Thursday, 27 January 2011

Cockney Rhyming Slang

Would you Adam and Eve it, I've 'ad an idea.

As well as finding little treasures in and around London town and writing about them, I thought I could use this space to write about some of the cultural, traditional and historical gems of our city.

And what better place to start than with the language of the David Hockney (that's Cockney).

Cockney rhyming slang is believed to originate from around 1840 and was spoken by, and still is used by, those living in the East End of London. It's purpose isn't known for sure, but it is thought that it was used by criminals to confuse the police and eavesdroppers.
To say that the language used is a little confusing is an understatement. The way it is constructed is to take a word, for example, 'stairs' and rhyme two or three words with it, e.g. apple and pairs. However, the rhyming word is, most often, omitted just to leave the word apples, for example. So stairs=apples. Clearly no connection and to the untrained ear, the word is now meaningless.

Other examples include:

'dog' means 'phone' (dog and bone)
'trouble' means 'wife (trouble and strife) [women, trouble? never!]
'minces' means 'eyes' (mince pies)
'plates' means 'feet' (plates of meet)
'tumble' means drink (tumble down the sink)
'lilley' means dinner (Lilley and Skinner)

And when all strung together, you could end up with a sentence like this....

When I first met my trouble I couldn't believe my minces, she knocked me off my plates. Soon after I got on the dog and arrange a tumble and lilley.

Without my little Cockney slang dictionary, I wouldn't be able to make head nor tail of it.

All in all, it is a very clever use of language, with some of the contracted forms now widespread within Britain. For example, the contraction of butcher's hook, 'butchers' is often used in place of 'look'- to have a butchers. There are other examples, some rather crude, so let's just say, I won't be calling anyone a berk anytime soon.

So until next time, later g'vnor.

Look out for my next blog, all about the Oxo cube

1 comment:

  1. I had no idea! That is so cool. It's like a secret language that I totally don't understand.
    Thanks for the follow and nice to meet you!