Ladies love men with accents. It’s a cliché, one so grounded in reality that a dating website called iloveyouraccent.com actually exists. Anyone who has read my dramatic Safa Boy Saga (and if you haven’t I really recommend it, it’s the most shocking my blog has ever been) knows the author’s fondness for foreign fellas. When a new guy showed up at my interactive theatre job, a new British guy, it was inevitable. Before the week was up I found myself sitting next to him at the pub, sharing a pint. Did I throw myself at him? Probably. I giggled at his cheeky sense of humor, asked him about horrible clichés (“what’s up with fish and chips?”), and sat enamored by every dulcet word escaping his lips.
Where does the origin of my admiration of Great Britain lie? Perhaps the seeds were sewn while watching the BBC sitcom Are You Being Served? in the kitchen with my father as he cooked dinner. Or with bedtime stories from the Sherlock Holmes canon. Or with the height of Hugh Grant and Collin Farrell fame coinciding with my adolescence. Or the adorable-ness of The Beatles, immortalized in all songs and movies they ever created. Yes to all those, but also: it’s in my blood.
I have long identified my self as a WASP: White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant. That’s as specific as I can get concerning my heritage, and it’s down right boring. I am American. The last generation from either side of my family to immigrate to the United States has long since left memory. My given name is decidedly English, like at a “John Smith” level, and of the mix of European countries that compose my genetic code, Britain claims the largest percentage. This is something I’ve always clung to; the UK is infinitely more romantic than the US of A.
I have never set foot on British soil. The closest I ever got was a layover in Heathrow Airport. I have certainly pretended to be on British soil a silly number of times, what with several plays and summers working at a Renaissance fair. My British accent is quite convincing, I’ve fooled scores of non-natives. Given all this, the fact I was drinking Stellas with a man who was born and raised on British land was exciting enough. That he had forsaken his homeland as a young adult, left it for my homeland was intriguing.
Brits have a significant American advantage as foreigners go: there is little language barrier. I’m familiar enough to know if a Brit says he wants to “bum a fag” he’s looking for a cigarette, not being a homophobic douche. That was just an example, my Brit doesn’t actually smoke. I beg him to tell me what other words differ across the pond. “Fanny” I already knew thanks to the film Billy Elliot (a tamer word for “butt” vs. a slang term for “vagina”). “Pants” means underpants. They actually say “tellie” for television and a “biscuit” is a cookie.
Then the Brit opens a wardrobe of Narnia proportions: “Are you familiar with CRS?”
“No…I know RSC, Royal Shakespeare Company. Is that the dyslexic version?”
“No, not quite,” he laughs, “It’s Cockney Rhyming Slang.”
Cockney Rhyming Slang is intense. There are all sorts of fun theories as to its origin- if it was developed as a game or if it was made to befuddle outsiders. What’s for sure is that if you are unfamiliar, it makes absolutely no sense. It is not an easily cracked code. Or “a la mode” as you’d say in CRS.
CRS most often takes a phrase of two things, rhymes one of the words with the word you normally use, then cuts off the rhyming word so what your left with seems completely unrelated. That made no sense? It’s impossible to understand without an example. So here is the common example. Say you’re going up the stairs. “Stairs” rhymes with “apples and pears”. Now subtract the rhyming word, you’re left with “apples”. So instead of “going up the stairs” you’d say “going up the apples”.
You want a beer, you order a “Britney”. “Britney Spears” rhymes with “beers”. You lost your phone, you’ve lost your “dog and bone”. You got hit in the head, it’s a blow to your “loaf”. “Loaf of bread” rhymes with “head”.
I love it. I am horrible at learning new languages. I struggled with basic French in high school and again in college. I am abysmally mono-lingual. But Cockney Rhyming Slang, I could learn that! Okay, so it’s not actually a different language. Also, a large part of my motivation comes from the fact the person who taught it to me is an attractive man…But still! It is based on wit and cleverness! It’s perfect for me!
The day after my date I faced the all too common dilemma: I want to text him, but is it too soon? Yes. But maybe just one text to say I had a nice time and thank him for the drinks? I mean, that is polite. Right? Then it hit me- the absolute perfect text. One so fitting, cute and clever I beamed with joy as I hit send:
My attempt at CRS: Sending machine guns, I had a rats lemon last night.
Was it too subtle? I wondered. No, I thought to myself, He’s smart and clever, he could easily get it. And even if he doesn’t, he’s guaranteed to text me back. He did text me back almost immediately, unable to figure out my first Rhyming Slang attempt! I confess I was a bit disappointed. What about you dear reader? Can you figure out the slang, and see what was actually a very simple text?
“Machine guns and tanks” rhymes with thanks. “Rats and mice” rhymes with nice. “Lemon and lime” rhymes with time.
Sending thanks, I had a nice time last night.
Clever or ridiculous? Cheeky or trying way too hard? A second date did come of this; is Cockney Rhyming Slang to thank, or did I snag the date despite my overzealous attempts? Can I go to England just so I can utilize witty rhymes in all my pick up lines? Hairy Knees? (Please?)