There are so many odd words and funny ways to say tea in England. The most common slang for tea in Britain is ‘Rosie Lee’ or ‘Rosie Lea’.
Why is tea called a cup of Rosie Lee?
For anyone familiar with cockney rhyming slang will know that tea is called ‘Rosie Lee’ because it rhymes with ‘cup of tea’. And this is the reason why I decided to call my little tea company Rosie Loves Tea.
Along with calling tea ‘Rosie’, British people have many words for saying ‘tea’ such as cuppa, cha, char or chai, brew, builders or even builders brew! Brits really do love tea and have so many phrases and sayings that involve a good cuppa tea.
Origins of Rosie Lee
For those who aren’t familiar with cockney rhyming slang, ‘Rosie’ or ‘Rosie Lee’ translates to ‘cup of tea’. When we say ‘does anyone fancy a cup of Rosie?’ what we actually mean is ‘Would anyone like a cup of tea?’ Rosie Lee (or Rosie Lea), British rhyming slang for ‘tea’ was first recorded in 1925 in Edward Fraser and John Gibbons’ Soldier and Sailor Words and Phrases.
Read More: 52 Tea Quotes and Sayings for Tea Lovers
Cockney Rhyming Slang
Cockney rhyming slang originates from the East End of London and was first used in the early 19th century. Cockney rhyming slang usually consists of 2 or 3 words with the last word rhyming with the actual word that is meant. An example of this is ‘Rosie Lea’ means ‘tea’ or ‘cup of tea’. Sometimes the first word is only used in a sentence, such as ‘Fancy a rosie?’ This means ‘Would you like a cup of tea?’. And in some instances there isn’t even a rhyme, it’s just all coded slang. For instance ‘Toby’ actually means ‘road’ and it doesn’t actually rhyme with anything. Confused? Read on for more translations…
Is Cockney Rhyming Slang Still Used?
Yes cockney rhyming slang is actually still used today. Not in the same way that it once was. Some even say that cockney rhyming slang was created by criminals to talk in code! But slang words have been adapted over the years and some terms are still used. Some terms aren’t quite rhyming slang anymore but would have derived from slang once upon a time.
I’m originally from East London, the birth-place of cockney rhyming slang, and over the years I’ve realized that us Brits really do say the funniest things. Aside from the infamous phrase Rosie Lee, here are more confusing sayings Brits may say plus what they actually mean…
1. “It’s bl**dy sod’s law, I didn’t bring a brolly and now its cats and dogs out there”
-Just typical, I didn't bring an umbrella and now its pouring down with rain.
2. “Oi budge up Pete, it’s chocoablock in here”
-Move up a bit Pete, it’s really busy in her.
3. “Bugger off Dave, you’re such a wind up merchant”
-Go away Dave, I can’t deal with your hilariously funny practical jokes right now.
4. “I’ll give you a tinkle later, I’m off to see a man about a dog”
-I’ll call you later, right now I’m going somewhere and I would rather not tell you what I’m up to.
5. “It’s all gone a bit pear shaped, but it could be worse”
-Its all going horribly wrong and quite frankly it just couldn't get any worse.
6. “I’ll be back in a jiffy, unless my day goes a bit skew-whiff”
-I’ll be back shortly unless I get side tracked, in that case I will not be coming back at all.
7. “Well I never, that really takes the biscuit'“
-I really don't believe it, that's a huge liberty and it’s really inconveniencing me.
8. “Crickey! Its like blackpool illuminations in here“
-Wow! How inconsiderate, you have left on at least one light and you aren't paying the bill.
9. “Roger is out on the [email protected] tonight, he will have a right royal knees up”
-Roger is going out to the pub to have a jolly good drunken time.
10. “Well that's thrown a spanner in the works, it’s all gone a bit t!ts up”
-Someone or something is interfering with my plans, its all going wrong and I don't like it.
11. “Hold your horses love, don't get your kn!ckers in a twist”
-Wait a minute, don't jump to conclusions and get all crazy in those under pants.
12. “Sorry, I beg your pardon, don't get shirty with me”
I’m not at all sorry, I strongly disagree with what you are saying and yet I don't want you to get annoyed with me.
13. “He thinks he’s the dogs b0llocks but we all think he’s a wally”
-He thinks he is absolutely amazing and yet we all think he is an idiot.
