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Sunday, 26 June 2011

Cockney Rhyming Slang

As I am away again this week (explanation in a later post!), I am repeating this post of five years ago from my previous blog. Cockney rhyming slang together with US Versus UK English were always the most popular topics.
The true definition of a Cockney is someone born within the sound of Bow Bells. That specifically refers to the bells of St. Mary-le-Bow church in the East End of London, however it’s a term generally applied to indigenous working-class east enders and sometimes, loosely, to any working-class Londoner. The word itself originates from fourteenth century English meaning a cock’s egg; a term used by country folk to refer to town’s people. I imagine the implication was that town-dwellers, being unwise to country ways, would not know that hens, not cocks, lay the eggs!

Cockney Rhyming Slang (CRS) is not a language because all of the words used are clearly English, neither can it be called a dialect because those who use it are perfectly capable of not using it. Here’s how it works: Words, usually nouns, are substituted by a pair of words, the second of which rhymes with the original word – but, usually, only the first word of the pair is used. Confused? Read on.

The best way to illustrate the above is by example. The CRS for stairs is ‘apples and pears’, so the word used is ‘apples’. “I’m just going upstairs” becomes “I’m just going up the apples”!

Here are some other CRS words that are still in common use:

Arse= Khyber (Khyber Pass) so “Stick it up your khyber.”

Mate= China (China Plate) so “ How are yer, me old china?”

Phone= Dog (Dog and Bone) so “ I’ll give him a dog tonight.”

Look= Butchers (Butcher’s Hook) so “Take a butchers at Tom’s new jam jar [=car].”

Things can get really obscure sometimes when a double link is used. For example, Arse (again!) can sometimes be Aris. This is from Aris being short for Aristotle, which rhymes with bottle for which the rhyming slang is ‘Bottle and Glass’ and glass rhymes with arse! There are no rules!

If you are new to this try translating the following and I will post the answers next weekend:

1) She’s got beautiful minces.

2) She may be his skin and blister but she’s nothing like him.

3) I can’t see. Where’s me gregs?

4) I bought a new whistle for me wedding.

5) What a lovely pair of bristols she’s got!

It’s a living culture and new slang for modern words appear all of the time. Have some fun by making up your own!
Answers now posted in the comments!


dcrelief said...

#1. I thought of mince pie; so maybe she has nice fruit? Nice breasts? But wait! Then I thought... maybe she doesn't mince words... a straight shooter...tells it like it is. Minces = manners.
#2. Okay I think she gets under your skin, irritating, but not the pain in the arse that he is.
#3. Glasses?
#4. A new suit to wear; it would attract a whistle form passersby?
#5. Bristols, like boar haired brushes?

I had a look and butchered the questions. Forgot me gregs and blurry-eyed, accidentally dog-boned me own khyber.

Good one, Bazza!

klahanie said...

Geez bazza old bean, I nearly fell down the apples and pears after reading this posting. Would you Adam and Eve it?

Botanist said...

I never considered just how confusing this might be to a non-Brit, especially given how some of the terms have entered mainstream use. For example, I'm sure any Brit would know exactly what #5 means, and no-one would bat an eyelid if you said "Hey, come and have a butchers at this."

bazza said...

dcreleif: Thanks for a valiant and very funny (and partially correct) attempt. Check back next weekend for the definitive answers.

klahanie: Ah, I note some nimble use of the genre sir! As an English-based commenter I appreciate that you left it to others to answer.

botanist: Again, you did not take advantage of your British origin and give it all away. I thank you!
Come on all you yanks and Aussies out there. Why not make fools of yourselves? Have a go!

Anonymous said...

Sir Tom Eagerly, says:
I say Bazza, you cockney types really are game! If I throw down some slap* will do a little tap-dance for Sir Tom.
*Slap = slap dash = cash.

THE SNEE said...

Oh so much fun Bazza!
1. Ears ( Just kidding. I have no idea).
2. Soulmate perhaps? What a description!
3. Glasses
4. A bottle of something, or a haircut?
5. Legs, breasts, hands, eyes, or of course....ears.

Hope you are having a great trip, wherever you are!

David said...

Dear Bazza (aka me old china),
I got to your post a little late, but found it very entertaining. Maybe I could do one about old Potteries sayings. Living in Stoke, we often use "duck" as a term of endearment, as in "'ey up, duck", meaning, "hello, my friend". Some of the older generation even say things like, "it's getting black over Bill's mother's", indicating that the weather is about to turn. Even though I live in Stoke the meaning of some phrases still escapes me, like the saying, "'er's the cat's mother", which I know is often used when someone calls some one else (usually female) "'er", instead of "she", as in "'er's goin' out tonight". In true Potteries "tonight" would also come out something like "t'neet".
Aren't dialects interesting, bazza!
Yours with Very Best Wishes,

bazza said...

Sir Tom, The Snee & David: Thank you all for joining in the fun. The definitive answers will appear here tomorrow!

bazza said...

Here are the answers to the Cockney Rhyming Slang Quiz.

1) She’s got beautiful minces. Minces = Mince Pies = Eyes
2) She may be his skin and blister but she’s nothing like him. Skin & Blister = Sister)
3)I can’t see. Where’s me gregs? Gregs=Gregory Pecks= Specs= Spectacles
4) I bought a new whistle for me wedding. Whistle=Whistle & Flute = Suit
5) What a lovely pair of bristols she’s got! This needs a slightly longer explanation:
This originates from the time when Bristol was the second largest port in England, after London. Sailors went the ‘New World’ bringing tobacco products from Bristol, Virginia. This was known as travelling between the Bristol cities. You can probably work out the CRS for ‘Bristol Cities’. If not, email me!

Anonymous said...

Sir Tom Eagerly, says:
Gosh Bazza, this is the first of your bloody quizes that I have been able to answer!
Naturally the yanks wouldn't have got them. Where do I collect my prize......?

Kelly said...

Wow... That's like a whole new language to me, an American. Kezza is very confused. Hope you're having fun.

Sunny said...

Hahaha!!! And my Brit hubby got his nose out of joint when we first met because I was "writing down what he said and translating it to what it means in English"...meaning American English!!!

bazza said...

Sir Tom: Have you been drinking again? Silly question. This is your second response to this post!

Kelly (belatedly): I really enjoy the fun that this topic generates Kezza.

Sunny: Hi, thanks for looking in. I suppose that, as there are more Americans speaking English than Brits, we don't 'own' the language any more! Of course, the same kind of differences occur with Australian, Indian etc speakers of English. However Canadian English has a lot of British style useage. You and your hubby should have US/British dictionairies around the house!

bazza said...

Hi Sunny: Thanks for that info. Your hubby must be a bit of a computer whizz; I wouldn't know how to add a font to Blogger's offerings.
PS. I forgot to add in response to your comment about Cockney rhyming slang that, not only have you to contend with British English but you are almost on Merseyside; that's double jepardy!