Coming from east of the East End (yes, all right, Essex…) myself, I know a bit of Cockney rhyming slang – my dad was always telling me and my skin and blister (sister) to get up the apples (and pears – stairs). And lots of rhyming slang has crept into everyday speech to the point where the original words have become forgotten. Did you know that, for example, to take a butchers originates from butchers hook = look? To be on one’s tod (own) is another example – Tod Sloan was a famous jockey.
And, like all language, rhyming slang is still evolving. Many of the old terms, especially those using real people, have become a bit obscure – how many of you have heard of Tod Sloan? I haven’t.
So, new phrases and people get drafted in. Do you know what you’d be doing if invited for a Ruby or, nowadays, an Andy? Ruby Murray was a popular singer in the 50s and gave her moniker to the curry. Nowadays, not many people know who Ruby was so the mantle has been handed to everybody’s favourite tennis star, the lovely Andy. Likewise, Lionels (Lionel Blaire – flair) have now become Tonys (you get the picture…)
Cockney Rhyming slang began its life in mid 19th century East London. There is speculation as to whether it began as a game, a way of excluding non-locals (or the police) or just an accident. But it’s good to see that it’s still going strong and keeping its youth.
image credit: engindeniz @ stock.xchng