Becoming accustomed to the local mores and culture of a new land is a lot easier when the duty station is in England as opposed to the rest of Europe or Asia. But differences still exist, and linguistic schisms can be befuddling.

Take the British phenomenon of cockney rhyming slang, a way of talking that is utterly confusing to anyone not from the isles.

The basic gist is to replace words with short phrases that rhyme with the word — and then often shorten the rhyming phrase altogether. Therefore, the equivalent of stairs becomes “apples and pears,” as in “Oy, I fell down the apples last night.” The word “feet” is replaced with “plates of meat,” as in “My plates are killing me.”

To find out more, Stars and Stripes turned to Roxanna Chaplin, a saucy Brit whose family hails from the east side of London, which is the area thought to have produced the whole cockney rhyming thing in the first place. Different theories abound about the slang’s origins, from it being code-speak for hoodlums to a way to differentiate who was a local.

Chaplin’s personal favorites include “dog and bones” for “phone,” as in “Where’s my dog?”

Other popular ones include “butcher’s hook” for “look.” As in “why don’t you have a butcher’s?”

Rhyme slang words fall in and out of popularity, Chaplin said, and new ones are sprouting up all the time. Her new personal favorite, which she just heard recently from a friend, was “Britney Spears” for “beer.”

“I’m going out for a couple of Britneys,” Chaplin said, completely confounding her American interviewer. “That’s a new one. You find it keeps up with popular culture, and it’s pretty peculiar to the southeast of England.”

For more information on “tang,” (my own rhyme slang invention for “cockney rhyming slang”) log on to

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