Welcome to The Mad Logophile. Here, we explore words and their origins, evolution and usage. Words are alive; they are born, they change and, sometimes, they die. They are our principal tool for communicating with one another. There are millions of words yet only an estimated 171,476 words are in common current use. As a logophile, I enjoy discovering new words, using them and learning about their origins.
I swear to the gods, I'm dealing with a cursed TML right now. I've been working on one about sex-related words for a month, now. Every time I sit down to work on it, something happens. The cable goes out or all the power goes out. We have a household emergency. Or I get sick. Or, just to change it up, someone else gets sick. Honestly, I'm trying.
The upshot is that I have to run a repeat or risk you forgetting that this series exists. I've found one that had less than 50 comments; I assume that it was a busy news day for DK. I grovel and apologize for another re-run. Then again, it IS summer, the traditional time for re-runs. I hope this one will sate you until I can get the sexy words to behave.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term Cockney derives from "cock and egg" after a misshapen egg that nobody would want to eat. Technically, a Cockney is said to be anyone who was "born within the sound of the bells of Bow" (the Church of St. Mary le Bow in Cheapside, East London). If you are a genuine Eastender, then you may consider the mangling of the English language a birthright.
Cockney rhyming slang traces back to the fifteenth century. But it came into its own in the 1800s when street traders and criminals both used it as a means of covert communication. Rhyming slang saw a fair amount of use in the stalags during WWII. It was a fairly good way to keep the guards from knowing what was being communicated amongst the POWs (h/t to flagpole). Nowadays, it has a life of its own.
Much of Cockney rhyming slang relies on word pairs; like "Adam and Eve" or "Apples and Pears." Sometimes the pair is stripped down to only one of the words (usually the first). Cockney expressions can vary in their construction, and it is simply a matter of convention which version is used.
Some slang expressions have escaped from London and are in popular use throughout the rest of Britain. For example "use your loaf" is an everyday phrase for the British, but not too many people realize it is Cockney Rhyming Slang (loaf of bread=head).
Modern Cockney slang that is being developed today tends to only rhyme words with the names of celebrities or famous people. If your name has become a rhyming slang phrase for something mundane, you have truly arrived. There are very few new Cockney slang expressions that do not follow this trend. The only one that has gained much ground recently that bucks this trend is "Wind and Kite" meaning "Web site."
Since I am not Eliza Doolittle (as much as I wanted to play the part in my younger days) and can't work all of these into paragraphs or even full sentences, I am forced to present the information in list form. Please be advised that some of these are not entirely PC.
Adam and Eve; believe. I can't Adam and Eve it!
Apple fritter; bitter. The real brew that is served in the UK, not lager. A pint of apple fritter, if you please.
Apples and Pears; stairs. Mum can't handle the apples and pairs anymore.
Barnet; hair. From Barnet Fair, a popular fair once held in High Barnett, a borough of London. Here, cover your barnet in church!
Barack Obama; pyjamas. Hey, our President has arrived!!! Go get your Baracks on, love.
Barney Rubble; trouble. From the Flintstones character. I got into a right barney last night.
Battle cruiser; pub. Rhymes with boozer, a pub. I'm off the the battle cruiser for a pint.
Becks and Posh; money. From David Beckham and the former Posh Spice, Victoria. Rhymes with "dosh," a slang term for money. I can't go, I've got no becks.
Berk; a very nasty name usually for a woman but can be extended to men. From Berkley Hunt - just replace the "h" with a "c." John Cleese called Bill O-Reilly a berk!
Bin lid; child. Rhymes with kid. Get off my lawn, you bin lid!
Boat; face. Short form of boat race, which rhymes with face. Cor, did you see the boat on that one?
Brahms; drunk. From Brahms and Liszt, rhymes with pissed. You're Brahms again, ain't ya?
Bristols; breasts. From Bristol City which rhymes with titty. What bristols! (Replacing a line from Young Frankenstein)
Bubble; this has 2 meanings, 1) laugh (bubble bath=laugh) and 2) Greek (Bubble and squeak=Greek). Bubble and squeak is a dish made with potatoes and cabbage. Shhh... don't you bubble at your Auntie!
Calvin Klein; wine. How about some Calvin Klein with dinner?
Camilla Parker Bowles; Rolls, as in Rolls Royce, often shortened to the first word. Boy, I wish I drove a Camilla!
Catherine Zeta-Jones; griping, bitching. Rhymes with moans. Oh, there she goes with her Zeta-Jones again.
Charlie Bucket; fuck it! Pretty self-explanatory and better for mixed company, kids and delicate ears. Oh, Charlie Bucket!!
China; friend. Shortened from china plate, rhymes with mate. She's an old china of mine.
Cobblers; another dual word, 1) balls (cobbler's awls=balls), 2) nonsense. What a load of cobblers that is!
Cream crackered; tired. Rhymes with "knackered." I'm right cream and crackered tonight.
Currant; a double-duty word, 1) son and 2) the Sun (a scurrilous British tabloid). Both rhyme with currant bun. That currant has printed pics of Harry pissed again!
Daisy roots; boots. Don't forget your daisy roots, it's pissing rain.
David Gower; shower, from the famous English cricketeer. Great game! I'm off for a David Gower and then home.
Dicky bird; word. I haven't heard a dicky bird from her.
Diet Coke; joke. This work schedule must be a diet coke.
Dog and bone; telephone. Will you shush, I'm on the dog and bone!
