Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I'll never read Planescape's prose the same way again

From Steve Roud's discussion of Cockney rhyming slang in his excellent London Lore: The Legends and Traditions of the World's Most Vibrant City:
Several terms that started as rhyming slang have now entered the general language, albeit not at the posh end of the spectrum. It is not uncommon to hear the verb to rabbit (from rabbit and pork), meaning to talk a lot, or for someone to say, 'Let's have a butcher's at that', or 'That's a load of old cobblers'. There are many people who say 'He's a right berk', or 'He's a proper Charlie', without realising that the words originated as contractions of Berkshire Hunt and Charlie Hunt.


  1. Yes, the whole body of work takes on a new light when you think that everyone is actually insulting everyone else, all the time!

    One wonders if the writers knew this, and it was a bit of a joke, or if they were entirely unaware.

  2. I'm sure they were aware. I'm American and I got it, even as a teenager.

  3. Oh, it's very possible they knew and it was a bit of an in joke! Of course, it's not exactly common knowledge either. Some people have obviously come across the history of the term (e.g., shimrod), others haven't (e.g., me). Roud also suggests that the history of the slang is lost on a lot of folks who use it, and that seems likely given that the rhyming portion is missing from the commonly used version.

    In any case, I expect David "Zeb" Cook (and other writers) have gotten plenty of letters and emails asking about it over the years!

  4. Well, not to make myself out to be some sort of expert on English colloquialisms or anything. I didn't know the full history of all the terms, but I knew the major source they were taken from, and knew what Berk meant, for example. There was some discussion of it in gaming circles at the time, and some people found it off-putting. I really enjoyed it.

    I can't remember if there was any discussion of it in Zeb's Dragonsfoot Q&A thread...