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  • The Cockneys
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In Victorian London, Cockney rhyming slang was used as a secret “insider” language to confuse outsiders, especially Peelers (the police) and toffs (the nobility or gentry). Cockney expressions have changed over time, but many remain exactly as they were in 1888, when Jack the Ripper terrorized London. The premise is this: Rhyming couplets are used to convey a word, instead of the word itself. The most famous example is: ‘apples and pears’ which means ‘stairs.’ Instead of saying, “I’m climbing the stairs,” a Cockney would say, “I’m climbing the apples and pears.” Often the rhyming word is dropped, so that ‘pears’ (which rhymes with ‘stairs’) is omitted. Leaving only apples. “I’m climbing the apples.”

Cockney Rhyming Slang:

Ankle and Foot - Soot

Apples and Pears - Stairs

April in Paris - Ass (Arse)

Bacon and Eggs - Legs

Bag of Sand - Grand

Billy Goat - Coat

Boat Race - Face

Boiler House - Spouse

Bricks and Pates - United States

Brown Bread - Dead

Church Pews - Shoes

Fife and Drum - Bum

Flip Flap - Trap/Mouth

Frog and Toad - Road

Grady Moore - Door

Ham Shank - A Yank. U.S. Citizen

Harper and Queens - Jeans

Jellied Eel - Deal

Lamb to the Slaughter - Daughter

Loch Ness - Mess

Marbles and Conkers - Bonkers

Mince Pies - Eyes

Molly Coxer - Boxer

Mum and Dad - Mad

Noah’s Ark - A Lark/A Fun Time

Orchestra Stalls - Balls

Peas in a Pot - Hot

Petticoat Lane - Pain

Pony Trap - Crap

Pots and Dishes - Wishes

Raspberry Tart - Heart

Rattle and Pitch - Snitch/Tattle/Rat Someone out

Rob Roy - Boy

Rosy Lee - Tea

Rum and Coke - Joke

Scapa Flo - Go

Shepherd’s Plaid - Bad

Speckled Hen - Ten

Swinging Door - Whore

Tiger’s Cage - Rage

Tit for Tat - Hat

Tripe and Fashion - Passion

Trouble and Strife - Wife

Turkish Bath - Laugh

Twist and Swirl - Girl

19th Century expressions:

Blimey! - Expression of surprise
Born on Wrong Side of Blanket - Born to parents who were not legally married
Chit - Girl/Female
Copped It - Croaked/Died
Core Blimey! - Similar to Blimey
Extra Ready - Extra money
Little Kipper or Wee Nipper - Child
Mate or Matey - A friend
Old Boy - As in: “I say, old boy!” Form of endearment
Old Sod - A fool, an idiot
Scotch Warming Pan - Girlfriend
Toff - High society
Take A Gander - Look at something
Top-Drawer - High quality

Cockney accents can still be heard in London as well as all across England. But in the 19th century, a true Cockney—with the right to use the secret rhyming slang—was someone born within earshot of St. Mary-le-Bow church bells, the area in London where Jack the Ripper stalked his victims.

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Cockney is a term used to refer to the working class of London and their colorful use of the English language. The word has been in use to describe these people since 1600. The Cockney dialect is used throughout southeastern England but it is said to be a true Cockney, one must be born within earshot of the Saint Mary-Le-Bow church bells.

The map below shows the area of London from which the bells could be heard in the late 19th century (shown in blue). And don't forget to listen to the bells and see the ringers in the embedded Youtube video.
St Mary Le Bow

Wikipedia lists these famous Cockneys

Alfie Bass (actor, born in Bethnal Green)
Steven Berkoff (actor, born in Stepney)
Marc Bolan (singer, musician, born in Hackney)
Bernard Bresslaw (actor, born in Stepney)
Eric Bristow (darts player, born in Hackney)
Max Bygraves (singer, songwriter and comedian, born in Rotherhithe)
Michael Caine (Hollywood film star, born in Rotherhithe)
George Carey (archbishop, born in Bow)
Charlie Chaplin (Hollywood film star, born in Walworth)
Phil Collen (guitarist Def Leppard, musician, born in Hackney)
Dave Courtney (bodyguard/actor, born in Bermondsey)
Roger Delgado (actor, born in Whitechapel)
Craig Fairbrass (actor, born in Stepney)
Bud Flanagan, (actor, comedian and singer, born in Whitechapel)
Samantha Fox (model/singer, born in Mile End)
Norman Giller (author/sports historian born in Stepney)
Len Goodman (TV personality on Dancing with the Stars, born in Bethnal Green)
Frank Harper (Actor, born in Whitechapel)
Gary Holton (actor, musician, born in Hackney)
Phillips Idowu (athlete, born in Hackney)
Kenney Jones (musician, born in Stepney)
Kray twins, Ronald and Reginald (gangsters, born in Hoxton)
Lenny McLean (bare knuckle/unlicensed boxer/actor, born in Hoxton)
Hoxton Tom McCourt (musician/face, born in Hoxton)
Ronnie Lane (musician, born in Bow)
Joe Lovejoy (sports journalist, born in Bow, London)
Danny Murphy (footballer, born in Bermondsey)
Dizzee Rascal (musician/producer, born in Bow.)
Harry Redknapp (Former manager for Tottenham Hotspur F.C. born in Bow, London)
Mike Reid (actor/comedian, born in Hackney)
Philip Ridley (artist, writer, film maker, photographer born in Bethnal Green)
Roy Shaw (bare knuckle/unlicensed boxer, born in Stepney)
Terence Stamp (actor, born in Stepney)
Tommy Steele (singer, musician and actor, born in Bermondsey)
Alan Sugar (businessman, born in Hackney)
Sid Vicious (Sex Pistols vocalist and bassist, born in Hackney)
Barbara Windsor (actress, born in Shoreditch)
Ray Winstone (actor, born in Hackney)
Jah Wobble (musician, composer, writer, born in Stepney)
Colin Wood (writer, born in Stepney)
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© 2012 Copyright S. D. Carr