All the British Slang You Need to Know to Watch ‘Love Island’
You’ve been hearing mumblings about this British reality TV show called Love Island (not to be confused with the recently released U.S. version). What you know is that it involves a bunch of young, really good-looking singles. Oh, and there’s something about how they have to couple up to win a £50,000 prize. Sounds like a million other reality programs, so what’s so special about this one, you ask?
Well, for one, it airs five nights a week…for two months. The sheer amount of content will make you dizzy—it also means that the teeniest, tiniest things that happen between the contestants become storylines. It’s like watching a sociology experiment unfold in real time.
So, to summarize, Love Island is a British reality TV show involving a group of contestants who live in isolation in a gorgeous villa in Spain while being constantly filmed. If they want to stay on the show, contestants must be coupled or they risk elimination. During the final week, the public votes for which couple should take home £50,000.
Yet despite the cash prize and fame at stake, one of the best parts of the show is that the contestants rarely mention the potential windfall. In fact, "playing a game" is seen as slimy and low as it can get. Living their day-to-day lives in the villa, the islanders react to the rules of the competition like a random and unwelcome hinderance getting in the way of the real reason they're there: to find love and build a family of friends.
The other great thing about Love Island is how specifically British it is. You have Scouse, cockney, Geordie, Yorkshire and Essex, as well as Scottish and Irish accents. And with it comes a very particular vernacular that seems to be a direct result of placing a bunch of multi-geographical, horny 20-somethings into one house.
So, if you’re just teeeewwwwn-ing in to Love Island, here’s a glossary of the very specific British slang you should learn.
The VillaThe contestants’ physical home while on Love Island.
Example: The Villa is sick, bruv!
All contestants living in the Villa are “islanders.”
Example: All islanders should prepare for a recoupling tonight.
Brother, for short, not referring to a blood relative, but a friend. Typically used between male islanders.
Example: Best friends foreva, bruv!
The heterosexual mating ritual in which islanders are required—usually via the directions of text messages sent by an invisible, all-powerful hand—to pick a mate. The viewing audience is then asked, usually weekly, to vote on their favorite couples.
Example: Who you gonna pick in the recoupling?
Got a text!
The exclamation uttered when an islander receives a text message from the invisible, all-powerful producing hands instructing them to do something.
Example: [Ping] Got a text!
FitAn adjective qualifying a person’s attractiveness, akin to the American use of “hot.”
Example: That new islander is fit, bruv.
An adverb (usually) akin to the American use of “hella” or “wicked.” It’s often used to quantify the level of attractiveness, anger or horniness.
Example: That new islander is proper fit, bruv.
The cosmic, and often fleeting, sensation of getting along with a potential mate, often through something as simple as the realization that you both like bananas.
Example: I didn’t expect it, bruv, but me and but Gertie and I have a connection. I think I might pursue that, mate.
Completely platonic friend, not to be confused with the Homo sapiens evolutionary behavior of choosing a “mate.”
Example: I feel like George is graftin’ but we’re just mates.
To lay on the flirting thick. A person who grafts is actively working to gain the affection of another.
Example: Bruv, I see you proper graftin’ on Gertie, making her toasties and coffee in the morning.
Where your head’s atThe metaphysical and constantly shifting state of connection that islanders, usually of the same gender, check in on each other with, typically in whispered, private conversations regarding their current or future coupling.
Example: Bruv, where’s your head at with Gertie? You still feeling the connection?
Have a chat
To “pull” someone for “chat” is to request their presence for a private, often more serious conversation. Viewers of Love Island will recognize this pointed question as a milestone in a couple’s relationship. It usually kicks off the mating ritual dance. But it also may be used to address hiccups in a relationship or any standing issues with other islanders. When the object of the person requesting the chat is with another islander or group of islanders, the move is commonly regarded as the U.K. equivalent of The Bachelor’s “can I steal you for a minute?” Other islanders always take note if someone has pulled another for a chat.
Example: Hey, Gertie. Can I pull ya for chat?
To get along, usually in a romantic sense, with another person.
Example: I don’t know where my head’s at because me and Gertie have been cracking on, bruv. But Janelle is proper fit. She’s proper fit. We have a connection. We both like bananas, and I think I want to crack on with her.
Humorous conversation. Certain islanders pride themselves on their bants, or jokes. While looking for mates, it’s important for many islanders to have good/keep up with/take banter.
Example: We’re really cracking on. And you know I’m all bants, and Gertie can keep up with the bants.
To have a crush on someone.
Example: I’m gonna be honest, I fancy you, Gertie.
Buzzin’To be excited about something, usually regarding prospects of a potential mate or date.
Example: We are completely cracking on and having a great time, and bruv, I’m honestly buzzin’. I’m proper buzzin’.
To sloppily make out, often with some heavy petting.
Example: We didn’t snog, but we kissed.
Have a cuddle
To cuddle, usually with one islander as the big spoon and the other as the baby spoon. Since couples sleep in the same bed, islanders will wonder in the morning whether other islanders “had a cuddle.”
Example: We didn’t snog, but we had a cuddle.
To fool around in a sexual nature.
“Are we telling people we done bits?”
“Let’s just say we had a cuddle.”
Head’s been turned
A metaphysical state of emotional connection that is directed 1. Away from the person you’ve already told you fancy and 2.) toward another person, usually a newer islander.
Example: George told me his head wouldn’t be turned, but I see him cracking on with Ingrid.
Is what it isThe common and nihilistic expression of defeat when something, usually a relationship, does not go the way you’d want it to.
Example: I told Ingrid I fancy her without pulling Gertie for a chat first, and now all the girls hate me. Is what it is.
To be really, really pissed off in a specifically female way. Male islanders often misogynistically label their female counterparts as “fuming” despite their being rationally upset over something, perpetuating negative stereotypes.
Example: Bruv, she’s fuming. She’s fuming that you grabbed Ingrid for a chat before talking to her.
To be dumped or rebuffed while grafting.
Example: I feel like an idiot for falling for him and being pied on national TV.
To disrespect and make someone look like a fool is to mug someone off. To be the object of disrespect is to be made to look like a mug. To dishonor someone you care about, thus making them look like a fool, is muggy.
Example: It’s a bit muggy to be grafting with Ingrid while I’m still here.
An adjective, usually describing the woman who made your man’s head turn, that translates loosely to “a nothing.”
Example: I’ve been pied and mugged off and for what? Her? She’s a dead ting.
What [blank] brings to the Villa
The ultimate sign of respect from other islanders. It means the other islanders actually like you and recognize that your personality adds something of value to their cohort. In recouplings and other voting scenarios among the islanders, if you “bring a lot to the Villa,” your chances of staying in the Villa are higher.
Example: This person brings so much to the Villa, and I couldn’t imagine this experience without ‘em. For that reason, I’m choosing [person that brings a lot to the Villa].