What is a "berk"?

Can any of the UK members explain to me what is implied by the insulting term “berk”?

Thank you.

Rhyming slang.

Berkeley Hunt (famous upper-crust hunt with dogs, etc.)= cunt.

Well, you asked!

Half UK here - Did you hear or read it? Burke might be one of the men who got bodies for the great anatomists in the 1900s from freshly buried graves.

Rather than dig up the whole coffin Burke figured out that he only had to dig up the head end, then break open the coffin, slip a rope around the corpse’s neck and pull the body out. Easier and faster-

So to burke some one became strangling… I’d say you were called something not too very nice if someone called you Burke, Burker or some variation thereof.

But if it’s Berk, I donno.

I’ve seen the term “berk” in print, spelled like that. It appears in The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole.

“That’s entertainment!” —Vlad the Impaler

Is it pronounced “burk” or “bark”?

It’s pronounced “burk” and the rhyming slang derivation is the correct one.


Except I always thought it was Berkshire Hunt.

You’re quite right, heretic: it is -shire. I must have subconsiously been channeling a 1930’s musical movie extravaganza.

A few other rhyming slang that I can recall:

Richard (Richard the Third)= turd;
apples ‘n’ pears = stairs
trouble and strife= wife;
titfer (tit for tat)= hat;
plates (of meat)= feet;
german bands = hands (circa 1910, that one).

Yes, I did, and I would have been quite surprised if the answer were something mild. Thanks for adding to my supply of useless knowledge!

Rodd Hill is correct in the derivation.

However I would not tell a pupil off for using ‘berk’, as these days it just means a fool. Cunt however would not be acceptable (as a swear word).

I thunk that Berkeley and Berkshire were pronounced Barkley and Barkshure … ?

Rodd Hill left out one of my favorite Cockney rhyming slang words:

Bristol (from Bristol Cities) = titties.

Mel Brooks even used this in Robin Hood: Men in Tights, so it must be for real.

Incidentally, a couple of common American slang terms can be traced to Cockney rhyming slang. Using “loaf” for “head” comes from “loaf of bread”, and the term “raspberry” as in “Bronx cheer” comes from “raspberry tart”, which rhymes with…

“That’s entertainment!” —Vlad the Impaler

Nuero thanx for the raspberry, uh for the info i mean, I read a really convuluted explanation for that once and I thought it sounded screwy.Now I know.
I think you’re berking up the wrong tray,Dex.
Dont worry I won’t tell anyone I’ll keep it under my titfer, I wear a derby.

“Pardon me while I have a strange interlude.”-Marx

All right. What’s goin on here!? What’s the deal with rhyming slang, anyway? Does anyone in the ol’ UK still do that, these days? Or is it one of those things people do for a while, then realize how gay it is, and quit? Like Pokemon…

Seriously, though, what’s UP with this rhyming slang stuff I keep hearing about? Is rhyming that big a deal in UK?


We are the children of the Eighties. We are not the first “lost generation” nor today’s lost generation; in fact, we think we know just where we stand - or are discovering it as we speak.

From Collins {British} Dictionary:

omniscientnot, in a previous incarnation.
The hyphen says it all…

Tim, I don’t know of any connexions between homosexuality and rhyming slang, except “Jinge” -> “Ginger Beer” -> “Queer”.

Rhyming slang is a linguistic phenomenon, not a children’s fad dreamt up by soulless marketeers.



Rhyming slang is not commonly used in Britain except for the occasional phrase which has slipped into general use. It was pretty much a London phenomenon in the first place (London’s east end).

I can’t think of many phrases off-hand that are used much…but here’s a few:

bristols -> Bristol City (a football club) -> titty
syrup -> syrup of figs -> wig(s)
jimmy -> jimmy riddle -> piddle (piss)
ruby -> Ruby Murray (I have no idea who that is) -> curry (“let’s all go for a ruby!”)

Rhyming slang is still being made up, though (mostly on the playground or in the pub!) - I know a few people who use…

Pat -> Pat Cash -> slash (another one for piss)
Pete -> Pete Tong (well-known DJ) -> wrong (as in “it’s all gone Pete”)

Always enlightening, eh?

“I haven’t got a scooby” - Scooby Doo - clue


Yes, your pronounciations are exactly what I’d use. Incidentally there’s a port drink called ‘Cockburns’, which apparently you’re supposed to say as ‘Co’burns’ (sighs deeply - why not just keep it simple?)


as you say, ‘bristols’ means ‘breasts’. But what on earth is ‘Bristol Cities’ (as per dictionary)? There’s a football team called Bristol City, but these rhymes are supposed to be obvious, aren’t they?


I was born in Central London, and my mate in East London. That makes him a ‘cockney’ - supposedly born within the sound of Bow (Church) Bells. Both of us can do a Lunnen accen’ (London accent), and be recognised as such by other Londoners. But in 30 years neither of us have used rhyming slang - except when asked to by tourists, of course.

London for beginners:

Leave it ou’, mate (stop it, or I don’t believe you)

Nice set o’ wheels, John (I admire your car, friend)

In the bathtub of history, the truth is harder to hold than the soap… (Pratchett)