Think of Jim Henson’s Muppets and you think funny, curmudgeonly, quick with the putdowns and inclined to violence when they don’t get their way (at least in Miss Piggy’s case). What you don’t generally think is ‘complete twat’. Unless you’re from London, where a ‘muppet’ is some mug who don’t know nuffink, you muppet.
In GP’s surgeries across London, the use of the word ‘sick’ has been causing untold confusion for years. ‘That is sick, bruv,’ a patient may say to a doctor, impressed by his tweed suit or stethoscope. ‘But,you’re the one who is sick,’ the doctor will be the likely response, because in the modern vernacular, ‘sick’ like ‘wicked’ and ‘bad’ before it, has switched teams and now means good. Our next entry however, will probably never do that.
In cockle-selling, chimney- sweeping east London, rhyming slang was used to communicate without being understood by the coppers. ‘Cobblers’,for example,is short for ‘cobbler’s awls’, which rhymes with ‘balls’. You have to ask, though, why did cockneys need to conceal their balls from the police?
4. Allow it
In another example of words meaning the opposite of what you think, if you are told to ‘allow’, you should immediately stop what you’re doing. ‘Allow your whining’ means that you should allow yourself to stop whining. Look, it doesn’t have to make sense. Just deal with it.
David Cameron took exception to grime artists in 2006, accusing them of glorifying violence and gun crime. How do you respond to an open attack from the leader of the opposition (as he was)? By calling him a ‘doughnut’ in a national newspaper, just like Lethal Bizzle did. ‘You’re talking rubbish,’ Cameron answered. ‘You’re still a doughnut,’ Bizzle replied. It was hard to disagree.
Polari is a cryptic hotchpotch of a slang, full of snippets of Italian, French and backwards words, all designed to confuse and deceive eavesdroppers. It was part of gay culture when homosexuality was illegal but some of it has filtered into common usage, not least ‘naff’. Originally naff either stood for ‘not available for fucking’ or ‘normal as fuck’, depending on who you ask. Either way, not a good thing.
Naked, exposed, nude, bald. These are accepted synonyms for bare. But not in London, where it also means ‘very’. As in, ‘Mate, your mum is bare rough’, and ‘Nah, fam, I don’t want to play Scrabble, i’m bare tired.’
To ‘plonk’ means to set down heavily. So what could the Victorians possible have meant by ‘plonkey’? Yeah,a penis. Thanks for that, old Londoners, that’s totally gross. So next time you call someone a plonker, bear in mind that you’re implying they’re an unwieldy, maladroit, graceless knob.
It says something about the London psyche that we feel the need to add a question to the end of statements. Using ‘innit’ shows a desire not to impose, to refrain from being forceful, much like the upwards inflection common elsewhere. For example, ‘You’re a dick, innit’ gives the recipient of the insult the chance to say, ‘Thanks for asking, but I’m not, actually.’ Not that we’re listening if they do say that.
10. Radio rental
Can you Adam and Eve it? One of my old chinas fell down the apples and pears, straight into a joanna. His barnet was a two-and-eight but we had a bubble about it later on the dog and bone. He’s always been a bit of a Hampton, a bit off his loaf, you know? Completely radio rental. Eddy Frankel
We’ve bare London top tens.