Thursday, 23 June 2011

Cockney: or Town Meets Country

I am a collector of dictionaries, particularly any relating to slang. One reason being you come across unlikely little gems like this, lifted from a compilation by Michelle Lovric in The Scoundrel's Dictionary.

To quote:

A nickname given to the citizens of London, or persons born within the sound of Bow Bell, derived from the following story: - A citizen of London being in the country, and hearing a horse neigh, exclaimed, Lord! how that horse laughs! A bystander informed him the noise was called neighing. The next morning, when the cock crowed, the citizen, to show he had not forgotten what was told him, cried out, Do you hear how the cock neighs?

(I don't suppose they ever saw a horse or heard a cock crow in the East End back in them days seeing how they was all sapsculls or half out to sea.)

PS A  source of Lovric's work seems to be the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue: A Dictionary of Buckish Slang, University Wit and Pickpocket Eloquence, for the definition of the Cockney above, among others, is lifted straight from it. Quite interesting is the fact the 1811 Dictionary goes on to to state:

Whatever may be the origin of this appellation, we learn from the following verses, attributed to Hugh Bigot, Earl of Norfolk, that it was in use in the time of king Henry II.

Was I in my castle at Bungay,
Fast by the river Waveney, 
I would not care for the king of Cockney;

i.e. the king of London.


Sue Guiney said...

Great. I love this stuff! Please, Sir, can we have some more?

DOT said...

I, like you no doubt, am an epolatrist.