Cockney rhyming slang

I was born and bred in London, and therefore have a wide knowledge of “Cockney rhyming slang”,including a lot of the modern additions. However there are a couple of words and phrases for which I know the meaning but do not know the rhyme or origin they are as follows:

  1. Drum - meaning someones abode
  2. Pad - meaning someones abode
  3. Gaff - meaning someones abode
  4. to spin a drum - to search someones abode
    Any ideas how these phrases originated? are they rhyming slang?

Welcome to the SDMB, Steve. This is a great place to ask questions and responses will usually come thick and fast. However there are some ground rules. Chief amongst these are that there are different forums for different types of question.

Your’s is a “General Question”. You will find a much better response if you ask such questions (those with straightforward answers) over there.

I suspect that a moderator will be along shortly to either move or close this thread shortly anyway. But since this is the “About The Message Board” forum (for questions about this message board, surprisingly enough), it seems like a good time and place for me to point out the above!

For a more complete description of the forums, see here


What kabbes said. Off to General Questions it is!

Welcome, Steve. In addition the point made by kabbes, it’s also a good idea to check the search function (top right of any page) as many questions have been asked before. The phrase ‘Cockney Rhyming Slang’ brings up 18 results of which, perhaps, What’s the origin of Cockney rhyming slang? is the most pertinent.

Drum = Drum roll = hole =hiding place or flat.

Gaff definitely isn’t cockney, it’s an Irish/Scottish word for a storehouse, and is presumably descended from ‘gaffer’, which is the Irish/Scottish word for an overseer and hence the man in charge of said storehouse. My grandmother used to use the word to mean a garden/chicken shed. I’ve heard it used on Pommy TV shows as a house, notably on ‘Minder’, but I can see how it might have been corrupted to this in cockney. It’s almost certainly not Cockney in origin though.

‘Pad’ is just standard 60s/70s slang for a home. It was quite widespread around the world, particularly in America so I don’t think it’s Cockney slang, just a general term for a mattress.

I think ‘spin’ is just a general slang term for a search, as in 'Give 'im a sin and see what it falls out"

I also think that you should stop watching ‘The Bill’, or more likely ‘Sweeney’ re-runs.
Welcome to SDMB.

I suspect {b]Gaspode** is alluding, in his quintessentially Australian manner, to the distinction between good ol’ rhyming slang and general London street slang (which doesn’t rhyme).

An example of the latter might be ‘schlep’ ( as in: “It’s a long bloody schlep to Muswell Hill, Guv’nor”) which is not rhyming slang but rather from the Yiddish shlepn or schleppen.

That’s enough tinnies for you tonight, Gaspode. Off to bed with you !

Gaff definitely isn’t cockney rhyming slang, or even London-specific slang, and it isn’t Irish or Scottish either.

The OED suggests that gaffer, meaning boss, is a contraction of “godfather” (or, less likely, “grandfather”) and was originally used as a term of address for any older man. It gives a few examples of it being used as a title, like “Mr” (e.g. “Gaffer Jones”), which I can’t be bothered typing out.

Gaff meaning abode seems to originate in the 1930s but there is an earlier meaning, a place of public entertainment (origin unknown), from which it might be derived via a slang term for a brothel or a prostitute’s room.

FWIW, gaff takes up a couple of pages and has numerous meanings, some from the same basic etymology (a fish-hook) and others from different sources.

One of the meanings of pad, in the 16th Century, was “a bundle of straw to lie on”. By the early 18th Century, it had come to mean just “bed” and the meaning was soon transferred to the place where the bed was, i.e. the room or abode.

I have never heard “drum” for abode before, though I’ve lived in London for longer than is humanly tolerable. Is it a London thing? Is it in common usage? Is it because of my age?

‘Drum’ is not uncommon Tom – a bit old-fashioned (circa ‘Minder’ and before) but still well understood. Surely it can’t be your age ! I can only think you move in more refined circles.

'Appy one thousand, Guv. :wink:

According to the OED, “drum” in the sense of a house or a room goes back to the 19th century. It’s not Cockney rhyming slang; in fact, it’s recorded both in the U.K. and the U.S. According to British English: A to Zed by Norman Schur, it became well known as hippie slang in the '60’s in the U.K. “Pad” in the sense of house or room goes further back than the '60’s . It was already beatnik slang in the '50’s (and was well known in the U.S.). It can be traced back further than that. According to the OED, it was thieves slang in the 18th century already, and it seems to have originated in the U.S.

I can’t find “spin a drum” in the OED or anyplace else. I suspect it’s a recent formation.

I think you shouldn’t assume that any new slang you hear in London is Cockney rhyming slang, or even Cockney in origin.

Cheers, Geezer. That’ll cost you a pint in three weeks time :smiley:

“Spinning a Drum” is quite simple,
The “drum” as stated is the home (or place of residence) and “spinning” merely comes as an emphatic extension of “turning over” (ie searching) so: " I searched his rooms" could quite easily become “I turned over his
flat” or “I spun his drum”.



Thanks, L_C. If it’s pre-Minder, I might be a bit young to remember it :).

Ahhh, The Sweeney reruns, where us young’uns can relive the good old days of pre-ABS hand brake turns, shouting adults and telling women to put the kettle on.
Ding Dong!!

L_C, how many times do you reckon we can do Terry Thomas impressions in Amsterdam??

Tom Forgive me. I included your inadvertant admission of ‘at heart’ when reading your last post.
<…Jack Reagan…> OI, Twisty. **Shut it ! **<…/Jack Reagan…>

You won’t believe I actually threw away a perfectly good sheepskin coat a couple of years ago. I hang my head in shame…………
Terry Thomas – Now you’re talking ! Although I’m not sure TT and the temptations of Amsterdam are a particularly healthy mixture. He’s funny enough without any……atmospheric inducements :eek:

If anybody has seen the Terrance Stamp film “The Limey” he spends most of the film talking Cockney rhyming slang .As several fellow Brits have pointed out in reviews of the film on the Internet Movie Database very few Cockneys now speak like this and I tend to agree.I do not live in London but is it true that rhyming slang is now very rare.

“There’s one thing that I don’t understand. And that’s everything you just said.”

-from “The Limey”.

These terms are very common usage in UK prisons.

Cells are called pads, when they are searched for unauthorised articles the place is turned inside out, upside down and round and round, hence its called a spin.

Giving it large, or largeing it up, is the process of spouting bullshit to impress others, like when those lizards puff themselves out to look bigger than they really are, which is a fairly appropriate analogy. Blacks have modified the term - now its 'biggin it up ’

My understanding is that Cockney rhyming slang originated as a kind of criminals’ cant, used primarily to obscure the meaning of what was being said from outsiders. Although it isn’t the way that the average inhabitant of East London talks nowadays, it might be that criminals still tend to use it; hence Terence Stamp’s character in The Limey and casdave’s customers.

Some of these expressions were also used in the underworld, and other spheres, of nineteenth-century New York City, though they’re now lost to American English. Herbert Asbury’s marvelous Gangs of New York(1930) has a glossary of underworld cant and it includes a few rhyming expressions such as as Cain and Abel (a table); as well as other expressions now thought of as peculiarly British, like bloke and cove.