Cockney Rhyming Slang – A National Treasure.

The Haunch of Venison, Salisbury

In England there exists a language like no other, and no, it’s not Pig Latin.  Coming from Iceland (where everyone speaks at least 3—4 languages fluently) I have felt the need to exercise my language skills, and not being bilingual (as most English speakers seem to be these days – this by the way is unforgivable) the only form of language I could turn to is Cockney rhyming slang.

Having spent a good deal of time over the past week inside pubs, I feel that I am now well equipped to deliver a scholarly treatise on this most fascinating of languages.  Simply put, Cockney rhyming slang is a form of communication that replaces a particular word with a phrase of several words; so “stairs” becomes “apples and pears”.  In many cases when used, the actual word that rhymes with stairs (pears) is then omitted leaving the unfamiliar listener oblivious to what is actually being said.  It is almost always considered that the best way of learning a language is through immersion, basting oneself in the language and being left with no choice but to lean in order to accomplish even the most basic of daily tasks.  In considering the only immersion opportunity for prospective Cockney rhyming slang speakers is to move to an East End London suburb, but due to recent events in Stepney et. al. this might not be a good choice at the moment.

Instead, our only choice is then immersion right here at our blog. So without any further delay, try to translate the following:

“Allo Guv’no.r”

“Allo me ol’ China.”

“A’ve ‘ad a bugger of a day… bit of barney with the ol’ trouble ‘n strife this morning.  I was getting into me Whistle when I ‘erd ‘er jabberin.  Came out for a butcher’s to find ‘er at the top of the apples tossin a bloody aristotle at me, caught me right in the bird’s nest. Would you adam and eve it?”

“What’s ‘er problem then? Trouble fixin’ er barnet?”

“No idea, but I thought it best to bugger off down the battle cruiser for a little giggle… might ‘ave to stay for a leo.”

“You stay ‘ere to long an you’ll ‘ave her on the dog and bone naggin you to come home for rosey!”

“Don’t want to piss ‘er off! She’d pop me in the pork pie with the dead horse, right at the table.  I’d wind up hiding in the gary glitter.”

Perhaps you were victorious, understanding the conversation and commiserated with our hero.  Or perhaps you had no idea what was going on and need some help.  For those of you in need of a cheat sheet, she dictionary is listed below.  After you’ve tried again, read on to find the same conversation re-written ever so properly in the Queen’s English.

The Bruce's Arms - our "local"

Translation Key:

Dog and Bone – Phone

Butcher’s Hook – Look

Apples and Pears – Stairs

Trouble and Strife – Wife

Barney Rubble – Trouble

Whistle and Flute – Suit

Battle Cruiser – Boozer (the pub)

Adam and Eve – Believe “Would you Adam and Eve it?”

Barnet Fair – Hair

Leo Sayer – All Dayer (All day drinking session)

Aristotle – Bottle

Giggle and Titter – Pint of Bitter

Gary Glitter – Asshole or Shitter (toilet)

Rosy Lee – Tea

Dead Horse – Sauce

Pork Pie – Eye

Bird’s Nest – Chest

China Plate – Mate


“Good morning, my dear man.”

“Good morning, my good friend”

“I’ve had the most atrocious day… got into a little tiff with my wonderful wife.  I was putting on my suit when I heard quite a commotion.  Being concerned that something might be amiss,   I investigated and discovered her at the stop of the stairs with a wine bottle.  It seems I myself was the focus of her anger. She then proceeded to throw the flagon aloft, hitting me right in the chest. Can you believe that?”

“Do you have any thoughts as to why she might be angry with you? Or could she just be having a bad hair day?”

“I haven’t the foggiest, but I thought it best to give evacuate the premises and come down to your wonderful establishment for a pint of fantastic bitter… I’m afraid, due to my domestic circumstances, I may need to spend the day here.”

“Don’t linger too long. She might call on the phone if you don’t arrive home as expected, for tea.”

“I wouldn’t want to cause her additional frustration.  Judging from her previous outburst she might hit me in the eye with the tomato sauce, right at the table.”

So how did you do?  Ash happily scored about a 90%.  I am proud to state that this form of communication is also actively used in Australia, brought to the great Southern land by convicts of Cockney origin.  During our week in England (having availed ourselves of the patronage of more than a few pubs) we have been witness to rhyming slang on several occasions, (often in a conversation about the weather, as they always seem to be talking about the weather in England.)  It is reassuring that this form of speaking is alive and well when so much of our regional dialects seem to be disappearing.  Increased travel, education away from home turf, and media all serve to limit the affect of regional dialects and colloquialisms. In England, as is so often the case, these trends seem to not occur, and for that I guess we should be grateful.

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