Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What a Pile of Cockney

When I use an ATM, I just want to get my cash and be done. I don't need anything other that just the ATM chock full o' cash, ready to dispense upon my command. That's it. I don't want the ATM to play music when I put my card in or make me a hot drink. I just want my money. That's it. Oh, and I also want to be able to understand what in the hell the machine is asking of me when I read the screen. Especially if it's in a language that, technically, I do speak AND understand.

See, it would seem that there is a version of English which is used over there across the pond in the UK known as Cockney or Cockney rhyming slang. It's an odd variation on regular English (you know, the kind with words and phrases where you know what the other person is actually talking about) where words are replaced by short rhyming phrases.

Now, the definitive origins of this are unknown, but it's said to have ..."originated in East London so that Eastenders could talk freely to each other without fear of being overheard, especially by law enforcers." That according to
The Daily Mail So basically it was a code used by those who may have dabbled in that which was untoward. Or just illegal. The verbal ancient ancestor of texting. Lovely.

I think of slang as something that is catchy, easy to remember, and usually easier or shorter than the non-slang term. Cockney rhyming slang takes all of that conventional wisdom and throws it right on out the proverbial window and seems to be intent on being so ridiculously complicated that it makes no sense no matter which way you look at it. Unless you know what you're looking at and I don't know how you're ever going to want to get to that point.

Cockney slang takes individual words and replaces them with short phrases. Short phrases that rhyme with the word. Sort of. First, when I say "short phrases", "short" is only in comparison with other phrases that are longer, as you are substituting more words in the case of Cockney slang. And when I say that they sort of rhyme, I mean that at least one of the words in the short phrase that is used rhymes or kind of rhymes with the word that the phrase was substituted for. Sound confusing? I'm just getting started.

For example, and this from the site the word baby would be "basin of gravy" in Cockney. What?! Basin of gravy? See what I mean by kind of rhymes?! The word banana? That'd be "Gertie Gitana" in Cockney. The word money has more than one Cockney variation. It can be "bees and honey", "bread and honey", "sugar and honey" or "Bugs Bunny". So basically if you hear something about honey or a rabbit, it's money. Don't ask.

One that I just can't wrap my head around is "bottle of sauce" for "horse". What?! The?! Hell?! And for some reason, there are EIGHT Cockney variations for the word "hemorrhoids", which the folks in the UK call "piles". "Chalfont St. Giles", "Farmer Giles", "Duke of Argyles", "Emma Freuds", "metric miles", "nobby stiles", "Nuremberg trials", and "sieg heils". Holy canoli! There are some pretty serious subliminal issues going on with the Cockney slang-ers and their 'roids. They have managed to associate the swelling and inflammation of veins in the rectum and anus with a Saint, a farmer, a duke, Sigmund Freud, the metric system, Nuremberg, and the Hitler salute. Good Lord, people! Therapy! THER-A-PY!

Now take this whimsical version of language and infuse it into the everyday workings of an ATM machine. According to the
Times Online, a company called "Bank Machine, which runs 2,500 ATMs across the country...hopes that ATMs will serve to keep (several) dialects alive in Britain." According to the managing director of Bank Machine, a one Ron Delnevo, "We wanted to introduce something fun and of local interest to our London machines. Whilst we expect some residents will visit the machine to just have a butcher's, most will be genuinely pleased as this is the first time a financial services provider will have recognised the Cockney language in such a manner." (The term "butcher's" is supposed to refer to a butcher's hook and in Cockney means 'look'. This makes less and less sense as it goes along, I realize that, but I'm almost through.) Here's what you have to look forward to if you select "Cockney slang" instead of "English":

Instead of your PIN, you'll be asked for your Huckleberry Finn.

It will tell you that it is 'readin' your bladder of lard’ instead of reading your card.

The opening screen will ask you if you'd like ‘some moolah for ya sky rocket’ (some cash for your pocket) or 'Ya rattle & tank balance' (your bank balance). (OK, it seems like they're kind of stretching it with these two. They couldn't just have said "moolah"? I think they could have. And what's with the 'Ya'? Stretching it.)

And if you're checking that rattle & tank balance, you can have that information given to you on the Charlie Sheen (on the screen) or on fleet street (on a receipt).

Quick ‘sausage and mash’ won't curb your hunger, but it will give you Quick Cash.

And your 'bees and honey' (money) can be dispensed as a speckled hen (£10), a score (£20), a pony (£25), a ton (£100) and/or a monkey (£500). If you choose the Fast Sausage and Mash you'll also be able to select if you'd like a horn of plenty (£20), a dirty (£30), or a double top (£40).

But look at how ridiculous this is:

So, they'll call the receipt 'fleet street' on the one side of the screen, but then they'll just call it a regular ol' receipt on the other side of the screen. Why so? How come I can't have my sausage and mash on fleet street?

I don't really know how much this is going to influence whether or not the Cockney rhyming slang goes wayward or not. It's not an intuitive language where you can kind of figure out what something means by what it sounds like. No, this is the equivalent of combining Pig Latin with Klingon. And who's in charge of deciding which rhyming phrases go with which words? What if I don't like "bees and honey" as the Cockney slang for money? What if I want it to be "Jesus, I'm funny" instead? Are swear words allowed? Why eight words for hemorrhoids? What's Cockney rhyming slang for Cockney?

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