London Lingo

London Lingo

By Rachel Path

Now, when picking London to study abroad one of the draws may be that they speak English here right?  Wrong.   Not only do they use different words, but they also tend to speed up their speech, which does not help…at all.  Try watching a British Television show.  You spend a majority of it completely confused.

Here is a list of some of the most common or overheard words/phrases used around town:


A queue is a just a line, as in “I am waiting in the queue at the market.”


To top-up means to add more money onto something such as your Oyster Card (the card you used when riding the tube) or mobile phone.


The “chube” as the Brits say is London’s underground railway system.  Do not call it the subway or the metro.  We aren’t on the East coast.


This is simply a nap, but a phrase you as a college student in London will use quite frequently.


An apartment.  I have absolutely no idea why, but that is why it may be helpful to know what it means.


This is just and informal way of  saying pound, which is their money here. Saying quid is like saying buck in the U.S.


Soccer.  One of the only British terms that actually makes sense.  If you want to talk about what we call football in the U.S. put an American in front.

 Pants vs. Trousers

This may be one of the most important terms to distinguish between if you do not want to embarrass yourself.  Pants to the Brits means underwear so you could see if you were to use pants in certain contexts it may be a little awkward.  Use trousers instead.


Off-license is something you seem to see everywhere when walking about.  It means that you can’t drink liquor on the property, so you see this on all of the liquor stores, which there are a lot of.


Clearly, this means the bathroom or restroom, but they always laugh or seem slightly confused if you use either of those words.  Also, you may have seen in movies the characters ask where “the lou” is.  I am sure this term would be less confusing to them than a bathroom, but I have not heard anyone use that term in real life.  Just ask for the toilet.

Black coffee vs. White coffee

For all you caffeine addicts that need your morning cup (or cups) of Joe they are going to ask you if you want black or white.  While black is a common phrase used in reference to how you want your coffee in the U.S., white is not.  It will make sense to you though when I say white and black are with or without milk.

Chips and Crisps

Fish and Chips is a common concept so you probably know that chips are not actually potato chips, but french fries.  So what are potato chips then?  Crisps.


It is not just a term used when making a toast.  It actually just means thanks or thank you.  I do not think I have ever heard anyone British say thank you.  Just cheers.

 Are you all right?

They are not actually asking you if something is wrong, but more how’s it going.

 Say You’re Sorry

When you are shoving through a crowd of people trying to make it through the doors of the tube before you get crushed, say “sorry” not “excuse me.”  I do not know if it is that big of a deal anymore, but the Brits used to chuckle whenever an American said excuse me because it apparently means you passed gas.  So just to avoid the awkwardness, just say sorry.

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