Chinese-Cockney rhyming slang

Cockney Rhyming Slang
Cockney Rhyming Slang
London, not quite my hometown, but a city I know very well, has its own peculiar culture called Cockney, which is evident as an accent, in traditional clothing, and in the idiosyncratic ‘Cockney rhyming slang’.

The Cockney accent and mannerisms were famously mis-represented by the actor Dick van Dyke in the Mary Poppins movie, and has also been butchered by Johnny Depp as the pirate Jack Sparrow. But forget all that nonesense, and instead revel in the true wilful and playful spirit of Cockney culture that is ‘rhyming slang': a sort of localised word-game where a word or phrase is supplemented by a cheeky rhyming expression.

Thus, a phone is a “dog and bone”; a “butcher’s hook” is a look; “Adam and Eve” is believe; “china”, as in a china plate, is a mate; and “Brahms”, as in “Brahms and Listz” means ‘pissed’. Yep, it wasn’t created for its brevity. So, if your friend got very drunk last night, you could say, “Me old china was Brahms last night”. Lovely.

As for the cartoony image at the top of this post: “mince pies” means eyes; “thrupenny bits” (three-penny bits) means tits.

So, in that spirit of playfulness, I present to you a dozen examples of my newly-created Chinese-Cockney rhyming slang. It requires three layers of meaning, so it’s not elegantly simple, but it gives all the insider clout of the best slang along with a healthy dose of subversiveness. How about these…

old man = lǎobǎn (老板) = boss
The old man is off on business in Shenzhen.

nice try = èrnǎi (二奶) = mistress
I’ve heard the old man is having a nice try.

knocker = bókè (博客) = blog
I use Google Reader to look at some knockers.

Barack = Barack Obama = the Dalai Lama
Only the return of Barack to Tibet will please its people.

Mr. Wang = fàláng (发廊) = red-light ‘hairdresser’
I’ll be home late, darling, I need to pay a visit to Mr. Wang.

chicken wing = fènqīng (愤青) = indignant/angry youth
All the chicken wings are getting in a flap over Japan again.

Jay = Jay Chow = gāocháo (高潮) = orgasm
-Remember that chick I picked up at Dairy Queen yesterday?
-Oh yeah…
-I made her Jay three times.

Willy Wonka’s tie = shānzhài (山寨) = fake
-Do you like my new iPod?
-Gaaaaaahhh, it’s Willy Wonka’s tie.

swing = swing low = jiāyóu (加油) = Come on!
-Swing, Jing Jing!
-Wow, she sure knows how to jump into water.

diamond ring = lìn bìng (淋病) = gonorrhea
-I need to call that girl I picked up at the Dairy Queen last week.
-Why?
-I think I might’ve given her a diamond ring.

stone = stone’s throw = péngyou (朋友) = friend/mate
Hello, me old stone.

fat cow = miànbāo (面包) = a loaf of bread
I’d like a donut and a fat cow, please.

Hmmm. If you can come up with anymore, unleash them in the comments.

Talk on Chinese-Cockney rhyming slang


18 Comments
  1. Great stuff Steven. Hmmm.. lets give ‘er a go.

    The high and dry busts my canz whenever I sit around checking out knockers on the net. But Mr. Wang’s given the stone’s throw a diamond ring, so I really can’t complain. And no chance for a nice try, all their Jay Chow’s are Willy Wonka’s tie – and that just don’t fly. The whole deal is too much Jackie Chan.

    Can you sort out my additions?
    High and Dry
    Canz
    Jackie Chan

  2. whoa, Jackie Chan is a classic. Well done, sir! Off the top of my head, and being a bit sleepy already, I can’t figure out the other two though.

    Jackie Chan = mafan (麻烦) = trouble

    I’m gonna start using that tomorrow!

  3. apologies in advance to everyone who knows me outside the realm of blogs, but expect Jackie Chan to make it into my regular conversations from here on out.

  4. Still nothing has come to mind for the other two… any hints? I guess “high and dry” must be some slang term for ‘wife’, but still can’t figure it…

  5. High and dry is 太太 “tai tai” but I can’t figure out what canz stands for. I imagine that canz stands for balls but my language skillz don’t extend that far.

  6. Mark’s got it. Canz, was the best I could come up with for “dàn zǐ 蛋子“, or as Mark said, balls (though technically, literally “eggs”).

  7. One more to try out:

    Snow

    As in “I had a few to many cups of snow last night”. It’s not just rhyme, it’s double clever. :)

  8. Ohhh one more thing…

    Correct me if I’m wrong Steven, but doesn’t good rhyme and slang also have the same rhythm, and don’t they usualyl drop the word that actually rhymes?

