Is the dog and bone ringing? Could you brew me up a cup of Rosie lee? If you’re confused, you mustn’t be fluent in Cockney rhyming slang. Said to originate in London’s East End in the mid-19th century, these once widely-used slang phrases have slipped out of the popular vernacular in recent times.
It’s said that a true Cockney is someone born within the sound of the Bow Bells, this meaning in the area of the St Mary-le-Bow Church in Cheapside, London. But the distinctive Cockney accent can be found commonly in some of the outer London boroughs, and even in other counties like Essex.
Cockney rhyming slang phrases are formed by taking an expression which rhymes with a word, and then using the expression instead of the word. For example, phone rhymes with dog and bone. Sometimes you won’t say the rhyming word, for example you won’t hear many Cockney’s calling their friend a China plate, but they will say my old China. The construction varies, and there aren’t set rules to follow.
Learning some Cockney rhyming slang is a good way to expand your vocabulary and knowledge of British popular culture. Because there aren’t really any set rules to follow, and the construction of sentences in Cockney rhyming slang varies so much, it is best to just memorise the phrases and the way they’re used. Here are a few examples of Cockney rhyming slang and how to use it properly:
Adam and Eve - believe
“I can’t Adam and Eve it!”
Apples and pears – stairs
“I nearly tripped down the apples and pears!”
Aunt Joanna – piano
“Give us a tune on the Aunt Joanna.”
Baked bean – Queen
“The baked bean’s on TV giving her Christmas speech.”
Barnet fair – hair
“Keep your barnet on mate.”
Brown bread – dead
“If you don’t tidy your room by the time I get back, you’re brown bread.”
Bubble bath – laugh
“I was only havin’ a bubble.”
China plate – mate (friend)
“Nice to see you me old China.”
Lady Godiva – fiver
“New takeaway’s opened up, main meal only a Lady Godiva.”
Teapot lids – kids
“It’s time to pick the teapot lids up from school!”
Do you want to win a four week English course with accommodation in London? Take a look at our Cockney rhyming slang competition, made in collaboration with popular YouTuber, Korean Billy.