Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

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 Mutton - Mutt 'n' Jeff - deaf
Barnet - Barnet fair - hair Pen - pen and ink - stink
Boat - boat race - face Plates - plates of meat - feet
China - china plate - mate Porkie - pork pie - lie
Dog - dog and bone - phone Rosy - Rosy Lee - tea
Elephant's - elephant's trunk - drunk Ruby - Ruby Murray - curry
Frog - frog and toad - road Scarper - Scapa Flow - go (run away)
Germans - German bands - hands Scotches - Scotch eggs - legs
Gregory - Gregory Peck - cheque Syrup - syrup of figs - wig
Hampsteads - Hampstead Heath - teeth Titfer - tit for tat - hat
Kettle - kettle and hob - fob (watch) Tom - tom foolery - jewellery
Lilian - Lilian Gish - fish Weasel - weasel and stoat - coat
Loaf - loaf of bread - head Whistle - whistle and flute - suit