If you stroll around London, you’ll still hear cockney rhyming slang used in everyday speech (as you will across the UK), but will you hear any true cockneys?
Cole Moreton bemoans the loss of the cockney voice in this piece for the Radio Times.
And it’s true. With all the comings and goings, like in any big city, its inhabitants will eventually change. Their customs will change, their food will change, their culture will change and of course their language and accents will change.
The post-war years were times of particularly rapid change. Much of the East End was bombed in the Blitz. An estimated 30,000 Londoners died in the bombing, and many more were injured. By 1944 a plan had been drawn up to rebuild central and East London, taking the opportunity to clear slums and create new estates and high rise flats.
At the same time, a movement from central London areas to satellite towns was taking place. The New Towns Act of 1946 led to the creation of 8 new towns beyond the green belt, and these were to be along the “garden suburb” lines, limited to low-density housing. Londoners were keen to move. London shrunk from 8.1 million residents to 6.6 millions residents 1991. Much of the culture associated with London moved with them.
The New Towns were Hemel Hempstead, Harlow, Bracknell, Welwyn Garden City, Hatfield, Stevenage, Crawley and Basildon. If you go to these towns today you are quite likely to hear cockney accents.
It is a shame to think such a well defined, iconic slice of British history has all but disappeared, but we, here at CockneyRhymingSlang.co.uk like to think we’re keeping a small part of that alive, by documenting the slang language true cockneys developed to disguise what was being said from passers-by.
And cockney rhyming slang may be more in use than you know…