Variations on 'cockney'

Posted by The Fallen on January 08, 2002

In Reply to: Variations on 'cockney' posted by Alex on January 07, 2002

: : Does anyone know why the musical is called "My Fair Lady"? It struck me that "My Fair" could be a joke based on the cockney pronounciation of "Mayfair". And while we are at it, I thought "cockney" specifically referred to East end accents. If that's the case, what are accents in other parts of London referred to as?

: Cockney does refer specifically to the east end of london - as in the english tv program 'Eastenders'. The accent prevalent in the wider London area is most commonly known as 'Estuary English', because it seems be common around the whole Thames estuary area, i.e. Greater London, bits of Surrey, Essex and Middlesex. This basically Standard Southern English but a much more lax pronunciation of certain consonants:
: e.g. In "Gatwick airport" you wouldn't make out the first 't'.

: And there's nothing nearly so exciting as Guy Ritchie's mockney rhyming slang

To be a Cockney, you proverbially need to have been born within earshot of the sound of Bow bells, those being presumably in the tower of some church in Bow, a district of East London, and probably the same church mentioned in the "Oranges & Lemons" nursery rhyme.

Estuary English pronunciation is prevalent across most of south eastern England, with the possible exception of more rural Kent. Ironically enough this area is known as the home counties, and having a "home counties accent" means that one speaks with classic Noel Coward-esque pronunciation. As has been mentioned, estuary English involves dropping many consonants that start or end syllables - as in the previously quoted "Ga'wick airpor'", "'allo darlin'" and so on. I think it's a matter of achieving a higher spoken word speed, since dropping these consonants allows greater word elision.

A further example of UK English aiming for a generally easier/faster pronunciation can be seen when one compares the sound of the letter R between spoken UK and US English... to us in the UK, there is effectively no difference in the pronounced sounds of the words "tuna" and "tuner" for example, whereas in the US, I've noticed that the final "r" is much more rolled and defined. However and contrarily enough, where it helps with word speed via elision, we English are liable to add a phantom "r"... a good example being those immortal words of Oasis:- "Like a champagne supernova, a champagne supernova, a champagne supernovarin the sky". I suppose we're just lazier :)