Why Barnets?

The word is not a name but part of an old English language that actually means HAIR.

Cockney Rhyming Slang has been used by sailors and dock workers in the East End of London since the sixteenth century. Their rhyming was in fact a code that allowed them to talk to each other without the local constabulary or port authorities understanding their conversation. The language gradually moved into the local community and was picked up by the market traders and towns folk. It spread to the Irish and Jewish neighborhoods of London and then further afield by gypsies. Today, the language is still widely used and growing but to be considered a true Cockney, one must have been born within the sound of Bow Bells, a well known church called St. Mary-le-Bow.

Here’s how it works.

A word is replaced by a phrase that rhymes with the word. Often the phrase was then abbreviated, so…

Eyes – mince pies. “She had beautiful mincers.”

Gym – Fatboy slim. “I’m going down the fatboy.”

Head – loaf of bread. “Don’t just stand there, use your loaf!”

Feet – plates of meat. “Ooh! me plates are killing me.”

Hat – tit for tat. “lovely titfer.” This one uses the first two words probably because lovely tit proved awkward!

Hair – Barnet Fair. “She must be going out. She’s had her barnet done.”