14. “It’s no biggie but I appear to be in a bit of a pickle”
-It is an extremely big deal and I’m in big trouble.
15. “Wind your neck in Bob, sounds like Chinese whispers to me”
-Calm down and stop getting upset, its just nonsense gossip.
16. “He did a bit of a bodge job, but everything is just tickety-boo”
-I’m really dissatisfied with the work that he has done and everything is not fine, but I won’t complain
17. “It cost an arm and a leg, it’s gotta be the real Macoy”
-I paid a lot for this so I’m going to convince everyone it’s definitely not a fake.
18. “Bl00dy hell I’m gobsmacked, how did you wangle your way out of that one”
-Wow I’m so shocked, I have no idea you were smart enough to not get caught!
19. “I’ve said it til I’m blue in the face, it’s like I’m flogging a dead horse”
-I’m wasting my time talking to you, we are going around in circles and its impossible to get through to you.
20. “Its monkeys out there, and that dim-wit is half starkers”
-Its far too cold to be dressed so inappropriately, you fool.
21. “That tight bugger is a right ol’ penny-pincher”
-That silly person is extremely frugal with money. Probably doesn’t have many friends.
22. “Blimey! Sandra is totally off her trolley!”
-Wow! Sandra is crazy! Off her rocker! As nutty as a fruitcake!
23. “Take the weight off, I’ll make a nice cuppa”
-Put your feet up dear friend, I’ll make you a lovely cup of tea
24. “She must be out on the pull, that tr0ll0p is all dolled up like a dogs dinner”
-That vulgar woman is dressed to attract attention, she is definitely out to find a new partner.
25. “We thought he was as clean as a whistle but turns out he was as bent as a nine bob note”
-He appeared to be completely innocent but actually he is a crook! As dodgy as they come.
26. “The daft cow was so legless, she fell arse over t!t”
-The fool was as drunk as a skunk, so intoxicated, she has a legendary tumble to the ground.
27. “You get this round, I’m popping to the loo to spend a penny”
-Your turn to buy the drinks for the group, I need to go to the lav for a wee.
28. “What a plonker, he’s cutting his nose off to spite his face”
-What a jerk, he’s overreacting and will end up hurting himself more than the person his anger is aimed at.
29. “That pill0ck is galavanting around like he owns the bl00dy gaff”
-He looks so pleased with himself walking around pretending he owns the place, but he actually looks stupid
30. “Keep your trap shut Susan or it will turn into a right shambles”
-Keep your mouth shut and don't say a word or you will face some pretty serious consequences
31. “We had a right good chingwag on the blower, but Sally an’arf waffles on”
-We had a lovely chit chat on the telephone, however, Sally talks way too much. I couldn’t get a word in edgeways!
32. “He thought it was the bees-knees, but he’s made a right pigs ear out of it”
-He thought it was tots-amazeballs but in reality he made a huge disastrous mess.
33. “The hoover’s on the bl00dy blink again, looks like it’s gone for a burton”
-Our vacuum cleaner is broken, past the state of repair and we will have to get a new one.
34. “The cheeky blighter turned up smashed so I gave him the ol’ heave-ho”
-He is always getting drunk, I’ve had enough and we have broken up.
35. “I’ll give you a bunch of fives if you don't shut that cake hole”
-If you don't stop talking right this second, you are likely to get a punch.
Here’s a few more confusing tea and coffee slang phrases...
What is Coffee in Cockney Rhyming Slang?
Sticky toffee means coffee in cockney rhyming slang! Sticky toffee pudding is a fantastically sticky-sweet traditional English dessert sometimes called date pudding. Sometimes 'the phrase ‘in the pudding club’ means everybody! And when 'custard and jelly’ is said it actually means the ‘telly’!! Confused?
Is Tea Leaf Cockney Rhyming Slang?
When the phrase ‘tea leaf’ is said it doesn’t mean tea at all, it is actually cockney rhyming slang for ‘thief’!
Why is a Watch Called a Kettle in Cockney Rhyming Slang?
Confusingly a ‘watch’ is called a ‘kettle and hob’ or ‘kettle’ for short in cockney rhyming slang and the reason is because a fob watch was commonly worn. And fob rhymes with hob.
Read more: Is afternoon tea the same as high tea?
Do you have a favourite confusing saying? Leave a comment below and let me know!
Read More of my Blog Articles About British Tea Drinking Culture
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