English language, Cockney rhyming slang
Cockney rhyming slang is traditionally spoken by those Londoners within the sound of Bow Bells, or so I believe. I live far away from London in Yorkshire and although I have visited this capital city know little about cockney rhyming slang. However, in common with most other British people I do know a few cockney slang phrases. So let's see what I can dig up on this subject.
Chas and Dave classic Cockney humour
Some of the most common cockney rhyming slang phrases that seem to be almost universally known are:
- Up the apples and pears: STAIRS
- Mince pies: EYES
- Pony and trap: CRAP. Pardon the language please.
- Would you Adam and Eve it: Would you BELIEVE IT.
- Your boat race: FACE
- Tea leaf: THIEF
- The trouble and strife: THE WIFE
- Luvverly jubbely: ALL'S WELL
- Syrup of figs: WIG
- Farmer Giles: PILES or hemorrhoids.
- If you are brown bread: You are DEAD
- Battle cruiser: BOOZER, which is another name for a pub.
Now I have written those few samples I guess they may not be universally known. However, at least a few should be known around the UK. With comedy shows such as Only Fools and Horses examples of Cockney rhyming slang, real and fake, are often heard. A classic from the is series was a Ruby Murray which meant a CURRY.
So where did all this strange talk come from, I hear you ask?
With no definite history written it generally seems to be thought that cockney rhyming slang was the talk on the streets in years gone by. In fact it appears that it was the slang of thieves and rogues. In other words cockney rhyming slang was a type of secret language. Messages could be passed to the intended recipient without fear of being overheard. If someone did overhear they had no idea what the conversation was about.
Very clever really, and certainly crafty.
This cockney language was particularly useful when it was invented in the 19th century for use in front of police officers or coppers, as they were often called. Instead of saying a word out loud a word that rhymed with was used instead. With time parts of the phrase were dropped which caused more confusion to non cockneys. However for cockneys it helped confidentiality. An example of this is Daisy Roots which means Boots. These days cockneys would tend to say Daisies for Boots.
Confused? Well hopefully not too much so. Here are some more phrases which you may find entertaining. I have tried to stay clear of expletives or words that some may find offensive but I cannot guarantee this.
- Jam jar: CAR
- Cream crackered: KNACKERED
- Dicky bird: WORD
- Dog and bone: PHONE
- Currant bun: SUN
- Donkey's ears: YEARS
- Bacon and eggs: LEGS
- Whistle and flute: SUIT
- Weasel and float: STOAT
- Lemon squeezy: EASY
- Loaf of bread: HEAD
- Rabbit and pork: TALK
- Jimmy Riddle: PIDDLE which is another word for urinate.
- Bread and honey: MONEY
- Barnett fair: HAIR
- Army and navy: GRAVY
- Artful Dodger: LODGER
- Butcher's hook: LOOK
- Richard the third: TURD
Of course the lists above are by no means exhaustive.
In order to cope with modern day life new cockney phrases are being created all the time. Even the old phrases are adapted at times. It is quite common for a couple of Cockney rhyming slang words or phrases to be strung together. Take for example:
- Get yer Bacons up the Apples and Stairs: Get your legs upstairs. In reality this could mean go or come upstairs.
- Me jam jar's cream crackered: Me car is knackered. In reality this would be my car has broke down.
Finally Cockney rhyming slang was used for describing various notes and coins of the realm. English currency was not called such mundane names as a five pound note and the like. Instead they were:
Archer = £2000
Bag of Sand = £1000
Grand = £1000
Monkey = £500
Ton = £100
Carpet = £30
Pony = £25
Macaroni = £25
Apple Core = £20
Score = £20
Speckled Hen = £10
Uncle Ben = £10
Nigel Ben = £10
Paul McKenna = £10
Ayrton (Senna) = Tenner = £10
Lady (Godiva) = Fiver = £5
Taxi Driver = Fiver = £5
Nicker or Quid = £1
Ten Bob Bit = 50p piece
Oxford = 5 shillings
Lord of the Manor = Tanner (sixpence)
Tanner = sixpence
Some of the coins are no longer valid. Decimalisation changed the face of British currency forever. However most of the note denominations still exists.
These days the term cockney is often used about anyone living in London, which is strictly speaking not true. If you visit our capital city though try not to bandy about cockney rhyming slang unless you are confident of the company you are keeping.
© 2010 Ethel Smith