Cockney rhyming slang is a fascinating local vernacular that owes its existence to residents of London’s East End. While we have presented two articles’ worth of Cockney phrases, there is certainly no shortage of fascinating phrases that Cockneys have created as their own shorthand. To that end, we’d like to present a new set of ten great Cockney rhyming slang phrases that we think you should know, along with their meanings. From insults to daily life, we’ve got the wooden pews (i.e., “news”) on Cockney slang that you should know, though don’t try and use these around real Eastenders unless you want to be labeled a mockney (“mock cockney”).
Bees & Honey
This rhyming phrase is a stand-in for money. Bees are seen as hard workers, and their work produces honey, so humans’ hard work produces money. You’ll definitely need some bees and honey if you want to hit the pub tonight.
Can’t Keep Still
“Can’t keep still” rhymes with treadmill, which, back in the 19th Century was a form of criminal punishment. It started off having no other purpose than to keep prisoners active, though it eventually came to be used to power prison mills and pumps. Today it refers more to exercise machines instead of these
Coals & Coke
Anytime something stops working, it can be said that it’s “coals and coke” or, “broke.” In the past, coal and coke (a porous coal-based fuel) came in large blocks and had to be broken down in order to be used as fuel.
Cockney is full of colorful phrases that can be used to insult others, and “dental flosser” is one of them. The phrase rhymes with “tosser”, so it has nothing to do with the health of someone’s teeth, but that the Cockney views that person as a jerk.
Another colorful epithet courtesy of the Cockneys, “elephant’s trunk,” is a Cockney way of saying that someone is drunk. Besides the clear rhyme, if you’ve ever seen an elephant’s trunk swaying, you may recognize the same motion of someone too drunk to walk a straight line.
It’s not exactly a perfect rhyme, but in Cockney slang, “Jack,” shortened from “Jack Jones” means to be alone. The origin is from an 1890’s music hall song, “’E Dunno Where ‘E Are,” about a man named Jack Jones who came into some money and thought he was better than his coworkers, an attitude that left him alone. Another use of this phrase is “on my Jack” which means “on my own.”
“Lionels” or “Lionel Blairs” is a reference to bell-bottom pants or “flares” because of how they flare out at the bottom. The phrase has its origins in real-life Canadian-born dancer and television presenter Lionel Blair, who we can assume wore those pants in the 70s like most people, though it’s more likely that his name is just a convenient rhyme.
“Radio rental” is a rhyme for “mental.” If a Cockney thinks you might have a screw loose, they could refer to you as being a “bit radio rental.”
Stand to Attention
This is a Cockney rhyming phrase that has an amount of respectability to it. “Stand to attention” rhymes with pension, and has its origins in the pensioners at the Royal Chelsea Hospital, a retirement home for veterans of the British Army. “Standing to attention” is something that a soldier is expected to do in formation.
Weep & Wail
You might have heard this phrase used by Lin-Manuel Miranda in the film Mary Poppins Returns during the song “Trip a Little Light Fantastic.” If you didn’t understand it from the song lyrics, a “weep and wail” rhymes with tale, and it means to tell your story.
On your Tod – Tod Sloan – “alone”