Aug 292013

My ‘merican husband’s a fan of British TV crime dramas, but sometimes he turns to me with a puzzled look. So I plan to show him this to see his reactions.

I should explain that there’s a lot that the guys with the London accents say that I don’t understand, and I understand even less of the country Dorset accent. But here are a few of the words and phrases that went flying by. Ellipsis,  cockney rhyming slang and some delightful metaphors all feature.

  • bounced gregory – bounced cheque/check (Gregory Peck)
  • minding me own – minding my own business
  • What a West Ham! – What a nerve! (West Ham Reserves)
  • my boat – my face (boat race)
  • skag – contraband
  • sky rocket (or just sky) – pocket
  • open up my north – open up my mouth (north and south)
  • collar feeling – being collared = being arrested by the police
  • bracelets – hand cuffs
  • my manor – my home turf – where I was born.
  • a snowman – a drug dealer
  • a jam jar – a car
  • a bell – a phone call
  • earwig – hear
  • a conflab – a discussion
  • done a concrete trampoline – no idea what it means but I love the metaphor
  • done a flier – ran away
  • benghazi – toilet/bathroom (it used to be karzi)
  • parking his breakfast – emptying his bowels. There were lots more for this – ‘squeezing a malteser’ was probably the funniest. Maltesers are sweets/candies – honeycomb balls covered in chocolate. Perhaps they are similar to Whoppers here?
  • elephant – drunk (elephant trunk)
  • the bill – the police
  • on the River Ooze – drinking (on the booze)
  • tooled up – armed
  • clocked with my own mincers – seen with my own eyes (mince pies)

Perhaps I got some wrong or you spotted others? If so, do share!

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like this one on Law and Order UK.

 Posted by at 8:47 am

  6 Responses to “Local dialects”

  1. so this entire conversation makes sense as well !

  2. You’re not quite right about your interpretation of ‘elephant’ in this piece. True, ‘elephant’ can mean ‘drunk’ but in this context, it’s ‘junk’ – the police sergeant is claiming that the villain is a drug dealer who had ‘elephant’ all over his ‘Oedipus’ – ‘Oedipus Rex’ is rhyming slang for ‘kecks’, which is a slang term for trousers.

  3. A few more for you:

    “as soon as he varders my boat” – as soon as he sees my face. ‘varder’ is a word meaning ‘to see’, from the ‘polari’ slang language, used by circus & theatre workers, navy and gay folks, etc. ‘Boat’ is rhyming slang – boat race=face.

    “the Germans” – german band=hand. I’m not sure about ‘tie’ – maybe ‘tie rack’, so that would be ‘the hands are behind the back’

    “turtles on the melodies” – turtle doves=gloves; melody lingers=fingers.

  4. Oh Steve – so sorry I missed this when you first posted it. Ah – so that’s what Oedipus Rex is – thank you! That’s brilliant.

  5. Love ’em Steve – thank you so much!

  6. Hi Vicki

    Yeah, this was one of my all time fave sketches from the genius pairing of messrs Smith and Jones. I can fill in a few more gaps for you.

    There is some colloquial terms and slang as Steve points out, and not all of it is Cockney, and some of it is ‘layered’, meaning that it may have a double layered translation, which is common. Interestingly, some terms in use today can have 3 or even 4 layers of translation – which starts getting very difficult to break down and re-translate it’s origins. Even for me, and I grew up on the streets of north London!

    A good example of this is ‘Listerine’ – meaning somebody who doesn’t like Americans. “Paul wouldn’t be seen dead visiting the States, he’s right Listerine..” From Listerine – antiseptic mouth wash; anti-septic – septic tank – Yank; so anti-Yank.. see? ..I know. Phew. You wonder how they appear sometimes.

    Anyway. Back to the sketch.

    “..I even done a little Richard..” – this is double layered slang, from ‘Richard the Third – bird; and bird lime – time (as in prison).

    So the conversation goes like this:

    Plaintiff: “I’ve bounced a few cheques like, pulled some little jobs, I even did a little prison time, but THIS.. this is well out of order.. They are making this up…”

    (Hans Christian Andersen is slang for police forging evidence, or someone who is a liar. Effectively ‘making up stories’.)

    “..I mean, I’m their ain’t I, minding my own business, when bang, bang, bang, in bursts the police and start accusing me of dealing cocaine..”

    (‘fitting me up with the naughty’s’ – i.e. ‘falsely accusing me and planting false evidence’)

    “What a nerve, eh? ..I mean, as soon as he sees my face he’s wiping the Charlie all over me!! ..I try and complain loudly into his ear that his officers are fitting me up, and he’s stuffing the drugs into my pocket!”

