A Bit of Trouble and Strife

Very few cultural or linguistic terms are as memorable and as linguistically convoluted as Cockney rhyming slang. Comparable to American jive talk, this slang that’s most popular on the East End of London can sometimes seem like a language all its own. The reason for that is that, when one gets down to it, rhyming slang is sort of its own language. Not in a technical sense, it’s just a collection of common phrases used by Londoners, but it can feel like another language, and it does follow many of the rules that more complex languages abide by.

How Does It Work?

The basic precept of rhyming slang is that the speaker will come up with a short phrase whose last word rhymes with the English language word that the phrase is replacing. A quick, for instance, could be found in an episode of the old Sherlock Holmes radio show with Basil Rathbone. Holmes is disguised as a Cockney workman, and when he tries to get another character to sit in a chair, he uses the phrase, “Go on sir, take the weight off your plates of meat.” The phrase of course refers to the man’s feet, which is where the rhyme comes in.

Other Examples

Rhyming slang is an endlessly complicated form of jargon, and as time goes by, it only grows more and so. Furthermore, like any language, it’s prone to change over time as certain phrases come into use, and other ones fall out of favor. That said, there are several solid phrases that remain popular, and, which provide more examples of just how rhyming slang works.

Some of those are:

– Apples and Pears: It refers to stairs.
– Dog-and-Bone: It refers to the phone.
– Chas and Dave: It refers to a shave.

When one gets right down to it, the premise of rhyming slang is a fairly simple thing to get used to. However, for beginners, it’s best to use established phrases that are well-known to other people who are also using rhyming slang. Otherwise it’s quite possible that whatever someone is trying to say could easily get lost in translation.

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