Are you having a Barry Crocker and want to do a Harold Holt?
For some, that sentence will be meaningless. Others will recognise the rhyming slang for, respectively, "shocker" and "bolt", and might even abbreviate them to "Barry" and "Harold".
If you are in the latter category, the Australian National Dictionary Centre would like to hear from you.
ANDC senior researcher and editor Mark Gwynn said the centre was seeking new contributions for the Australian National Dictionary. He said in recent years their research projects included nicknames for places (like "Belco") and family speak (domestic terms like "spag bol") and this year's focus was on rhyming slang - substituting words with rhyming words, names or phrases associated with cockneys in the East End of London.
Mr Gwynn said, "Rhyming slang had its origins in the early the 19thcentury and came over here fairly quickly."
"Jimmy Grant" became rhyming slang for "immigrant", and by the early 20th century there was "pomegranate", which became "pommy" or "pom" for a British arrival.
He said, "One of the main points that's been made is that it was a cant language, a secret language so the police didn't hear you - but I think that's a bit of a red herring."
It was, he said, "more of a social marker - people use it in a group, at the races, with friends at the pub, as an 'in' language ... It's for play, it's fun."
Rhyming slang can also be used to conceal naughty words: if you know the "raspberry" in "blowing a raspberry" is shortened from "raspberry tart", you will probably be on the scent.
While it came from Britain, there's plenty of Australian rhyming slang, including Joe Blake (snake) and Steak and Kidney (Sydney). A woman might use a Dawn Fraser to Dad and Dave her Ginger Meggs, if you get the idea, or she might make a call on the Al Capone to check there are no Dalai Lamas with her billy lids (you can probably figure these ones out - scroll to the bottom of this story to test your skills).
Mr Gwynn said the heyday of rhyming slang in Australia was probably up to the mid-20th century.
"It's not as common or as well known as it used to be," he said. It was sometimes used self-consciously or ironically. People might understand some of the terminology without using it themselves.
But in certain circles - especially masculine, sporting ones like rugby and racing - it was quite often still heard, he said. For a Canberra reference, Mal Meninga rhymes with "finger". Sport commentary and internet chat sites were places it was used, he said, though appearances in formal print were less common.
Mr Gwynn said the ANDC staff were interested in hearing about new coinages in general use (one from overseas he discovered recently was Miley Cyrus for coronavirus) for possible inclusion in their database, and also wanted to ascertain the extent to which it was still used and by whom.
- To contribute to the Australian National Dictionary Centre's rhyming slang project, visit slll.cass.anu.edu.au/centres/andc.
Test your rhyming slang knowledge
Once you've made your guess, move the slider on the right of the image to uncover the meaning of the rhyming slang term.
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