Cockney Rhyming Slang

True cockneys traditionally come from a very small part of London. Only those born within the sound of Bow Bells, which ring out from the church of St Mary-le-Bow, Cheapside, in the City of London, could by tradition consider themselves 'cockneys'. In reality the cockney heartland lies in the East End of London. Like many other small communities, cockneys had a large number of words and phrases which had special meanings for them, but they took this to extremes by inventing a whole new dialect: rhyming slang, which has been in use since the mid 19th century. Rhyming slang uses a phrase that rhymes with a word, instead of the word itself. Thus, 'stairs' becomes 'apples and pears'. At bedtime a Cockney parent could say to his child 'it is time for you to get up the apples and pears'. 'Phone' becomes 'dog and bone': 'Do I hear the dog and bone?' and 'word' becomes 'dicky bird': 'I have not heard a dicky bird since he went on holiday'. To add to the confusion, the rhyming part is often dropped: thus 'daisies' are 'boots' (from: 'daisy roots'): 'Where did you buy those smashing daisies?' Numerous colloquial expressions in English derive from rhyming slang, and are even heard in the House of Commons: 'let's get down to brass tacks' means 'let's talk facts'. But most of them are colloquial and for unofficial use. They often concern everyday matters, as you will see in the following examples:

Football Pools

Everybody's dream: to win the 'Aprils'

The News

Turn the telly on. I want to see the bottle of booze.


Those children drive me up the Albert Hall.


I have had it. I can hear Uncle Ned calling.


You could have finished this job hours ago if you weren't so Gert and Daisy.


Hold your box of toys.


Don't be so auntie.


Have you seen my Auntie Ena?
In an office she's a cleaner
Met a bloke from Bethnal Greena
Since then Uncle hasn't seen 'er.

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An example of traditional Cockney rhyming slang:

`Ullo, mate. Come in awf (out) of de frog an' toad (road) an' 'ave a cuppa Rosie (cup of tea). It's on de Cain an'Abel (table). But wipe yer plates o' meat (feet) 'cos de ol' trouble an' strife (wife)'s just scrubbed de Rory O'More (floor). She's up de apples an' pears (upstairs) 'avin' a bo-peep (sleep). I'm still on de cob an coal, (dole). Get into that lion's lair (chair) and let's chew the fat (have a chat).'

A response .... 'hey, ger­rahvit (get out of it). It's a lowerol rubbish that slang stuff. I've lived in Hackney all me life, and I've yet to hear anyone say `come in awf of de frog an' toad', when they mean out of the the road. That stuff is for tourists.

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