Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: When do you climb apples?

October 27, 2013

Apple Tree To Be Kit | UncommonGoodsYou climb apples when they’re the stairs. And that answer isn’t just arbitrary—it’s the translation of an iconic piece of Cockney rhyming slang. The practice began in London’s East End around 160 years ago, and involves a linguistic process called hemiteleia, where one word is substituted for another. For example: for the Cockney slang-slinger, the word “stairs” might evoke the rhyming phrase “apples and pears.” That phrase would be shortened to just “apples,” which would then be used in place of the original word. Sounds needlessly complicated? That may have been the point: the system may have developed as a game, or a code for peddlers or criminals to use. Whatever the case, Cockney rhyming slang can still be found in American English today. When we refer to money as “bread,” it’s because “money” rhymes with “bread and honey.” You “put up your dukes” to fight because “Duke of York” rhymes with “fork” (an antique slang word for a fist). And if you blow someone a raspberry, it’s because “raspberry tart” rhymes with the name for that unfortunate biological emanation that the sound is imitating.

Apple Tree To Be Kit, $22

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1 Comment

  • Reply Kacy October 29, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    i didn’t know Uncommon Goods had a blog until now. Love this!

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