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Authors: Gerald Kersh

Fowlers End

BOOK: Fowlers End
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For
Charles Ponte

GLOSSARY OF COCKNEY RHYMING AND REVERSE SLANG, AND SOME COLLOQUIALISMS

Arf a tick:
Wait a bit

Auntie Nelly:
Belly (Cockney rhyming slang)
Bags of:
Plenty of; lots of
Ball-of-Chalk:
Walk (Cockney rhyming slang)
On the bash:
Dissolute life; primrose path; street-walking, etc.

Bees-and-Honey:
Money (Cockney rhyming slang)

Berk, or Berkeley Hunt:
Sucker; fool (Cockney rhyming slang)

Billingsgate:
Gigantic wholesale fish market, traditional for violent invective

Bob:
Shilling—silver coin worth about $.14 currently, $.25 in the 1930s

Bobby:
Uniformed policeman;
see
“Bogies”

Bog:
Lavatory

Bogies:
Uniformed policemen; “bobbies”

Bolo:
Off-angle; untidy

Brassy:
Impudent; “fresh”

Bread-and-Lard:
Hard (Cockney rhyming slang)

Bucket-and-Pail:
Jail (Cockney rhyming slang)

Bugger off:
Go away; scram

Bullocked, or Bullock’s Horned:
Pawned (Cockney rhyming slang)

Bunce:
Perquisites; “gravy” or “schmalz”

Busies:
Plainclothes policemen; detectives

Cadge:
Borrow; promote; bum

Carsey:
Lavatory

Chancer:
One who “chances his arm”—i.e., a vain taker of impudent risks

Charing Cross:
Horse (Cockney rhyming slang)

China plate:
Mate (Cockney rhyming slang)

Chit:
Bill; accounting; I.O.U.

Chivvy, or Chevy Chase:
Face (Cockney rhyming
slang)

Cinema:
Moving-picture theater

Cocko:
Buddy; male term of address

Come the old soldier:
Be a chancer and malingerer at the same time; lie and shirk; “gold brick”

Cop:
Grab; snatch; pilfer

Cosh:
Blackjack

Cruncheon: See
“Truncheon”

Cuif:
Hair curl on or over a man’s forehead

Cuppa:
Cup of tea

Daisies, or Daisy Roots:
Boots; shoes (Cockney rhyming
slang)

Damager:
Manager (Cockney reverse slang)

Dekko:
Look; glance

Ding-dong: Song
(Cockney rhyming slang)

Doolally.
Balmy; crazy

Do a flit:
Skip without paying room rent

To do:
Flim-flam; con; cheat; frame; fight

Drop o’ short: A
short measure of spirits (Cockney
slang)

Duke-of-York:
Fork; hand (Cockney rhyming
slang)

Faggot:
Working mans rissole of chopped odds and ends

Farthing:
Copper coin equal to 1/4 British penny, currently worth $.14, $.25 in 1930s

Fascia:
Signboard above shop front

Five-to-two:
Jew (Cockney rhyming slang)

Flex:
Telephone cord

A float:
Small change to transact day’s business

Flob your gob:
Vomit

Flog:
Peddle; pawn; sell

To fluff:
Catch on; get the idea

F.L., or French letter:
Latex contraceptive

Gaff:
Show; theater

Gee up:
Encourage;
egg
on

Get a wire on:
Receive an anonymous tip

Graft:
Honest toil; i.e., a hard day’s graft is a hard day’s work

Guinea:
Coin now out of circulation but still quoted in prices; equal to one pound, one shilling, or 21 shillings; worth $2.94 currently; $5.25 in 1930s

Half crown:
Silver coin equal to two shillings, sixpence; worth $.33 currently; $.63 in 1930s

Half-inch:
Pinch (Cockney rhyming slang)—i.e., filch; steal

Hearts-of-oak:
Broke (Cockney rhyming slang)

Heavens above:
Love (Cockney rhyming slang)

Irish Rose:
Nose (Cockney rhyming slang)

Jordan:
Chamberpot

Johnny Horner:
Corner (Cockney rhyming slang)

