Baz has written in asking a question that we’ve been asked a couple of times before about slang in Only Fools and Horses.
“Could you please tell me what does the ‘Toby’ mean in cockney rhyming as I heard it said in an Only Fools and Horses episode.
Why do we say toby for road?
Delboy gave Rodney the keys to the van and turned around to Uncle Albert and said Come on Albert we’ll take the Toby home.”
The episode was called from Prussia with Love. I’ve only ever heard it once.
“Toby” means “road” in this context, but it isn’t rhyming slang. It seems to come from about 1811. It is derived from the language of Irish travellers who use the word “tober” to mean road.
Another related expression is the toby meaning highway robbery. High toby meaning highway robbery on horseback. Low toby meaning highway robbery on foot.
In The Flash Dictionary, a dictionary of London slang published in 1811, there is an entry Captain tober, which is defined as “the first rate of highwaymen.”
It defines High tober as “the highest order of thieves that rob on the high road, well dressed and mounted on fine horses, always to be found in the most genteel company”.
Ride the toby or ply the toby meaning practice highway robbery. There are many other related expressions centring around highway robbery. But Delboy, we think, is simply referring to the road.