Please note that this article is meant to be mildly humorous and not an attack on or mocking of any groups mentioned below.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting a friend from Liverpool during a programme I attended. Over a meal I said something like, "That's such an unserious thing to say," and he seemed genuinely baffled by my use of the word "unserious". He didn't think it would be the same as the dictionary definition for "unserious", because apparently in Liverpool it isn't used as much as it is in South London. I found this really interesting as someone who likes to study the evolution of language, so I thought it might be interesting to share some of our regional slang.

Some of it is fairly uncomplicated. Words like the aforementioned "unserious" or even a slightly altered word like "brazy" maintain their dictionary definitions in most contexts. Words like "bruv" definitely have clear origins in a pre-existing word, but perhaps have lost letters for ease of speaking or to indicate informality.

Some words that have entered the vernacular, like "bombaclart", "mandem/gyaldem", or "bare" are now referred to as part of Multicultural London English (or MLE), but have origins in Patois, a form of pidgin English originally from Jamaica and other areas of the Caribbean. Words like these and many more entered the British lexicon along with the arrival of the Windrush Generation between 1945 and 1960

Other words, like "leng" and its predecessor "peng" have extremely murky origins and no one knows how they really came along (except their popularisation through hit TV shows and cultural moments). What's really interesting to note is that while older generations (typically 30-40 year-olds) will tell you that "peng" was used when they were in school, people in some parts of Eastern and Northern London still use the word.

And then there are the funny ones. The word "roadman" has come to be associated with Black British people (usually from South London) but has been adopted as a sort of aesthetic typified by grey Nike Techs, hoodies, extremely saggy trousers and balaclavas (referred to as "ballys"). Mostly, though, you'll know them for using words like "bunda", "clapped" (ugly), "styll" (used to affirm a statement), and even "waste man" (an insult meaning someone is useless). These words are widely acknowledged to "belong" to a certain set of people and therefore have a comical effect when used by people outside that group.

I think there's a greater lesson here, though, than just a peek into the slang of London. I think slang is a useful microcosm of society, showing how our use of language develops from the fairly obvious, to the marginally obscure origins to the point of being seen as sheer ridiculousness if the wrong person uses certain words. Ho do we draw these social (and linguistic) borders? Is it always a result of socio-economic situations? Is it merely those you choose to befriend? Do we draw these lines across race? Culture? Time? All of the above? It's hard to know exactly what blend of factors contribute to our use of slang, but what we do know is that it serves to unite us as easily as just knowing the meaning of a non-existent word.

So what else did I tell my Liverpudlian friend? Well, you man aren't finna find out, are you?

Also, Happy (early) April's Fools' Day! Which, might I note, is the only reason I would do an article like this in the first place.