Finding the #Write #Words? No.6 A Dictionary of Rhyming Slang

Continuing the description of books on words in the list given in post 1, which you’ll find here.

Book 6: A Dictionary of Rhyming Slang, by Julian Franklyn.

On with the info.

Paperback, 200 pages. It was published by Routledge & Kegan Paul in 1960 (yes, really!); my version is a reprint from 1981. Original cost was £4.95, and the 1975 edition (the one I have) is currently available new at £30.53, or as a used book at around £2.20.

There are a few illustrations (uncredited) to amuse.

The words are presented in alphabetical order (it is, after all, a dictionary) with the rhyming slang given in bold font and the meaning given in italics followed by information about origins and other interesting stuff.

I bought it out of interest coupled with a very occasional need to understand a few fairly obscure examples of the vernacular employed by friends and neighbours when resident not far from London (the major, though by no means exclusive, source of this peculiar linguistic affectation) in Colchester, Essex.


jam-jar (1) Tramcar, (2) motor-car. (1) was the original late 19C. meaning which, during the first decade of 20C. became displaced into (2). In the R.A.F. during the second war, an armoured car was meant. See also JAR OF…

jam-tart (1) Sweetheart, (2) mart. The term arises in mid-19C., and from its restricted use to describe one’s own particular ‘best girl’, it was extended to include all girls and young women. It is one of the few rhyming slang terms to be reduced to its second element instead of its first. Its second meaning mart was originally applied to (or on) the Stock Exchange, and the fusion of the two had the effect of implying immorality to a girl or woman described as a ‘tart’. This word is used by all ages, both sexes, and in every social class, hence it is almost a colloquialism. Among boys and young men the word generally means simply ‘girl’ with no reflection on her morality. When immoral women make use of the word they are often doing so in order to be ‘tough’ and express contempt for their respectable sisters. Used by respectable, middle-aged, and particularly married women, the word carries an inference of immorality, and is strongly tinctured with spite.’

Of course, the book, its language and the underlying moral sense, are all of their time. People and words have moved on since 1975, and, in UK at any rate, ‘tart’ is now almost entirely used in its pejorative form, and a wise man or woman would be very careful how it was employed, if at all!


Students learning the English Language will find a useful site on pronunciation here. And there’s a friendly group on Facebook, which you’ll find here.

Post 2 is here, post 3 here, post 4 here, and post 5 here.