Parlez-vous cabbie? C’est un doddle!
So you have decided to waste time by surfing the web. Well, put your spare time to use and learn a new language before you return to work.
This is “cabbie speak” so repeat after me:
A Churchill – A meal. Churchill gave cabbies the right to refuse a fare while eating.
All Nations – Cab shelter opposite Gloucester Road
American Workhouse – Park Lane Hotel
Appearances – A series of tests that knowledge students have undertake to pass “The Knowledge”. On entering the examiners office, he will firstly scare the shite out of you, then he will ask a series of point to point questions. You then have to take him (verbally) from one point to the other, road by road, the shortest route you can think of. After a sarcastic comment from the examiner you then get graded and (hopefully) score 3-6 points depending on your performance. You have to get to 12 points to progress to the next level. Unfortunately these appearances become more frequent as you improve.
Bilker – Not a member of Acker’s jazz group of the Sixties, but someone who tries (and sometimes succeeds) in avoiding paying the fare for a journey.
Blue Book Runs – Alas no sexual connotations. All new entrants to the knowledge are given the blue book (usually it has a pink cover). A list of 320 routes (known as runs) that broadly cover the routes within the six mile radius from Charing Cross. These are the framework that all other knowledge is added to. First route in the blue book is Manor House Station to Gibson Square, a route that will always remain engraved on cabbies memories.
Broom [a job] – When the driver on point refuses a fare and the punter has to go to the next cab in line. If you are that second driver you know either: (a) the jobs worth £3; (b) the punter’s drunk; (c) the punter looks like he hasn’t washed for a week and doesn’t have the proverbial pot to p**s in.
Butterboy – Nothing to do with Marlon Brando and half a pound of Lurpak. A butterboy is a new cabbie, and since you’re new in the job you are “but a boy”.
Butterfly – A Cabbie who only work in the summer.
Cock & Hen – Man-and woman pasengers.
Copperbottom – A Cabbie who drives for an excessive number of hours.
Den of Thieves/Fagin’s Kitchen – Stock Exchange, we all like that one.
Dirty Dozen – Twelve roads through Soho that gets you from Regent Street to Charing Cross Road without having to sit behind several thousand double decker buses on Oxford Street.
Down the Wasp – Walpole Street, Anderson Street, Sloane Avenue and Pelham Street.
Droshky – This isn’t some obscure Russian poet but the Jewish name for their cab. The word derives from two- or four-wheeled public carriages used in Russia and means literally droga, pole of a wagon.
Flyer – A fare to one of the airports, London has nine of them, these jobs are becoming as rare as hen’s teeth.
Gasworks – The Houses of Parliament, good that one eh!
Gantville Cowboys – Drivers who live in and around Gants Hill, Newbury Park, Ilford and Claybury.
Iron Lung – A bloody useful toilet in Horseferry Road SW1 (it looks like the old Parisian ones of the Sixties).
Kipper Season – The time of year when business is a bit slack, supposedly from when cabbies could only afford to eat kippers instead of steak (nowadays we retire to our Tuscan villas and wait until the American tourists return).
Kangaroo Valley – Earl’s Court.
Legal Off – The fare on the meter without a tip. You wouldn’t do that to a poor hard working honest bloke would ya?
Magic Circle – The area half a mile around Piccadilly Circus; source of much work.
Musher – An owner driver, as opposed to a driver who rents his cab (one day I’ll find out where the word comes from).
Musher’s Lotion – Rain.
On the cotton – The shortest distance between two points is a straight line (or at least it would be if you didn’t have to drive round bloody buildings and parks to get to your destination). To see whether the route you took is shortest you hold a piece of cotton over the map between your start and finish points. If the route you took is close to the straight line, it’s described as being “on the cotton”.
On point – At the front of a rank, next in line to get a punter.
Over the Hump – Driving to the City via Angel rather than High Holborn.
Point of Interest – Knowledge term for any two places that an examiner may ask you to take him or start from. Can be as obscure as the Burton Tailor Mosaic (literally a mosaic on a wall in E14 marking where a factory used to stand), or obvious as the Houses of Parliament (aka the Gas Works).
Point to Point – Not horse racing for trendy farmers, but another knowledge term, this is the practice routes that knowledge students must do to get ready for appearances. For example: Burton Tailor Mosaic, E14 to the Houses of Parliament.
PCO – Public Carriage Office, based in Penton St, N1. Formally run by the Metropolitan Police, now come under Transport for London. They administer the whole cab trade, including all that knowledge stuff.
Putting on foul – Nothing to do with dressing up like a chicken, but joining a taxi rank that’s already full.
Roader – A long journey, normally to outside the London boroughs (note that a cabbie can refuse a fare if it’s over 12 miles, or if they think their safety might be compromised. However, if it’s 12 miles towards my house at the end of a night shift, I’m your man).
Single Pin – One passenger.
Taxi – One of the few International words, but just in case you’re in Japan: タクシーja(ja) (takushii)
The Dead Zoo – Natural History Museum.
The Kremlin – Cab shelter by Albert Bridge
The Raft – Rank above Victoria station for Gatwick passengers.
The Rathole – Rank at Embankment station.
The Rat Run – The rank at Waterloo. No I’ve no idea either where that came from.
The Resistance – Harley Street, because doctors opposed the formation of the NHS.
The Scent Box – Rank at King’s Cross station.
The Spit & Cough – The Athenaeum Club, Pall Mall.
The Tripe Shop – Broadcasting House.
The Wedding Cake – The Queen Victoria Memorial outside Buckingham Palace, it has remained white since it was built in 1911.
“Be Lucky” – Cabbies are supposed to say that to each other at every opportunity, but don’t say it to your cabbie he’s likely to take you for a complete tosser.
And please not too much of that rhyming Mockney stuff though, Apples and Pears for God’s sake.
How did you get on? I might contact Linguaphone, there might be a job in it for me.
Be Lucky . . . oops!!!
Image courtesy of www.school-clip-art.com
Some definitions supplied by www.thecabbiescapital.co.uk
With help from Stuart Pesock and the London Taxi Drivers Association
A comprehensive guide to London Taxi Driver Slang compiled by Graham Gates: This little book has over 20 pages of cabbie’s slang, as well as other interesting information about the London cab trade.