Monday, April 02, 2012

Rhyming slang: they haven't got a Scooby

There have been some interesting responses to last week's story about Cockney Rhyming Slang's supposed death. In The Independent the linguist, Tony Thorne questions whether it actually constituted a genuine dialect and looks at the new slang that's taken its place:

The cliques who occupy the high ground of cool these days, at least in their own minds, are the hipsters of Shoreditch and Hoxton, the patois-speaking street gangs and their imitators, Lady Gaga and Nicky Minaj-fixated teens, and their gloomy emo counterparts. These groups all have one thing in common: they completely lack humour, and rhyming slang is above all a joke, a feature of a mind-set for which cheerful irony, back-and-forth banter and self-mockery are mainstays.

He goes on to describe  the language of these "patois-speaking street gangs" as "pseudo-Afro-Caribbean 'Jafaican'", which I'd argue isn't really a good way of describing it, but he has a point about the constant reinvention of slang, and as an author and expert in the field, he knows his onions.

Elsewhere, Jenny McCartney in The Daily Telegraph laments the passing of Cockney Rhyming Slang describing it as "obscure and expansive, relishing the playful drawing-out of speech" (scroll down to last item here). This is worth considering from a Language Change (ENGA3 and ENGB3) perspective, as there are many reasons why people use language and they're not always related to making things quicker and simpler, often being connected to wordplay and acts of identity.

No comments: