How to Speak ‘Lad’

Here at the University of Nottingham, unfortunately, it is more than likely that you have encountered a ‘lad’. Whether you have lived with one, or watched from a distance as the hoards of boys in ties descend on Rock City on a Wednesday night, I think most of us are familiar with the environments where ‘lads’ gather and could, if we wanted (although I don’t know why anyone would want to) find one. Although I think we can all recognise certain elements of ‘lad culture’ (excessive drinking, hyper-masculinity and the sexism, racism and homophobia that often accompany this), for me, one of the most perplexing features of being a ‘lad’ seems to be the ability to speak another language. It seems, that rather than reducing language, making it shorter or snappier, as slang or other deviations from the standard norm usually does, the language of the lads is all about complicating it.

Here is a rough guide on how to get by, if for some reason you have to spend a lengthy period of time with a group of ‘lads’ (I’m sorry).

1) Elongate every word, ever

One of the most popular suffixes I have found to be in use is ‘ingtons’ e.g. ‘chappingtons’. Also adding 'o' to the end of everything, or 'y'. This can be done with names or anything that is apparently not good enough with just four letters. 

2) Chant

Okay, this is a guilty pleasure of mine and I actually don’t mind the chanting, providing that it’s not sexist/homophobic/racist/ etc. This is partly because I went to school with a bunch of boys who chanted at every opportunity. We used to go to a pub where they served us underage and played folk music, and some how the boys managed to incorporate football chants into the event. This is one of the many times when football chants are inappropriate, however I don’t think there is anything wrong with breaking into ‘I’m forever blowing bubbles’ or my personal favourite, ‘East East East London’ when you’re bored and freezing your arse off in the Ocean queue.

3) Understand that ‘to nibble’ is no longer about eating cheese

Honestly, where did this phrase come from? And can someone tell me what it means? After struggling for a while, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s about not rising to bait, or not getting defensive about banter, or maybe even not stating the obvious? Who knows! And if you do please let me know. Seriously.

4) Use people’s last names to refer to people, or otherwise offensive nicknames, often based on physical attributes

Okay, let’s imagine a person. His last name is Smith. Maybe it isn’t so weird to be called Smith. However, this will probably have variations of ‘Smithy’, ‘Smitho’, and if ‘Smithy’ falls out of favour with his mates for not downing a pint quick enough then here is when the offensive nicknames start making an appearance. 

5) Use incredibly long and complicated words that no one (possibly even themselves) understand

Maybe I’m not clever enough and all of these lads do just have a better vocabulary than me, but I highly doubt it. It’s not even that the words are completely unknowable, but just seem out of place in everyday language use. I’m not opposed to people speaking well, but when ‘corpulent’ came up in a casual conversation the other day I was a bit taken a back. And I had to Google it…

Why the ‘lad’ chooses to speak like this is still unknown. Some have proposed that they need a secret code to speak in, so those of us who haven’t had the honour of being adorned with the title of ‘lad’ can’t get in on their top quality banter... No, but seriously. Just like with other groups who speak in different dialects, or have ways of speaking outside of the ‘standard’, this is done to reinforce a sense of solidarity and community between those people. With the lads however, this is not done out of necessity. For example, Polari or ‘gay language’ was created so that gay people could talk about topics that involved homosexuality, without fear of being persecuted. But the ‘lads’, most likely to be groups of white, middle-class men studying at top Russell Group universities needn’t anything to fear. Thus, by speaking in this highly convoluted language that excludes others, it reinforces their sense of entitlement and privilege that many ‘lads’ have.

To me, the language of the ‘lads’ sounds like gibberish, and if anyone wants to give me a lesson in how to become fluent, please get in touch. But for now, this is the best guide I could put together for those of you amateurs like myself. 

Good luck.

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