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The meaning and origin of the expression: Trouble and strife

Trouble and strife

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What's the meaning of the phrase 'Trouble and strife'?

'Trouble and strife' is an English slang term for wife.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Trouble and strife'?

The phrase 'Trouble and strife' - meaning and origin.
These Pearly King and Queen cockneys look fairly
content with their partners. Not what you might expect
of your 'Trouble and strife'.

It probably won't come as a surprise that 'trouble-and-strife' originated as Cockney rhyming slang.

It's rather ironic that, for a community who claim close bonds of kinship and that nothing is more important to them than 'faimlee', Cockneys chose a familial insult as one of the best-known rhyming slangs.

it's also a little surprising that the earliest known use of trouble-and-strife in print meant 'life' rather than 'wife'. That's found in in the 'Doss Chiderdoss' column in the Sporting Times, 1908:

I shouted, 'Your "bees", or your "trouble and strife!' Like the hero in 'Highwayman Harry'.

That little line is something of a historical record in itself and merits some deciphering...

The phrase 'Trouble and strife' - meaning and origin.The Sporting Times was an English newspaper devoted to horse racing and, printed on salmon pink paper, was known as The Pink Un. The writer A R Marshall, known as 'the poet of the Pink Un' used the pen name Doss Chiderdoss.

Highwayman Harry was 'Black Harry' a notorious robber who worked the routes across Derbyshire in the early 18th century. He would have used the famous highwayman's proclamation "Your money or your life".

Marshall changed this for comic effect and in doing so co-opted two Cockney Rhyming Slangs. The 'bees' was CRS for money - 'bees and honey'. Trouble and strife was clearly being used as a synonym for life.

It isn't know if anyone of Harry's victims replied with the equally well-known comic reply "Take my life, I'm savings for my holidays'.

See other Cockney rhyming slang.

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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