British Culture & Expressions

What is a cockney accent?

The term Cockney dates back to the 14th century and has now become largely synonymous with working-class Londoners. According to tradition, true Cockneys must be born within earshot of the bells of the church of St Mary-le-Bow, Cheapside. 

Where the term comes from?

In days gone by, bells could be heard from north, east and the Southward. Now, the noise of the bells is significantly affected by ambient noise levels in the capital. It only reaches East London, particularly the boroughs of Hackney and Tower Hamlets. These areas are inhabited by Asian communities who speak ‘Multicultural London English‘ and many of the cockney-speaking communities have reportedly moved further East into Essex.

Influence on other accents.

Estuary English (South East England) is a type of accent identified as spreading outwards from London. It contains features of both Received Pronunciation (Standard English) and Cockney phonetically, although it does not incorporate the slang elements of cockney.

The following video shows the difference between Estuary and Cockney: Jonathon Ross – interviewer (Estuary) and actor Ray Winstone – guest (Cockney).

The next video introduces Multicultural London English (abbreviated MLE) into the equation. MLE emerges in the late 20th century. It is spoken by working class, young people in London.

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