‘Cockanese’ – A Guide To Cockney Rhyming Slang, For Beginners Or Americans

Dr Carol Cooper’s been a friend since fairly much the beginning of the Don Charisma blog.

Carol is an author, blogger and a lady who gets my sense of humour. I believe she’s also quite well known in the UK, Google would tell you more, I’m sure, otherwise this will start to look like a Dr Carol Cooper resume or groupies club, which it’s not …

She’s also in my experience very humble and personable, which counts to me personally more than any other accolades … charm is magic they say … so …

Quite a few moons ago I, a little tongue-in-cheekily, proposed a title for a guest post, and Carol being the good soul she is, took the bait, hook, line and sinker … A break from the norm, something a little different, here’s Carol’s version of how to speak like a Cockney …

Disclaimer – no Americans were harmed in the creating of this writing … or should I say “Shermans” aka “Sherman Tanks” aka “Yanks”. All will become clear, I promise, once you’ve read Carol’s step by baby step into the weird and wondrous world of what I, Don Charisma like to call “Cockanese” … otherwise know as “Cockney Rhyming Slang”.


Learn Cockanese in 3 easy steps

Do You Speak Cockney?

The US and Britain are two nations divided by a common language.  But can English as she is spoke get you by in all parts of Britain?

Not a chance, me old china plate.

That’s ‘mate’ in Cockney, a dialect peculiar to London.  Technically a Cockney is someone born within the sound of Bow bells, from St Mary-le-Bow church in Cheapside, City of London, but people from outside that small area also use Cockney slang.

And in just three steps you too could learn the lingo.

Its basic MO is rhyme, not reason. 

Here’s how it works.  In place of a particular word, Cockneys substitute a word or phrase that rhymes with it.

Say you’re not feeling well.  Instead of going upstairs to lie down because you’re ill, you’d go up the apples and pears ‘cos you’re a bit Aunty Lil.

If things don’t settle, best get on the dog and bone and call the doc.  Like the trouble and strife says, you don’t want to end up brown bread.

With me so far?  If not, there’s a cheat sheet below.

Now things aren’t always that simple because Cockneys often abbreviate the rhyme, from two words down to one. As you’ll see in step two, an evening out.

Here’s how to enjoy your night out

Kick off your Jack the Rippers and put on a nice whistle.  Clue: it rhymes with ‘whistle and suit’.

Team it with your daisies. That’s short for daisy roots.

Boots-freeimages.com-890175_82794563-DonCharisma.org-2304 x 2112

You probably won’t bother with a titfer (tit for tat), but the trouble is bound to put on a necklace, earrings or other tomfoolery.

Hat-freeimages.com-1110313_83160221-DonCharisma.org-1817 x 1519

Now run a comb through your Barnet, because tonight, me old china, we start by going down the rub-a-dub (pub) for a few drinks.  Course, it will make you want to Jimmy.

male-toilet-freeimages.com-43618_3206-DonCharisma.org-2560 x 1920

Jellied eels (yes, really) are traditional East London fare, but not nearly as popular as a curry (Ruby Murray).  A Ruby it is then.

Have a good butcher’s at the menu.  A butcher’s hook is a look.

It’s drinks all round with the meal, and maybe a few more after.  No surprise if by the end of the evening you’re a bit Brahms and Liszt.

drunk-freeimages.com-64174_3632-DonCharisma.org-1409 x 953

When things don’t work out

No foreign phrasebook would be complete without a final section on idioms to use when things go wrong.  It’s easy in Cockanese.  Don’t tell no porkie pies. Just roll your mince pies and say it all went Pete Tong.

