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Brits learn the meaning of Kate Mossed!

A new book in Britain is steering readers through a baffling conversational code, evolving in the country for hundreds of years.

india Updated: Nov 09, 2006 13:51 IST

Feeling Kate Mossed? Fancy a Britney down at the Battle? Well go easy on the Paul Wellers or you could Wallace and Gromit.

For those wondering why Brits have suddenly become as baffling as Martians speaking in tongues, help is at hand.

A new book reveals all and Duncan Black, who helped to compile Shame About the Boat Race -- Modern Guide to Rhyming Slang steers readers through a baffling conversational code that has been evolving in Britain for hundreds of years.

"It started as the language of thieves in the 16th to 18th centuries where it had its roots. But it was first fully formed in the 19th century and became known as the language of market traders in the East End of London," Black said.

Everyone familiar with Cockney rhyming slang knows that "Have A Butcher's" stands for "Butcher's Hook -- Have A Look."

Today's version of Cockney grew out of the London lingo of 19th century market traders, richly depicted in the play My Fair Lady, into a slang now based on today's cult of celebrity.

"The whole point of rhyming slang is to obfuscate what you are saying. You can exclude people from a conversation and say the unsayable," Duncan told Reuters in an interview to mark the book's publication.

And rhyming slang is not just for retro-gangsters in B movies about working class London or class conscious posh people seeking a little street cred.

"It is alive and well and used by people down at the pub. Pick a celebrity, rhyme it with something and maybe it will take off down the pub, be picked up on the internet or be heard on the radio," Black said.

Black, who with a team from Collins dictionaries monitored its database of popular words to come up with 300 examples of rhyming slang, loves the shifting sands of language.

"It twists and turns and is as slippery as an eel," he said, explaining that Shame About the Boat Race was rhyming slang for shame about the face.

Steering bewildered readers through the linguistic minefield, Black said Kate Mossed rhymed with lost, Britney Spears stands for beers and Battle Cruiser means boozer or pub.

The singer Paul Weller rhymes with Stella Artois beer and the graphic Wallace and Gromit is animated character shorthand for vomit.