By Ian R. Thorpe
It’s been a while since I was here. To be honest, I’m easily distracted in summer. It’s too tempting to get in the jam jar with my trouble and strife and head for the Demi or the Jacks. We’ve been the same since I was single and the trouble was my young treacle. Away from the up and down, we can stop at a bath for a Dame Edna and a potter’s.
Sorry, I’m confusing you. I’ll start again.
It’s been a while since I was here. To be honest, I’m easily distracted in summer. It’s too easy to get in the jam jar (car) with my trouble and strife (wife) and head for the Demi (Demi Moore = shore) or the Jacks (jack and jills = hills.) We’ve been the same since I was single and the trouble (wife) was my young treacle (treacle tart = sweetheart). Away from the up and down (town), we can stop at a bath (bath tub = pub) for a Dame Edna (Dame Edna Everidge = beverage) and a potter’s (potter’s wheel = meal).
Rhyming slang. There’s no definitive version. It varies from town to town, street to street even. In the era of deference when the rigid class system held British society in a straight jacket, it was not uncommon for a middle class person to berate somebody of the lower orders overheard speaking disrespectfully of their “betters” or talking about any of the many social taboos. As recently as the 1950s, you have to remember in those days, words like “pregnant” were never used in polite society.
The upper classes–the aristocracy–did not join in; they pretended not to be aware. Many Lords were as foul-mouthed as any dock worker or brewers’ drayman. The middle classes, however, believed themselves to be that nation’s moral guardians. Unfortunately, they were never a match for the more resourceful working classes. This is how rhyming slang came to be. If some berk (Berkshire Hunt – work it out) heard a conversation about the treacle in the chocolate (chocolate drop = shop) with smashing lallies (lally pegs = legs) and big Bristols (Bristol Cities = well, you get it) the usual conclusion would be that the speaker was insane.
Since Jeff was writing here at America’s Right quite recently about the Politically Correct Thought Police working with The Ministry Of Truth to create lists of words and phrases proscribed in a politically correct society, being well prepared in Britain it is our duty to help our transatlantic cousins preserve free speech. Therefore, I feel as though it’s high time to start America’s own rhyming slang to confound the Thought Police. If I show the general principles, you can take it from there as a lot of it is based on place names (Hampstead Heath = teeth, Barnet Fair = hair) or well-known people (Duke of Kent = bent).
Classic rhyming slang consists of a two- or three-word expression, the second (and rhyming) word of which is usually omitted. Nobody would say “Barnet Fair” for “hair,” but everybody knows what your “Barnet” is, even if they have never heard of the Barnet Fair. Sometimes, however, the full phrase is indeed necessary. Not saying in full “Uncle Dick” (sick) or “Uncle Fred” (bread) would be understandably confusing. These examples are innocuous, of course, but if rhyming slang is only used for controversial expressions it becomes to easy to work out. By the way, if any male readers are losing their Barnet, they can always get an Irish jig.
Here are a few very popular examples in no particular order to give you the idea:
- Brown bread = dead
- Butcher’s hook = look (as in “have a butcher’s at this”)
- Cracker; Crackers and cheese = please
- Harvard; Harvard scholar = dollar (“lend me twenty-five Harvards, I’m borassic lint.”)
- Todd; Todd Sloan = own. (“I was on my Todd.”)
- Rabbit; Rabbit and Pork = talk
- Richard Gere = beer
- Adam and Eve = Believe
- Chevy Chase = Face
- Plates of meat = feet
“Tom Tit,” “Brace and Bit,” “Eartha Kitt,” and “Brad Pitt” should be self explanatory.
And, given the nature of the economy on this side of the Atlantic and on yours, here’s an expression I hope you will not personally be needing, though you may be using it a lot:
- Rock and Roll; Old King Cole; Sausage Roll = Dole (unemployment is very high)
As with “Uncle Dick” and “Uncle Fred,” “Rock and Sausage” work well alone but “Old King Cole” can only be used in full. Getting it? Now we can get more ambitious:
- Albert Hall = Ball (“When you’ve got them by the Alberts, their hearts and minds will follow”)
- Pony and trap = Well, something of no worth (“Obamacare? That’s a load of old pony.”)
