Regular visitors to the Fire Escape may recall that I'm fascinated with the Urban Dictionary, a site that tracks the morphing, wonderfully-flexible English language this side of the Atlantic. I was interested to learn from the Independent that, thanks to (1) the ability of immigrant teens to move fluidly between cultures and (2) the power of music in youth culture, English-speaking teens in the U.K. are also becoming bilingual:
(Sue) Fox and her colleagues have studied the speech patterns of a sample of teenagers across (London). "One of our most interesting findings," she says, "was that we'd have groups of students from white Anglo-Saxon backgrounds, along with those of Arab, South American, Ghanaian and Portuguese descent, and they all spoke with the same dialect. But those who use it most strongly are those of second or third generation immigrant background, followed by white boys of London origin and then white girls of London origin."The researchers have dubbed this "Multicultural London English" (MLE), and classify it as a dialect, not slang. While MLE may have more of a Jamaican patois flavor compared to the more Latin-oriented American version of teen-speak, I was interested by the cross-Atlantic overlap in vocabulary. If you're a teen or someone who serves a teen, test yourself on how many of these London street terms (with synonyms) you already know:
- Air, Dissed, Deadout, Dead.
- Bait, Waste, Clown.
- Ballin', Flossing.
- Bare, Nuff, Over.
- Blud, Bredrin, Bruv, Cuz, Fam, Man Dem.
- Boyed, Chiefed, Hotted, Had Up.
- Brapp! Zoop! Zoop!
- Breading, On His Balls.
- Bustin', Rocking, Pushing.
- Choong, Buff, Fly.
- Chops, Bling, Ice, Chaps.
- Clown, Joker, Wasteman.
- Cotch, Chill.
- Creps, Kicks, Boogers, Sneaks.
- Cussin', Burying, Burnin', Ripping.
- Endz, Hood, Ghetto, Road.
- Flow, Delivery.
- Freestyle, Bars, Spitting.
- Garms, Threads.
- Grimy, Fierce.
- Grind, Struggle, Hustle.
- Hype, Blowing up.
- Reach it, Touch it.
- Repping, Shouts.
- Shiffed, Nabbed, Pulled up.
- Swag, Wack, Waste.
- Air, Dissed, Deadout, Dead: Something that's rubbish. Also used to describe being ignored. "You got air."
- Bait, Waste, Clown: Obvious, stupid. "You're so bait man."
- Ballin', Flossing: Making or having lots of money. "What you ballin' now?"
- Bare, Nuff, Over: Lots, many; high in quantity and quality. "I got bare jokes, man."
- Blud, Bredrin, Bruv, Cuz, Fam, Man Dem: Friend. "What's happenin' blud?"
- Boyed, Chiefed, Hotted, Had Up: Being insulted, publicly put-down or humiliated. "You got boyed!"
- Brapp! Zoop! Zoop!: Exclamation of approval, usually accompanied by "throwing" gun-shaped hands in the air to mimic some Jamaican badman's habit of firing gunshots in the air to show the DJ their approval. "Brapp! Brapp! That bar was heavy!"
- Breading, On His Balls: Sucking up to someone. "Why you breading?"
- Bubblin': Feeling the vibe
- Bustin', Rocking, Pushing: Wearing something. "My man's bustin' his trousers low."
- Choong, Buff, Fly: Attractive. "That girl is choooong, blud."
- Chops, Bling, Ice, Chaps: Jewelry. "I can't find my chops!"
- Clown, Joker, Wasteman: Idiot. "Shut up, clown.
- Cotch, Chill: To kick back and relax at home alone or with close friends, to do as little as possible. "I'm cotchin' in my crib for time."
- Creps, Kicks, Boogers, Sneaks: Athletic shoes. "Yo, fresh creps, blud."
- Cussin', Burying, Burnin', Ripping: Insulting. "Why you cussin' for?"
- Endz, Hood, Ghetto, Road: Local area, estate or neighbourhood. "Grime is big on the endz."
- Far: Shortened way of saying something is too far away or too much of a hassle to get to. Requires extra emphasis. "Deptford is far, blud."
- Flow, Delivery: Describes the speech pattern, speed and style used when someone raps. "His flow is tight, G."
- Freestyle, Bars, Spitting: Rapping without any pre-written lyrics. Nowadays used to describe lyrics that aren't in song format, not necessarily unprepared. "Drop a freestyle, man."
- Garms, Threads: Clothes. "Yeah, nice garms, blud."
- Grimy, Fierce: Positive term for something or someone that appears raw and tough, but not necessarily related to grime music. "This beat is over grimy."
- Grind, Struggle, Hustle: Working hard to make ends meet. "I've been grinding for time man."
- Hype, Blowing up: A good artist with a big fan base who is getting lots of interest. Also used to describe someone who is either excited or excitable. "This MC is hype!"
- Jokes: Used as an adjective to mean ridiculous or rubbish. "That show is jokes, man."
- Long: Overly complicated, boring, difficult or time-consuming. Requires particular emphasis. "Homework? Nah, that's long, man."
- Reach it, Touch it: Going to a place. "Yeah, I'm gonna reach it."
- Regs: Often, frequently, short for regular. "I juice on the regs."
- Repping, Shouts: An MC will represent or big up their area or crew to show they have not forgotten where they have come from. "I'm repping my endz, blud."
- Shiffed, Nabbed, Pulled up: Caught by the Police, arrested. "I got shiffed outside the KFC."
- Swag, Wack, Waste: Not very good, rubbish. "That's swag."