Languages die. Half of the world’s extant languages are endangered. Likewise, new words are forever being invented, spoken, misheard, misread, and woven into colloquial usage. In the interest of preserving both the old and newborn vocabularies, the Believer presents a series of glossaries documenting the little-known lexicons, cultural dialects, secret argots, technical jargons, and sublanguages of the world.
A lot: Used as a noun to describe something that is good. MCs, when asked to describe their new song, will often reply simply: “It’s a lot.” Example of how you may use it: “That new Ariel Pink record is a lot.”
Boy: To boy someone is to belittle and embarrass them. In the video for little-known rhymer Scarz’s track “You Got Boyed,” he shows footage of a friend running after someone on a moped before stumbling and falling over in calamitous fashion. A friend of mine refers—very fittingly—to perennially unfortunate EastEnders character
Ian Beale as “Mr. Get-Boyed.”
Bread: A verb used to describe someone who is acting obsequiously toward another person. If one MC compliments another, they will regularly follow it with “No Hovis”—a play on American rap’s commonly used staunchly virile qualification “No homo”—to show they are not breading.
Duppy: If you listen to Jamaican dancehall, you may have heard this word of West African origin before. In Caribbean patois it means “ghost,” but in grime terms it means to hurt or kill someone, lyrically or literally. Example: “Pass the remote or I will duppy you.”
Nang: A commonly used word that means “excellent” or “wonderful.” For example: “These tacos that you’ve prepared for us are nang, Sylvia.” Legend has it that the term comes from the name of a particularly attractive girl of Thai parentage who attended secondary school in Hackney, East London, in the late ’90s.
Par: MCs enjoy referring to any unfortunate occurrence, or anything they do not like, as a par; it is, essentially, the antonym of a lot. Examples of a par include: getting puked on by a drunk bum on the subway on your way to work, or buying a DVD copy of A Prophet for your dad and finding out he already has it. To confuse matters immensely, to par with someone means to hang out with them.
Screwface: The face you might expect someone to pull upon entering a festival porta-pottie. Confusingly, it is used to show your disdain for a rival MC or to show your effusive appreciation of an amazing linguistic performance by a fellow rhymer during a live performance. Rastafarian MC Jammer is the king of the screwface, often contorting his face to look like a drunk cartoon weasel for little or no reason.
Shower: In Jamaican slang, a showerface is the grimace
pulled by a cold-hearted killer as he sprays a rival with
bullets. There is also a notorious Jamaican criminal gang
called Shower Posse (lead by Christopher “Dudus” Coke),
which got its name because of its propensity for saturating
victims with a flurry of bullets. In the early days of grime, facetious British MCs constantly appropriated and bastardized these terms, first referring to something good as shower and then going as far as talking about shower curtains and other bathroom-affiliated apparatuses. Slew Dem Crew’s Gully Rainjah even name-dropped the shower-
gel brand Radox in one of his rhymes.
Wasteman: One of the harshest insults you can use in the world of grime. A wasteman is a sort of untermensch—a person for whom you have complete contempt and almost no respect. Famous wastemen include Chris Brown, Perez Hilton, and Pope Ratzinger.