Mar 4, 2011

What's in a Rhyme? Cockney Slang

Summary: I've got British slang on the brains—or should I say, "on me down" for "down the drains"? These rhyming schemes are new to me. Have you heard with your ears or seen with your minces some of these fantastic phrases? Let's explore them together ...

This week's WOW got me interested in a British phenomenon that's always piqued my curiosity: rhyming slang. Ever since my husband brought home some gems from a British co-worker (his favorite: "It's all gone Pete"), the two of us have been on the trail of this highly amusing word play from abroad. When I mentioned it to my friend Bob, however, he had never heard of it, despite the occasional language barrier between him and his Londoner love interest.

Turns out, rhyming schemes are colloquialisms, too. They're part of the much-mocked Cockney accent, inbred in those from the East End of London—although it's a concept that's spread throughout the suburbs, too. (Check out this article from Wikipedia for more insight.)

So, what are Cockney rhyming slang words and phrases? As taken from the fabulously fun website, they're the substitution of words and phrases that rhyme with the ones you intend to use. For example, "It's all gone Pete" means, "It's all gone wrong." What's that you say? Pete doesn't rhyme with wrong? Ah, but here's where it gets fun/complicated/weird (take your pick): Pete Tong is a BBC 1 radio DJ who spins club-like sets and is wildly popular in London. Since Tong rhymes with wrong, and his name is easily recognizable as a household phrase, the rhyming scheme here is "Pete Tong - wrong."

Still don't get it? How about this list of body parts, also from

FEET - rhymes with "plates of meat" - Cockney phrase = "Move your plates, mate"
LEGS - rhymes with "Scotch eggs" (a popular breaded meat-and-egg dish) - Cockney phrase = "Get up on your Scotches"
EYES - rhymes with mince pies (also a food dish) - Cockney phrase = "Her blinkin' minces"

In other words, you really have to be in the know to get this hipster slang. ("Hovis" is slang for "dead," since Hovis is a popular whole wheat bread brand, and "brown bread" rhymes with "dead.") ... Or you can check out the site and teach yourself some fun phrases—plus contribute your own and rate the ones you've heard as authentic or "Mockney."

By the way, how many rhymes can you think of for "mate," the common British word for friend? And can you brainstorm your list without looking for clues first?

© KiKi Productions, Inc. 2010

No comments:

Post a Comment

Speak YOUR TRUTH now!