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.
This is why he hopes to get East-Endcelebrity figures such as Adele, Russell Brand, Michael Caine, Danny Dyer and Madness’ lead singer Suggs on board with promoting its continued use.
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.
Although I brought my kids up to know their British heritage, and apparently we did a lot of things that weren’t typically American, I never once chided them for using Americanisms. OK, (just in case they’re reading), I did go a bit full-on making sure they said “Please”, which quite a few Americans seem to omit. (Calm down, I’m not saying anyone’s necessarily rude, but I’ve done unscientific surveys on it and the actual word is often absent.)
Anyway, I’ve never understood Brits in the USA who insist on using their British English vocabulary and worse, get annoyed or sneer when Americans don’t understand them. As Rob Lowe illustrates here, some British words are so different from American English that no one would stand a chance if they were trying to guess the meaning.
Trainers – I suppose an educated guess here might yield results since these shoes were originally designed for exercise, but I knew never to use it in the US anyway. Interestingly, despite the plethora of American words that cross the Pond every year, I’m not noticing Brits saying “sneakers” much. Continue reading →
Britain is known as a rainy country, despite the fact that it doesn’t get any more rain than say, Seattle. But it’s true that Britain is very wet. Their soggy maritime climate has shaped their history and culture, and it’s no surprise that like the Inuit with multiple words to describe snow, the British also […]
Britain is known as a rainy country, despite the fact that it doesn’t get any more rain than say, Seattle. But it’s true that Britain is very wet. Their soggy maritime climate has shaped their history and culture, and it’s no surprise that like the Inuit with multiple words to describe snow, the British also have many different phrases to describe the different kinds of rain. Here are our favorites.
Pissing down – In America, variations of the word ‘piss’ are considered quite coarse language, it’s not so in Britain, it’s a much softer connotation. Pissing down is torrential rain.
Bucketing down – A nice way of saying ‘pissing down’ – raining very hard.
Tipping Down – Raining heavily.
Mizzly – A common Cornish phrase for rain – it’s a misty rain that seems to settle on the landscape. It’s doesn’t feel like it’s actively raining, but everything is wet.
Spitting – Very light rain – with only a few drops at a time.
Plothering – A phrase often used in the Midlands or Northeast that describes is heavy rain that, well, plothers (the sound it makes hitting the ground).
Lovely weather for ducks! – A jovial phrase that the terrible weather must be good for something at least – like Ducks.
It’s chucking it down – Heavy and constant rain.
It’s siling/syling down (N. England) – A heavy rain.
Sea Fret – A wet mist or haze that comes inland from the sea (see Mizzly)
Smirr – A Scottish term for an extremely fine and misty rain that comes from a poem by George Campbell Hay.
Scotch mist – A thick mist and drizzling rain.
Letty – A West Country term that says that there is just enough rain to make outdoor work impossible (coming from a word that once meant disallow).
Cow-quaker – A sudden massive rainstorm characteristic during the month of May when the cows are traditionally let back on the fields.
Snell – A Scottish phrase for a very, very cold rain.
Smizzle – A Scottish phrase for a light rain.
Duke of Spain – Cockney Ryhming Slang for rain.
Raining forks’tiyunsdown’ards – A colorful Lincolnshire phrase meaning heavy rain like it’s raining pitchforks.