Would you Adam and Eve it? A fifth of Londoners failed YouGov’s cockney rhyming slang test

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
March 13, 2017, 12:00 AM GMT+0

New YouGov survey shows level of cockney rhyming slang knowledge among Londoners

One in five Londoners do not possess a basic knowledge of cockney rhyming slang, new YouGov research among people in the capital reveals.

YouGov asked 1,083 Londoners the meaning of ten classic cockney rhyming slang terms (as identified by the Cockney Rhyming Slang website) and found that 22% can’t correctly interpret any of them.

Many of terms are still well known in the capital. Two thirds (67%) of Londoners correctly interpreted “Dog and bone” (phone) and “apples and pears” (stairs), while “trouble and strife” (wife) and “Barnet fair” (hair) are known by 63% and 61% respectively.

However, other terms are notably less well-known. Just 15% of Londoners correctly interpreted “A la mode” (code) while “kettle and hob” (fob, a watch) is only known by one in ten (10%).

Yet despite some phrases being well-known, more than one in five (22%) Londoners are unfamiliar with all of the slang terms. This means that not knowing any classic cockney terms is the most common result. After that, Londoners were most likely to have successfully interpreted six to eight out of the ten terms correctly. Just one in twenty (5%) Londoners knew the meaning of all ten terms.

Will rhyming slang soon be brown bread?*

The decline in rhyming slang is most starkly shown by the knowledge gap between young Londoners and the city’s older residents. Whilst over-50s get an average of six out of the ten terms correct, it falls to just three out of ten for those aged 18-24.

In fact, approaching four in ten (38%) young people in London can’t identify any of the phrases, compared to 6-10% of those aged 50 and older.

Likewise, despite cockney rhyming slang being the traditional preserve of East London, residents there are no more likely to have answered correctly than Londoners as a whole. In fact, North and South Londoners score slightly higher.

*given the findings of this research, we feel it may be necessary to point out that 'brown bread' is cockney rhyming slang for 'dead'.

Photo: PA

See the full results here

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