Cockney Rhyming Slang is a part of the English language that many English learners may not be familiar with. In English, a slang word is a word that isn’t really considered to be standard English but is something that many people continue to use nonetheless.
Cockney rhyming slang first started to appear on the streets of the East End of London during the 19th century and was primarily used as a secret language through which criminals could communicate with one another without being understood by the police. However, despite its origins, it has remained popular with all people in that area of the country and is still very much in use today. People who use these slang expressions generally substitute one word with two or more words that rhyme with the original word to speak in some type of code. Only people who are familiar with Cockney Rhyming Slang would be able to truly understand what the person is actually talking about.
Confused? Let’s have a bit of fun.
One very popular Cockney rhyming slang expression is apples and pears. Given that, when someone is talking in Cockney rhyming slang, the literal translation never applies, we know that they are not referring to a bowl of fruit. What rhymes with pears? It could be a whole host of words. Let’s look at the phrase in action:
My mother is in a wheelchair so there’s no chance she can get up the apple and pears.
Apples and pears= stairs! Of course it does!
Cockney Rhyming Slang Examples
Here are some examples of the most popular Cockney rhyming slang expressions in use on the streets of London today.
Slang: Adam and Eve
Would you Adam and Eve that she’s going on a date with him?”
Slang: boat race
Look at the boat race on that.
Slang: brass tacks
Let’s get down to the brass tacks of this issue.
Slang: bread and honey
I’m staying in tonight, I have no bread and honey.
In more recent years people have shortened this and say bread. “Lend us some bread mate.”
Slang: brown bread
He’s passed away mate; he’s brown bread.
Slang: butchers hook. Most commonly shortened to “butchers.”
Have a butchers at that.
Slang: chewy toffee
I’m dying for a chewy toffee.
Slang: China plate
Most commonly shortened to “China.” Meaning: Mate
How are ya, me old china?
Slang: daisy roots
Check out my new pair of daisy roots.
Slang: ding dong
Meaning: Originally song, but now it is used to refer to a fight or argument.
They’re having a right ding dong over there.
Slang: dog and bone
Can someone answer the dog and bone?
Slang: dustbin lids
Meaning: kids (children)
What are those dustbin lids up to now?
Slang: elephants (elephants trunk)
He’s looking slightly elephants to me
Slang: frog and toad
His driving is terrible. He shouldn’t be allowed on the frog and toad.
Slang: half inch
Meaning: pinch (steal)
Don’t leave your bike unlocked, someone will half inch it.
Slang: jam jar
He’s having no luck, just crashed the old jam jar.
Slang: minces (mince pies)
Look at those gorgeous mince pies.
Slang: north and south
You’d better watch what you’re saying mate, or you’ll get a punch in the north and south.
Slang: old bag
Meaning: hag (horrible woman/ugly woman)
She’s a right old bag.
Slang: on the floor
Help me out please mate, I’m really on the floor
Slang: Oxo (Oxo cube)
Meaning: Tube (the London Underground)
I’m going to leave the car behind and get on the Oxo.
Slang: pen (pen and ink)
He has let off a right pen and ink!
Slang: plates of meat
Won’t be long until he’s back on his plates of meat.
Slang: porky (pork pie)
Meaning: lie (fib)
I think she’s telling porkies. She wasn’t with me last night.
Slang: rabbit (rabbit and pork)
She doesn’t half rabbit on. (She talks too much).
Slang: skin and blister
Have you met my skin and blister?
Slang: sky rocket
Don’t lose the money. Keep it in your sky rocket.
Slang: tea leaf
He’s back in prison again, tea leaf.
Slang: Tom and Dick
I won’t be in work today, I’m feeling really Tom and Dick.
Slang: trouble (trouble and strife)
I can’t make it to the football game because I have to go shopping with the old trouble and strife.
Slang: Turkish bath
If you think I am washing your car for you, you’re having a turkish bath.
Slang: two and eight
Meaning: state (mess)
His wife has left him. He’s in a right two and eight.
Slang: weasel (weasel and stoat)
I’m coming, just let me get my weasel and stoat.
For an overview of some of the best idioms see: idiomatic phrases in English
Those of you who are familiar with Cockney rhyming slang will recognize that some very well known phrases have been omitted from our list. That is because they contain swearing or crude words and we’re far too angelic to include them here! If you’re interested though, you will find them in most books about Cockney rhyming slang.
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