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What is Cockney rhyming slang?

  Cockney Rhyming SlangOUR BRIT SAYS:

IF you asked the bartender at the local pub where the loos (toilets) are and he told you to go up the apples and pears, what would you do?

Probably stare blankly and walk away confused. But the bartender is just telling you to go up the stairs in Cockney rhyming slang.

Cockney rhyming slang can sound like a collection of words that appear to have nothing in common, slammed together to refer to something they usually have no association with. Yep it is as simple as that…maybe if we give you some background information this will all make much more sense.

A Cockney is traditionally a person born within a radius of St Mary-le-Bow church in Cheapside in the City of London. To be Cockney you have to be able to hear the bells of the church from the place you were born. But as society developed so too did the phrase Cockney and now it can be used to describe people from the outskirts of London including towns such as Luton, Leighton Buzzard and Essex.

Now just like we are doing a university essay let’s look at the term rhyming slang. To understand rhyming slang you need to know how it works. Start with a word, think of an object or expression that rhymes with that word and use it as a substitute. For example the word head rhymes with bread so you could replace the word head with the term ‘loaf of bread’.

It starts to get confusing when part of the rhyme is left out. So a loaf of bread becomes just loaf and only those who know the association will understand what you are going on about. Herein is the problem with rhyming slang-you need to know the secret code and in London the code is Cockney.

Well-known cockney rhyming slang:

Kettle = wrist watch

This comes from the phrase kettle and hob which rhymed with the word fob or fob watch.

Adam and Eve = believe

This is simple believe and eve rhyme. Use it like this, “Can you Adam and Eve it?”

Dog and bone = phone

Now that you know the rules you should understand the association between bone and phone.

Pavarotti = ten pounds

This one is more difficult to figure out. Pavarotti was a famous tenor. The word ‘tenner’ is slang for ten pound note and there you have it the word association rules of rhyming slang connect the two.

For a dictionary of Cockney rhyming slang take a butcher’s hook (look) at this website.

In the meantime we are off to catch up on the wooden pews…if you figure this one out let us know on the Facebook page.

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