Cockney Rhyming Slang  by Mike Mills  

    - the dialect, or colloquial language, of East London (UK).   

 

Cockneys, the people who use the Cockney dialect, come from the East End

of London (precisely from within the sound of the bells of Bow, a church).

 

 

Cockneys often use a phrase that rhymes with the normal English word.
For example, they say: Can you Adam & Eve it? which means Can you believe it?

Another example: My Artful Dodger owes me some bees and honey and he’s been telling me porky pies, but I want the bangers and mash or he’ll soon be brown bread!

 

This means: My lodger owes me some money and he’s been telling me lies, but I want the cash or he’ll soon be dead.

 

Explanation:

  • My Artful Dodger = my lodger - a character in Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

  • bees and honey = money

  • pork pies = lies 

  • bangers and mash = cash  bangers and mash are sausages and mashed potatoes

  • brown bread = dead

In London you will often hear a number of these rhyming expressions in conversation, but they're quite often said so quickly and spontaneously that people who do not understand Cockney hardly hear them at all!

Even worse, the original phrase such as apples & pears may mean stairs, but the phrases are often used without the end of the phrase, or the last word.

For example: I'm going up the apples and pears means I'm going up the stairs, but it may also be abbreviated to I'm going up the apples. In this case the listener has to know (or guess) the rest of the rhyming phrase before understanding it - very difficult for non-cockney English people, and almost impossible for overseas students unless very advanced indeed!

Other examples:

  • I'm on the dog means I'm on the dog and bone = I'm on the phone.

  • I've been on my plates all day! Plates = plates of meat = feet.

However, many of the original expressions are now an accepted part of the English Language.

  • The phrase a butcher's hook (a look), abbreviated to a butcher's, is now in general use in English. It’s normal colloquial English to say: Have a butcher’s at this, will you?

  • Also chew the fat = have a chat is used widely

  • use your loaf = use your loaf of bread = your head, in this case meaning use your brain, or don’t be stupid!

 

A (very!) basic guide to Cockney pronunciation
It’s often hard to understand the Cockney accent, as they never pronounce the H at the beginning of a word (it’s called dropping the H), so that, for example, head becomes ‘ead.


Another problem is:

  • they don’t pronounce the T inside a word - for example mate becomes ma’e.

  • They don’t pronounce the TH sound inside a word, but change it to V sound, so brother becomes brovver.

  • In words that finish in -er, they change it to -a, so that brother becomes brovva.  

  • Lastly, if a word finishes with an O sound, it's changed to an A sound, so that piano becomes piana.

  • Good luck!

 

Here is a list of current Cockney expressions, but of course there are lots more!

 

Expression  -  meaning

  • Adam and Eve   -   believe

  • all night rave  -   shave

  • apples and pears   -   stairs

  • Artful Dodger  -  lodger anyone paying rent (AD was a character in Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist)

  • bacon and eggs   -   legs

  • bangers and mash   -   cash

  • Barclay’s Bank, Anna Frank  -  wank  male masturbation

  • Barnaby Rudge   -   judge

  • ball of fat  -  cat

  • bees and honey   -   money

  • Brahms & Liszt   -   pissed  a common vulgar way of saying someone is drunk

  • brass tacks   -   facts

  • bread & honey   -   money

  • bricks & mortar   -   daughter

  • Bristol City or Bristol Cities  -  titty or titties  women’s breasts

  • Britney Spears   -   beers

  • brown bread   -   dead

  • butcher's hook  -   look

  • Cain an' Abel   -   table

  • cat an' mouse   -   house

  • canary   -   fairy  gay, male homosexual

  • china plate   -    mate

  • darling daughter   -   water

  • dicky bird   -   word  now quite often used by non-cockneys: I didn’t say a dicky bird!

  • dinky doos   -   shoes

  • doing bird means doing time in prison

  • Donald Duck   -   f * * k  have sex

  • dog and bone - the phone

  • dustbin lids   -   kids  children

  • Everton toffee   -   coffee

  • fiddle de dee   -   pee  urinate

  • fish n' chips   -   tips

  • four-by-two   -   Jew

  • fourth of July  -  tie

  • frog an' toad   -   road

  • grasshopper  -   shopper  to shop someone also means to inform the police about a criminal. Now in common use

  • ginger ale   -   jail

  • Gregory Peck   -   cheque

  • half inch   -   pinch  pinch is another word for steal and now in general use

  • hey diddle diddle   -   middle, or fiddle  fiddle can mean to cheat with money

  • how-do-you-do  -   shoe  how-do-you-doos  -   shoes

  • Joanna   -   piano  cockneys would say piana rather than piano, so Joanna rhymes!

  • Jimmy Riddle   -   piddle   piss, urinate

  • kippers   -   slippers

  • kitchen sink   -   drink

  • Lady Godiva   -   fiver  a five pound note

  • loaf of bread   -   head  commonly heard in English: Use your loaf!

  • mince pies   -   eyes

  • (Old) Bill   -   the police  ITV’s police soap opera is called The Bill

  • Oxford scholar   -   dollar

  • plates of meat   -   feet

  • plink plonk   -   plonk  commonly used in English as the word for cheap wine

  • pork pies or porky pies, or porkies   -   lies - now in common use

  • rabbit and pork   -   talk  the word rabbit is used in English meaning talk or talk too much

  • raspberry tart   -   fart  make a rude noise from number 2 !

  • Roman candles   -   sandals

  • Rosie Lee   -   tea also flea

  • Ruby Murray  -  curry  RM was a 1950's singer

  • rub-a-dub-dub   -   pub  the word pub is an abbreviation of public house

  • septic tank   -   yank  - most British people use the word Yank for all U.S. Americans

  • sky rocket   -   pocket

  • Sweeney Todd   - The Flying Squad  - branch of the police - ST was a killer barber in old London 

  • tea leaf   -   thief

  • tea leafing  -   thieving  stealing

  • tiddlywink   -   drink

  • Tom & Dick   -   sick

  • trouble & strife   -   wife

  • Uncle Ned   -   bed

  • Vera Lynn  - gin  VL was a famous singer from World WarII   

 

We may add more as they come into use, or when we hear them!

Meanwhile, have a bit of Friar Tuck!