Cor Blimey!

London

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So I comes down the apples and pears with me Rosie Lee this morning and stone the crows, I find aht I’m a bleeding’ cockney, don’t I? An’ I think they’re having a giraffe and I’m feeling a right Jeremy (upgraded from James, apparently – you work it out).

*changes to RP*

Actually I have been known to use a little of the cockney argot once frequently heard among Covent Garden porters and now primarily used by Shoreditch hipsters, like ‘whistle’, ‘titfer’, ‘Ruby Murray’, ‘Pete Tong’ ‘Harry Ramp’, ‘J Arthur’ and so on, but as I come from Greenwich, South London, a mix of posh and rough, the edges were rubbed off at rather an early age. (If you want the most up-to-date changes on rhyming slang, go here).

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You see, in Matt Brown’s book ‘Everything You Know About London Is Wrong’, there’s mention that someone called Samuel Rowland first connected Bow bells with cockneys in 1611; I scorne (that any younster of the Towne) To let the Bow-bell cockney put mee downe.

Of course there are two Bow churches (as in everything else truly London, there are at least two of everything, solely designed to confuse you) but he was referring to St Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside. There’s no explanation of why true cockneys needed to be born within the sound of the bells, or what it really means, but we know that the distance over which the sound of the bells carried at the time was roughly 9.6 km. Even allowing for the increase in motorised traffic by my time of birth, it would seem that I was born very comfortably within the range of Bow’s Sunday peals, thanks to the location of the maternity hospital, which makes me a true London cockney. In theory, at least.

One further calculation was required. The flat in which I live now (King’s Cross) is roughly the same distance from Big Ben as St Mary-le-Bow to the hospital, and on a Sunday morning I can often hear Big Ben’s chimes (the streets being quiet and most real Londoners too hungover to get in a car and drive anywhere, besides which there is nothing open), ergo I am in the club.

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This peculiarity of birth is an increasing rarity, but it might explain why I’ve been drawn even further into the city over the years, so that I now live within plain sight of St Paul’s Cathedral (I’m looking at its rain-soaked dome as I type this). I have only two other mates who are cockneys, neither of whom have managed to escape the city’s clutches, or want to.

Being a Londoner is, however, not reliant on being a cockney. Rather it is a state of mind that infects you over a period of about two years, and you can start calling yourself one as soon as you say ‘Sorry’ to someone else for stepping on your foot, ‘Alright mate?’ to a stranger at a bar whom you need to move in order to release space, or ‘Are they having a laugh?’ when confronted with a face-slappingly high bill at just about anywhere. Gor’ bless you guv’nor, you’ve got a lucky face.

12 comments on “Cor Blimey!”

  1. Rachel Green says:

    Marvellous.

    Incidentally, I thought you’d be amused by the use of a quotation from you for today’s (21st July) word on http://www.dictionary.com/wordoftheday/

  2. Jo W says:

    Mornin’ me ole china. I always fought that I was cockney,cos I wuz born about two miles from the bells, until I farnd aht that some bloody silly s*d had bombed them in forty one and they wuzn’t put back ’til sixty one! I wuz gutted,straight!
    P.S. I knows you ‘ad your drum redone,is that when they added the apples? 😉

  3. Chris Webb says:

    You ain’t got no apples ‘n’ pears. You’re telling porkies.

  4. admin says:

    I has apples but they ain’t in me drum, they’re in me ‘all. If I fell down them I’d be totally Donnie Darko.

  5. Jo W says:

    Ha ha ha ha hee! Please don’t make me larff so much,at my great age,I might ‘ave a haccident!! 🙂

  6. Stuart says:

    I am another of the happy few “true-borns”! A little known right of all trueborn cockneys is the right to slap Dick Van Dyke if you ever meet him ….

  7. jeanette says:

    My mum and her twin were born in the City of Westminster workhouse infirmary on Fulham Road in 1920. The Chelsea and Westminster Hospital now stands on this site. I suppose the sound of Bow bells could have reached down to Chelsea in that era.

    I am talking about this as if you asked my mum, and later found out her twin who she was separated from as toddlers said same thing. “Where were you born”, their replies were I was born within the sound of Bow Bells. When I am asked where I was born I say ‘London’, then I usually get asked which part ‘North London’ I say, then get asked which part I say Finchley. So I believe it must have been drummed into them to remember where they came from..

    I was born in the Kings Avenue in Finchley, called The Towers. Once the home of Gracie Fields. My mum said it still had the marble bathroom. All down hill from then. Cheerio for now.

  8. jeanette says:

    Oooops wrong I was born The Bishops Avenue . I lived at Kings Avenue at one point.

  9. Helen Martin says:

    Being born in an oven doesn’t make you a bun. The moment of birth is one thing but the ambience around you as you grow is another thing entirely. The people of Cockney (cockaigne, I assume) are hard living, funny people who enjoy life and the experiences they have. People who fit that profile could well find themselves part of that part of London. I love the rhyming slang and the people using it today really made me laugh (have a giraffe?)

  10. Peter Dixon says:

    I see in today’s papers (I tend not to prefix with ‘news” these days) that Dick Van Dyke has publicly apologised for his Mary Poppins cockerney arkcent. I think it actually adds to the fun of the movie, but then I’m a Geordie.

    I once saw a Geordie comedian doing a Geordie rhyming slang sketch that consisted of him putting the word apples in front of every noun. You had to be there.

    When I used to teach art I tended to confuse students by referring to the colour ‘Dick Van Brown’ – work it out.

  11. Chris Webb says:

    The map gives the impression you were born on the Cutty Sark!

  12. admin says:

    As good as. Just a few hundred yards away!

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