Research article
Issue: № 3 (7), 2016


The article deals with new rhyming slang (Rh Sl) items that name new technological achievements and new means of communication that are connected with computerization and technical renovation. The authors pay attention to the way Rh Sl reacts to social, economic and technological innovations and mark some tendencies in Rh Sl development. Linguists have given rhyming slang due attention: the problems of interest cover both theoretical and applied aspects like the territorial and social differentiation of Rh Sl, the socio-cultural context of its functioning, the changes it undergoes and the new tendencies it develops, the functions it demonstrates (for instance the euphemistic function of disguising such addictions as alcoholism and drug-taking). Being a developing entity, Rh Sl cannot but react to the changes that take place in modern society, evolving new tendencies and being enriched with new items that need to be linguistically interpreted and lexicographically fixed. The new Rh Sl expressions analyzed in the article confirm the tendency to give preference to the pattern that exploits names of well-known, popular or fashionable people when forming new Rh Sl units.

Linguists have given rhyming slang (Rh Sl) and its functional peculiarities due attention. There is abundant literature devoted to rhyming slang including dictionaries, monographs, and articles. the problems of interest cover both theoretical and applied aspects like the territorial and social differentiation of Rh Sl, the socio-cultural context of its functioning, the changes it undergoes and the new tendencies it develops, the functions it demonstrates (for instance the euphemistic function of disguising such addictions as alcoholism and drug-taking, “hidden” or “implicit” forms of ethnic labels created within rhyming slang that conceal their offensive content due to their innocuous shape) [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7], [8], [9], [10], [11], [12], [13], [14], [18], [19], [20].

The given article sheds light on how Rh Sl reacts to social, economic and technological novelties, to sociocultural changes that in some way or other are linked to computerization and technical renovation of modern society. The new Rh Sl items that name new technological achievements are given a sociocultural description. The authors also register new tendencies in the development of rhyming slang.

We cannot imagine our life without new high-tech products or gadgets such as mobile phones and new communication forms. A glance at the new vocabulary items reveals a flaringly large number of scientific and technical terms, especially the terms brought to life by the development of computer technologies and the computerization of modern society. Unquestionably, computer technologies serve as a powerful source of new words. Not only professional computer users but dummies and those people who do not use computes are familiar with and use freely in conversation the computer terms like electronic virus, electronic office, CD-ROM, hard disk or Winchester and many others. the neologisms floppy disk (also called flexible disk), laptop, windows, workstation are in common usage today. Terms from other computerized spheres have also become current, e.g. home banking [see 15].

Science and technology make themselves known through numerous compound words and derivatives containing the word-building elements of Greek and Latin origin: cyber-, eco-, tele-, turbo-, video- as well as through the native word-building elements like –ware and some others. For example, cyberculture, eco-activity, eco-terrorism, eco-label, hardware as opposed to software. There is also wetware, bogusware, vapourware, etc. all the above given words with the word-building element–ware belong to the ‘Computer and computer technologies’ sector.

Both the computer and computer vocabulary have made their unceremonious and arrogant way into our life and have become part and parcel of everyday life. Being a developing entity, Rh Sl cannot but react to the socio-economic, cultural and other changes in modern society and is replenished among others with new items that name new technological achievements, new means of communication connected with computerization. There are a few ‘mechanistic’ and ‘technological’ rhymes not yet registered by the authoritative lexicographic sources [18], [19], e.g. Pistol and Shooter = Computer, Car and Scooter = Computer (as found in ‘Turn that car and scooter off”). Some of the rhymes have onomastic framework. the use of Rh Sl with an onomastic element enables the speaker to make a witty or ironic remark and lend an utterance a certain raciness, especially when the rhyming substitute is the name of a celebrity – that of a political figure, a statesman, a pop-star, a famous sportsman or a man of letters. [16]. Rh Sl researchers mark the preferable use of the pattern of forming new rhymes that exploits names of popular, famous or fashionable persons as a new trend in Rh Sl development. But if previously this tendency was indistinguishable, in the 1980-90s it overtook other tendencies to become dominant and to spawn numerous neologisms. At present, any well-known figure with an easily rhymed name is liable to become target at the rhyming slang proving ground. Any person with a sense of humour and a taste and liking for verbal play can, it seems, take part in the hunt for a striking rhyme. the 1980-90s saw the emergence of numerous onomastic rhymes like tony Blair(s)flares’ (bell-bottomed trousers), ‘flair’ (a special or instinctive aptitude or ability for doing something well) followed by new rhymes ‘chair’ (Sit On Your Tony) and ‘hair’; Claire Rayners trainers’ (I’ve got me new Claire Rayners on), Jeremy Beadleneedle’ (fit of nervousness, irritation, annoyance: He’s got the right Jeremy.), Camilla Parker Bowles (also Camilla Parker, or simply, Parker) ‘Rolls’ and many more [see 17].

