EOLFHS-MEMBERS-L ArchivesArchiver > EOLFHS-MEMBERS > 2003-12 > 1071688126
From: "Derek" <>
Subject: Re: [EoLFHS] Cockney Jokes and Speech
Date: Wed, 17 Dec 2003 19:08:46 -0000
References: <email@example.com> <3FDFAA39.ECAFADBA@comcast.net> <firstname.lastname@example.org>
My family lived in the East End of London for at least five generations.
Here is one very old London joke my father used to tell.
Two lads are passing a barbers.
One looks in and sees a man having a singe.
"Here, Bill, come and look at this, there's a bloke here looking for them with lights."
My best shot at representing the pronunciation is:
"Ere, Bill, cum ern look a' 'is. 'ere's (airs) er bloke 'ere (ear) lookin' fer 'em wi' loits!"
However it is a long time since I heard genuine old (pre TV and pre so-called slum-clearance) East End speech, so I can not can not
claim authenticity for the vocabulary, the syntax or the pronunciation. I do not know how much variation existed as one moved
around the East End in (say) the early 1900s. Presumably quite a lot. What has been written on the subject?
A Google search for "east end speech" produced only one hit, at
an unhelpful reference to "The Snow Geese" by William Fiennes.
However "cockney speech" did better, with about 32 hits. The first, at
http://www.collectbritain.co.uk/tours/eastenders/churches.cfm, refers to "The Old East End, Cockney speech", implying that the two
are the same. It includes a recording of an example of East End speech but even this seems to have changed the syntax and softened
the accent from the speech I recall. As one of the speakers says, as someone interacts with different people, the language they
hear 'rubs off' on them.
Born in Leytonstone, I never myself never lived in the real East End. Moving from Leytonstone to Dagenham, Leyton, Maidenhead,
Cricklewood, Exeter, Croydon, Harlow and Hertford (pronounced locally as 'Harford"), my own speech, which I only really hear when I
listen to a recording of my voice, is a mix of various influences. The same is true of my relatives, whose speech varies greatly,
some having stayed in the East End and some having, like me, moved to a variety of places and had different educational influences.
When I was at school in Hendon my teachers did their best to change my speech. My vowel sounds were their least successful
achievement. Even now, when I spell my name, many people transcribe the "a" in my name as "i", although I can not myself here the
"ai" diphthong that seems to be the cause, even when I listen to a recording. It is not only speech but also hearing that differs
from one accent to another. I suspect we each tend to hear our own speech as 'accent free'.