Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cockney Rhyming Slang

photo from googleimages.com
Have you ever had anybody tell you to
"Use your crust" or "The thought came right
out of the loaf"?? Well, if you did, they were speaking
in Cockney Rhyming Slang! Now, I've never heard
of these crazy little phrases... except for "See you
later, alligator"...but I didn't even know it was one!
Cockney rhyming slang has uncertain roots. It is said that it was once spoken by the thieves of London. It would certainly have been a very effective code, being incomprehensible to the authorities or any eavesdroppers who were not familiar with the slang. The problem in researching its origins is that it was largely a spoken language with very few written records. What is more, if it was a secret code used by traders, entertainers, and thieves, then the secret has been well kept. We will never be certain how widespread its usage once may have been. The Cockneys were – and for the mostpart still are – working class Londoners. The word comes from cockeneyes (14th century) which means eggs that are misshapen, as if laid by a cock. The word went through a series of usages over the centuries, and it came to be used to refer to city folk. Nowadays the definition of Cockney is often one which originated during the 17th century. It refers to anyone born within the sound of Big Ben. The term is still usually used in a somewhat derogatory sense.


Here is a handful of Cockney phrases with some contextual examples of their use.

The rhyming slang is shown in black, and the meaning in yellow.

Adam and Eve............Believe..........Would you Adam and Eve it?

Alligator...................Later............See you later alligator.

Apples and Pears......Stairs............Get up those apples to bed!

Army and Navy........Gravy...........Pass the army, will you?
Bacon and Eggs.........Legs.............She has such long bacons!
Barnet Fair................Hair.............I'm going to have my barnet cut!
Bees and Honey.........Money.........Hand over the bees!
Biscuits and Cheese...Knees...........Ooh, what knobbly biscuits!
Butcher's Hook..........Look............I had a butchers at it through the window.
Crust of Bread............Head...........Use your crust, lad!
Daffadown Dilly.........Silly.............She's a bit daffy.
Mince Pies.................Eyes............What beautiful minces!
Oxford Scholar..........Dollar..........Could you lend me an Oxford?
Rabbit and Pork.........Talk............I don't know what she's rabbiting about!
So are you totally confused yet? LOL! I'd love to know if you
say any of these or knew what they meant before reading my post!
And if you want to have more fun with word
games, click on my link for "word games" below.
Info obtained through fun-with-words.com.
OK...I must "scarpa" now...
(which means 'go' as in scarpa flow!) hahaha....


  1. The only one I know is ..see ya later alligator..I use it all the time, especially with the grand kids! Come say hi :D

  2. Not confused at all actually as I grew up for a good portion in Fulham, London near the markets filled with Cockneys selling their fruit and veg from their markets stalls. We heard all sorts of things.

    here's one for you:

    "well, I went down the apples and pears, round the johnny horner, to the rubber duckie to sink a saga"

    in other words:

    "Well, I went down the stairs, round the corner to the pub to drink a beer."

    Ahhh...the English language--marvelous insn't it? :) Nowadays, the best cockneys to listen to are the taxi drivers but no cockney phrases as muc as just the accent or if one is ever in the East End of London where a cockney is just as likely to have Pakistani or East Indian descent as any where else.

  3. Yes, I am confused...but in a fun and interesting way.

    When my girlfriend and I were in Jr. Hi, we learned these code languages called "Alfalfa" And "Obingglopish" we got really good at talking it, and no one could understand us... Kinda like Pig Latin.

    Thanks jogging my memory to recall the fun we had.

  4. In the introduction to my copy of "A Clockwork Orange," rhyming slang is discussed (along with several Anglicized Russian words) while explaining variables Burgess used in creating the futuristic language that the book's characters spoke.

    Intriguing post!

  5. It is fairly common over here (even up north, far away from any cockneys)Another one for your list : dog and bone (phone)

  6. This was fun, I have to show this to the Irishman, he teaches English.;)
    The picture is hilarious.;)

  7. I loved reading this post. At least it got me off my plates of meat for five minutes before I set about making the Ruby for dinner.
    (Plates of meat - Feet / Ruby = Ruby Murray - Curry.)

