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Welcome to the Cockney Rhyming Slang Translator!

Welcome ter the bleedin' Cockney translator from East London! Hairy Biscuits and Cheese type a phrase into the Charles Fox on the left, and learn 'a ter Rabbit and Pork like a true Londoner!

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Cockney Rhyming Slang Frequent Questions

We get a large number of emails asking questions about the different dialects featured on whoohoo.co.uk, and so we have compiled a list of our most frequently asked Cockney Rhyming Slang questions:

Where did Cockney Rhyming slang come from? Who invented it?
The phenomenon of Cockney Rhyming Slang (or Rabbit) is a code of speaking in which a common word can be replaced by the whole or abbreviated form of a well-known phrase which rhymes with that word.

Cockney Rhyming Slang has been evolving in the East End of London since the sixteenth century. It is thought to have originated from the seamen and soldiers who used the London docks, from the gypsies who arrived in the 1500’s, and from the Irish residents, the Jewish faction and all the other ethnic minorities which have made up the population of the East End.

It is also said to have originated as a secret way of communicating by coster mongers when carrying out illegal street trade in the mid-nineteenth century and has evolved into a complex and often very confusing “language”.

It is common practice to abbreviate cockney terms. It is perfectly normal for someone to “reduce”, for example, the term “butchers hook (look)” when used within a sentence, eg: “Take a butchers at that” (instead of “take a butcher’s hook at that”) or “Let’s go for a Ruby” (curry, instead of a “Ruby Murray”) or “Hello me old china” (mate, instead of “Hello my old china and plate”.

What exactly classes someone as a Cockney? My wife says that I am one but I'm not so sure as I was born on the Old Kent Road.
'Cockney' is the term used to describe any person said to be born within the sound of the Bow Bells – the bells of St Mary-Le-Bow (“Bow Church”) – in Cheapside, London EC2. So if you can hear these bells down the Old Kent Road, you can truly call yourself a Cockney. However, unless the wind is blowing very strongly indeed from the north whilst the bells are ringing (and everything else is quiet!), I doubt very much that that you will hear them.

'Cockney' should not be used as a generic term for any person born in or around the general vicinity of London.

Why is seafood seen as 'traditional' cockney food?
Probably because of the nearness of the fish-rich East Coast and the once abundant quantities of cheap fish in the Thames. A century ago, oysters were plentiful and cheap (Colchester and Whitstable) so consequently, they were an East End staple, along with the salmon which ran abundantly in the Thames. Indeed, East End apprentices often complained about salmon being served too often. Pollution and over-fishing took care of that! Jellied eels too, were a very London recipe.

More enduringly popular is fish and chips – a combination that was first put together in the East End (Bow). Fried fish and chip shops used to be on every corner and barrows selling pints of winkles, prawns, whelks and cockles were a common sight. Whitebait (whole fried baby herring or sprats) were a popular street snack just as roasted chestnuts were (and still are).

What is the 'Lambeth Walk'?
The Lambeth Walk is a walking dance done in a jaunty, strutting fashion. It was originally an old English step performed in the Limehouse district of London and danced to the song “Doing the Lambeth Walk”.

Why do Pearly Kings & Queens cover their clothes in buttons?
Pearly gear is worn by Cockneys in festive mood, costumes with distinctive patterns of mother-of-pearl buttons. (NOTE: There is a good history of the Pearlies at www.pearlies.co.uk). Essentially, it was all started in 1875 by a young lad named Henry Croft.

What is the origin of the Pearly Kings & Queens?
Henry Croft was born in 1862 and raised in an orphanage in Somers Town, London NW1. At the age of 13, he left the orphanage to become a municipal road sweeper and rat catcher in the local market.

He worked hard and was drawn particularly to the coster mongers – a tough breed of market traders. The costers looked after one another and often, if one was in need, they would have a “whip round” (collection) for him.

The coster mongers wore “flash boy outfits” to distinguish themselves from other market traders. This involved decorating their trousers and waistcoats with a row of mother-of-pearl buttons down the seams.

Henry was fascinated by this way of life and decided he would like to help the unfortunate as well as the children back at the orphanage. He knew that in order to collect a lot of money, he needed to draw attention to himself. So he decided to go one step further with the coster’s “flash boy outfits” and totally cover a suit with mother-of-pearl buttons.

He became an instant attraction and was approached by hospitals and churches to help raise money for the poor, deaf, dumb and blind.

Eventually, there was a Pearly Family for every London Borough and thus the Pearly monarchy was born.

A statue to his memory was erected over his grave in Finchley Cemetery when he died in 1930.

Is Cockney Rhyming Slang still being added to? And Is there an official dictionary?
Cockney Rhyming Slang is an ever evolving language. Recently notified additions include:
Becks and Posh – nosh
Bristol & West – chest
Trevor Sinclair – nightmare
Uncle Ted – bed
No ‘ope – soap
and many more ...

Good accounts of Cockney Slang that we've used while answering your emails can be found at sites such as:
Why not translate your phrase into a different dialect? Click on one of the other options on the left! If there is a word or phrase that you think is omitted, then please Add a Word or Phrase to the Translators

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