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?
pen and ink
skin and blister
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.
PS and thanks to John for this link: