Cockney Rhyming Slang

Cockney rhyming slang is a form of English slang which originated in the East End of London . Many of its expressions have passed into common language, and the creation of new ones is no longer restricted to Cockneys. Up until the late 20th Century, rhyming slang was also common in Australian slang, probably due to the formative influence of cockney on Australian English.

It developed as a way of obscuring the meaning of sentences to those who did not understand the slang , though it remains a matter of speculation whether this was a linguistic accident, or whether it was developed intentionally to assist criminals or to maintain a particular community.

Rhyming slang works by replacing the word to be obscured with the first word of a phrase that rhymes with that word. For instance, "face" would be replaced by "boat," because face rhymes with "boat race." Similarly "feet" becomes "plates" ("plates of meat"), and "money" is "bread" (a very common usage, from "bread and honey"). Sometimes the full phrase is used, for example "Currant Bun" to mean "The Sun" (often referring to the British tabloid newspaper of that name). There is no hard and fast rule for this, and you just have to know whether a particular expression is always shortened, never shortened, or can be used either way.

Other examples of Cockney Rhyming Slang, or phrases inspired by it, are:

  • Adam and Eve = believe = as in "would you Adam and Eve it?"
  • Almond Rocks = socks
  • Apples and pears = stairs
  • Aris = Aristotle = bottle & glass