Day’s a-dawning: What is Cockney Rhyming Slang?

 In English Tips

We hear of the Cockney Rhyming Slang on occasion, but still don’t understand it properly! Why you might ask? Well, dear readers, we aim to provide a short overview of the history of this typically English phenomenon.

     I.        Background

Amongst historians, it is believed that the slang began to be spoken publicly around the 1840s. This is also because the first written evidence of the slang came to exist by that time, so really it could have been spoken for years before that.

It is unsure whether it began as a secret language among those born in Cheapside – to this day believed to be the Cockney borough of London – or whether it was a game of skill. As a secret language, it could have been used by thieves in order to not be arrested by the police. As a game, it tests the quick wit and vocabulary of a person.

    II.        Who can speak CRS?

Anyone can speak cockney rhyming slang if the principles are understood. Despite that perhaps the best at speaking this slang are those born and bred in London’s East End, specifically close to Bow Bells. Others noted that it is spoken in parts of Essex now.

  III.        How does it work?

The principles of rhyming slang are in the name: it has to rhyme. Essentially, the word you are trying to say should be said by another word that it rhymes with, i.e. ‘Uncle Ted’ = bed; ‘Scooby Doo’ = clue; ‘apples and pears’ = stairs; etc.

There are arguments that there is logic behind the expressions chosen and that the slang reflects this.

One slang expression we can explain to you is ‘apple and pears’ for stairs: it was common in the 19th century that apples and pears were displayed in a stair-like form when the fruits were seasonal.

We could also try to justify ‘Scooby Doo’ for clue because as it is known, the dog in the TV show and subsequent films was a little bit clueless as to what went on.

To conclude however, here is a very simple edit of different slang and what they mean. Enjoy it!

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