Cockney rhyming slang 101: where did it come from, what does it mean?

Thought I’d start this post with a string of aptly hilarious cockney rhyming slang phrases, eh? Not on your nelly!*

The aim of the game here is to dig out the origin of cockney rhyming slang, then serve up a helping of the most obscure and rude bits I can find. You game? Read on!


What is cockney rhyming slang?

The smart-ass answer is that cockney rhyming slang is slang used by cockneys. And it rhymes.

The smart-smart answer is that cockney rhyming slang is a type of local slang, thought to have originated in the mid-19th century, East London. There are some historians who believe cockney rhyming slang is a ‘cant’—a secret lingual code developed either by criminals or local traders to exclude outsiders from conversations. Others believe the slang is simply that. Slang! Just a fun colloquial thing that got picked up and passed around.

Its first written appearance was in an 1859 publication called: The Vulgar Tongue: a Glossary of Slang, Cant, and Flash Words and Phrases: Used in London from 1839 to 1859; Flash Songs, Essays on Slang, and a Bibliography of Canting and Slang Literature

Shame dude didn’t use slang to shorten that damn title.


How does cockney rhyming slang work?

The premise of the slang is pretty simple: you take your word, then find a phrase which rhymes with it. For example:

Stairs = apples and pears

‘Pears’ rhymes with ‘stairs’ and the addition of apples makes a fun little phrase. Say it in a cockney accent and the fun is doubled. There are also examples in which the rhyming phrase directly relates to the object it’s describing:

In and out – snout (on account of breath going in and out)

Trouble and strife – wife (nuff said)

Although there are universally known phrases (which I’ll get into in a mo), you can essentially make shit up and have it become rhyming slang. My Dad and I do it all the time and it never gets old.

For example, there are roughly 6 different slang phrases for ‘testicles’, 9 for ‘arse’, 9 for ‘shit’ and 7 for ‘homosexual’. This should give you some inkling as to the calibre of person we’re dealing with here.

Shall we look at some real-world examples?


Cockney rhyming slang examples

“Chalfont St. Giles” – piles (A.K.A haemorrhoids). There were actually 7 variations for this. Says a lot about East Londoners, TBH.

“Dicky bird” – word (as in ‘to have a word’, A.K.A to talk to someone privately)

“Dinky doos” – shoes

“Jam roll” – arsehole

“Gypsy’s kiss” – piss

“Irish pig” – wig

“Raspberry ripple” – nipple/cripple (careful how you use that one)

“Septic tank” – Yank (A.K.A an American)

“Town halls” – balls (A.K.A testicles)

“Marble slabs” – crabs (A.K.A pubic lice)

“Baked potato” – later (reigonally prounounced ‘po-tay-ah’, so it does actually rhyme with ‘later’. Kinda.)


Got any good cockney rhyming slang words/phrases of your own? Throw them in the comment box below. I’m also interested to hear more versions of ‘George Best’—that dude has dozens of things rhymed up with his name.


*Yeah bro, that was rhyming slang. BOOOOM!

Post a comment