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Encyclopedia > Cockney rhyming slang

Cockney rhyming slang is a form of English slang which originated in the East End of London. St Mary-le-Bow The term cockney is often used to refer to working-class people of London, particularly east London, and the slang used by these people. ... The English language is a West Germanic language that originates in England. ... Slang is the use of highly informal words and expressions that are not considered standard in the speakers dialect or language. ... The East End of London, known locally as the East End, is an area, with no formal authority or boundaries, that spans a number of administative districts of London in England. ...



Traditional Cockney rhyming slang works by taking two words that are related through a short phrase and using the first word to stand for a word that rhymes with the second. For instance, "boat" means "face" as "boat race" rhymes with face. Similarly "plates" means "feet" ("plates of meat"), and bread means "money" (bread and honey).

The origins of rhyming slang are disputed. It remains a matter of speculation as to whether it was a linguistic accident or whether it was developed intentionally to confuse non-locals. If deliberate, it might have simply been used to maintain a sense of community; or to be used in the marketplace for vendors to talk amongst themselves without customers knowing what they were saying; or it may have been used by criminals (see thieves' cant) to confuse the police. Linguistics is the scientific study of language, which can be theoretical or applied. ... A community is a social group of organisms sharing an environment, normally with shared interests. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... Thieves cant was a secret language (or cryptolect) formerly used by thieves, beggars and hustlers of various kinds in Great Britain and to a lesser extent in other English-speaking countries. ...

In recent years the practice of dropping the rhyming word and using just the first word in the pair has become less common, as the slang has been used by people who don't understand the traditional rules. The bastardized form, in which the full phrase is used, is now assumed by many people to be Cockney rhyming slang. In its original context this form makes no sense since it does little to exclude outsiders. It was popularized by Cockney comedians for just that reason.

The proliferation of rhyming slang has meant many of its traditional expressions have passed into common language, and the creation of new ones (often ironically) is no longer restricted to Cockneys. Some substitutions have become relatively widespread in Britain, such as "have a butcher's" (which means to have a look, from "butcher's hook"), and these are often now used without awareness of their origins. Many English speakers are unaware that the term "use your loaf" is derived from "loaf of bread" meaning head. In the US many people talk about getting down to brass tacks (facts) with no idea that they are using rhyming slang. Some words are much less taboo than their etymology would suggest: many speakers would be horrified to learn that terms they use frequently, like "berk" (often used to mean "foolish person") and "cobblers" (often used to mean "what you just said is rubbish"), are actually from Berkeley Hunt, meaning "cunt," and "cobbler's awls", meaning "balls". “Human Head” redirects here. ... This article is about cultural prohibitions in general, for other uses, see Taboo (disambiguation). ... Not to be confused with Entomology, the scientific study of insects. ... Hunt Country The county lies in Gloucestershire and South Gloucestershire, between Gloucester and Bristol. ... Cunt is an English language vulgarism most commonly used in reference to vulva or vagina and, more generally, the pubis, from the mons veneris to the perineum. ... Human male anatomy The testicles, known medically as testes (singular testis), are the male generative glands in animals. ...

The non-native speaker needs to be cautious in using rhyming slang to "fit in". The extent of the use of the slang is often exaggerated; only a very few phrases are in everyday use. Many examples are only used by people who are discussing rhyming slang, or by people who are being ironic or are making up a term on the spot for a joke, often at the expense of the tourist. In addition, since the original purpose was to encode or disguise speech from the comprehension of bystanders, terms that become too 'well-known' still have a tendency to lose actual currency fairly quickly, putting whatever usage the slang enjoys into a constant flux.

This style of rhyming has spread through many English-speaking countries, where the original phrases are supplemented by rhymes created to fit local needs. Creation of rhyming slang has become a word game for people of many classes and regions. The term 'Cockney' rhyming slang is generally applied to these expansions to indicate the rhyming style; though arguably the term only applies to phrases used in the East End of London. Similar formations do exist in other parts of the United Kingdom; for example, in the East Midlands, the local accent has formed "Derby Road", which rhymes with "cold": a conjunction that would not be possible in any other dialect of the UK. The slang also exists in Ireland where a young man might say that he is "going on a garden with a Richard" = going on a garden gate = "date" with a Richard the Third = "bird" = "girl". A word game or word puzzle can be of several different types: // [edit] Letter arrangement games The goal is to form words out of given letters. ... The East Midlands is one of the regions of England and consists of most of the eastern half of the traditional region of the Midlands. ...

All slang is rooted in the era of its origin, and therefore some of the meaning of its original etymology will be lost as time passes. In the 1980s for example, "Kerry Packered" meant "knackered"; in the 1990s, "Veras" referred to Rizla rolling papers ("Vera Lynns" = "skins" = Rizlas), as popularized in the song "Ebeneezer Goode" by The Shamen; and in 2004, the term "Britneys" was used to mean "beers" (or in Ireland to mean "queers") via the music artist "Britney Spears". Kerry Francis Bullmore Packer AC (17 December 1937 – 26 December 2005) was an Australian publishing, media and gaming tycoon. ... A knacker is a person in the trade of rendering animals that are unfit for human consumption, such as work horses that have died in harness or are too tired to work any more. ... Rizla Silver Slim Early 1900s Rizla (No Glue Strip) Rizla+ (known commonly as Rizla) is a brand of papers used to roll cigarettes. ... Dame Vera Lynn DBE (born 20 March 1917) is a retired British singer whose career flourished during World War II, when she was nicknamed The Forces Sweetheart. She is best known for the popular songs Well Meet Again and The White Cliffs of Dover. Lynn is one of the... Ebeneezer Goode is a song by British electronic music group The Shamen, which became their biggest hit when released as a single in October 1992. ... The Shamen were an experimental electronic music band, initially formed in Aberdeen, Scotland by Colin Angus (b. ... For other uses, see Beer (disambiguation). ... Homosexuality refers to sexual interaction and / or romantic attraction between individuals of the same sex. ... Britney Jean Spears (born December 2, 1981) is a Grammy Award-winning[1] American pop singer, dancer, actress, author and songwriter. ...

Rhyming slang in popular culture

  • The British comedy series Mind Your Language (1977) features a character (caretaker Sid) who uses Cockney rhyming slang extensively. The show also had a whole episode dedicated to Cockney rhyming slang.
  • Musical artists such as Audio Bullys and The Streets use Cockney rhyming slang in almost all of their songs, while Cockney artists Chas & Dave regularly use Cockney rhyming slang in their songs. The UK punk scene of the late 70's brought along bands that glorified their working-class heritage: Sham 69 being a good example with their hit songs such as "The Cockney Kids are Innocent"; often audience members would chant the words "If you're proud to be a Cockney, clap your hands" in between songs. The term "Chas and Dave" is also Cockney rhyming slang for "shave". Ian Dury who used rhyming slang throughout his career, even wrote a song for his solo debut New Boots and Panties! entitled Blackmail Man, an anti-racist song that utilized numerous derogatory rhyming slang for various ethnic minorities. The idiom even briefly made an appearance in the UK-based DJ reggae music of the 80s, in the hit "Cockney Translation" by Smiley Culture; this was followed a couple of years later by Domenick & Peter Metro's "Cockney and Yardie".
  • The box office success Ocean's Eleven (2001) contains an apparent example of Cockney rhyming slang, when the character Basher Tarr (Don Cheadle) uses the slang "Barney" to mean "trouble," derived from Barney Rubble. In common usage, "Barney" does not mean trouble; it means an argument or a fight. Some argue that it is derived from "Barn Owl" which (in a Cockney accent) nearly rhymes with "row" (argument). However, the book Understanding British English, by Margaret E. Moore, Citadel Press, 1995, does not list "Barney" in its "Rhyming Slang" section. Furthermore, Slang and Its Analogues, by J.S. Farmer and W.E. Henley and originally printed in 1890, states that "Barney" (which can mean anything from a "lark" to a "row") is of unknown origin, and was used in print as early as 1865.
  • The film Green Street Hooligans (2005) features usage of Cockney rhyming slang as well as a brief explanation of the process by which the slang is derived.
  • The film It's All Gone Pete Tong (2004) takes its title from Cockney rhyming slang - Pete Tong meaning wrong (however in this case the entire phrase is common in British English slang).
  • The film The Limey (1999) features Terrence Stamp as Wilson, a Cockney man recently released from prison who spices his conversations with rhyming slang:
Wilson: Can't be too careful nowadays, y'know? Lot of "tea leaves" about, know what I mean?
Warehouse Foreman: Excuse me?
Wilson: "Tea leaves"... "thieves."
Wilson: Eddy... yeah, he's me new "china."
Elaine: What?
Wilson: "China plate"... "mate."
Wilson: I'm gonna 'ave a "butcher's" round the house.
Ed Roel: Who you gonna butcher?
Wilson: "Butcher's hook"... "look."
  • In the film The Football Factory (2004) the character of Zebedee is berated for his occasional use of "that fucking muggy rhyming slang" by Billy Bright.
  • Oliver Twist the novel and the musical both exhibit examples of Cockney throughout.
  • In the Discworld novel Going Postal, rhyming slang is parodied with "Dimwell arrhythmic rhyming slang," which is like rhyming slang, but doesn't rhyme. An example of this is a wig being a prune, as wig doesn't, possibly by a complex set of unspoken rules, rhyme with "syrup of prunes." (In Britain a widely used example of real rhyming slang is syrup = syrup of fig(s) = wig).
  • In the film Mr. Lucky (1943), Cary Grant's character teaches rhyming slang to his female companion. However the character describes this as Australian rhyming slang.
  • On September 19, 2006, the comic strip Get Fuzzy introduced a new character: Mac Manc McManx, a manx cat and cousin of Bucky Katt. McManx uses a speech pattern heavily based around Cockney rhyming slang and other London slang, despite being from Manchester. These speech patterns often make it almost impossible for the other characters, especially Satchel, to understand him.
  • Ronnie Barker wrote a classic sketch for the comedy series "The Two Ronnies" in which a vicar delivers an entire sermon in rhyming slang.
  • Cockney rhyming slang is occasionally featured as a category on Jeopardy!.
  • The Disney movie One Hundred and One Dalmatians features some Cockney rhyming slang by the two puppy thieves. Note that the rhyming word is also included, for example "A lovely pair of turtle doves".
  • In Garth Ennis' The Boys, Billy Butcher refers to Americans as Septics, then explains "Septic Tank: Yank"
  • On the London Weekend Television situation comedy from the 70's, No-Honestly, air-headed character Clara referred to one woman "with the big Birminghams." Her romantic partner, C.D., incredulous, asked her what she meant, not recognizing a valid rhyming slang reference (Birmingham City = Titty). Clara's explanation was, "Oh, C.D., it's rhyming slang - Birmingham town bosoms!" which, of course, neither rhymes nor is slang.
  • In the new series of Doctor Who, in episode one of the 2nd season, "New Earth", originally broadcast on April 15, 2006, Cassandra (who is 'inhabiting' Rose's body) asks Chip how Rose speaks. He replies, "Old earth Cockney." She then uses several examples of Cockney rhyming slang, including "I'm proceeding up the apples and pears" (stairs) and "I just don't Adam and Eve it" (believe it).

