East Enders


Guest post by Nina Lalumia

This is a celebration of the rich language of EastEnders, the long-running BBC drama that takes places in the fictional working-class neighbourhood of Walford in London. Before starting out, I do want to say a little bit about the other reasons I love the show. It presents a diverse range of characters: white and black, Christian and Muslim, gay and straight. But none of them are placed artificially to serve a PC or liberal ideology. For example, Shabnam is not “the Muslim character,” and Tracy is not “the lesbian character.” They are presented as human beings, first of all, who have these characteristics among other complications. Also, the differences are presented as real problems that are not easy to live with. But everyone has equal footing in the economic and social marketplace to struggle to achieve their goals, and to negotiate or battle through their differences.


Words of wisdom from Aunt Dot:

Speaking to Carol, who is worried about her cancer coming back, Dot says, “You don’t want to be scared of dyin’. It’s the livin’s what’s difficult: leadin’ a life you can be proud of.” The sentence presents a use of ‘what’ to mean that. Also, ‘want’ does not mean desire; it means: “There’s no need to be scared of dying,” or “dying is not the real thing to fear.”

‘What’ can also mean who: “You was the one what spoke t’er, uhz far as I can recall.”

And here’s another use of ‘want’: “They want to wind their necks in!” (They ought to mind their own business and not be stickin’ their beaks in other people’s.)


Non-standard past participles:

Note: I will never say ‘incorrect.’ There ain’t no such thing as incorrect speech, so long as the person you’re talkin’ to can understan-djya.

“You shouldn’t’ve spoke tuh ‘er like vat.” (The hard th sound is often pronounced as v.)

“You were out wiv yer mates while I was sat at home cryin’ me eyes out.”

“Of course you’re feelin’ het up.” (‘Het’ for heated; ‘you’re’ rhymes with ‘door.’)

“Seein’ as you was stood behind the amoebas when the brains were bein’ handed out…” (That’s Shabnam showin’ some cheek the first time she meets her future husband.)


Non-standard verb conjugations

“You ‘eard ‘im, ‘e don’t wanna go. End of!”

“He was proper ‘appy a-bou—tit, weren’t ‘e?”

As these examples show, most often the h at the beginning of a word is dropped. Sometimes it’s set up by a long-e ‘the,’ which is otherwise pronounced thuh. “There’s nobody in thee ‘ouse!” “Ya don’t know thee ‘alf of it!” “Don’t fink this means I’m lettin’ you off thee ‘ook!” (The soft th sound is often pronounced f.)


Cockney rhyming

“Look at the boat on that one!” ‘Boat race’ rhymes with ‘face,’ so ‘boat’ is used to mean face.

“Lend us yer percy: I need to make a call.” A phone is sometimes called a ‘blower,’ perhaps because of the old speaking tubes that enabled communication between rooms. Percy Thrower was a famous radio personality who talked about gardening. ‘Thrower’ rhymes with ‘blower.’

Linda: What was that all in aid of? (What was that all about?)
Mick: Ain’t got a scooby…yet. (‘Scooby Doo’ rhymes with ‘clue.’)

“We’ll have a nice bit of bunny, like we shoulda done last week.” (‘Bunny’ is a cute name for a rabbit. ‘Rabbit and pork’ rhymes with ‘talk.’ Really, it does. If it don’t, ya ain’t sayin’ ‘talk’ the way ya ough*uh). I’m using the asterisk to stand for a glottal stop, the sound with which ‘out’ and ‘ask’ begin, but in such cases is used where a t or two would be written (wri**en).


Words used for emphasis, like ‘very’

“You’re well cute when ya frown!”

“She can turn into a right shrew when she’s ‘ad a few!” ( A few drinks.)

Mick when he gets into bed with Linda after she’s been away for several weeks: “I’ve proper missed this!”

“I’m really, really sorry. I was bang out of order.”

“Those trainers are dead expensive!”

“That’s a top welcome, ain’t it?!”


‘Yous’ for plural ‘you’

Mick: There’s nofin goin on between yous two, is there?

Nancy: No. ‘Course there ain’t!

Mick: All right! Keep yer hair on!


‘Not half’ means completely

“For a smart girl, she can’t half be shtupid sometimes!”

A: Ya don’t ‘ave tuh put bu**er on yer toast!
B: But it don’t half taste be**er if ya do!


Innit,’ ‘yeah,’ and ‘eh’

‘Innit?’ is used for ‘Isn’t it?’ ‘Yeah?’ is often used to emphasize an imperative (like ‘will you?’), but is sometimes used like ‘eh.’ ‘Eh?’ is used to emphasize a question and to seek confirmation or agreement from the listener.

“Any prob-lums, just call me, yeah?”

“Just give us a few minutes, yeah?”

“Well, this is a joke, yeah?”

“Don’t she look pre**y, eh?”

“What would ya do wivout me, eh?”

“It’s a pre**y day, yeah, innit eh?”


‘Oi’ means ‘Hey!’ or ‘Watch out!’

A: I like the way you’re wearin’ yer hair.
B: Hides more of my face, dunnit?
A: Yeah, exactly.
B: Oi!



“ ’Oo took the jam out of yer doughnut?” (What’s got you in such a bad mood?)

“You cause nofin’ but agg, an’ then wonder why everyone get’s the zig!” (‘Agg’ and ‘aggro’ are short for ‘aggravation.’)


Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars

Words of wisdom from Roxy, trying to explain how things are to a man:

“Look, us ladies, right? It’s as much about what we don’t say, as what we do say. So it’s up to you numpties to figure out what it is we really are sayin’. Life would be a lot easier if you got what we were tryin’ to tell you, or not tell you.”

If ya can’* figyuh ou* wha* a numpty is, ven ya are one!


For anyone who doesn’t know what EastEnders is, check out the video below:

EastEnders Compilation of Dramatic Moments 😉