Farewell, Me Old China? Hardly

By Jo Last edited 155 months ago
Farewell, Me Old China? Hardly
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According to a rather fascinating report on BBC News, "a new form of accent is replacing the traditional Cockney in some parts of the East End". White youths have picked up words from their Bangladeshi neighbours, meaning you're more likely to hear someone say their new "creps" are "nang" than their new "trainers" are "good". This is bad news for the Daily Hell Mail, who will doubtless run an editorial on how "waves of asylum-seeking words are swamping our fair, pure Queen's English", but shouldn't raise any eyebrows in the linguistic community, since everyone has known for years that "accents are a reflection of society and as society changes so accents change,", as Professor David Crystal puts it.

In any case, the shift works both ways - first- and second-generation immigrants take on the "local" accent (like Roberto from Big Brother's charming 2 Many DJ's-worthy mash-up of Scouse and Italian), and in turn add an extra layer of rich vocabulary to this hodgepodge, patchwork, higgledy-piggledy, magnificent language of ours. Imagine English without such "English" words as kebab, alcohol, magic, polo, bizarre ... and, of course, tea, all of which have been borrowed from various other languages over the centuries: how much more impoverished linguistically we would be! Anyway, English accents and dialects have proved remarkably resilient in the face of repeated invasions. We aren't in danger of sounding alike or, heaven forfend, like the Americans just yet.

Of course, Londonist's favourite linguistic news of the past fortnight was that "Ruby Murray" is now officially English - a wonderful example of a 'borrowed' word (curry) being integrated into typical East End rhyming slang ("fancy a Ruby?"). You can't get more English than that.

For more information on accents and dialects, head over to the BBC's Voices webpages.

Last Updated 22 August 2005