The environment and experiences of your formative years can have a huge influence on the language you use. Growing up in a sternly Irish family on a diet of boiled potatoes seven days a week, I have an arsenal of terms to describe the slop produced by stewing a pot of pomme de terres, such as batty-tatty, potty-pulp, creamy mud, squidge-squodge and baby sick.
Grime MCs – many of whom have grown up with gangsta rap and films like Scarface – have a similarly vast number of terms to refer to guns (for example: mash, heat, skeng, shotty, pumpy, glock, gat, nine-milli, forty-five). In fact, grime has a whole glossary of slang – largely bastardised from Jamaican dancehall and US rap – which is part of the everyday vernacular. Here are some favourites.
Armshouse: An unsavoury situation, most likely involving brutal violence. In Demon’s track Armshouse, he threatens to “bring armshouse to your mum’s house”. Situations which might result in armshouse at the abode of the woman from whose womb you tumbled: squirting Ribena at a group of hooded youths waiting at a bus stop and then running off; calling someone’s sister a “hairy walrus with haemmorhoids so large they jut three feet from her walloping arse”.
Duppy: Caribbean patois of West African origin meaning ghost, but in grime means to hurt or kill someone, lyrically or literally. For instance: “If you fail to reload the printer with paper when it runs out I will duppy you, Sian.”
Endz: Can refer to the specific estate or neighbourhood you’re from (“What endz you reppin’?”) or just “the hood” in general. So when The Endz ask, “Are you really from the endz?” your reply might be, “My village in Oxfordshire had some council housing – does that count?”
Gash: What MCs call the fairer sex. They also like to talk about how good they are at “drawing gash” (pulling girls). If you were to use another slang definition of “gash”, and wanted to be particularly misogynistic, you could say to someone, in reference to their girlfriend, “Your gash is gash” – although they would probably look at you like you’re completely mental.
Lemon: The name for a potent strain of marijuana with a citrusy zest. Rastafarian MC Jammer is prone to shouting, “Lemon is the best!” in a high-pitched voice, which, to the uninformed listener, probably sounds like he’s talking about his favourite scent of washing-up liquid. Fun fact: Dizzee Rascal and Newham Generals did a cover of Puff the Magic Dragon called Puff the Magic Lemon, but it was never released, thankfully.
Murk: To beat the living crap out of someone, either metaphorically or physically. Rappers like Lil Wayne were using the word years before grime, but rap’s London-based cousins – Jammer, again – have taken it to a whole new level. Jammer’s alter ego is the Murkle Man, a superhero who rides around on a mini-motorbike in a green and purple suit, and whose special power is murking people.
Par: Used to describe the outcome of any unfortunate situation. Examples of “a par”: running for the bus, only to have the driver shut the doors in your face; being pooed on by a bird; waking up to find your cat has puked all over your bed. Somewhat paradoxically, to “par with your friends” means to hang out.
Screwface: The face you might expect someone to pull upon entering a train lavatory just after Michelle McManus has deposited the aftermath of her weekly trip to Thursday night curry club at Wetherspoons. Confusingly, it can be used to show disdain for someone in your line of sight, or your appreciation of a particularly amazing lyric you have just heard.
Slippin’: Going about your business with reckless abandon, resulting in negative consequences. It is often used in reference to being robbed – “caught slippin’ out of your endz” – or nabbed by the police. But it can also be used, for example, when using the loo in the nude on a hot summer’s day and forgetting to lock the door, resulting in embarrassment when your flatmate walks in on you.
Wasteman: A term for someone you particularly dislike – someone with few or no redeeming features. In the video for DPM feat. Bruza, Napper & Shizzle’s ’Ave Some of That, a wasteman is vividly portrayed as a rat-faced weasel in a cheap leather jacket and flat cap drinking a bottle of Newkie Brown. Examples of famous wastemen include Noel Edmonds, Chris Moyles, David Cameron, Peter Andre, Judge Jules, John Terry, Ian Beale from EastEnders and Barney the Dinosaur.
Words by John McDonnell