“It’s parky,” J. said while our dogs sniffed each other in the middle of the empty road.
I must’ve looked as blank as I was.
“You don’t know what I’m talking about, do you?” he asked.
I hadn’t even thought to say so. That’s how blank I was.
“Haven’t a clue.”
“Parky in the mold. Cold. “
I managed to say, “Oh.” Then I managed to say “I need a translator.” I didn’t manage to ask what parky was, or what it had to do with a mold. I understand just enough about rhyming slang to know that the phrases aren’t nonsense sounds—they mean something—so it would’ve made sense to ask.
If you haven’t heard of rhyming slang, here’s the five-second summary: It started in the mid-nineteenth century, in east London. One theory claims it was used by thieves as a more or less secret language and another says it started as a game. A third says it was a way of reinforcing neighborhood solidarity. Whatever the origin, it works like this: You take a word and find a phrase that rhymes with it: stairs with apples and pears. Then you drop the word that actually rhymes and say, “I’m going up the apples.” And you leave your clueless friend standing in the middle of the road with her jaw hanging open while the dogs sniff each other.
J. and I said goodbye and he promised to clue me in to a few phrases so I can respond to them and make people think, Ooh, she knows what it’s about.
Although clearly I don’t.