How Well Do You Know London Slang?

Zoe Samuel

Image: pixabay

About This Quiz

London is the oldest city in the United Kingdom, though it is not the oldest settlement - that is at Stonehenge, where people have clearly been living for some five thousand years. Some 1600 years ago, London used be the Roman settlement of Londinium, itself a conglomeration of villages on seven hills that grew together. These days, it's the fourth largest city in the world, by far the largest in the UK, and a major cultural and financial hub. It's also incredibly diverse, with more than a quarter of residents not being born in Britain.

Given this, it's not surprising that London has a very distinct set of subcultures and personalities within its many dozens of neighborhoods. It is home to Cockneys, probably the most familiar globally and also the most stereotypical of London sources of slang, but it's also the residence of some of the poshest people in the UK, as well as plenty of folks who have familial roots in far-flung places such as Nigeria, India, Pakistan, and Australia. That means there's an awful lot of London slang to choose from. The biggest unifying group centers on the skyline, as everyone calls them by the same nicknames - so if you know your skyscrapers, that's an advantage today. How well do you know London slang, from buildings to money to people and more? Time to take this quiz to find out!

Which of these means an idiot?

Tosser technically means someone who does a thing on their own that we can't really talk about here. In practice it just means someone who is an annoying idiot.

Which of these means something's very nice and refreshing?

"Lovely jubbly" is what you say when something is nice in a very specific way. For example, when you settle into a hot bath, sip a nice hot drink after a hard day's manual labor in the rain, or open a letter you thought was a bill to discover your great aunt Mildred left you ten thousand pounds. It means not just physically pleasant, but also actually satisfying and emotionally warming.

Which of these means money?

Sausage and mash means cash! Hence, cash is just sausage. This is how Cockney rhyming slang works. It's a very fun system that visitors to London should learn so they are not bewildered.

Which of these means a fish and chip restaurant?

The chippy is where you go to get chips, which are actually fries. Correct usage would be, "I'm just going down the chippy, love, gonna get me some mushy peas and all, all right?"

Which of these means the Swiss Re building?

The Gherkin was the first really big skyscraper in the London skyline and as such, got a lot of attention. The bank, Swiss Re, who'd paid to name it were crushed when it was nicknamed for the (other) thing that it looks like. Then they learned that this means people loved it and it was welcome, so they got over it. It really does look like a gherkin!

Which of these abbreviated phrases goes on the end of almost any sentence to stand in for "you know what I mean"?

Cockney often mashes words together, so "isn't it" becomes "innit". It's not just a stand-in for the original words, though, as you can use it any time you need an affirmative or emphasis. So you can say, "It's hot today, innit?" but also, "I was disappointed when my team lost, innit."

Which of these means technical skills, specifically referring to football?

If you've got tekkers then you have mad skills! Bare tekkers are even more impressive. This means good footwork or all kinds of cool tricks, as a hunt for #Tekkers will show you.

Which of these means something is good?

Something is "grand" not just if it's very fancy looking but also if it's very good. As in, "That's a grand dog, that Rover. I wish I had a dog like that."

Which of these means the underground train?

The Tube is the colloquial name for the subway in London, which is one of the world's biggest transit systems. 50 weeks of the year it's very good. 2 weeks of the year, it's hotter than heck! This is because there is no air conditioning due to London's normal August high being a cool 74F. It's not worth spending billions on AC for two weeks, say authorities. Some people disagree!

Which of these means someone who is just very dramatic?

This word is also in the US in some areas. Someone who is extra is being too loud and not very reasonable about things.

Which of these means the Queen's main house?

Buckingham Palace was actually built for a duke but it has been a royal residence since Queen Victoria. It dominates the Mall in Central London and is affectionately called Buck House.

Which of these means laughing hard?

This comes from what happens to your face when you laugh really hard, which is rather charming. If you're creasing, you're really, really laughing.

Which of these means "no, my friends"?

This comes from the East End and is mostly Cockney. Your "fam" is your closest friends, so "nah fam" means "no, my friends".

Which of these means 20 Fenchurch Street?

