This article was updated by the Great British Mag content team on 21 September 2021
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 make no sense. Even the majority of Brits cannot decode the sentence because it is a 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|
|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|