Posted by Gary Martin on April 19, 2001
In Reply to: Cockney posted by R. Berg on April 19, 2001
: : : Why are those born within the sound of Bow Bells, London called Cockneys?
: : : Is it with reference to the Cocks Egg?
: : From Merriam Webster:
: : One entry found for cockney.
: : Main Entry: cock·ney
: : Pronunciation: 'käk-nE
: : Function: noun
: : Inflected Form(s): plural cockneys
: : Etymology: Middle English cokeney, literally, cocks' egg, from coken (genitive plural of cok cock) + ey egg, from Old English [AE]g
: : Date: 14th century
: : 1 obsolete a : a spoiled child b : a squeamish woman
: : 2 often capitalized a : a native of London and especially of the East End of London b : the dialect of London or of the East End of London
: : - cockney adjective
: : - cock·ney·fy /'käk-ni-"fI/ transitive verb
: : - cock·ney·ish /-nE-ish/ adjective
: : - cock·ney·ism /-"i-z&m/ noun
: Can someone explain to a foreigner whether "Cockney" is an insult these days? Its history, set forth in the Oxford English Dictionary, shows that it was a derisive term when first applied to Londoners--but people don't seem to mind calling themselves Cockneys.
You would need to know about England's north/south divide to pick up some of the nuances of that. In general terms northerners, i.e. anyone north of Watford, despise and pity southerners and vice versa - 'London gits' and 'Northern bastards' respectively. My Londoner relatives sometimes call themselves cockneys when visiting us 'up north', in the manner of hippies calling themselves freaks; i.e. they don't mind doing it themselves ironically but wouldn't like it from anyone else.
According to our revered leader the north/south divide doesn't exist so I've probably imagined all that.