A few days ago I wrote about the tragic story of James Sloan who was born in dreadful poverty, abandoned by his parents and lived on the streets, who rose to fame and huge fortune through his brilliance as a jockey, and then fell back to the poverty from which he had come, dying alone from cirrhosis of the liver. He asserted that his middle name was Todhunter, and he became Tod Sloan, which then through rhyming slang came to be Tod Sloan – on your own, to on your tod which means alone.
Rhyming slang comes from London, from the cockneys, who would replace an ordinary word or phrase with a rhyme of it, and then use it instead of the original. Was it just fun – because a lot of the terms are comical, was it a way of talking in code, or was it a way of using rude or obscene language by replacing the words with something harmless? or do all three of those ideas play a part in rhyming slang?
While I was looking up all about ‘on your tod’ I came across another couple of similar examples meaning to be alone – on your jack and on your pat. On your pat is the Australian version; Londoners who were transported to places like Australia at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth century, took their slang with them. On your pat comes from ‘on your Pat Malone’ – on your own; apparently the first note of it was in 1907, and it may have come from a popular song at the time called ‘Paddy Malone in Australia’. The story of the song which was written by Banjo Patterson, is of an Irish immigrant to Australia who fell on hard times before returning to Ireland. Maybe he was the Pat Malone of the saying. It seems that the two versions, on your tod and on your pat are sometimes conflated to produce ‘on your Tod Sloan’.
So, on your tod and on your pat… now who was Jack Jones of on your jack fame?