The Walkie-Talkie is quite popular because its shape is such a charming throwback. Generally speaking, in London tradition, the people and not the designers name the buildings. A good affectionate name is a sign the building will be popular.

Which of these means the subsidized bikes you can rent around the city?

Boris Johnson was mayor when the scheme began. He didn't strike anyone as the sort of person who exercises much but the bikes were nicknamed for him anyway. He is now in the Cabinet.

Which of these means a former very left-wing mayor?

Ken Livingstone was very left wing and was called "Red Ken", which is also the color of his Labour Party (British parties typically have one color each). He is now out of office and has been suspended from the party after a series of astonishingly racist comments. He was followed by Boris Johnson, a Tory (ie conservative). The current mayor, Sadiq Khan, is also Labour and is pretty popular.

Which of these means the area around the financial district?

The Square Mile is the City of London, according to its historical boundaries. It's where all the financial firms are found. It is also known as the City.

Which of these means the Millennium Bridge?

This pedestrian only bridge wobbled a lot when it was first built, a result of the architects not doing their math properly. It has since been fixed. It was actually quite safe and not very high above the water anyway, but it was still very embarrassing when people began wobbling it!

Which of these means London Bridge Tower?

The Shard quite liked their nickname and stopped trying to get people to use their other name. Modern builders are wise in not going against this grand tradition, inaugurated with the Gherkin.

Which of these means money?

This word is also used in the US to mean money. It comes from a time that welfare recipients got actual cheese, and the name stuck around after the cheese was long gone.

Which of these means the city itself?

The Smoke is the city itself, as in, "I'm going up to the Big Smoke tomorrow". Note: London is always up, even though it's in the south. You go down to the country and up to London.

Which of these means the non-city?

Think of cunch like "country" said in a Cockney accent. It's an affectionate term for the green area you can reach shockingly quickly once you get out of central London, thanks to good urban planning.

Which of these is NOT the police?

The Nick is where the Cops put you if they get you. They're likely to say, "You're nicked" meaning arrested, though they do then read your rights. London police are very civilized and really do not carry guns.

Which of these means the Leadenhall Building?

The Cheesegrater almost wasn't built due to the 2008 recession, but as things improved, it was back on! Since 2014 it has stood 47 stories high.

Which of these means a lovely tea served NOT in a mug?

A cuppa is the English cure for all problems. Whether it's terminal illness, feeling a bit tired, or just being bored, you need a cuppa to make it better.

Which of these means the building at 1 New Change?

The Stealth Bomber was designed specially not to block the view to St. Paul's Cathedral, because London planning permission is very hard to get. That's why it's rather a funny shape.

Which of these means "buddy"?

This is a contraction of "brother", which in Cockney, sounds like "bruvva". Cockney is notorious for its glottal stops and swallowed H's.

Which of these means a man?

Bloke is used all over Australia and New Zealand as well as London, which gives you an idea how long it has been a slang word! It just means an adult man.

Which of these means 60 St. Mary's Axe?

The Can of Ham is next to the Gherkin, which is very fitting. It's a funny looking building and really, you could put tuna in it. It's very eco-friendly, which is nice!

Which of these means a man, probably not upper class?

This word comes from the French word guiser, which meant a mummer or actor back in the day. These days it's a bloke you probably like, but he's not posh.

Which of these means suspicious?

Buki is like spooky only it's not! It means something that's suspicious or not what it appears to be. As in, "We want to rent somewhere near there but that last place was well buki."

Which of these means the building that is rather naively trying to be known as the Pinnacle?

The Helter-Skelter is not going to be called the Pinnacle, despite the architects' best efforts. They are unwisely going against the British sense of humor, which is doomed to fail, as the Gherkin's architects can tell them. This is a good sign, though; traditionally, Brits give names to things they like.

Which of these means an ungentrified neighborhood?

The ends are where you're from, before all the wealthy people move in and ruin it! It's what Brits call the hood.

Which of these means the Olympics Cycle Track?

Built for the Olympics to house the Velodrome, this building looks like a Pringle. There's no getting around it. It's a Pringle.

Which of these means a man who is upper class?

A toff is a posh bloke. You'll find him on Jermyn Street buying a fancy suit and then drinking at Raffles.

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