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London Taxi Drivers Glossary and Slang: Part 1 – Buildings and Locations

London hackney carriage drivers in the 1600s became London cab drivers in the 1800s and they in turn became London taxi drivers in the 1900s.

In fact all three names are still in everyday use, absorbed within the taxi trade lexicon as the trade evolved. As the taxi trade in London developed, over the past 400 years, there has always been slang used amongst the drivers. It could more accurately be described as a sub-slang, a jargon that uses both general London slang and a more specific slang that developed and is used only by London cabbies.

This London ‘dictionary’ lists three things: taxi drivers slang, slang used by taxi drivers and London taxi trade specific lexicon or jargon. Some words are historical and not used anymore. Many words and phrases are still in everyday use amongst London cabbies.

Part 1 focusses on Buildings and Locations.


Admirals (the) Dolphin Square, SW1 Upmarket residential blocks each named after a famous admiral or navigator: Grenville, Drake, Raleigh, Hawkins, Nelson, Howard, Beattie, Duncan, Keyes, Hood, Collingwood, Frobisher. Rodney is now a hotel.
American Workhorse Park Lane Hotel, Piccadilly, W1. Traditional, upmarket hotel popular with Americans.
Aztec Temple (the) MI6 Building, SE1 Its design resembles a ziggurat or Aztec pyramid. 1994.
Bindi (the) The London Eye, SE1 Origin: Hindu, circular mark or jewel worn on the forehead. Also see Mince Pie.

Buck House Buckingham Palace Abbreviation. Derives from the name of the original 17th century mansion on the site.

Royal Rascals and Scandalous Sovereigns - London Cab Tours

Bishopsgate The Athenaeum Club, Pall Mall, SW1 Founded 1824. A lot of members were bishops apparently. Also see Spit and Cough.
Bunshop Lyons Corner House (any) London’s first chain of tea shops. 1909 – 1977.
Chelsea Gasworks Residential block next to the Carlton Tower Hotel, SW1 Rounded design, like a gasholder.
Cripplegate United Service Club, Pall Mall, SW1 1815 – 1978, also known as ‘The Senior’. Now the Institute of Directors building.
Dead Zoo (the) Natural History Museum, SW7 A world-famous museum full of stuffed animals.

a large stone building

The Deaf and Dumb Ministry of Information in WW2. The commandeered Senate House, WC1. Was also the model for the Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s ‘1984’.
Den of Thieves London Stock Exchange Their motto is ‘my word is my bond’. Also see Thieves Kitchen.
Gaffs Theatres, W1 and WC2 Historic: a fair (mid 1700s) then any public place of cheap entertainment or a music hall (early-mid 1800s). Also see Gaff Street.
Gasworks (the) Houses of Parliament, SW1 A large building in Westminster full of ‘hot air’.

General (the) General Cab Company, SW9 Operated up to 1500 taxis from 1905.
Hungry (the) The Hungaria Restaurant, Lower Regent Street, SW1 Doubled as an air raid shelter in WW2.
Inside Out Building Lloyd’s of London, Leadenhall Street, EC3 A reference to the architectural design of the world’s largest insurance exchange. 1986.

London Cab Tours - London Photography Tour

Iron Lung (the) Public convenience (male), Regency Place, SW1. Standing only, made of iron.
Mince Pie (the) The London Eye, SE1 Origin: cockney rhyming slang for eye (mid 1800s). Also see Bindi.
Oak (the) Taxi driver’s cafe Or used to be. Under the Westway near Royal Oak Station.
Pandemonium (the) London Palladium, Argyll Street, W1 In a narrow street and ‘pandemonium’ during the burst. Also see Burst.
Pig and When Wig and Pen Club, Strand, WC2 A spoonerism. Former drinking haunt for lawyers and journalists.
The Rag Army and Navy Club, Pall Mall, SW1 Founded 1837. Meant as an insult but adopted by the club.
Rowton House Ritz Hotel, Piccadilly, SW1 Late 19th – 20th century. A joke; the real Rowton Houses were a chain of working class hostels.
Savaloy (the) Savoy Hotel, Strand, WC2 A humorous play on words. A saveloy is a bright red boiled sausage common in fish and chip shops.
Shakes (the) The Shakespeare pub, SW1 Abbreviation. A drop off point near Victoria Station.
Spit and Cough (the) The Athenaeum Club, Pall Mall, SW1 Founded 1824. Unsure of slang origin. Also see Bishopsgate.
Stage Door West End Central Police Station, Savile Row, W1 Referred to the side entrance of the building. Derived from a theatre stage door always being at the side or rear.
Thieves Kitchen London Stock Exchange Their motto is ‘my word is my bond’. Also see Den of Thieves.
Tom and Jerry’s Derry and Toms Department Store, W8 1860 – 1973; jokey play on words.
Tripe Shop (the) BBC HQ, Broadcasting House, W1. Tripe is the edible lining from the stomachs of various farm animals. People can talk (or broadcast) a lot of it.
Uproar (the) Royal Opera House, Bow Street, WC2 Historical: mid 1700s. Audibly keen audiences.
Wedding Cake (the) Queen Victoria Memorial, SW1 (aka the QVM). Highly decorated, gilded and detailed memorial.

