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What is Cockney Rhyming Slang?

Loaf of bread is a typical Cockney rhyming slang phrase. The meaning is head. If a Cockney described someone as "rarely using his loaf of bread" then that would imply that the person doesn't often use their head – a lack of common sense perhaps.

To complicate matters further, the rhyming word in the phrase is frequently omitted. Thus it is more likely that the Cockney would be heard to say: "He rarely uses his loaf". This encrypts the language further, making it rather more difficult to understand for people not familiar with Cockney rhyming slang. If indeed this form of slang was once used as a thieves' code, as is often suggested (see Cockney slang history), then eavesdroppers would have had little chance of making sense of what they heard.

Other Cockney phrases which follow this pattern are rabbit and pork, which means talk, and is frequently abbreviated simply to rabbit, and also apples and pairs (or simply apples) which means stairs. Many more examples can be found in the Fun-with-words.com Cockney dictionary, and the books available in the rhyming slang section of our online wordplay bookshop.

There are some phrases in Cockney slang which are not abbreviated, as with Adam and Eve (believe). In this case the full rhyming phrase is used in place of the word, e.g. Would you Adam and Eve it? The same is true when a single rhyming word is used as the slang, as with alligator (later) and Aristotle (bottle).

Daffadown Dilly is the Cockney rhyming slang for silly. This is still used in the shortened form daffy (and is the origin of Warner Brothers' Daffy Duck).

It is also worth mentioning here that there are other types of Cockney slang which are not of the rhyming variety. On the whole these are not nearly so interesting nor amusing as the rhyming slang featured on this web site, and for which the Cockneys are best known.

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