Top 10 must know Cockney rhyming slang phrases

Have you ever gone for a ‘cuff link’ at the local ‘bath tub’ and forgotten your ‘bees and honey’? How about taken the ‘London fog’ for a ‘ball of chalk’ but got totally ‘Kate Mossed’ in the ‘do me goods’?

If you have, then you’re probably a Cockney.

What is Cockney rhyming slang?

Cockney rhyming slang is one of the most famous British English oddities. While it may have originated during the mid-19th century in east London, the reasons for its development are unclear. Some researchers claim that it evolved as a simple language game, whilst others say that it was used to confuse policemen or non-locals.


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It usually consists of a two-word phrase that is used to stand in for a specific word. Most importantly, the substituting phrase must RHYME with the original word. For example:

Apples and Pears - stairs: “Let’s get you up those apples and pears.”

Often, the substituting words will make reference to British popular culture or famous people. A good example of this is the famous Cockney slang for ‘wrong’:

Pete Tong – ‘wrong’: “It’s all gone Pete Tong!”

Cockney rhyming slang is fun to learn, an interesting new way to discover new words, and a way to expand your knowledge of British popular culture.

Cockney rhyming slang in popular culture

Cockney rhyming slang is often used in British comedy sketches and shows. Its rhyming patterns can make fun of even the most boring situations. This famous sketch from the 1976 show The Two Ronnies is spoken almost entirely in Cockney rhyming slang.

Can you understand the story?

 

Many British actors are also famous for their Cockney accents and use of rhyming slang. Take a look at this classic Michael Caine scene from the 1966 movie Alfie to hear a real Cockney accent.

 

 

So without further ado, here are our top 10 must know Cockney rhyming slang phrases:

1.       Barney rubble – ‘trouble’: “Are you making Barney Rubble again?”

2.       Baked bean – ‘Queen’: “Look who’s on TV, it’s the baked bean!”

3.       Butcher’s hook – ‘look’: “Let’s take a quick butcher’s hook.” (Often abbreviated to just 'a butcher's' - Let's have a butcher's = Let's have a look). 

4.       Rabbit and pork – ‘talk’: “We sat for a while and had a good old rabbit and pork.”

5.       Pirates of Penzance – ‘pants’: “I need some more pirates of Penzance.”

6.       Pig’s ear – ‘beer’: “I think I owe you a pig’s ear.” 

7.       Sausage and mash – ‘cash’ (money): “I forgot all my sausage and mash!”

8.       Trouble and strife – ‘wife’: “I had an argument with the trouble and strife last night.”

9.       Dog and bone – ‘phone’: “What’s that ringing? Is it the dog and bone?”

10.     Half-inch – ‘pinch’ (steal):  “I think someone’s half-inched my wallet!”

 

Challenge section

Did you understand the rhyming slang phrases at the beginning of this article? Try to guess, and check your answers on the English Activities Answer Key.

1. Cuff link – ‘___________’

2. Bath tub – ‘___________’

3. Bees and honey – ‘___________’

4. London fog – ‘__________’

5. Ball of chalk – ‘__________’

6. Kate Mossed – ‘__________’

7. Do-me-goods – ‘__________’

Glossary

Pete Tong: A famous British radio DJ

Substitute: A thing used in the place of another

Originate: Come from, begin from

 

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