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British English / Cockney Rhyming Slang

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Here is a list of just many of the colourful slang terms that have come from the East End of London.

Note that the actual rhyming part of the name is dropped in common parlance, just to make things more impenetrable.

Return to the main British English page here.


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    Well-known Phrases 
  • Apples and pears: Stairs. Mostly a Pop Culture Osmosis with Brits that aren't Cockney. If there are any imitators, they most likely will say "Apples and pears — stairs!"
  • [Aunt] Joanna: Piano. Down under, it's mutated to "Goanna", a kind of lizard. (Hence Joanna the lizard in The Rescuers Down Under.)
  • Barclays [Bank]: Wank. Also Barclays Banker – wanker, useless person, City banker.
  • Battle cruiser: Boozer; i.e. pub.
  • Berk: Literally, cunt, from Berkeley Hunt. Nowhere near as insulting as the origin might lead you to believe, and never used to refer to a literal vagina; in fact is a mild and pretty affectionate insult calling someone silly or stupid.
    • Sometimes misattributed to the term 'Berkshire Hunt' which makes less sense – note that, while 'berk' is pronounced as "burk", the county of Berkshire is said "Barkshire".
    • In more recent years, this has been (appropriately) replaced with "James Blunt".
    • One joke on Mock the Week states that Bargain Hunt doubles as rhyming slang for "the bloke who presents it".
  • Boat race: Face.
  • Boracic [lint]: Out of money – see "skint" above.
  • Brass tacks: Facts. This is one of the few examples to have made it into American English; John W. Campbell used it as the name of the Astounding (later Analog) letters page.
  • Bristols: Tits – "Bristol City": tittynote ).
  • Brown bread: Dead.
  • Have a butcher's: Have a look at something. "Butcher's Hook" = look.
  • Charlies: Inoffensive term for a woman's genitals, or sometimes breasts. From "Charlie Hunt", whoever he was. Also "Charlie" meaning "twit", as in Berk above.
  • Me old China: Mate or friend ("China plate" = mate).
  • Nuclear sub: Pub.
  • On one's Tod [Sloan]: Alone.
  • Dog and bone: Telephone.
  • Frontwheel Jewish person (could be derogatory). "Front-wheel skid = Yid"
  • Porkies [Pork pies]: Lies. This, along with "apples and pears", is very well-known to many in the UK.
  • Septic [tank]: Yank; derogatory term for Americans. (Yank itself is rarely intended to be offensive, neither is Yankee. If they call you septic, however, well, it already sounds bad anyway).
  • Sherbet [dab]: Cab (taxi), though "sherbet" can also refer to cocaine.
  • Tea leaf: Thief.
  • Tin tack: Sack; as in, the metaphorical one you're given when you're dismissed from your job.
  • Trouble [and strife]: Wife.
  • Slang for money:
    • Dustbin lid (quid): £1
    • Lady Godiva (fiver): £5
    • Ayrton [Senna] (tenner): £10
    • Score: £20
    • Pony: £25
    • Bullseye: £50
    • Ton: £100
    • Monkey: £500
    • Bag of sand (grand): £1000
    • Shrapnel: loose change.
  • Jimmy Riddle [Widdle]: Piddle (to urinate).
  • Slap and tickle: Pickle.
  • Hot cross bun: Nun.
  • Whistle and flute: Two- or Three-piece Suit.

    Slang With Pop-Culture References 

    Slang Named After the Famous 
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