Why I adore rhyming slang

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There’s a lot I’m rather fond of in our sunburnt country, and rhyming slang is one of them.

Growing up with baby boomer parents, both of whom possess a strong affinity for the English language, was not without consequence. I have warm memories of my dad proclaiming, ‘It was time to hit the frog and toad (road)’, after yet another stop on our annual mid-year road trip from Melbourne to steak and kidney (Sydney). Many years later, Dad’s favourite salutation in a text message is ‘G’day my old China plate’ (mate).

Australian rhyming slang is thought to have originated from the Cockney habit of using words that rhyme to refer to something considered vulgar and therefore inappropriate to directly mention in public.

However, over the past couple centuries, Australians have put their own twist on this merry method of communication to the point where we can definitely claim it as our own. Aside from the three examples of rhyming slang already mentioned, here are my other cherished examples – long may this marvellous way of speaking continue!

Dog and bone (phone)
Bread and jam (tram)
Jam tart (heart)
Captain Cook (look)
Pat Malone (alone)
Jack and Jill (bill)
Barry Crocker (shocker)
Harold Holt (to bolt)
Porky pie (lie)
Dead horse (tomato sauce)

Do you use rhyming slang? What are your favourite Australian expressions or idioms?

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Total Comments: 16
  1. 0

    Bob Hope (soap)
    Gregory Peck (cheque)
    Bag of fruit (suit)

  2. 0

    Rhyming slang comes from London England, not Australia. Originally from the cockneys so that the police couldn’t eaves drop on their conversations.
    Its a common misconception that both words were used but only the first word. Lies = Porkies, Stairs = Apples. etc.
    Look was = Butchers as in Butchers Hook.
    Hair was = Barnet as in Barnet Fair
    Face = Boat as in boat race.
    Occasionally some slang used both terms I.E North and South = Mouth.

  3. 0

    TV show The Minder was a classic for rhyming slang, Arfur was always referring to his whistle, ie whistle and flute (suit)

    • 0

      I used to love that show. One episode had me puzzled when Arfur referred to some dodgy watches as “kettles”. After some exhaustive checking I discovered the rhyme was, in fact, “kettles and hobs” to refer to watches and fobs.

      Terry, the minder was quick to refer to idiots as “burkes” and I found this when I was looking for “kettles”. The full term is in reference to a couple of murdering types whose names were Burke and Hunt. Only a reference to be used in adult TV time.

  4. 0

    So how does rhyming slang set Aussies apart? Both my parents were Londoners, one a Cockney and every listed expression and more were part of everyday language but I rarely hear them in rural Australia.

  5. 0

    Up the apples [Apples and pears = stairs]
    Great whistle [Whistle and flute = suit]
    Nice Turtles [Turtle doves = gloves]
    North and South [mouth]
    Cup of rosie [Rosie Lea =tea]

  6. 0

    I am a Londoner but have lived here for almost 60 years. I have lived in rural areas but hardly ever heard rhyming slang except from another Pom! The further north you go the slower the words come out but no rhyming slang. Think its inherent in the English but not the Aussies. Its fascinating to walk down a London market and hear the barrow boys from all corners of the world selling their wares and talking in slang.

  7. 0

    Apple and Pears (stairs)
    Rosie Lea (tea)
    My family were blitzed out of the East End during the Second World War so it was pretty common to hear Cockney rhyming slang when I was growing up…

  8. 0

    I agree with you all. I came out here as a kid, from the East End of London where all you heard was rhyming slang but not from Aussies. Only “new” Aussies. In fact, I was only bemoaning the fact the other day that we’re losing too many of our Aussie ways now. Newcomers don’t understand Aussie lingo, we we’re all reverting to “straight” English. Shame.
    Trouble & strife = wife
    Or as Arfur used to say, ‘er indoors.

  9. 0

    Next we’ll be told that meat pies (first recorded 11,500 years ago in Neolithic times and taken to England by the Romans and then by the Poms to Australia 1,800 years later): that copy of Marmite; beer, Cricket and Rugby are all uniquely Australian. I love the numerous qualities that do really set Australia apart but they were mainly provided by mother nature.

  10. 0

    I was born in Oz and the only rhyming slang I’ve heard has been on the TV, the funniest show was The Minder and it was always good for a laugh.

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