A few words about Cockney rhyming slang. It started in the first half of the 19th century, though no one knows whether originally
as a cryptolect (that is, a secret language) or just a game. In order to encode a word, a well-known or easy-to-remember phrase is
first chosen which rhymes with that word. For example, to encode "stairs", the phrase "apples and pears" is used. That is not a common
phrase, but it's certainly easy to remember. The next step is occasionally referred to by the impressive name "hemiteleia", which is just
Greek for "half finish". It just means only using the first part of the rhyming phrase, leaving out the rhyme. In the example, only
"apples" is kept, and that becomes the code word for "stairs". As another example, "telephone" rhymes with "dog and bone", so a "telephone"
is referred to as a "dog". Clearly rhyming slang is pretty easy to learn, but if someone said, for instance, "When I was half way up the
apples I heard the dog," it would be as mysterious as an unknown foreign language to a person who had never learned any. A rather sexist
example is "trouble" as the slang word for "wife", from "trouble and strife".
Sometimes the names of people or places (usually in London) are used to provide the rhymes. Sometimes too, a rhyming slang expression
becomes part of everyday slang, and its origin is forgotten. Thus everyone knows "on my tod", meaning "on my own", but hardly anyone
would know that "tod" is the code word for "own", the rhyme coming from the name "Tod Sloan". He was a jockey famous in the 19th century,
but forgotten now. "Barnet Fair", a London event in Barnet, gives the slang for "hair" - "I like the way you've done your barnet". As one
last example, "She has lovely white hampsteads," shows us "Hampstead Heath" for "teeth".