Confused? Well, have no fear. If you’re planning a London holiday anytime soon then here are the top Cockney slang phrases that you might hear. A 'genuine Cockney' is a person born within the sound of the Bow Bells of St-Mary-le-Bow church in London, but these days extends to anyone with a strong London accent. It’s still very much alive, ever-evolving and as humorous as ever!
#1 Adam and Eve
‘You wouldn’t Adam and Eve it!’ – if you hear this, it will most likely be an exclamation of surprise and translates to, ‘You wouldn’t believe it!’ - Adam and Eve being the rhyming slang for the word believe. This one has been around since before the 20th century and is well-known around the UK.
#2 Brass Tacks
‘Let’s get down to brass tacks’ has become a well-known expression in business-speak worldwide and, quite simply, brass tacks rhymes with facts. If you hear this phrase, then somebody wants to cut straight to the point and get down to business.
#3 Apples and Pears
Again, this is a very famous Cockney expression and one which you may know already. If someone says they are going up the Apples and Pears, then they are going up the stairs! Up the Apples and Pears to Bedfordshire means they are off to bed. See if you can work this one into a conversation during your London trip!
#4 Use your Loaf
This expression is fairly widespread throughout the whole of the UK and derives from the Cockney rhyming slang for ‘loaf of bread’, meaning ‘head’. Telling someone to ‘use their loaf’ literally means that they should engage their brain and think about it!
#5 Plates of Meat
If you’ve been visiting the famous sights of London all day, then chances are your ‘plates of meat’ will be aching! Yes – you’ve got it – meat rhymes with feet. So, if you hear a Londoner complaining that their ‘plates’ are killing them, then they are probably after a foot rub!
#6 ‘That’ll be a score, mate’
No, they’re not talking about a sports game - it’s one of a number of slang terms for cash. In the UK, £5 is called a fiver and £10 is called a tenner, and then it goes a score, a pony, a ton, a monkey and a grand! So, if someone asks you for a score – it’s £20, a pony is £25, a ton is £100, a monkey is £500, and a grand is £1000.
#7 Baked Bean
On money, you’ll see the fine image of our esteemed monarch who Cockney’s lovingly refer to as the ‘Baked Bean.’ If you hear it in the plural though, most likely they are referring to an item of clothing. ‘I got mud all over me baked beans!’ Well, that would be their jeans. Confusing, right?!
#8 Trouble and Strife
You’ll most likely hear this from a man, and he’ll be referring to his nearest and dearest - his good wife. Not only does it demonstrate great rhyming but also throws in a bit of naughty humor for good measure!
#9 Barnet Fair
If someone refers to their ‘barnet’ then they are talking about their hair. ‘Your barnet’s in a right two and eight!’ – hearing this, signals the need for a quick dash to the restroom to put a comb through your hair as it’s in a ‘state’! The expression derives from Barnet Fair, an annual horse show and fair held in Barnet. Other than rhyming, it’s not clear if there is any other link between a horse show and hair!
#10 Dog and Bone
If there is someone for you on the ‘dog and bone’ then it has absolutely nothing to do with the canine world, but it means you have a telephone call. Bone rhymes with phone and that’s pretty much all there is to it. It could also be referred to as the ‘blower’.
Most Cockney rhyming slang can be worked out with a little imagination and its great fun to hear it in action. Listen out for some other gems such as ‘Patrick Swayze’ meaning crazy, and if someone admires your ‘Peter Pan’ then they are complimenting your tan. If something looks a bit ‘Dot Cotton’ then it’s rotten, and if they say they’re ‘Larry Flint’ then it means they’re skint (short of money). If you’re shopping for trousers, then they could be ‘Les Crowthers’, and at Wimbledon, they play ‘Les Dennis’! Phew, the list is endless!