Johnny Rann:
Scran (Cockney rhyming slang)—i.e.,

food

Joss paper:
Incense

Jumper:
Sweater

Keyster:
Suitcase; traveling bag

Kip:
Bed; sleep—i.e., “cop a nip” is grab a nap

Lark:
High jinks; frolic

A lay:
Scheme; trick; plot

Layabout:
Good-for-nothing; lazy bum

Little Bo-Peep:
Sleep (Cockney rhyming slang)

Loaf-of-Bread:
Head (Cockney rhyming slang)

Lord-of-the-Manor:
Tanner (Cockney rhymi
ng slang)—i.e., sixpence

Love-in-a-Punt:
Beer (Cockney rhyming slang)

To madam:
Hand out nonsense—i.e., “don’
t madam me” is “don’t give me any stuff”

Martin’s-le-Grand:
Hand (Cockney rhyming slang)

Mickey:
Spirit—i.e., “take the mickey out”
is “cut down a peg”; “take the starch out”

Milkman’s horse:
Cross (Cockney rhyming slang)

Mince pies:
Eyes (Cockney rhyming slang)

Mincing machine:
Food chopper

Mob-handed:
Rabble; in a mob

Monkey-nuts:
Peanuts

Multiple shops:
Chain stores—i.e., “Multiple chemists” is chain drugstores

Nark:
Informer; stool pigeon

Never-never:
Installment plan purchasing—i.e., “Never-never”, can you finish paying

Nicker:
Pounds sterling—see “Quid” and “Sovereign”

Niff:
Odor

Nipper:
Child

Nip out:
Rush

North-and-South:
Mouth (Cockney rhyming slang)

Oliver Twist:
Fist (Cockney rhyming slang)

Paisley Disaster:
Historic holocaust in movie theater where many children perished

Take a pen’orth, or take a pennyworth:
Take a ride— i.e., go away; scram

Pig’s ear:
Beer (Cockney rhyming slang)

Pong:
Unpleasant physical odor; “B.O”

Put a sock in:
Stop; lay off; quit

Pinch:
Pilfer; steal

Plates-of-meat:
Feet (Cockney rhyming slang)

Plong:
Sell stolen stuff; push “hot” goods

Pope-of-Rome:
Home (Cockney rhyming slang)

Poste Restante:
P.O. box

Pot-and-Pan:
Man (Cockney rhyming slang)

Potato crisps:
Potato chips

Quid:
Pounds sterling—a pound being worth about $2.80 currently; $5 in the 1930s;
also see
“Nicker” and “Sovereign”

Randy:
Round

Raspberry tart:
Heart (Cockney rhyming slang)

Rissole:
Rice-filled hamburger

Rolling billows:
Pillows (Cockney rhyming slang)

Rorty:
Quarrelsome; ferocious

Rosie Lee:
Cup of tea (Cockney rhyming slang)

Roundabouts:
Carousel; merry-go-round

Scrounge:
Promote; borrow

Shoot the Moon:
Skip without paying room rent

Skilly:
Oatmeal and water; weak gruel

Skiver:
Someone who avoids duty

Skivvy:
Contemptuous term for domestic servant

Skyrocket:
Pocket (Cockney rhyming slang)

Smashing:
Wonderful; marvelous

Snob:
Shoe mender; cobbler

Sod:
Term of abuse

Sovereign:
Gold coin withdrawn from circulation and worth a pound;
see
“Quid” and “Nicker”

Smithfield:
Gigantic wholesale meat market and traditional source for reverse slang

Spit-and-polish:
Immaculate dress (from military)

Up the spout:
Up the flue; bankrupt

Strike-me-dead:
Bread (Cockney rhyming slang)

Stone:
Measure of weight, equals 14 lbs.

