Steven in Cavendish, Vermont, remembers this saying from his Cockney grandfather: There I was on the dog and bone, with me mate Charlie, when my trouble and strife took a tumble on the apples and pears, and I couldn’t Adam and Eve it. It’s a bit of Cockney rhyming slang that translates as “There I was on the phone, with my friend Charlie, when my wife took a tumble on the stairs, and I couldn’t believe it.” Such slang has been around since the mid-19th century, and has spawned further slang terms: apples can mean “stairs,” apple-dancing means “to steal from multi-story buildings.” By extension, the word fruit can mean “stairs,” as can oranges and lemons. In addition to trouble and strife for “wife,” there’s also joy of my life, or simply joy. Another bit of rhyming slang for “trouble” is Barney, short for Barney Rubble. Often used among the criminal underclass, rhyming slang is intended to be difficult for outsiders to understand. In French back slang, the word femme for “woman” becomes meuf.

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