No Excuses, Here’s Your ‘Attack the Block’ Slang Cheat Sheet

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Attack the Block poster

I just posted my interview with Attack the Block writer/director Joe Cornish and star John Boyega in which we talk, among other things, about the South London slang used in the film. The language was actually cause of some debate when the film first premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival earlier this year when it was rumored subtitles would be included when the film played in the States. Thankfully, Screen Gems hasn’t sullied the film with what would’ve been a stupid decision, but seeing how I’m sure the language is something detractors will use to bully it, I thought I would go on the offensive.

When the conversation turned to the slang used in the film, Joe said the following, which is what got me to thinking about doing this in the first place. This statement speaks not only to how Joe approached the language in the film, but what it actually means in relation to the underlying subtext at the core of the feature:

We designed the dialogue on a learning curve. I kept the lexicon simple. We have about 10 to 15 words that are used repeatedly in different contexts. It’s a pretty linear narrative, so there’s nothing too complicated to get over in terms of storytelling. This film should educate you. You should find you pick up these words and you understand their meaning kind of by osmosis, by watching the film. So, yes, that was completely intentional.

At the beginning of the film these kids are masked, they’re hooded, you don’t know how old they are, you have no sense of their humanity or identity and indeed, with their language, you’re confused, you’re alienated from them. Then the purpose of the story is to strip away all those barriers and to make you understand they’re human beings. Not perfectly good, squeaky clean human beings, flawed human beings like all of us.

So check out the cheat sheet below, in which I breakdown the following words and phrases as they are used in the film: “allow it,” “bangers,” “bare,” “believe,” “block,” “bruv,” “fam,” “innit,” “merked,” “peak,” and “shiv”. I included the word “block” as one of the eleven words since it’s a word not specifically used here in the States in the same way and considering it’s in the title I wanted absolutely no confusion whatsoever. Oh, and thanks to the Urban Dictionary I didn’t have to come up with these definitions myself.

In other Attack the Block news, you can read my full interview with Joe and John here and my theatrical review here. The film hits limited theaters in Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, San Francisco, Seattle, Austin and Chicago tomorrow, July 29.

Photo: Screen Gems

If you’d like a larger, printable version, I’ve got you covered, just click here.

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