Keith and I have had to invent our own language to keep us from trouble with our captors. It leans more to Piccadilly Polari than it does rhyming slang, having a mixture of other languages, backwards words and our own stuff we’ve nicked from books, but it does borrow from both codes.
We don’t use any original rhyming slang because it’s too well known, and we don’t like the idea of inventing new rhymes using modern words because it’s cheap and nasty, like the Estuary Slang used by arseholes in offices everywhere. “It’s all gone Pete Tong.” I mean. Dear me.
One aspect of Cockney Rhyming Slang we like and attempt to emulate, is the way it sometimes develops and morphs into other words. For example, bottle and glass was the original rhyme for arse, or for our American viewers, ass. That soon became just bottle, as often happens, but then for some reason it became Aristotle, presumably because it rhymes with bottle, but then from there, Aristotle was shortened to Aris, so that the “disguised” word skirts dangerously close to that which it is trying to hide.
Well wouldn’t that be a challenge to a pair of naughties like us?
We started with Sweet and Sour, our personal jailer-cum-housekeeper. Sweet and Sour isn’t rhyming slang for anything, but, as I recall, we gave him the name because it perfectly encapsulated the way his foul and noxious odor mingled with the overbearingly cloying fragrance of the economy soap he used to mask it.
It was soon shortened to Sweet, from where it went to Complete and from there, we had a spell where we added really naughty words to Complete. For a while it settled on the extremely rude word for a lady’s pudendum. And though we enjoyed the irony of using an utterly foul expletive as a means of disguising a far less offensive name, it soon sounded like we were just gratuitously calling him something obnoxious. So, dropping the Complete, but keeping the bad word, we added, Smelly. Then, just kept the Smelly part, so that in the end, the word we used to speak in code about his pungency, was Smelly. But that’s not the funny part.
So that he doesn’t know, we’ve dropped the Sme and now we call him Lee. And guess what? He heard us the other day and he said, ‘How come you know my name?’
Lee, Leo, Lev, we have unwittingly lionized him, as his mother had tried to; and whereas before, he was a figure of fun, we are now scared of the mighty beast.