Once you start to get the hang of it, try making up a few of your own to fit the American vernacular. For instance:
“Have a butcher’s at the latest polls, the vampire bats (Democrats) are brown bread.”
Another important phrase to have down is “A la mode” (code). It can be used along with “Robinson” (Robinson Crusoe = “do so”) to provide a modicum of privacy that might not otherwise be enjoyed. For example, the following short conversation . . .
“We’ll have to rabbit a la mode, there’s a Fergal over there.”
“Yes, let’s Robinson.”
. . . could be translated to mean:
“We have to talk (rabbit and pork) in code (a la mode), there’s an African-American (Fergal Sharkey) over there.”
“Yes, let’s do so (Robinson Crusoe).”
As sexist words are deemed just as offensive as racist terms, knowing “Lionel” (Lionel Ritchie = bitchy) could very well save your job. Or marriage. For example:
“Would you Adam and Eve it, that Fergal Dalai (Dalai Lama = Obama) is getting Lionel about the town hall protesters again.”
Just for Earthas and giggles, try these three new words:
- Horse and Cart = Fart
- Boat Race = Face
- Farmer Giles = Piles
Because, as Jeff will attest, I despise that silly old Horse Harry Reid. From the look on his boat, I’d say he has Farmers.
From there we can get into other areas. It is not polite, for example, to openly refer to someone who is Doris Day (gay) as an Iron (iron hoof = pouf) nowadays, so we have to be a bit more subtle. This is why we have rhyming slang. If someone is a bit home and away, we should be able to mention it — after all, those of us who are china plate (straight) aren’t offended by heterophobia, are we? And what, after all, is offensive about saying someone is ginger beer (queer)? It is not Jodie (Jodie Marsh = harsh) and can certainly save embarrassment when people are forewarned about another person’s sexual preference.
Moreover, it should not be taboo to mention that someone is a Perry Como because that characterization does not define them in the same way as might calling a woman a “brass” (brass flute = prostitute). As well as being used for obfuscatory purposes, rhyming slang is also valuable for passing essential information without broadcasting it.
Now, you should have enough information to start your own resistance rhyming slang. I’ll be interested to see how it develops here on America’s Right. I hope a lot of people will get involved in this effort to resist The War On Free Speech — it may keep you out of jail as Dalai Lama becomes more authoritarian.
Rhyming slang originated in the East End of London, probably around the docks and other poor areas where migrants would settle. It can be traced back to the fifteenth century. Elements of Yiddish, Spanish (from the Sephardic Jews), Italian, Hungarian and other central European languages presumably displaced when the Ottoman Turks tried to expand their Empire into western Europe as well as contributions from gypsies, circus performers and traveling entertainers, sailors and members of certain professions (ladies of negotiable affection, for example) who did not wish to discuss their business openly in public.
Though usually referred to as Cockney Rhyming Slang, cockneys being natives of East London, most large cities in the UK have their own version and Australia has a rhyming argot that is particularly colourful.
One particular Cockney Rhyming Slang dictionary linked below is very good, but nonetheless suffers from the usual Internet disease of deteriorating quality. People are invited to submit their own examples and many of those are nonsensical and do not even rhyme. That said, there are many ideas to inspire you — just substitute names of American people, places and traditions.
Armed with this knowledge, you will inevitably find that rhyming slang is a great way to annoy people who are being Nancy (Nancy Pelosi = nosey).
Ian Thorpe is a British satirical writer. Before retiring at a rather tender age following a serious illness, he was a consultant specializing in integrated digital networks. His projects involved him in utilities, banking and finance, oil and chemicals and many branches of commerce and government. He currently maintains his own Web presence at Greenteeth Multi Media, and has been contributing at America’s Right since March 2009.