If you’ve got into a London University, chances are your English is already pretty fantastic. Unfortunately, you may not be ready for the myriad of accents, dialects and languages hosted in a capital city where almost every country in the world is represented. If you find yourself dropped into the heart of British Jamaica, in Lambeth, among the huge Bangladeshi population of Tower Hamlets, or at the centre of European Sikhism in Southall, it may not feel much like the London from Love Actually. But if you want to love London, you actually need to embrace the thousands of cultures in the capital, foreign or indigenous. So, lean in, switch on, and let Uniplaces explain the way London’s traditional accent is changing, from the old East End all the way to the new multiculturalism. And yes, we will be explaining Cockney rhyming slang.
The word ‘Cockney’ is often used by non-Londoners to describe anyone from the capital. Traditionally though, it should refer to someone born within the sound of Bow Bells, the bells of St. Mary-le-Bow church in the poignantly named Cheapside district of East London. The word often simply means a Londoner from the East End, or even just a working class Londoner in general. ‘Cockney’ is one of the more famous British accents that’s made it abroad. It’s the sound of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins and Adele, during interviews, certainly not when she’s singing. The accent involves long vowel sounds, soft consonants and the chronic use of complicated slang. A slang we’re now about to explain. Cockney rhyming slang involves replacing a common word with a connected pair of words that rhyme with it
Although its name makes it sound like an accent concocted by a
depressingly well-meaning left-wing cultural outreach program, it’s
actually the best name we’ve got for this new phenomenon.
MLE is quickly supplanting the Cockney accent, pushing it out to the
surrounding towns and villages. It’s based partially on Caribbean and
African slang and accentuation, as well as a mix of other cultures,
languages and street slang.
It’s particularly common amongst young people, or ‘Da Yout’ (The
Youth), as I’ve just cringingly typed it. Typical words you’ll encounter
Bruv (Close friend, ‘Brother’)
Init (Isn’t it. Often used at the end of sentence rhetorically)
You get me? (Do you understand me. All often rhetorical) The letter ‘H’ has also been added back to the accent, in a way that it would be dropped in Cockney or softened in a traditional Jamaican accent. The South London alien invasion movie Attack the Block, featuring John Boyega, best sums the new accent up:
The word ‘Asian’ to a Briton almost always refers to the Asian Sub-Continent, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The British Asian population is vast, over three million, with many London boroughs being one quarter to one third Asian. To say there’s a ‘British Asian accent’, when pronunciation can differ wildly between language, religion and region, is more than a little unfair. However, there might be a few tips and tricks to help you integrate into you’re new beautifully multicultural London community.
Typically, you might hear a merging of ‘D’ and ‘T’ sounds, so that words with a ‘T’ or ‘TH’ sound become ‘Ds’ when pronounced. Also it is common, due to the grammatical nature of some South Asian languages, that people talk in the present continuous a lot, e.g: ‘I am liking you very much’, for ‘I like you very much.’ The accent can also be beautifully musical and spoken terribly quickly, making it hard to understand for somebody fresh off the boat.