Now Tower Hamlets wants East End’s Cockney rhyming slang preserved

15:23 19 July 2012

Dr Sue Fox on the Cockney dialect

Dr Sue Fox on the Cockney dialect


Moves have started for the traditional cockney language of London’s East End—and the rhyming slang that goes with it—to be preserved and recognised as a dialect of English.

A campaign was launched today in the official Pearly kings and queens’ rub-a-dub, or pub, by Tower Hamlets Council with the Olympics on its doorstep.

The council rolled in Dr Sue Fox from the University of London’s Queen Mary College up the frog-and-toad (road) in Mile End to explain its origins following her academic study of the cockney accent and origin, which is being published in September.

“Cockney has undergone more rapid change in the last five decades than any time in its long history,” she said at the launch. “That’s not surprising, given the vast social and economic redevelopment of the traditional dialect area of east London.”

London’s traditional Pearly kings and queens were also brought into the campaign as part of the Town Hall’s bid to put the cockney East End back on the world map now it’s playing host to the 2012 Games.

Mayor Lutfur Rahman told the assembled international media: “There are 126 languages officially spoken in our schools—but in reality the 127th Cockney is probably the biggest of all, even though it’s not on the census form.

“Kids born in families speaking Bengali or Somali at home end up speaking ‘wiv’ a cockney accent.”

Cockney was one of the distinctive characteristics that help define the East End, he explained, along with jellied eels, pie’n’mash and fish’n’chips.

Lutfur, who was actually born in Bangladesh, came to Britain at the age of four and claims to have been adopted by the cockney culture.

“Hundreds of dialects die off in the world every year,” he added. “But luckily cockney which has contributed so much to modern English is not likely to be on Unesco’s list on endangered languages any time soon.”

The launch was not trying to preserve a “fossilised” cockney in formaldehyde—it was being lubricated with pig’s ear (beer) at today’s Carpenter’s Arms launch in Cambridge Heath Road with the Pearly kings and queens carrying the torch for cockney culture while welcoming the world to the East End for the Olympics.

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