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COCKNEY Rhyming Slang

The origins of Cockney Rhyming Slang are uncertain. It's not really a language since the words
spoken are clearly English; on the other hand, it's not a dialect either, since the speakers of this
slang are also perfectly capable of not using it! Some stories go that this slang originated in the
market place so that the vendors could communicate without the customers knowing what was
being said - you wouldn't want your customers knowing that you were going to lower your prices
in ten minutes so you could go home early. Other stories have it that it originated in the prisons so
that inmates could talk without the guards listening in. I recently heard from Bob King that "it was
born shortly after Sir Robert Peel introduced and implemented his idea for a Police force. The
criminal fraternity had never been faced with such a concerted effort to thwart them, so they
developed Cockney Slang, the idea of which being that, two or more criminals could hold open
conversation, within earshot of a "Peeler," without fear that their plans were being overheard by
the police." And Jackie says that many of the rhymes were invented by the petty thieves to rob
people in the markets, allowing the thieves to talk amongst themselves without anyone knowing
what they were talking about
It doesn't really matter where it comes from - the important thing is that it exists today just as it has
for many, many years and can provide a wonderful, colourful language in everyday life.
It is very difficult to describe what Rhyming Slang is without using an example, but I'll give it a
try. Basically, you take a pair of associated words (e.g. fish hook), where the second word rhymes
with the word you intend to say, then use the first word of the associated pair to indicate the word
you originally intended to say. Usually. And some slang words have more than one meaning (for
example, iron can be a bank (Iron Tank) or a homosexual (Iron Hoof - this rhymes with poof which
is a particularly English expression for homosexuals), so context is everything! There - clear as

"Got to my mickey, found me way up the apples, put on me whistle and the bloody dog
went. It was me trouble telling me to fetch the teapots."
which really means,
"Got to my house (mickey mouse), found my way up the stairs (apples and pears), put on
my suit (whistle and flute) when the phone (dog and bone) rang. It was my wife (trouble
and strife) telling me to get the kids (teapot lids)."

'Allo me old china - wot say we pop round the Jack. I'll stand you a pig and you can rabbit
on about your teapots. We can Beckham some tommy and be off before the dickory hits
or, to translate
Hello my old mate (china plate) - what do you say we pop around to the bar (Jack Tar). I'll
buy you a beer (pig's ear) and you can talk (rabbit and pork) about your kids (teapot lids).
We can nosh=eat (Beckham and Posh) supper (Tommy Tucker) and be gone before the
clock (hickory dickory dock) strikes twelve.
Many terms are based on popular culture, and so the cant is constantly updated according to
changing fashions. The terms listed here are well-established.

Adam and Eve believe

apples and pears stairs

aris (short for Aristotle) bottle, arse

mincers (short for mince pies) eyes

Barnet Fair hair

Mutt and Jeff deaf

Barney Rubble trouble

north and south mouth

bees and honey money

pen and ink stink (noun)

bird lime time (in prison)

plates of meat feet

Brahms and Liszt pissed (drunk)

bubble, bubble and squeak - Greek

porker, porky short for pork pie lie


rabbit (sort for rabbit and pork) talk

butcher's hook a look

raspberry ripple nipple

china plate mate (friend)

Rosy Lee tea (drink)

currant bun sun (also The Sun, a British


Ruby Murray curry

custard and jelly telly (television)

salmon and trout snout (tobacco)

dog and bone phone

septic tank Yank

dog's meat feet [from early 20th c.]

sherbert (short for sherbert dab) cab (taxi)

dustbin lid kid

tables and chairs stairs

frog and toad road

half-inch pinch (to steal)

taters (short for potatoes in the mould)

cold (adjective)

tea leaf thief

Hank Marvin - starving

titfer (short for tit for tat) hat

irish pig wig

trouble and strife wife

jam-jar car

whistle and flute suit (of clothes)

loop the loop soup

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