What is Cockney rhyming slang?

What is Cockney rhyming slang?

This article about Cockney rhyming slang was updated by the Great British Mag content team on 3 September, 2019

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. He is speaking in Cockney rhyming slang.

Cockney rhyming slang can sound like a collection of words that appear to make no sense. Even the majority of Brits cannot decode the sentence because it is the distinct dialect of people born in the East End of London.

A Cockney is a person born within a radius of St Mary-le-Bow Church, Cheapside, London. Traditionally you were only classed as a true Cockney if you could hear the bells of the church. These days a Cockney has a wider radius and includes people that come from the East End of London and towns on the outskirts of the city including Luton, Leighton Buzzard and Essex.

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 “loaf” and only those who know the association will understand what you are going on about.

Well-known Cockney rhyming slang

Cockney rhyming slang Standard British English
A la mode Code
Adam and Eve Believe
Apple pie Sky
Apples and pears Stairs
Butcher’s (short for butcher’s hook) Look
Barnet (short for barnet fair) Hair
Dog and bone Phone
Jacksie (short for Jack Jones) Alone
Loaf (short for loaf of bread) Head
Minces (short for mince pies) Eyes
Peasy (short for peas in the pot) Hot
Pins (short for pin pegs) Legs
Ruby (short for Ruby Murray) Curry
Taters (short for taters in the mould) Cold
Trouble and strife Wife
Watch (short for watch and chain) Brain

If you have a question for our resident Brit, email us at askabrit@greatbritishmag.co.uk.