    (‘into his shell-like’ – shell-like ear, which means exactly what it says, a description of an ear)

    “..And before you know it, my hands are cuffed behind my back and I’m being arrested.”

    (Steve is correct, German band – hand; tie rack – back)

    “..Well Governor, this is not my thing, you ask anyone down my neighbourhood, I’m not into a drugs, I’m just a thief.”

    (‘This is not my biscuit’ – biscuit tin – thing; ‘I’m not a snowman’ – snow/coke, etc.; ‘I’m a partridge’ – which has more than one translation, but both meaning the same thing. {1} Partridge shoot – loot, meaning a thief (but NOT ‘shooter’ looter, it’s just ‘loot’). People were just called ‘loots’ if they were generally in the habit of having ‘sticky fingers’ and picking goods up, no questions asked.

    And {2} In the old East End some of the older slang, ‘Partridge & Brophy’, after the authors of war songs sung in the trenches, and later, books. ‘I’m a Partridge’ – Partridge & Brophy – trophy, ‘I’m a trophy collector/hunter, i.e. thief.)

    Inspector: “Yeeeaah.. Sergeant?”

    Sergeant: “Well Sir. I was on my turf in my car, and I get a call on the radio telling me what’s going on and where to go. So I jump out and walk over to the pub with the despatch shouting at me over the radio telling me to hurry up.”

    (‘Shanks’s with the bubbles down at the boozer’ – ‘Shanks Pony’ means to walk, the bubbles and squeak – speak; ‘listen to the conflab’ – take it all in; ‘GBH on the ear hole’ – Grievous Bodily Harm on my ears – i.e. being screamed at. So, walk and talk and listen to despatch screaming & trying to tell me where he (the plaintiff) is.)

    “..Naturally I go in (to the pub). Now.. He has disappeared on me.”

    (‘Concrete trampoline’ – literally means ‘scattered’ (colloquial), run off – like dropping a plate onto concrete, scattering in every direction. You were correct in your assumption that it was colourful metaphor.)

    “So I talked to the black man serving behind the bar, and he tells me that he’s shot into the toilets.”

    (‘Macaroon’ is old offensive slang for African, or black gentlemen; ‘at the pumps’ – beer pumps; ‘Benghazi is the double layer of Khasi, from 19th c. ‘carsey’ meaning privy.)

    “Well it’s obvious he’s not using the toilet, isn’t it?”

    (Err.. well ‘not parking his breakfast’ – use your imagination)

    “..There he was. Sure enough with his gloves on, pockets full of coke, and all down his trousers.. Doing his thing, sliding some of the skag over to some anonymous bloke..”

    (‘Turtles on the melodies’ – gloves on his fingers – turtle dove – glove, melody lingers – fingers; ‘Elephant’ – trunk – straw (metaphor, cocaine); ‘Oedipus Rex’ – kecks – trousers)

    “Sir this man is no average small time burglar.. He is well known for getting people what they want (i.e.drugs).”

    (He is no ‘partridge’ , he is a well known ‘table cloth’ – leaned on by many)

    Inspector: “Constable? ..Can you verify this?”

    Constable: “You can say that again. It’s spot on. This guy’s got a history of dealing and using. I knew him in Clapham when he was a drunkard..”

    (‘Not many Uncle’ – coloquial term meaning the literal antithesis, i.e. Not many means ‘very many’ (truth’s, in this case), sort of like sarcasm, but not, if you get my drift. And ‘uncle’ is just banter, like ‘brother’ or ‘mate’. He could have said ‘not many gov’nor’.

    ‘This lad’s got slimey on the bill’ – runny nose, or ‘he’s got dealer/user/deadbeat written all over him’; I knew him in Clapham (a district in East London) when ‘he was on the river Ouse’ – booze – drink.)

    “I mean, alright, he isn’t violent or dangerous, he’s no gangster, but he’s usually got some coke up his sleeves.. And you need no special skills to work this type out Sir.”

    (‘Not tooled up’ – doesn’t carry weapons; ‘no gorilla’ – no gangster; ‘usually got some charlie up his skid marks’ – Marks & Spencer, but colloquially called Marks and Sparks – clothing, sleeves. Granted, this one’s stretching it because you would usually say just ‘Sparks’ i.e. Up his Sparks.

    And you ‘don’t need a daffodil’ – any powers of deduction – from daffodil, flowers – powers.”

    As for the Dorset slang.. I ain’t clue ma’am!!

    But I hope this all helps xx

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