Cockney Rhyming Slang


In Monday’s post, we explored the history of Cockney Rhyming Slang. We learned the etymological evolution of the word cockney and how, in turn, that evolution eventually led to an entire dialect of slang that is still in use- in some form or other- today. 

Also in Monday’s post, there was also a bit of mental stimulation for the purpose of keeping those little grey cells on their toes.

Just a refresher; here’s the quiz:

Can you determine what the true meanings of these cockney rhymes are?

  1. A Jack-surpass of finger-and-thumb
  2. Bull and Cow
  3. Weasel and Stoat 
  4. Daffadown Dilly
  5. Rabbit and Pork
  6. Trouble and Strife
  7. Uncle Bert
  8. Alligator

Well, dear readers, if you found this little quiz challenging, (which I thought it was when I put it together- I only knew four of them myself), have no fear. Here are the answers you seek:

What’s a Jack-surpass of finger-and-thumb?

If you were thinking it had something to do with alcohol, well, then you’re little grey cells were in overdrive.

This bit of slang was the most obscure one I found. It’s from Henry Mayhew’s 1851 book London Labourer and the London Poor. 

What’s a bull and cow?

I had a bit of fun with this one. I have been heard to say, when trying to calm someone down, don’t have a cow. The word row is chiefly British, and it means a loud disturbance or commotion; a fuss, a noise, a racket. Now, I cannot find confirmation of this, but I think it’s a very logical progression from the cockney bull and cow to the American don’t have a cow

What’s a weasel and stoat?

With this one, you’re first question might have been what’s a stoat? If you’ve read Lauren Willig’s book The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla then you’re familiar with it. In fact, you might be familiar with it, but only by another name: ermine. The stoat is an ermine, but rather than the white winter coat that the ermine is known for, the stoat has the brown summer coat. Armed with that bit of knowledge, it’s makes the cockney rhyming slang meaning all the more rich. 

What’s a daffadown dilly?

Well, considering how ridiculous daffadown dilly sounds, the answer did not come as much of a surprise to me.

What’s a rabbit and pork?

This one you may have had a hard time with because the rhyme is based on accented pronunciation. If you didn’t get this one, don’t feel bad. I didn’t either. 

What’s trouble and strife?

Well, it’s a little like that good ole ball and chain.

What’s Uncle Bert? 

I have no idea where this came from. None whatsoever. The only thing I could find that seemed relational to an article of clothing and a name was a dicky, and with a bit of research I couldn’t find how that related to Uncle Bert in any way, shape, or form. 

What’s alligator?

This one I guessed. Here in the States, we have the expression see you later, alligator. Given the cockney meaning of this rhyming slang, I am making the bold supposition that the U.S. colloquial has it’s roots in the London slang. 

For those of you who subscribe to my blog, you had two extra Cockney Rhyming Slang phrases sent to you in your Monday e-mail. Here are your answers:

What’s Adam and Eve?

This one I can only think came into being because it rhymed well. Perhaps there's some religious significance, but I couldn't find it. 

What’s Scarpa Flow?

This one is a little more involved that the previous one. Scarpa is a slant of the slang scarper, which means to depart hastily, run away; to escape, make one's get-away. The root of scarper comes from the Italian scappare, which means to escape. Sometimes the phrase can be seen scapa flow as well as scarpa flow

And there you have it: Cockney Rhyming Slang. Are there any cockney phrases you’ve heard that you use or find amusing? (I’m sure there are some out there who have seen Austin Powers; you know, when he and his father, played by Michael Caine, sit down and have a whole conversation in cockney.) If you have, please share the ones you like the most.