    Like for example: I’ll go put on my whistle.
    Whistle is an abbreviation of “Whistle and Flute” which of coruse rhymes with “Fancy Suit”.

    And in “I have to take a pony”
    Pony is an abbreviation for “Pony and trap”
    Pony and Trap rhymes with “Smelly Crap”

    Should we include that in this strange little language of ours?

  9. @Glen

    rhythm is important, yet tricky, so not all my Chinese-Cockney words manage it.

    yes, in a longer Cockney rhyming phrase the end part is often dropped, which is were the element of insider knowledge really comes in: if you can’t complete the phrase, then you cannot even *guess* at a rhyme!

  10. I’m guessing “snow” is 酒 “jiu” and Snow is also a Chinese beer (one of my favorites). How bout this one: beer is 啤酒 “pi jiu” so if we follow Glen’s rules for meter and chopping off the final (and rhyming) word, I offer this hip-hop inspired submission: “I had a few too many cups of skank last night.” Skank= skank ho= pi jiu. Holla!

  11. I’ve got few to share also..:)
    1. stand them cheap
    The act of taking advantage of somebody else, especially in financial matters, although not always. Somebody who routinely eats lunch with you but always lets you pay for it is standing you cheap.

    Likewise, somebody who makes friends with you just to be around your friends is also standing you cheap.

    Sometimes even doing something that’s rude or disagreeable to somebody else while profiting from it is also considered standing them cheap.

    The original Mandarin Chinese for this is “Zhan … pianyi” (“stand … cheap”) with the victim pronoun appearing between the words.
    1.
    HMB: I bought a subscripton to the Wall St. Journal using my credit card. Then I realized that with those extra credit card reward points, I qualified for a free subscription to the Wall St. Journal. So I canceled my subscription and got a free subscription and a refund instead.

    HDT: Wow, if Wall St. Journal had a cheap on which one could stand, you definitely managed to stand them cheap.

    2.

    Taiwanese president Chen Shui Bian: TMD! Xiao Bush zongtong, neige wangbadan, burang wo de feiji zai Seattle jiangluo!

    Chinese president Hu Jintao: LOL – haiyou ROFLMAO. Ta buyuanyi weixie womende shuangbian maoyi shounaohuiyi! Kan qilai haoxiang wo zhan ni pianyi!

    (CSB: Goddammit, that bastard President Bush Jr. refused me permission to land at Seattle!

    HJT: LOL, also ROFLMAO. He is unwilling to risk our bilateral trade summit meeting. It seems very likely that I have stood you cheap!)

    2. More chins than a Chinese phone book
    A slang, degrading phrase describing the neck area (front or rear) an overweight person.
    Ralph, look at Wendy, damn she has gotten fat, just look at those rolls on her face! Yeah, tell me about it Bob, She’s got “more chins than a Chinese phone book”!

    3. da feiji
    Chinese slang for a handjob applied to a male, not necessarily by himself. Applies equally well to solo masturbation, or to masturbation by another.

    Literally means “hit plane”, although the lack of articles in Mandarin Chinese may cause some confusion.
    1. “Neige xiaojie hen lihai o! Zuotian wanshang ta gei wo da guo liangci feiji, hai you gei wo koujiao. Zhende meixiangdao!”

    Translation: “That singsong girl is amazing! Last night she jerked me off twice, and then gave me head. Unbelievable.”

    2. “Ben La Din hen lihai o! Wu nian qian, ta zhiyao da feiji liangci, jiu neng yinqi Meiguo-Afuhan dazhan. Zhende meixiangdao!”

    Translation: “Osama bin Laden is terrible! Five years ago all he did was hit two planes, and that caused the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Unbelievable.”

    3. wears a green hat
    Chinese slang for being cheated on
    He wears a green hat, if you know what I mean.

    4.748
    Chinese net lingo.
    7= qi1, 4= si3, 8=ba1. Sounds similar to qu4 si3 ba.
    Otherwise known as ‘Go Die’. In English.
    Guy: 我们谈恋爱吧 (Let’s date)
    Girl: 748 (Go die)

    5. Wang
    “Wang” is a slang term for penis, used primarily in North America,UK and Sydney Australia. Can also be used as a Surname, is also a title in ancient Chinese nobility.
    The Wang is coming out tonight
    Di loves the Wang

    ….:) Actually there are a lot more, but all uncivilized languages, better not to share.

  12. Hello, I just joined and I am looking forward to participating as my sister has been battling a serious weight problem her entire life and I have seen first hand the effects this battle can have on a person. I will catch up on some reading and will join in soon.

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