Rhyming Slang

I am often asked, especially by American readers, to explain Cockney rhyming slang.

Nobody really knows its origin. It was said to be the London criminals’ way of conversing without the police knowing what they were saying; but since the prime users of it, other than criminals, are the police, it doesn’t seem to have worked!

The idea is to rhyme the word you want with a phrase, and then say only the non-rhyming part of the phrase. So for instance ‘teeth’ become ‘Hampsteads’ via ‘Hampstead Heath’.

Here is a selection:

Apples – apples and pears – stairs
Barnet – Barnet fair – hair
Boat – boat race – face
China – china plate – mate
Dog – dog and bone – phone
Elephant’s – elephant’s trunk – drunk
Frog – frog and toad – road
Germans – German bands – hands
Gregory – Gregory Peck – cheque
Hampsteads – Hampstead Heath – teeth
Kettle – kettle and hob – fob (watch)
Lilian – Lilian Gish – fish
Loaf – loaf of bread – head

Mutton – Mutt ‘n’ Jeff – deaf
Pen – pen and ink – stink
Plates – plates of meat – feet
Porkie – pork pie – lie
Rosy – Rosy Lee – tea
Ruby – Ruby Murray – curry
Scarper – Scapa Flow – go (run away)
Scotches – Scotch eggs – legs
Syrup – syrup of figs – wig
Titfer – tit for tat – hat
Tom – tom foolery – jewellery
Weasel – weasel and stoat – coat
Whistle – whistle and flute – suit