consultant and curmudgeon living in London, UK. His latest project is an ebook on conservatories, available at http://www.ttconservatories.co.uk . Freeware may be downloaded at http://www.ttfreeware.co.uk .
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