Cockney Rhyming Slang is the dialect, or colloquial language, of East London (UK).

Simply, Cockneys come from the East End of London. and they use a phrase that rhymes with the normal English word.

For example, they say: Can you Adam & Eve it? which means: Can you believe it ?

Another example: My artful dodger owes me some bees and honey and he’s been telling me porky pies, but I want the bangers and mash or he’ll be brown bread!

This means: My lodger owes me some money and he’s been telling me lies, but I want the cash or he’ll be dead.

My lodger - Artful Dodger - a character in Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens money - bees and honey lies - pork pies

cash  - bangers and mash = sausages and mashed potatoes dead - brown bread.

In London you will often hear a number of these rhyming expressions in conversation, but they're quite often said so quickly and spontaneously that people who do not understand Cockney hardly hear them at all!

Even worse, the original phrase such as apples & pears may mean stairs, but the phrases are often used without the end of the phrase, or the last word.

For example: I'm going up the apples and pears means I'm going up the stairs, but it may also be said as I'm going up the apples. In this case the listener has to know (or guess) the rest of the rhyming phrase before understanding it - very difficult for non-cockney English people, and almost impossible for overseas students unless very advanced indeed!

Other examples: I'm on the dog means I'm on the dog and bone = I'm on the phone. I've been on my plates all day! Plates = plates of meat = feet.

However, many of the original expressions have now become an accepted part of the English Language. The phrase a butcher's hook (a look), abbreviated to a butcher's, is now in general use in English. It’s normal colloquial English to say: Have a butcher’s at this, will you? Also chew the fat = have a chat is used widely, and so is use your loaf = use your loaf of bread = your head, in this case meaning use your brain, or don’t be stupid!

A (very!) basic guide to Cockney pronunciation

It’s often hard to understand the Cockney accent, as they never pronounce the H at the beginning of a word (it’s called dropping the H), so that, for example, head becomes ‘ead.

Another problem is that they don’t pronounce the T inside a word - for example mate becomes ma’e. They don’t pronounce the TH sound inside a word, but change it to V sound, so brother becomes brovver. In words that finish in -er, they change it to -a, so that brother becomes brovva.  Lastly, if a word finishes with an O sound, they change it to a A sound, so that piano becomes piana. Good luck!

Here is a list of current Cockney expressions, but of course there are lots more!

Expression  -  meaning

Adam and Eve   -   believe

all night rave  -   shave

apples and pears   -   stairs

Artful Dodger (Dickens' Oliver Twist)  -  lodger anyone paying rent

bacon and eggs   -   legs

bangers and mash   -   cash

Barclay’s Bank, Anna Frank  -  wank  male masturbation

Barnaby Rudge   -   judge

ball of fat  -  cat

bees and honey   -   money

Brahms & Liszt   -   pissed  a common vulgar way of saying someone is drunk

brass tacks   -   facts

bread & honey   -   money

bricks & mortar   -   daughter

Bristol City or Bristol Cities  -  titty or titties women’s breasts

Britney Spears   -   beers

brown bread   -   dead

butcher's hook  -   look

Cain an' Abel   -   table

cat an' mouse   -   house

canary   -   fairy  gay, male homosexual

china plate   -    mate

darling daughter   -   water

dicky bird   -   word  now quite often used by non-cockneys: I didn’t say a dicky bird!

dinky doos   -   shoes

doing bird means doing time in prison

Donald Duck   -   f * * k have sex

dog and bone - the phone

dustbin lids   -   kids  children

Everton toffee   -   coffee

fiddle de dee   -   pee  urinate

fish n' chips   -   tips

four-by-two   -   jew

fourth of July  -  tie

frog an' toad   -   road

grasshopper  -   shopper  

         shop someone means to inform the police about a criminal. Now in common use

ginger ale   -   jail

Gregory Peck   -   cheque

half inch   -   pinch pinch is another word for steal and now in general use

hey diddle diddle   -   middle, or fiddle fiddle can mean to cheat with money

how-do-you-do  -   shoe  how-do-you-doos  -   shoes

Joanna   -   piano  cockneys would say piana rather than piano, so Joanna rhymes!

Jimmy Riddle   -   piddle   piss, urinate

kippers   -   slippers

kitchen sink   -   drink

Lady Godiva   -   fiver  a five pound note

loaf of bread   -   head commonly heard in English: Use your loaf!

mince pies   -   eyes

(Old) Bill   -   the police ITV’s police soap opera is called The Bill

Oxford scholar   -   dollar

plates of meat   -   feet

plink plonk   -   plonk  commonly used in English as the word for cheap wine

pork pies or porky pies, or porkies   -   lies now in common use

rabbit and pork   -   talk  the word rabbit is used in English meaning talk or talk too much

raspberry tart   -   fart  make a rude noise from number 2 !

Roman candles   -   sandals

Rosie Lee   -   tea  also flea

Ruby Murray a 1950's singer   -   curry

rub-a-dub-dub   -   pub the word pub is an abbreviation of public house

septic tank   -   yank  British people use the word Yank for all U.S. Americans

sky rocket   -   pocket

Sweeney Todd a murderous barber in old London  -  The Flying Squad branch of the police

tea leaf   -   thief

tea leafing  -   thieving  stealing

tiddlywink   -   drink

Tom & Dick   -   sick

trouble & strife   -   wife

Uncle Ned   -   bed

Vera Lynn a famous singer from World War II   -    gin

We’ll add more as they come into use, or when we hear them!

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