Let’s ’ave a girafe, with cash machine rabbit in Cockney

AFTER recent events we shouldn t be surprised at what banks get up to these days. But using their idea of Cockney rhyming slang in cash machines? Not too far from these parts, either, so maybe you ve already had experience of one, hopefully with the requ

AFTER recent events we shouldn't be surprised at what banks get up to these days.

But using their idea of Cockney rhyming slang in cash machines?

Not too far from these parts, either, so maybe you've already had experience of one, hopefully with the required "sausage and mash" result.

Whoever dreamed up this promotional wheeze will probably end up telling underlings to get on the dog and bone and have his jam jar brought round to take him to his Jim Skinner. After all, he had to sell his ATM brainwave to the top guys first. Doing that was no cake walk.

Not too often can a bank's big-hitter execs have been treated to a litany of gems like pig's ear, trouble and strife, tea-leaf, apples and pears, brown bread, norf and sarf, daisy roots, jimmy riddle, plates of meat, pot-and-pan, barnet fair, mince pies, tit-for-tat, Khyber pass, pounds, shillings and pence, bubble bath, pony and trap, dicky-dirt, whistle and toot, skin and blister, bushel and peck, pen and ink, and ball of chalk, to cite some of the more familiar they likely listened to. Full marks to the suits, then, for giving it a go.

Quite how much of the above is still heard in the neighbourhoods where it originated is a moot point. Genuine Cockney patois is an endangered species, I fear.

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Before I was old enough to pick up much of it as a nipper in East Ham, the war whisked me away to a totally different environment.

Auntie Ivy and Uncle George next door, born and bred Cockneys, would otherwise have been great mentors. Auntie Ivy once sent my big brother " 'ter find me pot-and-pan and tell 'im 'is Jim Skinner's ready".

Mum filled her youngest in, but I doubt I understood at six.

We'd hear similar too from grandad, a true Shoreditch native, who regularly spiced his chat with the subbed down version - viz, mincies, titfer, butcher's, jimmy, dicky.

A favourite family yarn about him was how at a beanfeast for east London worthies at Mansion House, grandad had enquired of a liveried flunkey if, instead of the thimble of post banquet coffee they'd put before him he could have a cup of Rosie.

It's a fair bet it was the first time in the venerable building's life that had been heard.

For an updated version of such lingo to now be employed by a bank is a full circle of rich irony.

When rhyming slang evolved as the lingua franca of London's poorest, bank accounts were as unknown to its inhabitants as were three square a day.

Yet, it's not the first time Cockney speech has been hijacked by City types.

There was a brief fad among some I knew back in the swinging sixties for rivalling each other at inventing new slang.

You'd thus hear from them doleful claims of being "borrasic", as the 20th century way for saying what Cockneys knew as skint or stoney.

The traditional lines remain strong, however.

Not long ago I was jawing football with an old West Ham-born player, and asked his opinion why a then-current Hammer disappointed, despite impressive build and lively pace.

His explanation was "He's got no pounds, shillings and pence."

The same friend, during his playing days, had pulled me up for describing in a match report how he'd pre-emptied an opponent noted for rough stuff by kicking him up the Khyber first.

His concern was not over my recording that he'd done so. Near aghast, he protested: "You can't say Khyber in the paper like that."

When I mentioned this to an American academic acquaintance, he pointed out that while Cockney rhyming slang used in full makes things longer, it loses little strength in its shortened style, as per Khyber without Pass.

"This isn't common to all languages" he said, as should know one who is English professor at St Louis University in the States.

Were grandad around now he would see the funny side of bank cash machines screens flashing up info in a modernised rendering of what he and his contemporaries spoke, without affectation, all their lives.

On the other hand, he'd maybe just regard it as a load of cobbler's awls.

Like he did that time the Mansion House kitchens couldn't come up with his Rosie Lee.