The word cockney originated from the Middle English cock-ney, which meant a misshapen egg. It was initially used as a derogatory term for a simpleton or a weak man. But by the 17th century it had become more commonly used as a derogatory term for a Londoner.
It is no longer considered a derogatory term and is now used in a general sense to apply to any Londoner, or to their accent.
To be a true cockney you have to have been born within the sound of the church bells of St Mary-le-Bow in The City. As the city has very few residents, this has meant that the vast majority of cockneys lived in the East End of London, and it is this part of London that cockneys have become associated with.
The most well-known aspect of cockney culture has to be the cockney language. This is thought to have evolved amongst London's street traders who developed a coded language so that they could speak among themselves without the police being able to understand them.
The primary basis of this 'code' was the use of rhyming words and phrases to replace nouns and verbs. As a result the cockney language has also become known as "rhyming slang".
Over time the rhymes themselves have often become shortened and so it is sometimes hard to figure out the original meaning of the rhyme. For example the phrase "loaf of bread" was used to mean "head", as in "use your loaf of bread", but over time this has become shortened further to just "use your loaf".
However the fact is that the language is no longer used extensively. So don't worry, you will probably only hear a few odd phrases in your travels.
Closely associated with the London cockneys are the Pearly Kings and Queens.
|Examples of cockney rhyming slang|
|Apples and pears||stairs||Aristotle||bottle|
|Barnet fair ||hair||Bees and honey ||money|
|Cain and able ||table||Cat and mouse ||house|
|Dog and Bone ||phone||Frog and toad ||road|
|Half inch ||pinch||Loaf of bread ||head|
|Mince pies ||eyes||Oxford scholar ||dollar|
|Pegs|| legs||Plates of meat ||feet|
|Porky pies ||lies||Rosie lee||tea|
|Rub a dub dub|| pub||Trouble and strife ||wife|
One of the primary uses for cockney rhyming slang was to allow street traders to discuss money matters without an outsider knowing. And many of the slang words associatied with money have since become part of everyday language all over Britain.
|Quid ||£1||Fiver|| £5|
|Tenner ||£10||Score ||£20|
|Monkey ||£500||Grand ||£1000|
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