    Nice one!

  8. Never knew and I have to say, quite interesting.

  9. this is really fascinating betsy...i have heard a few of them...but never the history or well most of them...very cool.

  10. I am with you. See you later Alligator is the only one that I have ever heard.

  11. You are so clever! :) The Bach

  12. We've used "pass the boat" when refering to gravy (i.e.a gravy boat )...

    Bill Haley and his Comets used the "See you later Alligator" and follwed it with "After while crocodile"( which I still use )

    This also factored into a "Schoolhouse Rock" song about voting :)

  13. We say, "see you later alligator" all the time. I have to admit I have NEVER heard any of those other Cockney terms. I'm excited to find out where the alligator saying came from! Thanks, Betsy.

  14. Mmm ~ 'johnny horner'...I have heard that one from 101 Dalmatians (original). But not the others you mentioned. Oh my...so funny!

  15. Gary ~ so nice to see you..it's been a while! :)

    Thanks for adding to my list, too!

  16. Thanks for teaching me something this morning.

  17. These are so fun! I must try and use one today! What made you think of this today?

  18. This was fun Betsy! I loved it! We have some of this type speak here in the land of OZ too... here are a few

    We call it Aussie Slang

    She'll be apples - It'll be alright
    Beyond the Back of Burke - A very long way away
    Banana Bender - a Queenslander
    Budgie Smugglers - mens swimming trunks
    Fair dinkum - True, real, genuine
    Holy Dooly - an exclamation of surprise
    Piece of piss - an easy task
    Porkie Pies - Lies
    To come the raw prawn - to tell tales or bullshit
    As usefull as tits on a bull - unhelpful or useless

    Now I would just like to add that I do not speaka thisa way!! Iza lady!

  19. Katherine...wow, thanks for adding to the list! I've never heard of any of those!

    Iza lady, too...but I'm still laughing! :)

  20. This comments section is becoming quite educational! I love it!

  21. LOL! Great post...I've heard a few on the list but not most of them. We had a rector( pastor) at our olf church from Middlesboro, England and he used to give us snippets every now and then...

    This reminds me of the scene in European Vacation where Clark G. has the hand held translater device when the Hotel clerk is speaking "Cockney".. When Clark tries to use it to translate, his son tells him, "He's speaking English, Dad!".....Love that ...:D....

  22. Ha!...should be 'old' not 'olf'....

  23. There's a comedy called "Riff Raff" which I've wanted to see for years. Supposedly, the British conversations have "American" subtitles!

  24. Enjoyed your post (& the comments.)
    The picture is great.

    I live in London and will occasionally have a butchers at my barnet in the mirror before going out. We also say 'use your loaf' to mean, 'think about it, work it out yourself.'

    My Mum used to use the expression, ' see you later, alligator' and we would respond 'in a while, crocodile.' I think it's a phrase from jazz culture and may even be American in origin.

    Several of the Aussie terms that Katherine mentioned are very familiar to me too :)

  25. Very fun post : ) It makes me think of Eliza Doolittle, from 'My Fair Lady'.

  26. Alligator is the only one I have ever heard of!!
    Very interesting...same words, different meaning...can you imangine trying to learn english as your second language?

  27. Of course alligator, but I also know "She's a bit daffy." I don't know why I know that, I just do.

  28. This is all so very interesting.... Thanks for the introduction! -j

  29. I wonder if we americans have heard of the alligator one because it really does have origins here like Betty said.

    And Mmm...how does a pub become a rubber duckie? haha.

  30. Looks like alligator is the only one I recognize.

  31. Wow, that was really interesting. I really got caught up in reading all the comments too. You have so many followers from other countries! It was fun to here what they use.

  32. I so wanted to learn all of this when I was younger but life got in the way. Thanks for the reminder.

  33. ALL NEW TO ME!

    My family always uses the See ya Later Alligator, After While Crocodile, So Soon Baboon!

    Cool word game!

  34. ha ha I lurve this post, so much fun! The only one I remember using growing up was "Grab the cow"... meaning grab the carton of milk. My mom first heard it used in the movie 'White Christmas' by Bing! ha ha


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