Rhyming Slang

Rhyming slang is a form of phrase construction in the English language and is especially prevalent in dialectal English from the East End of London; hence the alternative name, Cockney rhyming slang (or CRS). The construction involves replacing a common word with a rhyming phrase of two or three words and then, in almost all cases, omitting the secondary rhyming word (which is thereafter implied), in a process called hemiteleia, making the origin and meaning of the phrase elusive to listeners not in the know.

The most frequently cited example—although it is almost never employed by current users—involves the replacement of "stairs" with the rhyming phrase "apples and pears". Following the usual pattern of omission, "(and) pears" is then dropped and "stairs" becomes "apples"; this is deciphered as "apples" > "apples and pears" > "stairs". Thus the spoken phrase "I'm going up the apples" means "I'm going ".

In similar fashion, "telephone" is replaced by "dog" (= 'dog-and-bone'); "wife" by "trouble" (= 'trouble-and-strife'); "eyes" by "minces" (= 'mince pies'); "wig" by "syrup" (= 'syrup of figs') and "feet" by "plates" (= 'plates of meat'). Thus a construction of the following type could conceivably arise: "It nearly knocked me off me plates—he was wearing a syrup! So I got straight on the dog to me trouble and said I couldn't believe me minces."

In some examples the meaning is further obscured by adding a second iteration of rhyme and truncation to the original rhymed phrase. For example, the word "Aris" is often used to indicate the buttocks. This has been subjected to a double rhyme, starting with the original rough synonym "arse", which was rhymed with "bottle and glass", leading to "bottle". "Bottle" was then rhymed with "Aristotle" and truncated to "Aris".

The use of rhyming slang has spread beyond the purely dialectal and some examples are to be found in the mainstream British English lexicon and internationally, although many users may be unaware of the origin of those words. One example is "berk", a mild pejorative widely used across the UK and not usually considered particularly offensive, although the origin lies in a contraction of "Berkeley Hunt", as the rhyme for the significantly more offensive "cunt".

Most of the words changed by this process are nouns. A few are adjectival e.g. 'bales' (of cotton = rotten), or the adjectival phrase 'on one's tod' = 'on one's own (Tod Sloan, a famous jockey).

Read more about Rhyming SlangHistory, Evolution, Regional and International Variations, Rhyming Slang and Taboo Terms, Rhyming Slang in Popular Culture

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Famous quotes containing the words slang and/or rhyming:

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