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A for ‘orses

Mr Jo Hunter writes (Oct 2008)

Dear Sir, I remember a strange sort of alphabet that started ‘A for ‘orses’, followed by ‘B for mutton, C for miles’. Would anyone know how it continues?

Jo Hunter, (Mrs), St Peter’s Road.


Stephen Gray writes (Nov 2008)

Dear Sir, I can help Mrs Jo Hunter (letters – October 2008 edition) with the rest of the strange alphabet that she could only remember the start of. One of the regular performers at folk clubs in the 1960s (including the one held on Sundays, upstairs in the Lord Nelson in Hastings Old Town) was The Chap Man, a reference to the sellers of sheet music from the music halls. I can’t remember his real name, but he was a tutor at the London School of Printing and sold reproductions of Victorian and Edwardian ephemera. One of these was The Cockney Alphabet, as follows (read it out loud and all becomes clear): A for ‘orses. B for mutton. C for yourself. D for dumb. E for brick. F for vescent. G for police. I for lutin’. J for oranges. K for a cupper. L for leather. M for sis. N for eggs. O for a pee. P for a penny. Q for a pee. R for mo. S for Williams. T for two. U for me. V for la France. W for a quid. X for breakfast. Y for girlfriend. Z for ‘is ‘at. There is of course no H in the Cockney alphabet because it is always dropped. C forth ‘ighlanders  (Seaforth Highlanders) was an alternative to ‘see for yourself’ and S for Williams (Esther Williams) was obviously a 1940s version, referring to the Olympic swimmer turned film star; I remember hearing S for Rantzen more recently.

Stephen Gray, Old Penny School House, Magdalen Rd.


Tom Burley writes (Nov 2008)

Dear Sir, Jo Hunter’s ‘strange alphabet’ is called the Cockney Alphabet. In the 1930s, the comedy double act Clapham and Dwyer recorded the following version: A for orses (hay for horses), B for mutton (beef or mutton), C for th highlanders (Seaforth Highlanders), D for ential (deferential), E for Adam (Eve or Adam), F for vescence (effervescence), G for police (Chief of police), H for respect (age for respect), I for Novello (Ivor Novello), J for oranges (Jaffa oranges), K for ancis, (Kay Francis, or K for undressing), L for leather (Hell for leather), M for sis (emphasis), N for adig (infradig), O for the garden wall (over the garden wall), P for a penny (pee for a penny), Q for a song (cue for a song), or Q for billiards (cue for billiards), R for mo (half a mo), S for you (its for you), T for two (tea for two), U for films (UFA films), V for La France (Vive La France), W for a bob (double you for a bob), X for breakfast (eggs for breakfast), Y for Gawds sake (why, for Gods sake), Z for breezes (zephyr breezes).

Tom Burley, Warwickshire.


Felicity Bell writes (Nov 2008)

Dear Sir, I can supply the rest of Mrs Jo Hunter’s ‘strange alphabet’. A for ‘orses, Gardner, ism (aphorism). B for mutton, Brook (Beaverbrook), honey. C for sailors, ships, miles, yourself. D for payment (defer), judgement (defer), ence (difference), salmon (river Dee), Kate. E for brick, Adam, Bartok, got (‘e forgot), or (either or), you do or you don’t. F for vescence (or vest), yours, green. G for police, get it!, goodness sake! H for beauty (age ‘fore), innocence, road (Edgware Road), himself (each), money, power, adventure (itch). I for Novello, an eye, a pretty girl, lutin’ (high-faluting), industry (hive of), good mind, got, hangover. J for oranges (Jaffa). K for ancis (Kay Francis), teria (cafeteria), a drink (care for). L for leather, sinners, bet (alphabet). M for sis (or size). N for a dig, a red rays, mation, a penny, lope, eggs, mary (infirmary). O for a drink, the wings of a dove, goodness sake, a mansion in the sky (hymn), and over, arm, board, night, the hill, the garden wall, the top, the rainbow, one’s shoulder, done, there, to you, we go, etc. P for a penny, soup, ated (perforated). Q for everything, the dole, the bus, fish and chips, etc, billiards (cue), gardens (Kew). R for mo, crown, pint, loaf, etc, and his knights, (Arthur), Askey, mometer (our). S for you, instance, anto (Esperanto). T for two, mouf, golf (tee). U for cheek, mystic, knee (euphony), bloody nerve, me, atees (Euphrates). V for la France!, la difference, voce, victory. W for a shilling, tune (double your fortune). X for breakfast, horror. Y for mistress, crying out loud, Gawd’s sake, the love of Mike. Z for breezes (Zephyr), effect (said for), the doctor (send for – zed for de doctor, I hab a code in de dose).

Felicity Bell, Redmayne Drive.


Thanks also to Roberta Joly of Redmayne Drive, David Snazell of St Paul’s Court and Tim McDonald of Linton Road for their lists, which confirmed the above versions – ed.

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