a large clock tower in front of Victoria Memorial, London

Wet Doughnut Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, Hyde Park It’s ring shaped…and full of water.
Workhouse (the) The Union Club, SW1 1800 – 1960s. Now the Canadian High Commission.
Baze (the) Bayswater Road, W2 Abbreviation.
Box of Tricks Euston Station, NW1 1837 (old station), 1968 a new station, of modern ’box’ design.
Bridge (the) London Bridge Station, SE1 No explanation needed.
CAB Chelsea Bridge, Albert Bridge, Battersea Bridge. Acronym of the order of west London bridges over the River Thames.
Canary Land The suburbs Yellow Badge, or suburban taxi drivers, territory. Also see Yellow Badge.
Circus (the) Piccadilly Circus Abbreviation.
Dilly (the) Piccadilly, W1 Abbreviation.
Dirty Dozen Complicated sequence of twelve back streets through Soho A quick run that cabbies used which traversed Soho to the benefit of passengers. Can no longer be done due to ‘improvements’ in street management.
Eastern (the) Liverpool Street Station, EC2 Located in the City of London
Empire Church (the) Lancaster Gate, W2 A reference to both: Christ Church (1855 – 1977, demolished – now Spire House) and the in-situ Brabazon Memorial, the north inscription of which reads: ‘To him the British Empire was a goodly heritage to be fashioned like unto a city of God’ and the east inscription which reads: One King, one Empire, Empire Day (1934).
Flowerpot (the) Covent Garden Fruit, Vegetable and Flower Market, WC2 Circa 1650s – 1974; in and around the Piazza.
Flyers (the) Airports: Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, Stansted. No explanation needed. Also see Out West.
Gaff Street Shaftesbury Avenue, W1 Location of many theatres. Also see Gaffs.
Hole in the Wall Victoria Station, SW1 Side entrance in Wilton Road for dropping off passengers.
Hole in the Wall Waterloo Station, SE1 Side entrance in Tennison Way for dropping off passengers at a pub of the same name.
Hospital Square Queen’s Square, WC1 London square that used to have four hospitals around it. It still has three in or around it.
Hot and Cold Corner Royal Geographical Society, Kensington Gore, SW7 A grand corner building. Statue in the niche on Kensington Gore is David Livingstone (Africa). Statue in the niche on Exhibition Road is Ernest Shackleton (Antarctica).
Loo (the) Waterloo Station, SE1 Abbreviation
Magic Circle (the) Piccadilly Circus area spreading into Soho, Mayfair and St James’s Entertainment districts. A source of much work, especially late evenings and nights. Also see Burst.
Magic Roundabout Holland Park Circus, W14 A big, busy roundabout between Holland Park and Shepherds Bush. Sometimes refers to Shepherds Bush Green itself (which is a triangle).
Occupied Territory Bayswater, W2 The entire area pre-WW2 due to the large number of foreign residents. Un-pc.
Out West Heathrow Airport Located on the edge of west London. Also see the Flyers.
Over the water South of the River Thames, South London. The mythical days of taxi drivers not taking fares over the water ended long ago. I think.
The Northerns Euston Station, St Pancras Station, Kings Cross Station Three large mainline stations ranged along Euton Road on the northern tip of central London – where trains also head north.


Padders Paddington Station, W2 Abbreviation. Also see Western.
PG Tips Palace Garden Terrace, W8 Acronym/nickname and abbreviation. PG Tips is a well-known brand of tea.
Pill Alley/Pill Island Harley Street, W1 – and surrounding streets Street/area full of private doctors and medical practices. Also see the Resistance.
The Pipe London Underground A more irregular name for the Underground/Tube.
Polish Corridor Cromwell Road, SW7 Large Polish community once concentrated here. WW2 reference.
Poverty Corner Archer Street, W1 Traditionally a place where jobbing musicians sought gigs and jobbing garment industry workers sought seasonal work.
Private French Lessons Shepherd Market, W1 The ladies working here weren’t French and they didn’t give lessons.
Rails (the) Any mainline train station No explanation required.
Resistance (the) Harley Street, W1 – and surrounding streets Street/area full of private doctors. In 1948 many resisted the foundation of the NHS (public health). Also see Pill Alley.
Rhubarbs (the) The suburbs Sort of rhymes with ‘soobarb’ – jokey.
Spouters Corner Marble Arch, W1. Close to Speaker’s Corner, Hyde Park. Origin of spout: late 1800s, a showman’s patter.
Stage Door Waterloo Station, SE1 Side entrance for dropping off/picking up passengers. Derived from a theatre stage door always being at the side or rear.
Turpentine (the) The Serpentine, Hyde Park Joke name for the lake.
Under the ‘orses tail Queens Gate, SW7 At the top of Queens Gate is an equestrian statue of Field Marshall Robert Napier (relocated here 1920).
Vic (the) Victoria Station, SW1 Abbreviation
WASP (the) Walpole Street, Anderson Street, Sloane Avenue, Pelham Street. Acronym for a short northbound route from Chelsea to South Kensington.
Western (the) Paddington Station, W2 Located in west central London. Also see Padders.
Wharf (the) Canary Wharf, E14 Large office and residential development on the Isle of Dogs. 1980s – present.



Taxi Newspaper, 23rd August 2006.

London Taxi Driver Slang, Graham Yates, 2011.

A Dictionary of Historical Slang, Eric Partridge, 1972.

The London Taxi, Nick Georgano and Bill Munro, 2008.

The Joys of Yiddish, Leo Rosten.

Oxford Shorter Dictionary.

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