Monday, January 17, 2005

scouse rhyming slang

'Whaoh there' I cry to my metaphoric trusty dusty stallion as we end our gallop back into cyberspace, I dismount, tether him to the post by the trough and swagger in to resume my blogularity.

For yes, I've had several days away from the online world, in Liverpool and in loco parentis for my nieces whilst my brother and his girlfriend sodded off for a long weekend.

It was certainly peculiar to hear the announcement that Busted have split up whilst being in a place where it really matters. And despite any rumours to the contrary, it's an unusual weekend that sees me playing Twister with seven year old girls and making Flintstones choc-chip mini-muffins.

When I was growing up back over there on Merseyside, we didn't really go in for rhyming slang. However, one term was in common parlance yet I rarely find anyone from outside the Liverpool area who's familiar with it. It is, to my knowledge, the only example of scouse rhyming slang.

'Bills', meaning underpants: 'Bill Grundys'.

Whilst being biggest on the old rhyming May (May Pang = slang), for 'underpants' Cockneys use the term 'beetles' (beetles and ants).

Now, it was the 1980s and 90s when me and my mates were using the term 'bills'. The small minority of us who knew who Bill Grundy was only knew it from punk history, we were all too young to actually remember him from the Sex Pistols incident, and we'd never heard of him being anywhere else. Yet there we all were, using 'bills' and 'billies' without even consciously thinking of it as slang.

This wouldn't be worthy of note, except that the words keep cropping up in other contexts and making me laugh, which unnerves and/or baffles those around me. First off there's the use of 'billy' to mean amphetamines (derived from Billy Whizz. The term that is, not the amphetamines).

'He stuck a load of billy up his nose and then stayed up all night juggling ashtrays and gurning' has a wholly different meaning if you understand 'billy' to mean 'underpant'.

But far funnier are the instances where the term 'bills' is used.

Are your bills getting too big too handle?

Sign up today and you'll receive no bills for 12 months!

Need an affordable way out of your Christmas bills?

Deal with all your bills from only 50 pounds a month!

Is your mail just bills, bills and more bills?


The cheap laugh it provides is one of the few things that makes advertising momentarily bearable for me. However, it always entails a lengthy explanation to any companions by the end of which, as with any explanation of humour, it's not actually funny any more.

Curiously, Australians have their own TV presenter Grundy, a guy called Reg. So, in Australia, one's bills are referred to as Reg's or Reginald's.

One source gives contemporary Cockney underwear slang as Eddie Grundies. The same place also lists Reg Grundies, which is peculiar as nobody in the UK has really heard of the guy.

Now the term bills is in your head you too have the benefit of the semi-smutty amusement, shackled to the burden having to explain it to anyone with you who's not a scouser. Sorry about that.

1 comment:

j3mida said...

Heh, i like your post .. all the scousers i know use loads of rhyming slang these days .. when i was growing up in 70's / 80's cheshire, we used to call undies grundys .. i never knew why .. when neighbors started being shown on british tv i'd always get a smile when the grundy logo came up at the end of the credits .. anyways that solves a little m,ystery from my childhood. p.s. i never heard anyone call em 'bills'