Cockney Rhyming Slang is alive and kicking as the film “It’s all gone Pete Tong” is released on Friday, telling the fictional story of a legendary DJ’s battle with deafness. The phrase (for those who don’t know) means “It’s all gone wrong” and has managed the rare achievement for rhyming slang of going mainstream, ensuring its longevity.
Would you Adam ‘n’ Eve it? A whistle and pop DJ’s name has only gone and shown it’s one of the Mae West-known examples of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by providing the title of a new film. (Translation: a top DJ’s name has proved it’s one of the best-known examples of Cockney rhyming slang by becoming a film title.)
Most new rhyming slang is based on celerbrity Names, but many of it’s users will probably not know who Pete Tong is! Music Week magazine recently described it as the “all-conquering phrase that somehow seemed to sum it all up at certain points of the 90s”. Pete Tong himself has said it featured in music fanzines as far back as the late 1980s.
RHYMING SLANG BY NAME
Britney Spears – beers
Claire Rayners – trainers
Ayrton Senna – tenner
Lionel Blairs – flares
Alan Whickers – knickers
Ruby Murray – curry
Tod Sloane – On your tod (all alone)
Jonathon Green, author of Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang, believes the earliest example is the 19th Century boxer Jem Mace, whose name became slang for face.
“Britney Spears” for beers and “Posh and Becks” for sex are among the latest examples. But some slang terms have long outlived the celebrity of the star who inspired it. Curry is referred to as “Ruby Murray”, a Belfast singer popular in the 1950s, and “on your tod” is after the US jockey Tod Sloane, who was successful 100 years ago.
So could it all go Pete Tong for the slang phrase which became a film?
“The test will be whether people are still using it when he has long hung up his decks, and we cannot tell that yet,” says Mr Green. “Britney Spears meaning ‘beers’ is never going to last the time that ‘apples and pears’ (stairs) has. I would not imagine that in 10 years, let alone 110, ‘Posh and Becks’ will mean anything.”
As for the man behind the slang, what does the superstar DJ make of the phrase coined in his honour?
“It often gets shouted at me in the street, especially lately. It’s a weird and wonderful thing,” says Pete Tong. “I don’t use it myself – I leave that to other people. I have been known to say, ‘It’s all gone Jimmy Savile’ though.”