Cockney is the dialect of East London. It was back in the 14th century that the term ‘cockney’ was first coined, as an insult by country folk to describe working class Londoners and their speech – cockeneyes meaning rotten egg, or, more literally, the egg of a cock. The dialect developed as the capital grew in Tudor and Georgian times, but it didn’t become an identifying feature of London life until Charles Dickens popularised it in the 19th century. By this stage anyone born within the sound of the bells of St Mary Le Bow church, about a mile East of the City of London, was deemed to be a Cockney. And it is for rhyming that Cockney is most famous. The origins of this are unclear, but it was probably done to keep non-Cockneys ignorant of what was being said. The dialect is full of pitfalls for the innocent, but with this easy-to-use dictionary you should be able to slip into Cockney circles smoothly, without anyone ever suspecting that you are some sort of West London Charlie Ronce.
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