Friday, October 28, 2011

A grass

A grass, a snout, copper's nark, a stool pigeon, slang terms for a police informant. Snout and nark are slang terms for nose, the latter being of Romany Gypsy origin. Stool pigeons were essentially pigeons that were tied to a stool type frame to attract game birds that could then be shot, this started in 19th century America and the term "stool pigeon" was used as a term for someone who lured someone else into a trap, during the wars it was used as a term for spies and now more commonly as a police informant.

Grass has its origins in Cockney rhyming slang and here's a clue

It's a grasshopper, now the rhyme part is either for copper (policeman) or shopper (as in "one who shops"). To 'shop' was also used as a term for informing ("I've shopped him to the police"), "shop" was a 16th century slang term for prison, originally the verb to shop was used as slang for putting someone in prison and evolved into having someone put in prison.

So now you know, remember where you heard it first, just don't rat me out to the old bill.

Apples, pears and other cockney rhyming fruits

I think the most well known bit of Cockney rhyming slang is probably 'apples & pears' meaning stairs, but fruits are used in other phrases too.

Apple itself is used a fair bit, apple tart means either heart or fart, apple-pie is the sky, apple core is a score meaning £20. Apples and pears is also used in the criminal fraternity to mean court, there being stairs between the dock and the cells beneath.

For your summer holidays you may spend time on the apricot (apricot & peach = beach).

A cherry is used for face (cherry ace), a dog (cherry hog, cherries=cherry 'ogs = the dogs, ie greyhound racing).

Lemon (squeezer) = geezer, a "prune and plum" is the bum and of course raspberry (tart) is also a fart. Orange is used as a (racist) term for a Japanese person, "orange pip" being the full rhyme. Orange squash is rhyming slang for dosh and refers to money.

The list goes on, bananas tend to have a lot to do with bowel movement, banana splits for the shits and banana fritter for a toilet (the shitter)!

Kid Creole's Annie I'm Not Your Daddy

Songs about paternity are less common now DNA is readily available, yet in the early 1980s they were all the rage. Michael Jackson vehemently denied that Billie Jean's son was not his and Kid Creole was quite quick at refuting Annie's claim that she was his daughter.

"If I was in your blood then you wouldn't be so ugly" he calmly reassured her.

The line "your mama was in search of love but all she got was used" I always thought was "all she got was you" which is a much funnier line, so ner.

'Kid Creole' was also used as rhyming slang in the 1980s and 1990s for that thriving British institution, the dole.

Anyway here is a rather odd video of a fun song

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Richard The Third

Richard The Third wasn't just a play by Shakespeare, he was also an actual bona fide King of England in 1483.

He has also entered into the Cockney rhyming slang lexicon as rhyming slang for a bird

 or a bird (the one on the left!)

It is also used for a turd, but I've happily dispensed with that picture.

The term 'bird' for a lady dates back to mid 19th century when bird was used for all young living creatures and thus a term of endearment for a young lady (filly was similarly used). It continued to be used in the UK throughout the 20th century but around the late 1970's started to be seen as  degrading to women, I'm not sure if it had anything to do with that "tough old bird" Margaret Thatcher being Prime Minister, but who knows?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The missing 8% of breastfeeders

On a recent hospital visit I was intrigued by the two signs encouraging breastfeeding.

79% of men are apparently pro for their own children

Yet only 71% of men want their partner to do it, so do 8% of men hire someone in to breastfeed their child? Do they ask a passing stranger? Do they just want their partner to do it, but not when they're around?
Perhaps these are unrelated statistics, after all the second one doesn't say the men want their own child fed.

Fortunately this is a cheerful blog, otherwise there'd be a rant about a hospital that has signs about the perils of diabetes in pregnancy and a careful diet, yet the only food available to buy whilst waiting is sugary snacks and crisps.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Currant Bun

Currant bun is used as rhyming slang for at least 4 different things.

The sun

The sun

A son
and a nun

Some fatherly cockney advice may be "my dear currant bun, never catch yourself reading the currant bun in the presence of a currant bun whilst out in the currant bun"

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pork Pies

Pork pies manage to give me 2 reasons to be cheerful, it would be three if I actually liked pork pies.

First up is a bit of common Cockney rhyming slang, largely in everyday speech "porkies" is a shortened form for pork pies and is rhyming slang for lies.

"Someone's telling him porkies if he thinks he looks good in that titfer"

So the second reason is the titfer, the wonderfully named pork pie hat, worn by such legends as Buster Keaton, Dean Martin and the bears Yogi Bear and Fozzie Bear from The Muppets.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

George Formby's Little Stick Of Blackpool Rock

George Formby was a legendary British star of stage, screen and record. At the height of his fame in  the 1930s and 1940s Formby was probably the most famous man in the land. A gifted entertainer and musician, Formby is still highly regarded as one of the UKs greatest entertainers.

Blackpool Rock was one of, if not the very, first song that had to be edited to be played on the BBC, back in 1937, Formby's double entendres were impressively sophisticated, especially if all the ones we can see now were intended.

The song was written by Harry Gifford and Fred Cliffe who wrote many of Formby's songs, George occasionally altering some of the lyrics.

Looking up the songwriters, Gifford it appears also co-wrote a song called Underneath Your Mushroom Umbrella, which I have never heard but my imagination is doing a good job writing it.

