Have You Been Speaking Poetry All Your Life?

Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner… I don’t know.  It could be because I’m a Londoner – but I really, really like Cockney rhyming slang.  Cockney rhyming slang is one of my favourite kinds of slang: it’s poetic, it’s inventive, it’s creative – and it makes you think about rhyme.  Everyone knows the common forms, such as ‘plates of meat’ and ‘apples and pears’; but the beauty of Cockney rhyming slang is that it isn’t just traditional; it’s evolving.  People make up new forms of rhyming slang all the time.  For example, how many of these do you know?

a Cadbury’s

an Irish

a butcher’s

the frog

pen and ink

skin and blister


tea leaf


Let me know…

One of the rudest – ‘the Barclay’s’ (think about it) was frequently used by Kenneth Williams in his rather sad and lonely diary entries: but my all-time favourite piece of Cockney rhyming slang comes from the 80’s TV series ‘Minder’.


Starring George Cole and Dennis Waterman, it featured a dodgy ‘businessman’ and his minder; and one week George Cole complained that his ‘Chalfonts’ were killing him.  No-one outside London would have a hope of understanding this, and it even took me a while.  You have to work out that there are two villages to the North of London called Chalfont St Peter’s and Chalfont St Giles; then to reflect that not much rhymes with ‘Peter’s’, and then to figure out that the most likely rhyme for Giles is ‘piles’.


Language is constantly evolving; and that is one of its most exciting features.  Spellings such as ‘alright’, once considered anathema, are now the norm – and why?  Because everyone uses them.  Everyone except pedants like me, that is.  I don’t mind spellings such as ‘alright’ because there are many other examples of similar contractions and anomalies in English spelling; however what I don’t like is usage so lazy that it conveys an attitude of ‘I don’t give a toss’ – such as the phrase ‘my bad.’

Have I mentioned this before?  I think I may have… anyway, here’s a poem about it:

For Your Good

The incompleteness of the sent-

it sends me into shudders

though realising what you meant

it lacks grammatic rudders

so as you blunder into shot

so I must thunder: My bad what?

what is it that is so ungood?

Bad leg?  Bad arm?  Bad winter?

A mouldy apple?  Rotten wood?

Bad finger after splinter?

It sounds as awful as it looks

– I’ve written you in my bad books.

What’s wrong with saying ‘my mistake’?

… and so on.  It’s a very satisfying rant to perform.

Kirk out

PS and thanks to John for this link: