Thursday, September 13, 2018

Cockney Rhyming Slang

I've been working with Brits, pretty much on a daily basis, for almost a decade so I've picked up quite a bit of what they call "real English".  This includes what is known as Cockney rhyming slang.

It was invented in the 1840s by East London market traders to disguise what they were saying from customers.  Criminals used it as a secret language to  keep the police from knowing what was going on.  Over the years, many of these slang expressions have become pretty common across the UK.    

A rhyming expression is substituted for the word that you really want to say.  For example, "dog and bone" rhymes with "phone" so you instead of saying "pick up the phone" you say "pick up the dog and bone".

Many times expressions are shortened and the rhyming part isn't even used.  For example, "butcher's hook" rhymes with "look".  But 'butcher's' is usually dropped so if you want to have a look at something so say "let's have a butcher's".  It can sometimes get a wee bit confusing but using the expressions makes you less of an outsider.

There are lots of them but here are a few of the most common ones I've come across.
Adam and Eve = believe.  Can you Adam and Eve it?
Apples and pears = stairs.  Head up the apples and pears.
Barney Rubble = trouble.  I don't want any Barney Rubble.
Bees and honey = money.  Where's my bees and honey?
Bubble and squeak = Greek.  It's all bubble to me.
China plates = mates.  Going out with my China plates.
Duke of Kent = rent.  I need to give the landlord his Duke of Kent.
Jimmy Riddle = piddle.  After many beers you need to Jimmy Riddle.
Rosie Lee = tea.  Have a cup of Rosie.

In the USA, kids will say "put up your dukes" for a fist fight.  I never knew that this expression came from "Duke of York" which rhymes with 'fork' and is Cockney slang for "fist".

Here's a video about it that I found out on YouTube.

Many of these expressions also work in Ireland.  But I'm pretty sure that the Irish have a few of their own.

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