Bizarre and unique to London, and when compared to local quirks in the other cities of Britain, you won’t find anything like Cockney rhyming slang anywhere else on the British Isles, or possibly the world for that matter!
Cockney rhyming slang is used often by many Londoners and a form of expression, replacing ordinary words by rhyming equivalents, such as “door” with that of the late great footballer, “Bobby Moore”. Plates of meat, for example are your feet. When Cockney rhyming sland advocators are really hungry they say, “I’m Hank Marvin,” which of course means “I’m starving!”
Londoners are not overly fussed about correct spelling and letters are often missed out or words shortened.
It is believed that the origins of rhyming slang go back to the mid 19th century and the East End of London was the place where it all began. Even today it is London’s East End where Cockney rhyming slang is most commonly used today.
There is some suggestion that market traders used it to talk amongst themselves, in a sort of code of collusion, so that customers were kept in the dark. Others suggest the slang’s origins point towards criminals using it to confuse the police.
As if the language is not difficult enough to understand in its own right, regular users of Cockney rhyming slang throw a big spanner in the works to the listener trying to understand what they actually are talking about.
They often drop off the rhyming word, so for example a “Bobby Moore” is simplified to a “Bobby”. You may have had an outside chance of getting the rhyming connection, but without the word “Moore,” you really don’t stand much of a chance!
Some of the more popular Cockney sayings spread around the rest of the country. For example, loaf of bread, which means your head, was shortened to “loaf” and subsequently “use your loaf” became something of a national expression.
The East Enders of London are constantly updating the rhymes to fit in with contemporary living. Britney Spears, for example, means beers. You can almost picture the faces on a group of Americans in a London pub as the landlord says; “What will it be gentlemen? Five Britney’s?” “Say what, excuse me?!”