The Cockney Dialect
Thread poster: Paul Dixon

Paul Dixon  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:42
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Jun 30, 2009

Here is a good opportunity to get acquainted to one of England's most famous dialects, Cockney. A Cockney is, by official definition, anyone born within the sound of Bow Bells, which are the bells of St Mary-le-Bow Church (picture at To get a good idea of the Cockney dialect, listen to Eliza Doolittle talking in My Fair Lady (before she is introduced to 'Enry 'Iggins).

One fascinating aspect of the Cockney dialect is rhyming slang, which makes even the simplest sentence unintelligible for non-Cockneys. What they do is replace one word with a pair of words, the second of which rhymes with it, and then eliminate the rhyming part. Example: head > loaf of bread > loaf, so a head is "a loaf" in Cockney. Similarly a ten pound note > tenner > Ayrton Senna > Ayrton, so a ten-pound note is "an Ayrton" in Cockney.



'Allo me old china - wot say we pop round the Jack. I'll stand you a pig and you can rabbit on about your teapots. We can 'ave some loop and tommy and be off before the dickory hits twelve.


Hello my old mate (china plate) - what do you say we pop around to the bar (Jack Tar). I'll buy you a beer (pig's ear) and you can talk (rabbit and pork) about your kids (teapot lids). We can have some soup (loop the loop) and supper (Tommy Tucker) and be gone before the clock (hickory dickory dock) strikes twelve.

Now try translating into English:

"Got to my mickey, found me way up the apples, put on me whistle and the bloody dog went. It was me trouble telling me to fetch the teapots."

(Answer at

Another site is:


patyjs  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:42
Spanish to English
+ ...
Okay, here goes... Jun 30, 2009

"Got to my house, (Mickey Mouse), found my way up the stairs (apples and pears), put on my suit (whistle and flute), and the bloody phone (dog and bone) went. It was my wife (trouble and strife!!) telling me to fetch the kids (teapot lids).

Love it! (I'm English so I have an unfair advantage). I often ask my teapots if they've been telling porky pies.



Daniel Bird  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:42
German to English
Not a cockney me... Jun 30, 2009

...born in Walthamstow => a sexton


Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:42
Member (2008)
Italian to English
just a mo.... Jun 30, 2009

... I took one butcher's at this and scarpered, sharpish. Bunch of merchant bankers.

[Edited at 2009-06-30 19:34 GMT]


patyjs  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:42
Spanish to English
+ ...
It's been too long Jun 30, 2009

I haven't heard stuff like this for sooooo long.

Brilliant, Tom!

thanks for posting this, Paul!


Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:42
German to English
+ ...
American here, but Jun 30, 2009

even I have heard what "trouble" means!

[Edited at 2009-06-30 21:06 GMT]


Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 06:42
German to Serbian
+ ...
My theory Jun 30, 2009

Paul Dixon wrote:

'Allo me old china - wot say we pop round the Jack. I'll stand you a pig and you can rabbit on about your teapots. We can 'ave some loop and tommy and be off before the dickory hits twelve.

I have my little theory about one aspect of Cockney. Namely, why do they omit the H at the beginning of a word? ( 'allo, ' ave), and my answer is- the influence of French! The people who speak Cockney are not really far from France geographically. It happens in all languages ( influences on different linguistic levels) in the regions close to the country border.

[Edited at 2009-06-30 22:57 GMT]


Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:42
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
I wonder why "v" became "w" in the 19th century (or possibly earler), but this is not so now. Jul 1, 2009

In Dickens and other 19th-century literature, Cockneys use the "w" sound for "v", but this is not so nowadays.

In "The Pickwick Papers", Mr. Pickwick's servant Sam Weller is actually Veller, according to his father, speaking in a court scene. Sam is asked to spell out his name, and his father calls out: "Spell it wiv a wee, Sammy boy, spell it wiv a wee!"

Wery peculiar.


Zamira B.  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:42
English to Uzbek
+ ...
I think I decoded 'merchant bankers' :) Jul 1, 2009

Tom in London wrote:

... Bunch of merchant bankers.

[Edited at 2009-06-30 19:34 GMT]

Also, my friend tells that one of the latest is 'Breatney Spears' for 'beers'.

[Edited at 2009-07-01 10:08 GMT]


Jennifer Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:42
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
A nice glass of Vera Jul 1, 2009

Me, I like a glass ot two of Vera of an evening (Vera Lynne = gin).
And what about the Cockney glottal stop - the omission of the letter T in the middle of words and at the end? e.g. a co'on bu'on = a cotton button, and, of course, the universally used inni' = isn't it? And the omission of the G at the end of present participles? workin' = working.
I was going to mention merchants - well named, I've worked for them - but Tom pipped me at the post.

P.S. Another of my favourites - "I fink 'e's wearin' an Irish". Anyone know what that means?

OK, I'll tell you. Irish jig = wig.

[Edited at 2009-07-01 10:29 GMT]


Kathryn Sanderson  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:42
French to English
Oy vey, not a word do I understand! Jul 1, 2009

As an American, I find rhyming slang more difficult than verlan. You really have to be on the inside to get it.

Did any of you see the American express commercial where Jerry Seinfeld goes to England, gets no laughs for his routine, and takes a crash course in British. At the end of the commercial, he performs the same routine in British translation: "So I took a butcher's up the apples and pears, and said, what is this--the tea interval?" The audience laughs and Jerry says "I have no idea what I just said."

I wish I knew some rhyming slang to end with, but I don't, so I'll say.....I'm outta here.


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