Friday, August 26, 2005

Cockney Translation

The Cockney accent is fading and being replaced with a hybrid of London and Bangladeshi accents in parts of East London, it's claimed in research by Sue Fox of Queen Mary University.

In her research, Fox has studied changing accents and dialect in a youth club in Tower Hamlets over a 9 month period and found that a new generation of Bangladeshi-influenced dialect has grown and spread into the speech patterns of many young East Londoners, Asian, white and black alike.

Three articles give you the tabloid, broadsheet and BBC website take on this research:

East End Cockney Accent Fading

Bangney New Voice of East End

It's All Kent and Dover for Cockney

As Julie points out in her Language Legend blog, it's interesting to see how this change of dialect is represented in the media. Many see the fading of cockney as a terrible loss to British culture, while others treat the dialect as a bizarre and unfathomable anachronism (much as they do the white working class who use it, I suppose).

In an article in The Daily Telegraph the spread of Bangla-dialect is even couched in terms of an invasion, getting a bit "Infectious Disease" model on us (Jean Aitchison fans, take note!).

While Sue Fox's research is fascinating in its depth and detail (and we hope to get her to speak at our next Language Conference in 2006!) this sort of language change is nothing new, just part of a wider pattern of immigration, demographic shifts and linguistic accommodation.

On the day these articles were printed, we were on holiday in Italy staying with friends who are big reggae fans. As luck would have it, one of the records I heard that day was Smiley Culture's Cockney Translation, a hit from the early 1980s which blends cockney rhyming slang and Jamaican slang into a witty commentary on shared culture in London. I've tried to track down the lyrics on google with no luck as yet, so if someone can find them I'd be grateful, but there are some great lines in the song which show just how normal the blending of cultures and languages is in youth culture.


11, 10 ,9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
Its I Smiley Culture with the Mic in me hand
Me come to teach you the right and not the wrong
In a de cockney translation

Cockney's not a language it is only a slang
And was originated ya so inna England
The first place it was used was over East London
It was respect for different style pronounciation
But it wasn't really used by any and any man
Me say strictly con-man also the villain
But through me full up of lyrics and education
Right here now you go get a little translation.

Cockney have names like Terry, Arthur and Del Boy
We have names like Winston, Lloyd and Leroy
We bawl out YOW while cockneys say OI!
What cockneys call a jacks we call a blue bwoy.
Say cockney have mates while we have Spa
Cockney live in a drum, while we live in a yard
Say we get nyam while cockney get capture
Cockney say Guv'nor We say Big bout ya

In de cockney translation x2

Well watch a man.......
The translation of cockney to understand is easy
So long as you aint deaf and you listen me keenly
You should pick it up like a youth who find some money
Go tell it to your friends and also your family
No matter if a English or a Yardy
Ca' you never know when them might buck up a cockney
Remember warn dem dem deh man dem don't easy
Dem no fire sling shot a me say strictly double B
Dem run protection racket and control 'nuff CID

Say cockney fire shooter, we bus' gun
Cockney say tea leaf. We just say sticks man.
You know dem have wedge while we have corn
Say cockney say Be first my son! we just say Gwan!
Cockney say grass we say informer man
When dem talk about Iron dem really mean batty man
Rope chain and choparita me say cockney call tom
Cockney say Old Bill we say dutty Babylon

In a de Cockney Translation x2

Well watch a man
Slam bam
Jah man
Hear dem
Fasion
Smiley
Culture
Organisation

But let me first tell you more about the Cockney
Who live comfortably and have a yacht by the sea
And when it come to money most of them have plenty
But where dem spent it? In de bookie
Lose it all on the dogs ot on the gee gees
Or paying off fe dem bribes to the Sweeney
So dem nah get no time fe Armed Robbery
Or catching anything that fell off the back of a lorry

Slam bam
Jah man
Hear dem
Fasion
Me strong
Me long
Me at the mike stand
More time
In a dance
Me chat
'pon a sound

But sometimes me shake out and leave me home town
And thats when me travel a East London
Where I have to speak as a different man
So that the Cockney can unserstand
So black man and white man hear dem fashion

Cockney say Scarper we say Scatter
Cockney say rabbit, we chatter
We say bleach, cockney knackered
Cocknay say triffic, we say waaaacked!

Cockney say blokes we say guys
Cockney say alright, we say Ites
We say pants, cockney say strides
sweet as a nut.... just level vibes seen?
(thanks to King Biscuit Time & Tank Girl on Urban 75 for getting these lyrics!)

Useful for:
ENA5 - Language Change and Varieties
ENA6 - Language Debates

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