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What Is Cockney Rhyming Slang?

May 9, 2023

Listen and read along.

Unless you grew up in the UK, you’ve likely never heard of cockney rhyming slang. This unique way of speaking can be confusing to those unfamiliar with it. However, if you ever find yourself in London, you’ll have a great time piecing conversations together—that is, once you crack the code!

What does "cockney" mean?

"Cockney" refers to a person who is from the East End of London, England. According to popular tradition, a true cockney is someone who lives close enough to hear the bells of the Church of St. Mary-Le-Bow in an area known as Cheapside.

Stereotypical cockneys are working-class people, and the term was originally meant as an insult. However, nowadays cockneys use the title with pride.

The cockney accent is very different from what people call “the Queen’s English,” which is considered an upper-class way of speaking. But what truly separates cockney English from typical London English is the slang. According to Britannica.com, “There are as many as 150 terms that are recognized instantly by any rhyming slang user.” Below are just a few commonly used phrases and their meanings.

Common phrases

  • apples and pears = stairs
  • army and navy = gravy
  • bees and honey = money
  • bottle and stopper = copper (policeman)
  • box of toys = noise
  • brown bread = dead
  • bubble bath = laugh
  • borrow and beg = egg
  • currant bun = sun
  • cut and carried = married
  • dog and bone = phone
  • early hours = flowers
  • light and dark = park
  • loaf of bread = head
  • lump of ice = advice
  • mince pies = eyes
  • on the floor = poor
  • pleasure and pain = rain
  • china plate = mate (friend)

Give it a try!

Now that you’ve had a taste of it, try translating this paragraph:

Oi,* china plate! Let me give you a lump of ice. When talking to a pretty girl, look her in the mince pies and make her bubble bath. On the floor? No problem! Pick her a nice bunch of early hours. Calling her up on the dog and bone and taking her on a nice walk in the light and dark doesn’t cost any bees and honey either—but make sure the currant bun is shining! There’s nothing like pleasure and pain to ruin a good date. Lastly, just use your loaf of bread and you’ll be cut and carried in no time!

*"Oi" is a typical cockney exclamation.

What do you think?

Could you ever get used to speaking in cockney rhyming slang? Does your first language have anything similar? Let us know in the comments!

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Comments (2)

Michael S.(Teacher)

Very good one!!! I'l be able to really enjoy that with a student as the English Cafe in my French village is run by a guy from East London with a Cockney Accent!

Reply to Comment

Lara Henerson(Ellii Staff)

Oh, how fun! You should memorize a few of these and surprise him! I'm glad you enjoyed the post!

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