Monday, May 16, 2016

Cockney Rhyming Slang... Sneaking into Modern Colloquial English

 Dictionary of British Slang


Cockney Rhyming Slang is a form of English slang which began in the East End of London; a true 'Cockney', is a person born within earshot of the Bow bells.
To create a 'secret' language, Cockney Rhyming Slang replaces normal words with rhyming phrases.

eg; "I'm going out with the trouble and Strife tonight." (I'm going out with the wife tonight.)
"I'm looking smart tonight, got my Kylie Minogues on." (I'm looking smart tonight, I've got my brogues on)

The idea soon spread over the English-speaking world, and since those ancient days many non-Cockney phrases have been added.


Cockney Rhyming Slang has three distinct variations, each rarer than the other…

1st degree Cockney Rhyming Slang… By far the most commonly heard and used (when the rhyme is essential).
Example; “He went up the Apples and Pears.”
Meaning… He went up the stairs.
(Cockney Rhyming Slang for ‘stairs’, is ‘Apples and Pears’)

2nd degree Cockney Rhyming Slang… Less common, but thought to be more true to the 'secret' original form (when the rhyming part has been dropped)…
Example; “He kicked me in the Alberts!”
Meaning… He kicked me in the testicles (balls).
(Cockney Rhyming Slang for testicles (balls) is ‘Albert Halls’, but in this case the rhyming part (‘Halls’) is dropped, leaving the user with a brand new slang term)

3rd degree Cockney Rhyming Slang… Very rare. When the original rhyme has been dropped, and the other part of the original phrase has also been dropped, to be replaced by another word associated with it.
Example; “Calm down, mate, keep your Elvis.”
Meaning… "keep your hair on".
(Cockney Rhyming Slang for ‘hair-on’ is Aaron. But the original Aaron has been dropped being replaced by Elvis, an obvious associated word, although ‘Elvis’ was never in the original rhyming slang.) 

1st degree Cockney Rhyming Slang is pretty easy stuff; let's face it.... it rhymes!
However, when the rhyme is dropped, and you don't know the original phrase, you might be lost on the actual meaning. Even I was surprised how many of these phrases I used, never knowing or thinking they were originally Cockney Rhyming Slang!
See how many you recognize, some more complex than others… (I’ll use the abbreviation CRS for Cockney Rhyming Slang, and {r/w} for “rhymes with”).
Most are 2nd degree CRS.

He’s a bit Haigs…  (CRS- Haigs Dimple, {r/w} simple, ie; not that clever, dim.) (Haigs Whisky bottled a brand of their brew in a dimpled bottle, and the name stuck)

He just blew a raspberry at you...  . (CRS- Raspberry Tart; {r/w} fart.) 

Let’s have a butchers then…   (CRS- Butcher's Hook {r/w} look.)

Look at him, he hasn't got a Scooby... (CRS- Scooby Doo; {r/w} Clue.)

I don't like them, I'm a bit Listerine... 3rd degree... (maybe even 4th...) (Septic Tank; {r/w} Yank. Anti-Septic means anti-Yank (anti-American). Listerine is an anti-septic.

Look at him, he’s Brahms…   (CRS- Brahms & Liszt; {r/w} pissed, drunk) Brahms and Liszt were classical music composers.
 Available in eBooks and paperback
Available in paperback or eBook

He talks funny; he’s a bubble…  (CRS- Bubble and Squeak; {r/w} Greek.) Bubble and Squeak is a fried dish made with potato and vegetable leftovers.

That fellow’s a bit ginger…  (CRS- Ginger Beer; {r/w} Queer, Gay)

I’m all on my Jack today... (CRS- Jack Jones; {r/w} alone’s, on your own.) Jack Jones was a singer in the 60's.

I’m off round the corner for a Jimmy... (CRS- Jimmy Riddle; {r/w} widdle, pee)

He can't hear you, he's mutton... Technically 3rd degree... (CRS- Mutt & Jeff; {r/w} deaf.) Mutt & Jeff were cartoon characters from the 1940’s.

I’m off down the High Street for a Ruby...  (CRS- Ruby Murray; {r/w} curry) Ruby Murray was a Belfast singer from the 1950’s.

Cops are coming, we’d better scarper... (CRS- Scapa Flow; {r/w} go.) Scapa Flow is a harbor in the Shetland Islands where the WW1 German fleet was scuppered.

I’m on my Tod today... (CRS- Todd Sloane; {r/w} alone, lone.)

He’s wearing his Lionels… (CRS- Lionel Blair; {r/w} flare, flared trousers) Lionel Blair was an actor/singer/dancer in the 60’s 70’s in the UK)

Don't be stupid, use your loaf... (CRS- Loaf of Bread; {r/w} head)

I’m a bit Boracic (Borrassic) this week... (CRS- Boracic Lint; {r/w} skint, broke, penniless) Borassic Lint was a gauze substance put on wounds in the old days.

How’s it going, me old China?... (CRS- China Plate; {r/w} mate, friend)

What a fine pair of Bristols... (CRS- Bristol City; {r/w} titties, breasts) Bristol City is one football team in the English seaside town of Bristol.)

Listen to him spin that Porky... (CRS-Pork Pies; {r/w} lies)

Oh, now that’s a nice whistle.... (CRS- Whistle and Flute: {r/w} suit, three piece suit)

My book The Ridiculously Comprehensive Dictionary of British Slang has over 200 pages of slang definitions, available in paperback or eBook.

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