Filmed in 1900 and released 1903, this film directed by Clément Maurice, shows the English performer Little Tich performing his famous ‘Big Boot Dance’.
Born Harry Relph, Little Tich was a 4 foot 6 inch (137 cm) tall English music hall comedian and dancer best known for his seemingly gravity-defying routine accomplished by the wearing of boots with soles 28 inches (71 cm) long. Originally gaining fame as a “blackface” artist, promoters on his 1887 U.S. tour made him drop the act (fearing the British accent would ruin the “illusion”) and so in its place Little Tich developed and perfected his Big Boot Dance, a full 100 years before Michael Jackson would lean in similar fashion for his “Smooth Criminal” music video. Returning to England in the 1890s, Little Tich made his West End debut in the Drury Lane pantomimes and toured Europe before setting up his own theatre company in 1895. He continued to star in popular shows until his death from a stroke in 1928 at the age of 60.
There are fears Cockney rhyming slang will die out ‘within 20 years’ if no action is taken
When Andy Green was born in London’s East End in the 1950s, Cockney rhyming slang was still in its heyday.
But the 62-year-old, self-described ‘minor celebrity from a micro niche’, says Cockney will die out within 20 years unless we act to preserve its relevance – which is why he started ‘Speak Cockney Day’.
Andy is passionate that our sense of identity, including where we are from, helps to define who we are, and wants to promote the importance of nurturing the Cockney dialect to maintain its relevance.
The proud East-ender, who grew up in Balfron Tower social housing in Poplar, Tower Hamlets, and has written two books about London, has set out a seven-step manifesto to save his beloved East End lingo.
As well as getting London celebs on board, the manifesto includes promoting Cockney’s cultural inclusivity, maintaining its relevance to young people, and getting London’s museums and institutions to take part.
The construction of rhyming slang involves replacing a common word with a phrase of two or more words, the last of which rhymes with the original word; for example, ‘apples and pears’ for ‘stairs’, or ‘bees and honey’ for ‘money’.
It is thought villains invented the dialect so the police wouldn’t understand them.
In almost all cases they would omit the second word of the phrase, so the rhyming word would be implied to listeners in the know, while eluding those who weren’t.