“Ah cheers Luv. I’ve been feelin a bit Uncle Dick lately”. Some of you will have read that and be wondering what on Earth I’m talking about.
“Uncle Dick” is another way of saying “sick”. This is an excellent example of Cockney Rhyming slang.
If you ever visit England, you might be lucky enough to bump into a few people who talk like that.
In this article, I want to talk about what a cockney is, why they like to Rhyme, and where all of these words come from.
What I found remarkable about England is that we’ve managed to get so many dialects on such a small island.
Many who are not Cockney and even some modern Cockneys will be slightly confused as to why people use rhymes as part of their everyday language.
Most of the time, Rhymes are associated with poetry, and “Cockney” isn’t the first word that will spring to mind when you think of poets.
The main reason why Cockneys would rhyme is so that they would be able to talk to one another without having non-cockneys know what they’re talking about. Back then, the class divide was massive, and the upper classes would stick their noses up at the Cockneys who would often be working class.
The working-class cockneys could say what they wanted and not have to worry about being overheard by a posh toff when they used cockney rhyming slang.
What is a Cockney?
I’ve noticed that I’ve used the word “Cockney” a lot, but I haven’t actually explained what it is. A cockney is an East London native.
In Victorian times, East London was one of the poorer parts of London. It was where a lot of the working class folk lived, while the upper class mainly lived in places like Chelsea. When you think of the voices used in Oliver Twist, you probably hear a Cockney accent.
Initially, a Cockney was someone who would be able to hear the bells of the church “St Mary-le-Bow”. But because of cars and other noises, the definition is slightly more broad today.
Several Cockneys have come out of their working-class roots and gone onto have a great career.
One of my personal favourites is “Danny Dyer”. He’s a famous actor who’s most well known for being on the iconic soap opera “Eastenders”.
If you’re a fan of Batman, you likely know “Michael Caine”. “Caine” played Alfred, Batman’s Butler. Giving Batman a cockney Butler is a great idea because he’s British he has the sophistication required to be a butler, but because he’s a cockney, he’s hard enough to work with Batman.
And finally, we have Ross Kemp. He started his career as an actor on “Eastenders”, but today, he’s better known for his documentaries where he talks to members of gangs.
We’ve already established that “Uncle Dick” means “Sick”. But where does the word “Sick” come from?
If you’re feeling “sick”, it means that you’re not feeling too well, and your health is not in good condition.
“Sick” comes from the Old English “Seoc”. Which comes from the Proto-Germanic “Seuka”. It wasn’t until recently that “Sick” could also be used as another way of saying “Fed up”.
How Richard became Dick
“Dick” is a rather interesting name. It’s short for Richard. And I know that it sounds crazy because “Dick” and “Richard” say nothing like each other.
So let me tell you the story of how Richard became Dick.
First, Richard was shortened to “Rick”. So far, nothing is surprising about this.
But because cockneys like to Rhyme, “Rick” became “Dick”.
This name has nothing to do with the “Dick” in between your legs.
What does Richard mean?
Most names didn’t appear out of thin air, and many of them have meanings behind them that are supposed to give the child guidance for when he or she grows up.
The name Richard is made up of two parts, Ric and hard.
The name “Richard” is Germanic in origin.
“Ric” is a ruler. And hard is the same as it means today, strong. Therefore, boys called “Richard” were strong in rule. This is likely why there have been so many kings called “Richard” throughout British history.
But if you are a strong ruler, make sure you’re not a dick about it.
Cockney Rhyming examples
Here are some of my other favourite cockney rhyming slang terms.
Tom Tug. Mug.
“Bloody Hell. That geeza is such a Tom Tug”.
Adam and Eve. Believe.
“I walked in, and I couldn’t Adam and Eve it”.
Apples and Pears. Stairs.
“Ya rooms just up the old apples and pears”.
Bag of fruit. Suit.
“bagged myself an interview. I’m gonna dust off my bag of fruit”.
Bob Hope. Soap.
“Bloody ell. You stink. Wash now! And be sure to use Bob Hope”.
Bottle and Glass. Arse.
“Cor Blimey. That gals got a lovely bottle and glass”.
Other ways of saying Sick instead of “Uncle Dick”
If you ever visit a working-class community in the UK, and you want to blend in, here are some other ways that you can say you’re not feeling too well.
“I’ve got the Lurgy”. Comes from allergy, but not a specific allergy to anything, in particular, just feeling unwell.
“Dicky” comes from “Uncle Dick”.
“Gammy” can be used when talking about a limb that you might have hurt.
“Speaking Welsh” used to describe physically vomiting. Maybe don’t use this one if you ever go to Wales.
Cockney Rhyming Slang is one of the most interesting dialects in the English language. A cockney is a generally fairly working-class person who’s a native to East London, specifically someone who can hear the bells from St Mary-le-Bow Church.
It was used to enable cockneys to talk to one another without having to worry about who was around to hear.
“Uncle Dick” means “Sick”. And Dick has been created from Richard.
There’s more to Cockneys than Danny Dyer, Michael Caine, and Ross Kemp. Being a Cockney is all about loving the community you’re from and making the most out of what life gives you.