What Londoners Say Vs. What They Mean

Sixty-six capital cliches, translated.

Photo illustration by Matt Tucker, Dan Kitwood / Getty/paulprescott72/Thinkstock

1. “London prices” — Rip-off prices.
2. “Sorry” — I’m not sorry.
3. “Sorry” — You have just trodden on my foot, and I loathe you with every fibre of my being.
4. “Excuse me” — You have paused momentarily at the ticket barrier and I am boiling with rage.
5. “My fault entirely” — Your fault entirely.
6. “I’m fine, thanks” — I am barely managing to conceal a churning maelstrom of emotions.
7. “How are you?” — Fine. Just say fine.
8. “See you Saturday!” — Don’t forget to email me twice to make sure that we’re actually meeting on Saturday.
9. “Let’s have lunch” — Let’s walk to Pret and back as fast as we can.
10. “I’m having a party in Wimbledon, come along” — Please travel for four and a half hours as I live in the middle of bloody nowhere.
11. “Open for business” — Oligarchs welcome.
12. “Centre of global finance” — Money launderers’ paradise.
13. “My commute? It’s not too bad. About average” — It involves three modes of transport, takes hours each day, and is slowly crushing my spirit.
14. “Could you move down a bit please?” — I’m not asking, I’m telling.
15. “Could you move down a bit please?” — I am seconds away from a devastating mental collapse.
16. “Could you move down a bit please?” — If you don’t, I will start killing indiscriminately.
17. “Due to adverse weather conditions” — It was a bit windy earlier.
18. “Due to the wet weather conditions” — A tiny amount of rain has fallen.
19. “Please take care when…” — Don’t you dare blame us if…
20. “We apologise for the inconvenience caused” — Via the medium of this dehumanised pre-recorded message.
21. “Due to a signalling failure…” — Due to an excuse we just made up…
22. “Rail replacement bus service” — Slow, agonising descent into madness.
23. “There is a good service on all London Underground lines” — Though this very much depends how you define “good”.
24. “Planned engineering works” — That’s your weekend plans fucked, then.
25. “Would Inspector Sands please report to the operations room immediately” — Ohgodohgod everybody panic, we’re all about to die.
26. “Annual fare increase” — We’re rinsing you suckers for even more money. Again.
27. “House party in Tooting? See you there!” — South of the river? No fucking chance.
28. “I live in Zone One” — I am unimaginably wealthy.
29. “The area is really up and coming” — Only one tramp shouts at me in the morning.
30. “Vibrant” — Actual poor people live here.
31. “Gentrification” — I am so glad they’re rid of the poor people.
32. “Gentrified” — Oh bollocks now I can’t afford to live here either.
33. “Efficient use of space” — Microscopic.
34. “Studio flat” — Bedsit.
35. “Incredible potential” — Absolute shithole.
36. “Affordable” — Uninhabitable.
37. “Deceptively spacious” — Basically a cupboard.
38. “Good transport links” — There’s a bus stop 10 minutes’ walk away.
39. “Authentic” — Fake.
40. “I just bought a flat” — My parents just helped me buy a flat.
41. “Swift half” — Many, many, many, many halves.
42. “Quick pint” — In the pub until closing time.
43. “We’re going on a date” — We’re getting pissed together.
44. “Picnic” — Daytime piss-up.
45. “Barbecue” — Piss-up in the garden.
46. “South London” — Here be monsters.
47. “West London” — Here be posh people.
48. “East London” — Here be young people.
49. “North London” — Here be newspaper columnists.
50. “Oxford Circus” — Roiling hellscape.
51. “Tech city” — Bunch of startups you’ve never heard of.
52. “London has some of the best restaurants in the world” — So how come I always end up at Nandos?
53. “London is full of cultural delights” — Which I never visit.
54. “Gourmet coffee” — Ludicrously overpriced coffee.
55. “Exciting pop-up restaurant” — You guys like queuing, right?
56. “We have a no bookings policy” — We hate our customers.
57. “This pub has character” — This is not a gastropub, and I’m scared.
58. “Traditional boozer” — Pub that does not serve wasabi peas.
59. “What do you do?” — How much do you earn?
60. “He works in finance” — He’s a psycho.
61. “He works in media” — He’a a wanker.
62. “He works in PR” — He’s a bullshitter.
63. “He works in tech” — He’s got a blog.
64. “Working hours” — Waking hours.
65. “Greatest city on earth” — Apart from New York.
66. “You know what they say: He who is tired of London…” — I am so tired of London.

If you enjoyed this, you may also enjoy the book Quick Pint After Work, And Other Everyday Lies by Luke Lewis.

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