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The knack: How to talk in rhyming slang, by Robert Strudwick

"If you want to be a `fridge' (fridge freezer=geezer), you'd better know your `pukka spiel' from your `dodgy rabbit', or you'll find yourself branded a `Sexton Blake' (fake). Knowing what slang has become obsolete is very important. No one uses `apples and pears', or `frog and toad' any more because they have been exhausted by Cockney stereotypes in the media. If you do use rhyming slang, use it properly. Never use the rhyming part of the phrase. With the phrase `Barnet fair' for hair, for example, you would say something like `I'm having my Barnet cut.' A basic rule is to use the whole phrase only when using more obscure or more recently created rhyming slang terms.

It is thought that Cockney rhyming slang developed between English and Irish workers in the early 19th century, when the Cockneys created a secret language to fool the Irish. There is nothing like a bit of laddish rivalry to encourage people to use and create slang, and this is still true today. If you want to learn slang first hand, you will need to mingle with a young social group in which the conversation is always on an informal level. Slang will not flourish between unrelaxed polite people. A pub or certain office environments are your best bet. If you decide to gain a knowledge of slang from a dictionary, choose wisely. Avoid the flimsy books found at bookshop tills. These novelty works are largely aimed at tourists and are full of cliched or incorrect terms." Interview by Fiona McClymont

Robert Strudwick is the webmaster of the London Slang Page at http://www.geezer.demon.co.uk