Onomastic rhymes referring to the theme and subject matter under review include Obi Wan/Obi Wan Kenobi = mobi (mobile phone), Sharon/Sharon Stone = a (mobile) phone, Uncle Toby = moby (mobile phone), Harold Pinter = computer printer, Alan/Alan Minter = printer, Bernie Winter = printer, Alexei Sayle = e-mail, Jimmy Nail = e-mail and other. The given Rh Sl items are absent in the latest Rh Sl dictionaries [18], [19], [20], which testifies to their neological nature and the topicality of the raised problem. Therefore it appears justifiable to supply them with a brief lingual and sociocultural commentary.

The rhyme Obi-Wan Kenobi = mobi exploits the name of one of the most notable fictional characters in the Star Wars saga who is one of only four characters to appear in all six Star Wars films. Obi-Wan Kenobi is portrayed in the original trilogy by Alec Guinness and in the prequel trilogy by Ewan McGregor. The rhyme Obi Wan Kenobi is reduced in customary usage to Obi Wan: Call me on me Obi Wan.

The rhyme Sharon/Sharon Stone = a (mobile) phone is formed from the name of the US film actress who is known for being sexually attractive. The actress gained international recognition for her role in the erotic thriller Basic Instinct. The rhyme Sharon Stone is reduced in customary usage to Sharon: No worries china give us buzz on the Sharon.

It is most probable that the rhyme Uncle Toby was motivated by a funny beer mug Toby-jug in the form of a fat old man wearing a three-cornered hat. People sometimes collect toby jugs because some are worth a lot of money. Since Uncle Toby is a neologism it is tempting to explain the origin of the rhyme by the popularity of Australian breakfast cereal Uncle Tobys. The trade name was first mentioned in 1892.

we find it interesting to point that the pattern “Uncle + Name” is highly productive in Rh Sl. Our card-file contains more than two dozens of ‘uncles’ immortalized in Rh Sl: Uncle Ben = ten; Uncle Bert = a shirt; Uncle Bertie = shirty; Uncle Billy = chilly; Uncle Bob = knob, the penis, to name but a few. Uncle Fester = child molester, Uncle Gus = bus, Uncle Reg = Veg, and Uncle Toby in this list are the neologisms that joined ‘the family of uncles’ in the XXI century!

The rhyme Harold Pinter is based on the name of the English playwright, poet, director, actor and public figure who in 2005 was awarded Nobel prize in literature. His best works include The Birthday Party and The Caretaker. Pinter was known for showing the misunderstanding and problems of communication in ordinary social situations. It is of interest to note that the rhyme Harold Pinter has an earlier correlate “splinter” that originated in the 1960s.

The rhyme Alan/Alan Minter for printer is motivated by the name of an English boxer who fought for Great Britain in the early 1970s. Minter was the Munich Olympiad bronze winner. The rhyme Alan Minter is reduced in customary usage: Looks like the paper has got jammed in the Alan again!

The rhyme Bernie Winter for printer is probably motivated by the name of an English comedian Bernie Winters who started his artistic career together with his elder brother Mike Winters. Bernie Winter often performed with his pet St. Bernard dog Schnorbitz.

The name of an English stand up comedian, actor and author Alexei Sayle that underlies the rhyme and stands for e-mail is an apt name indeed as the man is known for having Internet dependence. The rhyme is not shortened in customary usage: Send us an Alexei Sayle later on with the details.

The rhyme Jimmy Nail for e-mail is motivated by the name of a British singer, musician, producer and writer Jimmy Nail whose real name is James Michael Aloysius Bradford. the rhyme turned out in great demand in Rh Sl and besides e-mail denotes: 1) a mail; 2) hell; 3) jail; 4) sale, and 5) stale!

Our card-file contains two more rhymes for e-mail - British Rail and Holy Grail (Send us a holy). British Rail is the national railway system in the UK set up in 1947, which used to be owned by government. The Holy Grail is the cup believed to have been used by Jesus at the Last Supper, just before his death. According to old stories, it had magical powers and was searched for by King Arthur’s Knights, and finally found by Sir Galahad.

We have characterized a number of new Rh Sl units pertaining to the ‘computer and computer technologies’ theme. The units analyzed confirm the tendency to give preference to the pattern that exploits names of well-known, popular or fashionable people when forming new Rh Sl units. Some of the rhymes have not yet been registered by the authoritative lexicographic sources. Outside the framework of the article are some Rh Sl units that have to do with the use of the Internet and social network. They deserve to be tackled in a special research and can be the subject matter of a new article.



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