Here’s something I’ve never seen before.
Last month, Canadian singer Bryan Adams and his girlfriend welcomed their second baby girl, Lula RosyLea. Lula’s middle name is a reference to her time of birth, as per this tweet by Adams:
Lula Rosylea arrived @ teatime this wk. a cup of ‘rosie lee’ = ‘cup of tea’ in cockney. Lula comes from Gene Vincent’s song Be-Bop-A-Lula
This is the first baby I know of to be named via Cockney rhyming slang.
What’s Cockney rhyming slang? It involves word substitution based on rhyme. Typically, a word in a sentence is replaced with a rhyming phrase, and then the rhyming part of the phrase is dropped. This makes the resulting sentence hard for those not in-the-know to understand.
Here’s an example: “Use your loaf.” It’s really “use your head,” but the phrase loaf of bread was used instead of head, and then loaf of bread was shortened to just loaf. Hence, “use your loaf.” Get it?
Speaking of bread, if you’ve ever heard people use the slang word bread to mean money, that’s CRS too. Money rhymes with the old expression bread and honey, which shortens to bread.
So that’s how Bryan Adams turned tea into Rosie Lee, which is a common CRS rhyme for tea. (And now, if you’re ever in London and someone asks you if you want a cup of Rosie, you’ll know what they’re talking about!) “Rosie Lee” refers to American burlesque performer Gypsy Rose Lee (1911-1970).
I thought this was a rather cool way to come up with a baby name, so I’ve collected a few dozen other well-known CRS rhymes that involve names. On the left you’ll find the original word, in the middle is the name/phrase substitution, and on the right is the shortened version.
- back – rhymes with Cilla Black – shortens to Cilla
- ball – rhymes with Albert Hall – shortens to Albert
- belly – rhymes with Darby Kelly – shortens to Darby
- brake – rhymes with Veronica Lake – shortens to Veronica
- cake – rhymes with Sexton Blake – shortens to Sexton
- coat – rhymes with Billy goat – shortens to Billy
- curry – rhymes with Ruby Murray – shortens to Ruby (if these parents had had a girl instead of a boy, Ruby would have been a great option)
- door – rhymes with Rory O’Moore – shortens to Rory
- fairy – rhymes with Julian Clairy – shortens to Julian
- fish – rhymes with Lillian Gish – shortens to Lillian
- gin – rhymes with Anne Boleyn – shortens to Ann
- gin – rhymes with Vera Lynn – shortens to Vera
- ice – rhymes with Vincent Price – shortens to Vincent
- kettle – rhymes with Hansel and Gretel – shortens to Hansel
- lisp – rhymes with Quentin Crisp – shortens to Quentin
- mess – rhymes with Elliot Ness – shortens to Elliot
- neck – rhymes with Gregory Peck – shortens to Gregory
- old man (father) – rhymes with Peter Pan – shortens to Peter
- rail – rhymes with Toby Ale – shortens to Toby
- Stella (brand of beer) – rhymes with Yuri Geller – shortens to Yuri
- Stella – rhymes with Nelson Mandela – shortens to Nelson
- table – rhymes with Betty Grable – shortens to Betty
- tea – rhymes with Bruce Lee – shortens to Bruce
- tea – rhymes with Kiki Dee – shortens to Kiki
- tea – rhymes with Rosie Lee – shortens to Rosie
- telly – rhymes with Liza Minnelli – shortens to Liza (e.g., “What’s on the Liza?”)
- trouble – rhymes with Barney Rubble – shortens to Barney
- 2:2 (lower second-class honors) – rhymes with Desmond Tutu – shortens to Desmond
- undies – rhymes with Eddie Grundies – shortens to Eddie
- wedding – rhymes with Otis Redding – shortens to Otis
I think Darby (for “belly”) might be an especially tempting one baby namers, no? :)
Bryan’s first baby girl, Mirabella Bunny, was born last Easter.
Sources: @bryanadams, February 14, 2013, Cockney Rhyming Slang
Update, 12/29/16: A reader named Sam recently told me about the Complete Dictionary of Cockney Rhyming Slang, which contains a bunch more names — like Errol Flynn for “chin,” and Euan Blair for “Leicester Square.” Enjoy!