Jay-Z and Cockney Rhyming Slang


Every once in a while, I’ll be teaching and Cockney rhyming slang will come up. Can “apples and pears” really be “stairs”? Do people really say “trouble and strife” to mean “wife”? And frankly, I can’t answer. It has always seemed baffling to me, too.

Then, on my run this morning, I’m listening to Jay-Z’s “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)”

If a man named Shawn Corey Carter can re-style himself as Jay-Z and then reshape that into the grandiose (and pretty terrific) god-term pun Jay-hova, and then turn it into a kind of new pig Latin and get sweet-voiced women to sing “H to the Izzo, V to the Izzay” so we all understand that this is a tribute to the greatness of that same young Shawn Carter’s rap stylings, why shouldn’t Brahms, shortened from Brahms and Lizst, mean “pissed” (as in drunk)?

The link, if you click it, has some really good examples, and, in more patient terms, shows how many such rhyming substitutions are in common use (such as 86'd for nixed).

This makes me feel much better.