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The meaning and origin of the expression: Jimmy Riddle

Jimmy Riddle

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What's the meaning of the phrase 'Jimmy Riddle'?

Urinate. Jimmy Riddle = piddle.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Jimmy Riddle'?

Cockney rhyming slang. The term is mentioned in Partridge's A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, 1937, where it is listed as being 'late 19th century'. Many rhyming slang terms that refer to names derive from real people - the celebrities of their day. A recent (1980s) example is a 'desmond' (a second-class degree - a 2:2, derived from Desmond Tutu). From the late 19th century we have 'on your tod', which refers to the American jockey 'Tod' (James) Sloan.

It's unlikely that Jimmy Riddle was a real person. If he was, it would be surprising if he was well enough known to have had a phrase coined in his honour but for any records of his existence to be now missing. Several 'Jimmy' phrases were coined in the 19th century; for example,

- Jimmy Grant (immigrant/emigrant)
- Jimmy Ducks - a sailor in charge of livestock onboard ship. This is a similar coinage to that of a character working in the prison kitchens in the BBC comedy Porridge - 'Luke Warm'.
- Jimmy Woods - someone who drinks alone.
- Jimmy O'Goblin - a sovereign.

These use the name Jimmy as a generic man's name - much as Londoners and others now use John, and that's probably how 'Jimmy Riddle' derived too.

Gary Martin - the author of the website.

By Gary Martin

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

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