Cockney Rhyming slang
Cockney rhyming slang is believed to have started in the early nineteenth century as a means for London dockworkers to bamboozle foreign workers. Foreign workers could not only communicate to each other in their own language but also speak English, having the advantage in getting work. So Cockney rhyming slang became a kind of code used by London working-class elements to hoodwink authorities and other nationalities and has evolved ever since, becoming endemic in the British language.
The more famous Cockney rhyming slang phrases are “apples and pears” (stairs) and “trouble and strife (wife).” Other expressions that all British people use is “I haven’t seen you in donkeys!” "Donkeys ears" meaning years. Or “Use your loaf!” People don’t often realise that this common expression has it’s roots in Cockney rhyming slang- “loaf of bread’ meaning “head.”
The formation of rhyming slang has also long been reliant on using the names of famous people. In the 1930’s the American jockey Tod Sloan, lent his moniker to Londoners who would use the expression “being on your Todd” as meaning being alone. Not exactly rhyming because the Cockney trend when using famous people’s names is to often just use the first name. So, “on your own” rhymes with Todd Sloan but only the first name is used.
Over the last twenty tears there have been many innovations in rhyming slang using the names of celebrities and politicians. Here are a few of these more recent inventions.
30 Cockney Rhyming Slang Expressions Using Famous People
1) Britney Spears- Beers. Context- “I’m just going down the pub for a few Britneys.”
2) Nelson Mandela-Stella. Stella Artois is a famous French brand of lager drank in the UK. Context- “Blimey, I had way too many Nelsons last night!”
3) Pete Tong-Wrong. Pete Tong is a famous rave music DJ in the UK but is an example of not using his first name only. It is more common to say, “It’s all gone a bit Pete Tong.”
4) Hank Marvin-Starving. Hank Marvin is a famous guitarist from British band “The Shadows.” Context- “Blimey, I’m bleeding Hank Marvin. I could murder a Giorgio!” See Giorgio Armani below.
5) Giorgio Armani. Famous Italian designer who has lent his name to “sarnie.” Just to confuse people further “sarnie” is another slang term for sandwich.
6) Alan Whicker- Knickers. Alan Whicker was a world famous globe-trotting TV journalist who will also be remembered for lending his name to women’s knickers. Context -“Alright love, calm down, keep your Alans on!”
7) Eartha Kitt or Brad Pitt- Shit. Unfortunately for these two stars, their names are interchangeable for a toilet function. Need I say more?
8) Richard the Third-Turd. The infamous English King and Shakespeare villain is also famous for describing a toilet function. Context- “Bleedin’ ’ell, the dog’s only left a Richard on next doors garden.”
9) Lionel Blair- Flares. Lionel Blair is veteran hoofer (he once performed with Sammy Davis Jnr) and his name is used to described flared trousers, often in a derogatory way. Context- “Blimey! Check out the Lionels on him.”
10) Ruby Murray- Curry. Ruby Murray was a famous Irish songbird in the 1950s, just preceding a time when Indian cuisine took Britain by storm. Context- “ I’m Hank Marvin (starving), do you fancy a Ruby (curry) and a few Britneys (beers)?”
Britney Spears means "Beers."
11) James Blunt- C**t. This is most unfortunate for James, who probably wished he stuck with his real name of “Blount.” Context- “I ‘ate that geezer, he’s a right James (Blunt).”
12)Tom Cruise- Booze. Tom Cruise needs no explanation as a star but I bet he is teetotal, ironically. Not in London though. Context- “ I’m gonna nip down the offy (Off License- a retail outlet where alcohol is sold) and get some "Tom Cruise.”
13) Sue Lawley- Poorly. Sue Lawley was a very prim BBC newsreader from way back. Context- “Your Chevy (face) looks a bit pale. Do you feel a bit Sue Lawley, love?”
14) Chevy Chase- Face. Also known as “boat race.” Context- “I’m gonna smash your Chevy in.”
15) Bruce Lee- Pee. Martial arts legend is now synonmous with another toilet function. Context- “I’m off to the karsey (toilet) for a Bruce.”
16) Karsey Moilet- Toilet. Karsey Moilet did not really exist. It was just a fabricated name for a fabricated music-hall star. Why? The word "khazi" was foreign, it may have come from Kipling novels, or from the Zulu war, no-one really knows; but it is clear that when London Cockneys first heard the word "khazi" they embraced it and made it fit within their arcane rhyming scheme.
17) Gregory Peck- Neck. Context- “ ‘Ere I’ve got a right pain in my Gregory.”
18) Vera Lynn- Skins. Nice patriotic stalwart singer Vera Lynn, who rallied the troops and the morale of Great Britain during the Second World War, is probably horrified that her name has been lent to “skins”- the cigarette papers often used to smoke cannabis joints. Context- ‘I’ve got a bit of pie and mash (hash). Have you got any Veras?”
19)Danny La Rues- Shoes. Danny La Rue was a very famous drag queen in Britain for about 180 years and I think he is dead now. Context- “Wot d’ya fink of me new Dannys?”
20) Ayrton Senna- Tenner. The deceased Formula One racing chap has got off quite lightly in the world of Cockney rhyming slang and is used to describe a unit of currency, a ten pound note also known as a tenner. Context “ ‘Ere lend us an Ayrton will ya, I’m proper boracic.” Boracic lint meaning skint (very poor.)
"Do wanna hit me, right on the Chevy?"
21) Patrick Swayze- Lazy. Context- “He’s a bit bleeding Patrick Swayze, inne!”
22) Jane Fonda- Wander. The aerobics guru and actress’ name means to wander. Context- “I’m just going down the road for a bit of a Jane Fonda.”
23) Mariah Carey- Scary. According to some observers of the notorious diva star, this is quite an apt example of Cokney rhyming slang describing both the person and the expression. Context- “Blimey, check out that bird (woman), she’s a bit Mariah!”
24) Johnny Cash- Slash. Back to toilet functions. In Britain “slash’ means a pee. Context- “I’m bursting for a Johnny Cash”
25) Jimmy Cliff- Whiff. “Whiff” means to smell badly. Context- “He don’t half Jimmy Cliff!”
26) Dame Judy Dench- Stench. Again ‘stench” means to smell badly. “He don’t half Judi Dench!”
27) Vincent Van Gogh- cough. The famous impressionist painter has lent his moniker to a lung-related reaction. “I can’t talk much, I’ve got a really bad Vincent.”
28) Jimi Hendrix- Appendix. Another medical one. Context- “I’ve got a grumbling Jimi Hendrix.”
29) Shania Twain- Pain. Context-”That bird’s (woman) a right Shania!”
30) Calvin Klein- Wine. Context - “ Crack open the Calvin and a good old knees-up!” Knees-up meaning party or celebration. No, I don’t know why either.