Duchess; wife, from Duchess of Fife. Gotta get home or the Duchess will have my head. Also one of my favorite songs by my favorite band ;)
Frog and toad; road. Why did the chicken cross the frog and toad?
Gary Glitter; toilet. From rocker Gary Glitter which rhymes with shitter. Poor Gary, how ignoble.
Ginger; three meanings, 1) gay (ginger beer=queer), 2) an engineer (ginger beer=engineer) and 3) redheaded. She's ginger... in all senses of the word.
Hampstead; teeth, from Hampstead Heath. I've got to go have my Hampsteads looked at Thursday.
Have a butcher's; have a look. From butcher's hook which rhymes with look. Here, go and have a butcher's at the crowd for tonight.
Jacobs; testicles. Knackers rhymes with Jacob's Cream Crackers, a popular UK brand. Did you hear that Mick's Duchess kicked him in his Jacobs?
Jam jar; car. Where did you park the jam jar, you twit?
Jimmy Riddle; urinate. Rhymes with piddle. I've got to go have a Jimmy Riddle.
John McCain; insane, nutty. Nice to know that Grampa has a fitting place in rhyming slang, eh? That bloke is right John McCain!
Kate Moss; a damn. Rhymes with "toss" as in "don't give a..." She don't give a Kate Moss who takes her home.
Khyber; bum. Shortened form of Khyber pass. Don't let the door hit you in the Khyber.
Laurel and Hardy; rum. Rhymes with Bacardi, a popular brand. Give her a fruity Laurel and Hardy drink.
Liza Minelli; TV. Rhymes with "telly." What's on the Liza tonight?
Mariah Carey; scary. How appropriate! That bird ain't half mariah.
Obi-Wan Kenobi; cell phone. From a slang term for mobile phone, "mobi." Give me a ring on your Obi-Wan.
On your Todd; alone. After the famous British jockey Todd Sloane. Well, I guess I'm on my Todd for the weekend.
Pig's Ear; beer. The East London and City Branch of the Campaign for Real Ale holds a Pig's Ear Beer Festival every December (h/t to Dump Terry McAuliffe). Let's go for a pig's ear after work.
Plates; feet. From plates of meat. My plates are killing me! Can I have a rub?
Porkies; lies. Short for pork pies. Have you heard the porkies those guys have been spouting?
Radio Rental; crazy. After a chain of TV rental stores, named (of course) Radio Rental. That guy is completely radio rental!
Raspberry; a triple threat... 1) nipple (raspberry ripple=nipple), 2) disabled (raspberry ripple=cripple) and 3) fart (raspberry tart=fart). Did you see her raspberries through that shirt?
Richard; feces. Not the most flattering way to remember Richard the Third. Look out for the Richard on the sidewalk.
Rosie Lee; tea (sometimes just "rosie"). Won't you stay for rosie lee?
Rub-a-Dub; pub. Let's go to the rub-a-dub for a pint.
Ruby Murray; curry. I'm sorry, I don't know who Ruby Murray is but she had to have lodged in the British pop culture psyche to have become a rhyming slang term. Let's go out for a Ruby Murray!
Scooby; clue. Yes, from the cartoon dog Scooby Doo. I haven't a Scooby where she's gone.
Septic tank; Yank (shortened to "septic" usually). Doesn't that just make you all warm and fuzzy? Someone who is anti-American is antiseptic. Look at all the septics on the Gatwick express!
Shawshank Redemption; pension. I'm sure Stephen King would be happy to know that his novella and film are Cockney for the British version of Social Security. My Dad is on the Shawshank so I have to help him with rent.
Shovel and pick; the nick (jail). My cousin's off to the shovel for filching cars.
Steves; jeans. Shortened from Steve McQueens. I need a new pair of steves, these look like Richard.
The Sweeney; the police. From Sweeney Todd, which rhymes with Flying Squad. This refers to a 1970s TV show of the same name about the specialist branch of the Metropolitan police. Somewhat comparable to our SWAT teams. Don't you call the Sweeny on me!
Titfer; hat. From tit for tat. Give me my titfer, I'm off to the rub-a-dub.
Treacle; sweetheart. Shortened from treacle tart. He's my new treacle.
Trouble and strife; wife. In the spirit of equality, it can also mean any brand of spouse. That call was from my trouble and strife; I've got to get home.
Two and eight; panic. From two and eight, which rhymes with state. My Mum is in an absolute two and eight about it!
Two by Four; marijuana. Rhyming with a slang for pot, "draw." Where can I get some two by four?
Uncle Fester; pedophile. Rhymes with child molester. Stay away from him, he's an Uncle Fester.
Vera Lynn; 1) gin, 2) cigarette paper (Vera Lynn=skin), 3)chin. Yes, that Vera Lynn, as in "Does Anybody Remember...." The woman who sang "We'll Meet Again", for you Dr. Strangelove fans. I'll have a Vera Lynn, straight up.
Weaver's Chair; a chance or prayer. You haven't a weaver's of getting her to go out with you.
Whistle; A suit. Short for whistle and flute. The Missus insists that I wear my whistle to the party.
Wick; nerves, what someone who is extremely annoying might get on. Rhymes with prick but can be used for someone of either gender, as in "s/he really gets on my wick." Just like "you get on my tits" can be hurled at a male. An expression of exasperation. That Bachmann ditz really gets on my wick!
Do you know any? Better yet, can you come up with your own? This is my contribution; Al Gore=bore. Not that I think that he is, but it rhymes! Which is the only thing that matters.