Do you speak Blinglish?

Two new dictionaries help you understand the strange language your kids talk

And waiting, ready to collect it and mount it in their albums, will be a small, dedicated band of people of a certain age. They are lexicographers, and next month they will create the biggest stir in slang since the first Anglo-Saxon came ashore and let loose the first oath: the publication of not one, but two major dictionaries of words from the street. And the message from both books is that our slang is changing faster than it has ever done.

First up, on 17 November, is Jonathon Green's Cassell's Dictionary of Slang, a major new edition that contains no fewer than 12,500 new entries. Five days later comes The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang, the first new edition of this classic for 20 years. Edited by Tom Dalzell and Terry Victor, it has taken five years to compile and contains more than 65,000 entries, "uncounted thousands" of which are new, says Mr Victor.

Slang these days increasingly means youth street talk, and in central London yesterday, the new slang was on a lot of lips. From Emma Spencer of Stoke Newington: grep (unpleasant) and munter (ugly); from Ruth Horrell from Hammersmith, hench, meaning someone in good physical shape; and tonight Phebian Ashama, 17, and Tobi Olarinre, 19, from Peckham will be going to a friend's shubs (party) at a brap (really good) club, where hopefully it will be bare-live (really cool). To all of which Mr Green could add from his book: boot-ho (a female one dislikes personally but finds sexually attractive), breeded up (pregnant), go bitchcakes (be angry), mozzarella (money), and showbiz sherbet (cocaine).

The authors of both books are clear about the major sources of the new youth slang: urban black America (mixed with a little West Indian), hip-hop, Grime (a London form of hip-hop), rappers such as Eminem and Goldie Lookin Chain, and even, according to Mr Victor, the comic paper Viz. They are also impressed at the speed new slang is created: "It changes a lot faster and is much more visible than it used to be," says Mr Green.

This rate of change, according to Professor David Crystal of Reading University, author of The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, is because: "First, English is increasingly global. Nearly a third of the world's population speaks [it], so there are new varieties of English growing up all over the place. Once we just had British and American English. Then Australian English. Now there are about 70 'new Englishes': Pakistani English, Singaporean English, Ghanaian English ... And each develops its own vocabulary. You might get a large group of immigrants in Brick Lane all speaking their own language and their own form of English. And that language might be ignored, but it might also be considered cool. These slangs, especially Caribbean slang, are being picked up.

"The second reason is the internet." In the 1960s, says Green, "slang took 20 or 30 years to cross the Atlantic. These days it's not quite 20 or 30 minutes, but it's not much longer."

This is all very bad news for grown-ups - as part of the point of youth slang is to exclude parents, teachers and police. Professor Crystal says: "As soon as it gets picked up by adults, they drop it; that's what happens. And that is why it is so ephemeral."

Even the kids are sometimes bewildered. "It seems like everybody's doing it at my school," says 14-year-old Lizzie, from Lewisham. "Most of them grew up in posh middle-class families but their accents sound as if they're from Brooklyn or somewhere. It's a bit like that story about The Emperor's New Clothes. Everybody's scared to ask what it means because they'd get laughed at, but I bet if anyone did ask they wouldn't even know."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power