Sweeney Todd Week! Tidbit #4 ~ Urban Myth?

by George Dibdin Pitt

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Unread postby suec » Sun Dec 23, 2007 6:29 am

Liz, did you ever see the tv series called The Sweeney? It's going back a fair way way now and I don't know if it was ever aired in America. Anyway, it was about the police. The Sweeney is a nickname for them and it is a pretty good example of the way Cockney rhyming slang works. Sweeney Todd rhymes with Flying Squad (a branch of the London police), but only the first word is used in conversation, not the whole phrase. Another example word be someone saying, "Let's have a butcher's", when they really mean, "Let me see", because the whole phrase in Cockney rhyming slang is butcher's hook, which rhymes with look.
That is one example that has become more widely used outside London. One other example I have found this morning, is bread for money, because of the phrase bread and honey. That was a real surprise to me! So a lot of phrases have passed into general usage from the slang. But if it seems an obscure way of talking, it is because it is meant to be. At some time in the past, Cockneys evolved the slang as a way of communicating with each other in a way that others wouldn't understand. I checked a couple of websites this morning and some explanations offered for this have been market traders not wanting their customers to know what they were saying; Newgate prisoners wanting to talk without their guards understanding them; and criminals evolving it when the the police force was first created.
Anyway, I hadn't made the connection with the Sweeney and Sweeny Todd until I read this tidbit, but it just strikes me as being quite funny, really.
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Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Sun Dec 23, 2007 8:03 am

Yes, its like talking in code , and I believe Suec is right certainly amongst the market traders and the underworld of the criminal it evolved. Not sure it was used in evryday use but over time it has evolved and some things are used in general usage as slang. A good example if I remember correctly is to be found in My Fair Lady, I believe that Eliza Dolittle's father used quite a bit of it.

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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sun Dec 23, 2007 11:01 am

Thank you for the info, suec and GG! Very interesting! :cool: I don't remember ever seeing the show you reference over here but I'm sure some of those phrases have become part of our modern day slang as well, like bread for money. I never knew where that came from! :eyebrow:
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