Cockney rhyming slang started in London’s East End. It uses two- or three-word phrases to replace single words. And it works because the last word of one of these phrases rhymes with the word the phrase replaces. Bear with me.
‘Dog and bone’ means phone. ‘Mince pies’ means eyes. ‘Dickie bird’ means word.
Most of the time you’d only say the first word, say, dickie in the last example. You’d rely on the person you’re talking to knowing the full phrase.
So if the prime minister’s office were to phone George Osborne and say ‘Dave wants a dickie with you,’ he should worry.
As an aside, a Museum of London poll tested 2,000 Britons – 1,000 of them were Londoners – on both cockney slang and modern slang. Forty per cent (800) were convinced cockney rhyming slang is dying out, and a third (666) were sad about the decline.
Although cockney rhyming slang may be on its way out, it’s worth keeping one of its principles: don’t use two or three words when one will do.
So instead of writing, say, ‘the end result was a 25 per cent increase’, try the result was a 25 per cent increase.
Or instead of ‘in the event of’ try a simple if. And there are loads more: first instead of first and foremost, because instead of in view of the fact that, and so on. Unlike rhyming slang, you don’t need to know the full phrases to get the meaning.
Know some others? Leave a comment.