I give my crazy mind carte blanche to go where it likes when I get down to doing a bit of writing. And believe me, it surprises me where it drifts off to.

While I was fighting terminal cancer in 2014 I went into the bank and asked for a loan to import some Lao Mountain Coffee to sell. I was absolutely gobsmacked when they gave me 7000 pounds. How could a bank give an unemployed bloke with a terminal disease that sum of money? Unbelievable but I paid for the coffee. Read on.

Only after I had splashed out for the coffee and its transportation from the mountains of Laos did I realise my mistake. I should have scarpered to a tropical island with my kids to live out the rest of my days in the sunshine. We would have disappeared never to be found again. The bank would have had no alternative but to have written off the loan because locating the “Nowhere Man” on his nowhere island with his nowhere kids would have been bloody impossible.

Scarper means go, as in flee. For example – “Quick scarper, here come the police.” It is cockney rhyming slang and originates from Scapa Flow a body of water in the Scottish Orkney Islands. Simply put, to Scarpa Flow means to go. Often in a cockney rhyming slang phrase of two words the second word is omitted, therefore we have Scarpa. Finally, a change in spelling and hey presto we have scarper. Understand?

Cockney rhyming slang is believed to have originated in the mid-nineteenth century in the east end of London. Whether it was used to dumbfound non-locals or by criminal elements to confuse the police nobody really knows. Many phrases are in common use in the UK and Australia. “Use your loaf” (loaf of bread) meaning “use your head” and “have a butcher’s” (butcher’s hook) for “have a look” will be understood by the majority of the population many of whom don’t realise they are using cockney rhyming slang.

In the late 90s, a number of Brits and I usually chattered away in rhyming slang in an Irish pub in Shenzhen, China which was frequented by a mishmash of ex-pats and English-speaking Chinese. When we said something like “Watch that bloke he looks like a tea-leaf” or “have a butcher’s at the aris on her” the locals didn’t have a Scooby-Do (clue) what we were rabbiting (rabbit and pork for talk) on about.

For your information tea-leaf means thief. Now aris is more complex so pay attention. The rhyming slang for backside is ‘bottle and glass’ (arse) which is shortened to ‘bottle’. Now just to make things ever so obscure we have a secondary rhyming namely ‘Aristotle’ for ‘bottle’. The final two syllables are chopped off to leave Aris. Therefore “Have a butcher’s at the aris on her” translates to have a look at her backside. Got it?

Many examples of rhyming slang have entered mainstream British English with most users unaware of their origin. For example, “blowing a raspberry” which describes the sputtering noise made by pressing the tongue and lips together and exhaling comes from “raspberry tart” for fart.

I recall a bad-tempered young teacher at my high school who would call any mischievous pupil a berk. In common usage, berk means a stupid or foolish person. However, it is slang for the most offensive word in the English language originating from ‘Berkshire hunt’ meaning c#nt. The teacher obviously did not know he was calling the pupils c#nts, although on second thoughts maybe he did because some of the scallies in my class were proper little Berkshire hunts. Ha-ha.




Written by : Syd

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