Cockney Rhyming Slang
London’s Secret Language Within a Language
Friends and students of mine may have heard me mention (a little too often) something called Cockney Rhyming Slang. In Spain, very little is known about it and the typical response I get is “Ben, what is Cockney Rhyming Slang?” I don’t blame you for asking. Cockney Rhyming Slang is a strange and secret language, spoken only in certain parts of London, by true Londoners. By the way, Londoners are people who are born in London and are often referred to as Cockneys, so you would be correct to say that Spanish people speak Spanish, English people speak English and Cockneys speak Cockney.
Let’s not get too excited here, London Cockney Rhyming Slang is not the same as Latin languages, it is not romantic, it is not beautiful, it is not poetic. It is, however, fun, cryptic, clever, informal, diverse and very very old. Using only words from the English language, Cockney talk is almost impossible to understand for any non-Cockney person, and that’s what fascinates me. It’s a language within a language.
How does Cockney Rhyming Slang Function as a Language?
Cockney Rhyming Slang, basically, replaces words with other words or expressions which rhyme. The replacement words normally have no normal connection to the original word, the point is, it rhymes. However, it’s not always the rhyming word which is used to replace the would you are referring to. For example,
Mate is an informal word for saying, friend, like tio or colega in Spanish. Mate rhymes with China plate, so in Cockney Rhyming Slang you would say “Hi China, how are you?”. This translates to “Hi Mate, how are you?”. In this case, the word which doesn’t rhyme is used to replace the word mate.
Of course, easier Cockney Rhyming Slang actually rhymes and also incorporate famous names and places. “I’d like an Al Pacino please” = “I’d like a cappuccino please”.
Examples of Cockney Rhyming Slang – London’s Secret Language
1. Scooby Doo = Clue (Idea)
A: “What is 10394857 X 5008?”
B: “I’m sorry, I really haven’t got a Scooby Doo”
= I haven’t got a clue! (No idea)
2. Barney Rubble = Trouble
“I got into a bit of Barney last night”
= I got into trouble last night
3. North and South = Mouth
“The football just hit me in the north and south, OUUUUCCCHHH!”
= The football just hit me in the mouth, OUUUUCHHH!”