Farewell, Me Old China? Hardly

By Jo Last edited 152 months ago
Farewell, Me Old China? Hardly

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


Aren't you part of American company? You guys have lots of educated, anti-Bush, globally aware American readers. In the year or so that I've been reading this blog, I've noticed increasing anti-American digs in some of the posts, which is just bizarre. It's not that I don't realize that my government is fucked in ways unimaginable, but I also kind of expect that smart people know we're not all hillbilly warmongers. Maybe I'm in a bubble here in New York, but the people I know aren't the homogenous robots you'd make us out to be. My friends and collegues come from really diverse backgrounds and it's appreciated by most.

Do you speak to the folks over at Gothamist at all or do they reaffirm your feelings about whitewashed Americans?


Sorry you've got the hump Bec, but I think Jo was talking about accents, rather than the state of the American government. In London we like to take the piss, and we hope that we take it out of ourselves, just as much as out of everyone else. We're a bit soft really though...promise.


Bec: Sorry if that came across as anti-American! Some of my best friends are American yada yada (cliché but true!) and I couldn't do without US TV, books, films, music ... I was, as Alex said, gently poking fun. :) I do strongly believe that the diversity of English accents in the UK is a good thing, though, and as American accents are more homogeneous, that's not such a good thing. For the record, I have never had the honour of speaking to anyone from the exalted organ that is Gothamist.