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Would you ‘Adam and Eve’ it! Cockney rhyming slang ain’t ‘brown bread’ yet

PUBLISHED: 07:00 25 October 2018 | UPDATED: 09:30 25 October 2018

East London pearly queens and kings keeping Cockney knees-up tradition alive at a 2013 shindig in Mile End. Picture: Mike Brooke

East London pearly queens and kings keeping Cockney knees-up tradition alive at a 2013 shindig in Mile End. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

Critics may claim that east London’s traditional Cockney rhyming slang is ‘brown bread’, or dead.

Docklands museum festival in November to mark 300 languages spoken in London. Picrture source: Museum of London DocklandsDocklands museum festival in November to mark 300 languages spoken in London. Picrture source: Museum of London Docklands

But the Museum of London Docklands in the heart of the traditional Cockney East End plans a festival that can prove it isn’t ‘cream crackered’ yet.

The museum’s two-day ‘Languages of London’ festival on November 3 and 4 has lessons in a second languages and workshops on Chinese calligraphy, Hebrew alphabet and even Sign language throughout the weekend.

The festival, with arts, crafts and music performances, is about diverse communities and the cultures they have brought to London over the centuries.

Queen Mary University's Prof Sue Fox giving talk in 2012 on the East End's Cockney dialect. Picrture: Isabel InfantesQueen Mary University's Prof Sue Fox giving talk in 2012 on the East End's Cockney dialect. Picrture: Isabel Infantes

The East End is known around the world as the home of Cockney rhyming slang, the museum points out, but London’s eight-million citizens now speak 300 diverse languages, the festival at West India Quay in Canary Wharf will show.

It was Queen Mary University linguistics expert Dr Sue Fox who first declared the term ‘Cockney’ was now “irrelevant” in today’s East End.

A new ‘multicultural London English’ has emerged, with the more traditional speakers migrating to Essex, she found in her 2013 study.

Cockney rhyming slang ain't brown bread or cream crackered, these pearly queens at a knees-up in a Mile End rub-a-dub wiill tell you. Picture: Mike BrookeCockney rhyming slang ain't brown bread or cream crackered, these pearly queens at a knees-up in a Mile End rub-a-dub wiill tell you. Picture: Mike Brooke

“The ‘Cockney’ accent has undergone more rapid change than at any time in its long history,” she said at the time.

“Speech associated with ‘Cockney’ can still be heard, but the label seems less relevant with the East End’s multi-cultural diversity.”

The traditional dialect was more likely to be heard out in Barking or Basildon than in Aldgate or Whitechapel where it originated, she discovered. ‘Cockney’ had become synonymous with a much larger geographical region.

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