Like a local: 11 bits of London slang you should know
It’s time to delve into the world of Cockney rhyming slang, my old China. There will be no porkies here just a straightforward guide to keep you out of Barney on your next trip to London.
Did that make no sense whatsoever? Good!
Let me explain: Cockney slang is a collection of rhyming phrases that Cockneys aka London locals use. The phrase usually consists of two words with the latter rhyming with the desired meaning; however, sometimes only the first word – the non-rhyming one – is spoken. Confused? No problem! These examples will get you talking the London lingo in no time, but first let’s take a look at where this famous ‘secret’ language comes from.
A short history of Cockney slang
It began in the East End of London during the middle of the 19th century. Traders, factory workers, and even thieves are believed to have started it as a way to communicate without the police, their customers, and their bosses understanding what was going on. Crafty Cockneys! It has developed over the years, and, although not an essential part of daily London life anymore, locals still create seemingly strange phrases that continue to confuse, so knowing a few Cockney phrases can prove very useful indeed and at the very least, entertaining.
Here are some of the most famous phrases that you might well hear on your next trip to London.
1. Apples and Pears = Stairs
“I’m going up the apples to bed.”
Don’t be alarmed if a Londoner tells you to go up the apples and pears – they haven’t lost their mind or grasp of the English language, they’re just talking about going up stairs.
2. Dog and Bone = Phone
“Shhh, he’s on the dog and bone.”
Don’t you hate it when your dog and bone runs out of battery?
3. Al Capone = Telephone
“He’s always on his Al Capone.”
In the weird and wonderful world of Cockney rhyming slang, Al Capone – the notorious US gangster – means exactly the same as a dog and bone.
4. Barney Rubble = Trouble
“If I’m not home soon, I’m in a lot of Barney.”
Barney Rubble isn’t just a famous Flintstone in this part of the world – oh no; in London, Barney (you don’t say Rubble) is used to indicate a situation that will or has landed you in a spot of trouble.
5. Bees and Honey = Money
“My new shirt was a lot of bees.”
Loadsa bees an hunay as a true Londoner would pronounce it basically means lots of money. Some say you need lots of bees to explore London – we know differently.
6. Bubble Bath = Laugh
“£50? You’re having a bubble.”
This is one of the most common phrases, and it’s spoken across the UK. It’s used to express disbelief or a flat out refusal to do something.
7. China Plate = Mate
“Hello, me old China. How are you?
Cockneys interchange the use of me and my – especially in this classic welcoming sentence. You could say London is the ideal city for you and your Chinas to explore.
8. Pork Pies = Lies
“You’re telling me porkies.”
Here, the two words are combined to create the word porkies. If someone tells you something you don’t believe, let them know that you think they are telling porkies.
9. Hank Marvin = Starving
“I’m completely Marvin.”
Hank Marvin was a guitarist in popular band during the 1960s. Cockneys took a shine to his name, and now you can announce your levels of hunger by including Hank, Marvin, or Hank Marvin in a sentence.
10. Ruby Murray = Curry
“Let’s have a Ruby tonight.”
Ruby Murray was a famous singer in the UK during the 1950s, and her name (especially her forename) has gone down in Cockney folklore as slang for curry.
11. Loaf of Bread = Head
“Use your loaf!”
No, this isn’t a call for you to arm yourself with a loaf of bread, but rather a request or suggestion for you to use your head and think about your actions.