Tanner:
Silver coin equal to 1/2 shilling; worth $.07 currently; $.125 in 1930s

Tea-leaf:
Thief (Cockney rhyming slang)

Ting-a-ling:
Money; change

Titfer, or Tit-for-Tat:
Hat (Cockney rhyming slang)

Tosheroon:
Half-crown

Tosser:
Any small coin

Tram; tramcar:
Trolley

Tramline:
Trolley tracks

Try it on:
To con; gyp

Turn:
Vaudeville act; vaudeville actors

Twicer:
Double-crosser

Twot:
Term of abuse for the female

Truncheon:
Nightstick of British cop

Uncle Ned:
Bed (Cockney rhyming slang)

Upsy-down:
Upside down

Variety:
Vaudeville

Wallop:
Beer

To wallop:
Sell under the counter; shove stolen stuff

Weskit:
Waistcoat

Wide:
Slick; smart; clever in illicit deals; derived from “wide awake”

Wilkie Bard:
Card (Cockney rhyming slang)

Woodbines:
Brand of cigarettes s
old in packets of five

Yet-to-be:
Free (Cockney rhyming slang)

Yobs; Yobbos:
Boys (Cockney reverse slang)

END

1

SNORING FOR air while he sipped and gulped at himself, talking between hastily swallowed mouthfuls of himself, fidgeting with a little blue bottle and a red rubber nose-dropper, Mr. Yudenow said to me, “Who you are, what you are, I duddo. But I like your style, what I bead to say— the way you wet about applying for this ‘ere job. Dishertive,
dishertive—if
you get what I bead—dish-ertive is what we wat id show biz. Arf a tick, please—I got to take by drops.”

He filled the dropper with some pale oily fluid, threw back his head and sniffed; became mauve in the face, gagged, choked; blew into a big silk handkerchief, and then continued, sighing with relief, “Wonderful stuff. It’s deadly poison. But it loosens the head.” He showed me the contents of his handkerchief, which might have been brains. “Confidentially, catarrh. Yes. I like the way you went about applying for this ‘ere job. Milhons of people would give their right ‘and to manage one of Sam Yudenow’s shows— the cream of the biz, the top of the milk! So?”

“Well,” I said, “I saw your ad—”

“That’s right,
ad.
Not advertisement. Ad. Like Biz, like Pix, like Lites. Good.”

“I saw your ad, and it said at the end, ‘Apply Sam Yudenow the Pantheon Fowlers End.’ I thought to myself, there can’t be many Sam Yudenows in the phone book, so I rang you at your private address.”

“You said Joe told you to ring. What Joe? Big Joe or Little Joe?”

“Any Joe you like,” I said. “Everybody’s got some friend called Joe.

“I like imagination,” said Sam Yudenow. “In show biz it’s am-perative. How much d’you weigh?”

“About fourteen stone seven, stripped.”

“That’s all right. You won’t have time to strip. It’s just about the right weight for a manager of the Pantheon. How d’you like the name Pantheon? I made it up.”

“Greek?” I suggested.

“It’s Greek for
kinema.
You can read an’
write okay?”

“I think so.”

“You need edyacation in show biz. You’d be surprised the idears you pick up reading. Only don’t put on no airs. You’d be surprised what they’d do to you rahnd Fowlers End if you put on airs. When I first went into show biz I used to say ‘please’ ‘ere and ‘thank you’ there—they soon knocked
that
out o’ me. You got to adopt yourself, like me. Fowlers End ain’t Park Lane—not quite. Me, when I’m in Buckingham Palace I talk like Bucking ham Palace. But rahnd Fowlers End you got to talk like one o’ the right yobbos.... Can you use your ‘ands?”

“Box a little,” I said.

“You won’t need to—don’t worry about that. They don’t understand that stuff rahnd Fowlers End. If somebody gets rorty and buggers up the show, so come up be’ind ‘im like a gentleman; put a stranglehold on ‘is thvoat miv the left arm, pick ‘im up by the arse from ‘is trousers miv the right ‘and, and chunk ‘im into the Alley—one, two, threel— in peace and quiet. My last manager but two got punchdrunk, kind o’thing, and lost ‘is nerve—tried to clean up the Fowlers End Health and Superman League miv a fire bucket, and
I
was the sufferer. Keep order, yes, but leave no marks. I want m
y managers should be diplomats. Look at Goldwyn, look at Katz. Odeons they started miv nickels, not knuckles, and you should live to see your children in such a nice position like they got. Remember, the Pantheon don’t cater for royalty, and Fowlers End ain’t Bond Street— not just yet it ain’t.

BOOK: Fowlers End
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