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Developing Language – Cockney

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Always on the lookout for interesting developments in language, I was instantly drawn to the BBC h2g2 post on Cockney Rhyming Slang.

Now we’ve never had call to translate or interpret the Cockney language, and looking at some of the examples, that’s a good job. Here are a few choice terms which caught my eye.

  • Brass bands – Hands – I shook him by the Brass.
  • Danny Marr – Car – I’ll give you a lift in the Danny.
  • Ham’n’cheesy – Easy – Ham’n’cheesy does it.
  • Nuclear Sub – Pub – Fancy a quick one down the Nuclear?
  • Oily Rag – Fag (cigarette) – Gis’ an Oily, mate.
  • Septic Tank – Yank – Well, ‘es a bloody Septic, inni?
  • Steam Tug – Do something stupid (Steam tug = Mug = Fool) – He went steaming ahead and did it anyway.

Cockney rhyming slang used to be a form of Pidgin English, designed so that the working Eastenders could talk about their business without being understood by non-Cockneys. Even now it continues to develop and be adapted by not just the people of the East End of London, but by groups across the whole of the UK.

So you’re just as likely to hear “It’s all gone Pete Tong (Wrong)” in Leeds as you are in London.

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