Image File history File links Broom_icon. ... Mind Your Language is a British comedy television series originally shown on ITV between 1977 and 1979. ... Audio Bullys are an electronic music group from the UK. Formed in 2001 by Simon Franks and Tom Dinsdale in their hometown of Kingston-upon-Thames, they were signed to Source UK (part of the EMI Group) by the then MD Phillipe Ascoli. ... Mike Skinner (born November 27, 1978), more commonly known by his stage name The Streets, is a rapper from Birmingham, England. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... Ian Dury, in a look combining Gene Vincent with a Cockney pearly king. ... New Boots and Panties!! is a 1977 album by Ian Dury. ... Reggae is a music genre developed in Jamaica in the late 1960s. ... Smiley Culture - real name David Emmanuel - is a British reggae singer and DJ. Although his period of fame and success was brief, he did produce two of the most memorable reggae singles of the 1980s, in which he displayed a remarkable verbal dexterity. ... A reel of film, which predates digital cinematography. ... Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) is a violent, English black comedy film directed and written by Guy Ritchie. ... DVD (also known as Digital Versatile Disc or Digital Video Disc) is a popular optical disc storage media format. ... Only Fools and Horses is a British television sitcom, created and written by John Sullivan, and made and broadcast by the BBC. Seven series were originally broadcast in the UK between 1981 and 1991, with sporadic Christmas specials until 2003. ... EastEnders is a popular BBC television soap opera, first broadcast in the United Kingdom on BBC1 on 19 February 1985[4] and continuing to date. ... The Italian Job is a British caper film, written by Troy Kennedy Martin, produced by Michael Deeley and directed by Peter Collinson. ... This article is about the producer and songwriter. ... Don Black OBE (born June 21, 1938) is an English lyricist. ... To Sir, with Love (1967) is a British film which deals with social issues in an inner city school, written and directed by James Clavell and based on a novel of the same name by E.R. Braithwaite. ... Sir Sidney Poitier KBE, (IPA pronunciation: ) (born February 20, 1927), is an Academy Award-winning Bahamian American actor, film director, and activist. ... Austin Powers in Goldmember, released in 2002, is the third film of the Austin Powers series starring Mike Myers in the title role. ... Prince Wendell (now King Wendell) is a fictional character in the Hallmark Entertainments and NBCs 2000 Mini-series The 10th Kingdom by Simon Moore. ... “Telefilm” redirects here. ... The 10th Kingdom is a made-for-TV mini-series written by screenplay writer Simon Moore. ... Oceans Eleven is a 2001 remake of the 1960 Rat Pack caper film Oceans Eleven. ... Don Cheadle (born November 29, 1964) is an Academy Award-nominated and Golden Globe Award-winning American actor. ... Barney Rubble. ... Green Street is a 2005 film, starring Elijah Wood and Charlie Hunnam, about football hooliganism in England. ... Its All Gone Pete Tong is a 2004 fictional independent biopic about Frankie Wilde (Paul Kaye), a DJ who goes completely deaf. ... Pete Tong (born July 1960) is a British DJ who works for BBC Radio 1 in the United Kingdom. ... Trainspotting is the first novel by Scottish writer Irvine Welsh. ... Irvine Welsh (born Leith, Edinburgh, September 27, 1958) is an acclaimed contemporary Scottish novelist, most famous for his novel Trainspotting. ... Joe Baksi (January 14, 1922 - August 6, 1977) was a top heavyweight contender who defeated fighters such as Tami Mauriello, Lee Savold, Lou Nova, and Freddie Mills, while losing decisions to Jersey Joe Walcott and Ezzard Charles. ... The Limey is a revenge neo-noir crime drama, directed by Steven Soderbergh The film starring Terence Stamp as Wilson, an Englishman straight out of prison and on parole who comes to Los Angeles, California to investigate the suspicious death of his daughter. ... Terence Stamp (born July 22, 1939) is a British actor. ... The Football Factory is a 2004 English film, directed by Nick Love and starring Danny Dyer and Frank Harper. ... Anthony Burgess (February 25, 1917 – November 22, 1993) was a British novelist, critic and composer. ... Nadsat is a constructed slang dialect of English with many Russian influences invented by the linguist, novelist, and composer Anthony Burgess. ... Clockwork Orange redirects here. ... Oliver Twist (1838) is Charles Dickens second novel. ... This article is about the novels. ... Memorial of the 1986 post office incident in Edmond, Oklahoma. ... This article details minor Discworld concepts: concepts and ideas from the Discworld of novels by Terry Pratchett which only appear in the background, or are not well fleshed out. ... A wig or toupee is a head of hair - human, horse-hair or synthetic - worn on the head for fashion or various other aesthetic and stylistic reasons, including cultural and religious observance. ... Prune refers to any of more than 125 varieties of fruit, most grown for drying. ... Mr. ... This article is about the British actor. ... is the 262nd day of the year (263rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 2006 (MMVI) was a common year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Get Fuzzy is an American daily comic strip written and drawn by Darby Conley. ... China Tom Miéville (born September 6, 1972, Norwich) is a British fantastic fiction writer. ... For the 1962 James Clavell novel, see King Rat King Rat is the 1998 debut novel by China Miéville. ... “Jeopardy” redirects here. ... This article is about the 1961 film. ... The Boys is a comic book series, written by Garth Ennis and illustrated by Darick Robertson. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ...