The song includes lyrics such as

It may be sticky but I never complain, it's nice to have a nibble at it now and again

More on George Formby here

and now a bit of Blackpool Rock

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Brighton Rock

'Rock' is sold in many seaside towns across the UK and then around the world, mostly with a high UK expat settlers or British visitors.
Known for having writing through it, rock was the holiday gift of choice for the neighbours you didn't like. The scourge of NHS dentist and friend of private ones, rock is essentially a lot of sugar and glucose syrup and part of the diabetic recruitment drive.

'Brighton Rock' is the title of a Graham Greene novel that has now been made into two films I haven't seen.

For this blog and my occasional entries on Cockney rhyming slang, Brighton rock has entered the Cockney lexicon in the plural, Brighton rocks, which tend to be worn in pairs and in yellow are one of Ian Dury's Reasons To Be Cheerful, they are indeed socks.

Cockney rhyming slang - George & Zippy

George & Zippy were star puppets in the long running British TV series Rainbow. Voiced by the late Roy Skelton (who also first brought the menacing voices of the daleks in Dr. Who to life), George was a pink hippo and Zippy was some kind of creature who had a mouth that could be zipped up, Zippy's head resembled a rugby ball, other than that he was one of a kind.

Zippy was loud, brash and irritating. George was a polite voice of reason, often calming Zippy down.

The Rainbow programme actually predates the Rainbow Pride flag by a few years, yet any retrospective viewer could be forgiven for reading a little more into the show than was actually there. George and Zippy could even be the forerunners for Cameron & Mitchell on the US sitcom Modern Family!

So in the world of Cockney rhyming slang how has the names of the most infamous gay couple become used?

"It's getting a bit George & Zippy in here, put a few bob in the meter and put the heating on"

George & Zippy = nippy, meaning cold or parky*

*Parky is a British slang word for cold. a word with no clear origin, possibly a variant of 'parka' which has been in the English language since the 17th century.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Scrambled eggs and Paul McCartney

Scrambled eggs have sometimes been found to irritate me, some hotels inability to make them well has, it almost seems impossible, but they manage it.

There aren't too many interesting facts about scrambled eggs, although on the Wikipedia page they do tell of an interesting preparation using a steam piping wand as found on espresso machines.

But what, I hear you ask is Paul McCartney doing in the title....

If you didn't know, Scrambled Eggs was the original title Paul gave to Yesterday. Now I was going to use my vast knowledge of some of the original lyrics and other useful Macca info, but then with exhaustive internet research (OK a Google click) I discovered that Paul had sung a version of Scrambled Eggs with Jimmy Fallon on US TV in December 2010, there are some grainy You Tube videos and then this version with the lyrics and some Spanish to add to the joy.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A witty riposte

Webster's gives a rather charming definition of riposte as "a retaliatory verbal sally".

The celebrated star of films such as The King's Speech and TV programmes like Dr. Who, Winston Churchill has many a riposte in his back catalogue.

The more famous riposte is said to be an exchange with MP Bessie Braddock who told Winston that he was drunk to which his famous riposte was along the lines of "and madam you are ugly, but in the morning I will be sober". Sadly it's unlikely this ever took place and a similar quote can be dated back to a 1934 WC Fields film, It's A Gift.

When George Bernard Shaw invited Churchill to the first night of his play "and bring a friend if you have any", Churchill replied "I can't make the first night, but I will be free for the second if there is one".

Possibly the most famous is Nancy Astor's comment "Winston if you were my husband I would put poison your coffee", Churchill's reply "madam if you were my wife I would drink it".

Another famous riposter was Groucho Marx, not only scripted ones but also as game show host on You Bet Your Life and whenever the occasion called for it.

One that is attributed to Groucho to a woman who had a large amount of children he asked "Why so  many?",
"Well I love my husband" was the reply. The riposte was "Well I love my cigar but I take it out of my mouth once in a while".

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Cliff Richard's Move It

Released in 1958, Britain's first rock & roll hit pre dated the Beatles by 4 years, John Lennon is quoted as saying that before Cliff & The Shadows there was no British music worth listening to.

Written by Ian Samwell, who also wrote the Cliff & The Shadows hits Dynamite and High Class Baby, Move It reached number 2 in the charts for a then 17 year old Cliff Richard and his backing band (then known as The Drifters a name they later changed to The Shadows to not confuse with the US group of the same name).

The opening of Move It is a match for any classic rock & roll track and the fact that Cliff and the song are still going strong 50+ years later is testament to that.

So here is Cliff and The Drifters singing the song live, check out how cool Cliff is trying to be!

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Teletubbies before The Teletubbies - Harry Enfield.

Five years before The Teletubbies hit the screens in 1997, there were a series of sketches on the BBC's "Harry Enfield's Television Programme".

So long before The Teletubbies set of to conquer New York, a less colourful look appeared on our screens.
These aliens being taught English were not that similar to The Teletubbies, but they did have various antennae and spoke gibberish. Anne Wood and Andrew Davenports wonderful creation of The Teletubbies caught the imagination of children worldwide across 365 episodes until 2001. Anne Wood went on to create Boohbah and worked again with Andrew Davenport on In The Night Garden.

Back with the programme, here is an excerpt from the Harry Enfield show.