RHYMING SLANG

Rhyming Slang

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«Using Your Loaf»

If I said:

“I went for a few pigs and a ruby last night; but it all went Pete Tong when my bag was half-inched; I couldn´t even call the police because my dog was in the bag.”

Would you know what I’m talking about?

How about if I said:

“I went for a few beers and a curry last night; but it all went wrong when my bag was stolen; I couldn´t even call the police because my phone was in the bag.”

Is that clearer?

Okay, let me explain.

Books about Rhyming Slang:

Rhyming Slang Rhyming Slang Rhyming Slang

This is an example of rhyming slang, also known as Cockney rhyming slang because it originated around the East End of London. In Rhyming Slang, some ordinary English words are replaced by completely different words that often seem to have no connection at all.

You might also be wondering why the words I used above don’t rhyme (e.g. “pigs” and “beer”, or “dog” and “phone”); don’t worry, I’ll explain in a moment…

First of all, let me reassure you… you don’t need to learn this in order to speak English!

Most English people don’t use (or even understand) rhyming slang at all. Rhyming slang is just an interesting example of how strangely English can be used.

This is all just a bit of fun, okay?

 So, how has rhyming slang evolved?

 1) Take an ordinary English word; for example, money

2) Then take a short phrase that rhymes with that word; for example, “bread and honey” rhymes with money

3) Then what happens is that when people use that phrase, they shorten it; for example, “bread and honey” becomes just “bread”

4) And that’s how when someone says, “I don’t have any bread” to mean, “I don’t have any money”, they are actually using rhyming slang, even though the part that rhymes has been abandoned.

The English are strange, huh?

Rhyming Slang
Cockney Rhyming Slang Small Steel Sign (Amazon UK)

So, let’s return to my disastrous night out…

  • pig” comes from “pig’s ear” which rhymes with beer
  • ruby” comes from “Ruby Murray” (a singer in the 1950s) which rhymes with curry
  • half-inched” rhymes with pinched (another word for stolen)
  • dog” comes from “dog and bone” which rhymes with phone

ENGLISH CLASSES ONLINE

Here are some more Rhyming Slang examples:

Ordinary word

The Rhyming phrase

Shortened to…

Example

feet plates of meat plates How far did we walk? My plates are killing me.”
hair Barnet Fair barnet Who did your barnet?”
head loaf of bread loaf “Don´t be stupid, use your loaf!”
lies pork pies porkies “Are you telling me porkies?”
look butcher’s hook butcher’s “Let’s have a butcher’s at it.”
skint (meaning to have no money) boracic lint boracic (pronounced “brassic” “I can’t pay, I’m completely boracic.”
stairs apples and pears apples “Up the apples to bed.”
suit whistle and flute whistle “That’s a nice whistle you’re wearing, where did you get that?”
talk rabbit and pork rabbit “He won’t stop rabbiting.”
wife trouble and strife trouble “What will the trouble say?”
wig syrup of figs syrup “Is that a syrup or does his barnet really look like that?”

Of course, there is also a lot of rhyming slang for rude words and insults!

But if you want to know what “cobblers”, “pony” and “berk” mean, maybe you should find out for yourself. Besides the books post above, here’s a dictionary of Rhyming Slang that can prove quite useful 😉

(BTW, if you call somebody a berk, it just means they’re a bit stupid, but the full phrase rhymes with a very rude word indeed – again, a lot of English people don’t realise this!)

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