Common examples

  • Apples = apples and pears = stairs
  • Barnet = Barnet Fair = hair
  • Brass = Brass Flute = Prostitute
  • Dog = dog and bone = telephone
  • Jam = Jam jar = Car
  • Water = Water bottle = throttle
  • China = China plate = mate
  • Frog = frog and toad = road
  • Rosie = Rosie Lee = tea
  • J. Arthur = J. Arthur Rank = wank (masturbate)
  • Trouble = trouble and strife = wife


Ayto, John. 2002. The Oxford Dictionary of Rhyming Slang. Oxford University Press.

Franklyn, Julian. 1960. A Dictionary of Rhyming Slang. Routledge.

Green, Jonathon. 2000. Cassell's Rhyming Slang. Cassell.

Lillo, Antonio (full Spanish name, Antonio Lillo Buades). 1996. "Drinking and Drug-Addiction Terms in Rhyming Slang". In Comments on Etymology 25 (6): pp. 1-23.

Lillo, Antonio. 1998. "Origin of Cockney Slang Dicky Dirt". In Comments on Etymology 27 (8): pp. 16-20.

Lillo, Antonio. 1999. "More on Sausage and Mash 'Cash'". In Gerald L. Cohen and Barry Popik (eds.), Studies in Slang. Part VI. Peter Lang, pp. 87-89.

Lillo, Antonio. 2000. "Bees, Nelsons, and Sterling Denominations: A Brief Look at Cockney Slang and Coinage". In Journal of English Linguistics 28 (2): pp. 145-172.

Lillo, Antonio. 2001. "The Rhyming Slang of the Junkie". In English Today 17 (2): pp. 39-45.

Lillo, Antonio. 2001. "From Alsatian Dog to Wooden Shoe: Linguistic Xenophobia in Rhyming Slang". In English Studies 82 (4): pp. 336-348.

Lillo, Antonio. 2004. "A Wee Keek at Scottish Rhyming Slang". In Scottish Language 23: pp. 93-115.

Lillo, Antonio. 2004. "Exploring Rhyming Slang in Ireland". In English World-Wide 25 (2): pp. 273-285.

Lillo, Antonio. 2006. "Cut-down Puns". In English Today 22 (1): pp. 36-44.

See also

Look up Cockney rhyming slang in
Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... Wiktionary (a portmanteau of wiki and dictionary) is a multilingual, Web-based project to create a free content dictionary, available in over 150 languages. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... A language-game is a philosophical concept developed by Ludwig Wittgenstein, referring to simple examples of language use and the actions into which the language is woven. ...

External links

  Results from FactBites:
Cockney Rhyming Slang (0 words)
Cockney is the term used to describe any person said to be born within the sound of the Bow Bells - the bells of St. Mary-Le-Bow Church ("Bow Church") - in Cheapside, London EC2.
Cockney should not be used as a generic term describing any person born in or around the general vicinity of London.
It is thought to have originated from the seamen and soldiers who used the London docks, from the Gypsies who arrived in the fifteen hundreds, from the Irish residents and the Jewish faction and from all the other ethnic minorities which have made up the population of the city.
What is Cockney rhyming slang? (0 words)
Rhyming Slang phrases are derived from taking an expression which rhymes with a word and then using that expression instead of the word.
The rhyming word is not always omitted so Cockney expressions can vary in their construction, and it is simply a matter of convention which version is used.
Cockney Rhyming Slang may have had its highs and lows but today it is in use as never before.
  More results at FactBites »



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