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Cockney rhyming slang

Cockney rhyming slang is a form of English slang which originated in the East End of London. Many of its expressions have passed into common language, and the creation of new ones is no longer restricted to Cockneys.

It developed as a way of obscuring the meaning of sentences to those who did not understand the slang, though it remains a matter of speculation whether this was a linguistic accident, or whether it was developed intentionally to assist criminals or to maintain a particular community.

Rhyming slang works by replacing the word to be obscured with the first word of a phrase that rhymes with that word. For instance, "face" would be replaced by "boat", because face rhymes with "boat race". Similarly "feet" becomes "plates" ("plates of meat"), and "money" is "bread" (a very common usage, from "bread and honey"). Sometimes the full phrase is used, for example "Currant Bun" to mean "The Sun" (often referring to the British Tabloid Newspaper of that name). There is no hard and fast rule for this, and you just have to know whether a particular expression is always shortened, never shortened, or can be used either way.

Some substitutions have become relatively widespread in England, for example to "have a butcher's" means to have a look, from the rhyming slang "butcher's hook".

This style of rhyming has also 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.

It is often used in films (such as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998), which contains a glossary of Cockney Rhyming Slang on the DVD version to assist the viewer) and on television (e.g. Minder, EastEnders) to lend authenticity to an East End setting.

Some rhyming slang is rooted in the era it's used and is destined to be lost. For example the 1980s, "Kerry Packered" meant "knackered" and currently the term "Britneys" to mean beers, via "Britney Spears", may not outlast Britney's own career.

Other examples of Cockney Rhyming Slang, or phrases inspired by it, are:

Adam and Eve = believe = as in "would you Adam and Eve it?"
Apples and pears = stairs
Aris = Aristotle = bottle & glass = arse (a two-stage rhyme!)
Barnet = Barnet Fair = hair
Berk or Burk = Berkshire Hunt = cunt
Boat = boat race = face
Boracic (freq. contracted to brassic) = boracic lint = skint (i.e. penniless)
Bottle = bottle and glass = arse
Brahms = Brahms and Liszt (classical composers) = pissed (i.e. drunk)
Bristols = Bristol Cities = titties (i.e. breasts)
Brown bread = dead
Butcher's = butcher's hook = look
Chalk Farms = arms
China = china plate = mate
Cobblers = cobblers' awls = balls or 'bollocks' (i.e. testicles)
Creamed = cream crackered = knackered (i.e. exhausted or beaten)
Currant bun = sun
Daisies = daisy roots = boots
Dicky = dicky dirt = shirt
Dicky or Dickie = dickie bird = word = as in "not a dickie", or even "not a dickie bird"
Dog = dog and bone = phone
Dukes = Duke[s] of York = fork, i.e. hand, now chiefly when balled into a fist
Emmas = Emma Freud (English author and columnist) = haemorrhoids
Frog = frog & toad = road
Gregory = Gregory Peck = neck
Gypsy's = Gypsy's kiss = piss
Hampsteads = Hampstead Heath = teeth
Half-inch = pinch (i.e. steal)
I suppose = nose
Jack = Jack Jones = alone ("On my Jack" = "On my own")
Jam jar = car
Jam tart = heart
J. Arthur = J. Arthur Rank[?] (1930s UK flour magnate and film producer) = wank (i.e. masturbate)
Jimmy = Jimmy Riddle (unknown person, not the character killed during the Waco siege)= piddle or widdle (urinate)
Jugs = jugs of beer = ears
Lionels = Lionel Blairs[?] (English variety performer) = flares (as in flared trousers)
Loaf = loaf of bread = head ("use your loaf")
Lucy Lockett = pocket
Minces = mince pies = eyes
Mutton = Mutt and Jeff = deaf = named after Mutt and Jeff, two early 20th century comic strip characters[?]
Nobbies = Nobby Stiles[?] (English footballer) = piles (haemorrhoids)
Oily rag = fag (i.e. cigarette)
Ones and twos = shoes
Orchestras = orchestra stalls = balls (Orchestra stalls = part of a concert or other hall. Example = "A kick in the orchestras.") [Coincidentally, "orchi-" is also the Greek root meaning "testicle."]
Peckham Rye = tie (i.e. necktie)
Plaster of Paris = Aris (see above) = arse
Plates = plates of meat = feet
Porky = pork pie = lie, e.g. "He's telling porkies!"
Pony = pony and trap = crap (note: Cockneys also use "pony" to mean £25 - hopefully the meaning is clear from the context)
Rabbit = rabbit and pork = talk
Raspberry = raspberry tart = fart (as in "blowing raspberry/ies" = making rasping noises with your mouth)
Richard = Richard the Third = turd (lump of faeces)
Richard = Dicky Bird = bird (slang for girl) but also Dicky Bird = word
Rosie = Rosie Lee = Tea e.g. "Have a cup of Rosie"
Round the houses = trousers
Rub-a-dub-dub = pub = public house
Ruby = Ruby Murray (popular singer in the 1950s born in Belfast) = curry
Septic = septic tank = Yank (slang for an American)
Skin = skin and blister = sister
Sky = sky rocket = pocket
Syrup / sirrup = syrup of figs = wig(s)
Tea leaf = thief
The Sweeney = Sweeney Todd = Flying Squad[?], a special division of the Metropolitan Police[?]
Titfer = tit for tat = hat
Taters = Potatoes in the mould = cold
Treacle = treacle tart = sweetheart
Trouble = trouble and strife = wife
Veras = Vera Lynns[?] (famous British wartime singer)= 'skins' or cigarette papers, eg, "got any Veras?"
Vera = Vera Lynn = gin
Vera = Vera Lynn = chin
Whistle = whistle and flute = suit = as in "a nice whistle"

See also; Polari



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