Your Cheat Sheet

apples and pears stairs
Aunty Lil ill
Barnet fair hair
Brahms and Liszt pissed
brown bread dead
butcher’s hook look
china plate mate
currant bun sun
daisy roots boots
dog and bone phone
ginger beer queer
Jack the Rippers slippers
Jimmy Riddle piddle
mince pies eyes
Pete Tong wrong
plates of meat feet
pork pies (usually shortened to porkies) lies
Ruby Murray curry
threepenny bits (usually thru’pennies) tits
titfer tat hat
Tomfoolery jewellery
trouble and strife wife
Uncle Dick sick
whistle and flute suit

By Dr Carol Cooper

London-born writer and doctor Carol Cooper blogs at Pills and Pillow-Talk (http://pillsandpillowtalk.com/about/). Her novel One Night at the Jacaranda (http://pillsandpillowtalk.com/books/) is a racy romance set in London, and she is working on a sequel.

Resources And Sources

Dog Guest Blogger – Public Domain/CC0/PixaBay/werner22brigitte ( Graphic Design (c) DonCharisma.com, DonCharisma.org 2014 )

Other images – sxc.hu, Royalty Free License


Comments are often welcomed, provided you can string a polite, relevant and good humoured sentence together. Otherwise best kept to yourself, or shared with your therapist 😀



23 thoughts on “‘Cockanese’ – A Guide To Cockney Rhyming Slang, For Beginners Or Americans

  1. I have never heard the Sherman Tank thing before but i assume it is the original (and more polite) term to the version i know. Where i live (just outside London) Americans are referred to as Septics. AKA Septic Tank, AKA Yank.

    My favourite Cockney Rhyming Slang phrases are

    “You’re havin’ a bubble” Bubble, short for Bubble Bath, means Laugh.
    “Would you Adam and Eve it?” Adam and Eve, means Believe

    1. Thanks, Naomi. Yes, the Sherman has many versions (rather like the tank itself, if I’m not mistaken). Hope there’s not too much animosity directed at Americans in your neck of the woods?

      1. Oh not at all. It’s not even really known as an insult to call them septics. I questioned someone about it once and they just said “don’t they all have them septic tanks in their gardens?” We see it as no worse then being called a Limey because we have Limestone Cliffs. There was a possibility of me moving to America last year and pretty much everyone i spoke to (which was a lot of people, i talk a lot) said if they were me, they would jump at the chance because America is awesome.

      2. That’s good to know, Naomi. Here I have to declare an interest: I lived in the US for many years, and have an American step-family. But I’m a Limey of course. By the way, the name Limey comes from the limes our sailors used to eat to ward off scurvy at sea, citrus fruits being high in vitamin C. Trust me on this (I’m a doctor).

    2. LOL, yes many variations, Septic I’ve heard before too … another new’ish favoutire is a “Back in a second, I’m going for a Brad” or “that’s completely Brad” … Brad Pitt obviously, sure you can fill in the gaps …

      Bubble is also used for “Greek” as in “Nick the Bubble” rhymes with “Bubble and Squeak” … I think, long time since I did any “study” in Cockanese …

  2. Loved this post. So entertaining. Now I know how my husband must feel when we’re in Hawaii and my family speaks “Hawaiian Pidgin” ~ although most of the dialect is English, it’s a grammar teacher’s nightmare and Hawaiian words are sprinkled in. He misses a lot when they talk story but laughs when they do 😉

    1. I can imagine the fun you must have (hopefully not all of it at your husband’s expense 😉 ). So many places have dialects, though some are easier to pick up than others. Variety is the spice of life, as they say!

  3. Good job Carol 😀 … one of my favourites is “Battle” as in “are you coming to the Battle” … Battle as in “Battle Cruiser” as in “Boozer” as in pub, but sure you knew that one already LOL

    There’s a good scene in “Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” too with subtitles, as it’s pretty hard for anyone but a native Cockanese speaker to keep up without them :-


    1. Excellent point, DC. Really one would need a whole book on Cockanese, but I’d put ‘battle’ in chapter one. It’s an even more appropriate word when fighting breaks out! 😉

      1. For sure 😀 … and I do actually have said book at home in London, interesting to browse and become edified !

        Although, I’m learning Thai at the moment, and as the world’s slowest language learner I have to put all my efforts into that, well at least a few hours a week anyway, LOL 😀

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