Monday, March 08, 2010

Cockney Rhyming Parenting

I declared back in 2003 that it should be heretofore known that Cockney Rhyming Slang is not cool. It's actually less cool for Britons to use it than Americans because we Yanks just assume everything in a British accent is fancy. Hence, Americans will consider high-class London, Manchester, Cockney, Irish, Scottish, and Australian all 'British accents' and high class. So if an American uses Cockney Rhyming Slang its usually in the same sentence with the word "gov'ner" and a few lines from Austin Powers.

When the British use it, though, it's the UK version of "jive talkin'" and it sounds ridiculous. White boys from Chicago suburbs aren't ghetto and pasty-faced Britons still sound irredeemably wussy even if they attempt to redeem some toughness with the Rhyming Slang.

Moreover, the entire concept is anti-meaning - the phrases are arbitrary and irrelevant. What thief needs to make a code for his wife ("trouble and strife," har har Andy Capp).

Parenting Use

Yet after that devastating rant of mockage, my wife and I actually found a use for Cockney Rhyming Slang that is both legitimate and practical. And thus my derision for the verbal form is now modified: if a person is actually employed as a thief/spy/parent and uses CRS in it's intended manner, then you are spared the otherwise heavy criticism automatically triggered in all right-thinking people.

I'll explain. Every parent, as you know, needs a special language so they can discuss things in front of the kids. My parents (and many of ya'lls, I assume) used Yiddish. However, while my wife knows many languages, I'm stuck with Hebrew and Spanish. The kids are learning Hebrew in school, so that's out, and Spanish is all over PBS (besides being intuitive for most English speakers, as this sound file attests).

So the other day, my wife, to her immense credit, realized that we should just use Cockney Rhyming Slang (we just had a Guy Richie movie marathon so it was in our heads). And it works! So here's some of our terms, for use for the public weal.

[Key: Original Term = CRS (Annotation)]
  1. Nap = Ginger Snap (This is by far the best one, and most redolent of the original art form. Say the word 'nap' - even spell it out - and the kid dissolves in tears, hence we now say "ginger")

  2. Lollipop = Boughs of Holly (We use sugar-free lollipop as a reward/bribe but if the boys hear the word, they go nutso in demanding them - so now we say Hollies. It may not work for long so our rejected backups are: "Seward's Folly" or "Lassie, Assuming She Was a Collie")

  3. Television = Long Division (other options: "nuclear fission" or "gone fishin'" or even "double vision" which may be too close to the original; my wife thinks that this weak entry may need to go to "Telly" and then it could be "Jam & Jelly" which sounds satisfyingly like the original form.)

  4. Blankie = Yankee Doodle (If a blankie is missing, it leads to more wailing, so we now use "Yankee" - doodle actually has other uses in our home; another option: "fish tankie")
Pic from here. Oh, see also this google book, cool eh?

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