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).
Other articles related to "rhyming slang, slang":
... Rhyming slang is used, then described and a number of examples suggested as dialogue in one scene of the 1967 film To Sir With Love starring Sidney Poitier ... The English students are telling their foreign teacher that the slang is a drag and something for old people ... In Britain rhyming slang had a resurgence of popular interest beginning in the 1970s resulting from its use in a number of London-based television programmes such as Steptoe ...
... he rode many winners in England where his first name was adopted into the rhyming slang used by the Cockneys of the East end of London to mean 'own' as in 'on his ...
... Thames Television series Minder, a different use of rhyming slang is made when Arthur describes a girlfriend of his minder Terry's as being a "comely Richard" (i.e ... Richard the Third = bird, a British slang term for "girl") ... used by Ronnie Barker in a comedy sketch in which he played a clergyman giving a sermon in rhyming slang ...
... Sorry I Haven't A Clue as "the show that is to panel games what James Hunt is to rhyming slang" ...
... is a habitual speaker of Dimwell Arrhythmic Rhyming Slang, the only known rhyming slang in the universe that does not actually rhyme ... Explanation reveals that in Dimwell slang, "syrup of prunes" means wig ... In Cockney rhyming slang, the expected derivation would be "syrup of figs.") Another example given in the text is "cup-and-plate" - no definition is given, but "He's a bit cup-and-plate ...
Famous quotes containing the words slang and/or rhyming:
“Ive found that there are only two kinds that are any good: slang that has established itself in the language, and slang that you make up yourself. Everything else is apt to be passé before it gets into print.”
—Raymond Chandler (18881959)
“Poetry consists in a rhyming dictionary and things seen.”
—Gertrude Stein (18741946)