The British have, of course, made quite staggering contributions to the worlds of culture, fashion, art, music, literature, and celebrating the glory of nearly winning at something. But in one area we must admit our shame – languages, or rather the local dialects that permeate British society.
You see we may look like a heroic nation of brave souls all joined together in a common goal for the betterment of mankind, but scratch the surface and you will find a strange diaspora of confusing words, bizarre accents, and (in what must be regarded as our darkest heart) chirpy cockney barrow boys who use rhyming language to impress the tourists. To paraphrase Churchill we are one nation divided by uncommon tongues.
Take Geordie for instance. This arcane dialect spoken by residents of Newcastle is a wonder to behold. Often taking the guise of one long word with occasional emphasis thrown in, the Geordie tongue has baffled Southerners for decades. We marvel at the enthusiasm with which its barer delivers it, often accompanied by wide eyed stares and wild gesticulations. Sociologists have studied the language in the field but have yet to discover any patterns or discernible words, leading them to think that maybe the natives use pheromones as a cipher to the coded noises, thus preventing outsiders from understanding. Maybe we’ll never know the truth, so until then we’ll keep smiling and nodding as they talk while desperately trying work out our escape route.
The Geordie people are not alone in their mystery, Manchunia remains an elusive and depressing sounding dialect, Liverpoolian is notable for it’s harsh and nonsensical tones, while exponents of Birmingavin are just funny. One language that has somehow managed to escape it’s locale and even travel as far as the distant shores of America is the Cockney Rhyming Slang, or Bollocks for short. In years gone by grubby faced dwellers of South London could be heard replacing simple words like Wife with the more complex Trouble and Strife, and Suit with Whistle and Flute. Eventually government forces were brought in to put an end to the proliferation of the tongue as productivity has dropped to shocking levels due to the fact that any sentence that was spoken in the language would take about twenty minutes to finish due the barrage of extra words introduced. This drove the language underground, or more accurately into the ale houses that covered South London like a rash.
Then disaster struck. Dick Van Dyke.
With the release in 1964 of Mary Poppins the world was exposed to the idea of a cheeky, lovable chimney sweep who could jump into pictures and leap around on the top of buildings with reckless abandon – all while speaking in the strangest of accents and the unmistakable undertones of rhyming slang. The Bollocks were out of the bag, so to speak. Soon Hollywood was awash with young children using the language, as seen in films like Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and the world warmed to the inventive use of substitutionary wordage. All seemed lost. But by God’s mighty hand salvation was to appear in the form of Paul Hogan. When the Cockney menace looked set to take a firm and potentially devastating grip on the world’s hearts, out of the wildness arrived Crocodille Dundee and Australianism rode behind. Soon the Van Dyke alikes were replaced with people saying ‘Nah, that’s a knife’ and declaring that they would soon ‘put another shrimp on the barbie’.
Cockney faded from memory and eventually passed into legend….the lands were safe once more.
In the years since the ‘nearly apocalypse’ some attempts have been made by diehard practitioners to raise the banner of Cockney, but thankfully the world is now a wiser place. These ‘Cheadles’ return from whence they came muttering about Barnets, Butchers and China Plates, but their impact is soon overcome. Let us stand strong though, and make sure we teach our children to remain vigilant, for the threat may be lessened but it still remains. We need only make one mistake, like allowing Guy Ritchie to make films or Jason Statham to speak in them, and once again our existence could be blighted with gurning blokes in braces singing about how much rabbit his old girl has.
The darkness stirs and makes its plans. So take care, for if you should find yourself in the dark depths of South London when the moon is full and Eastenders has finished, if you listen carefully you’ll still hear on the wind many of the natives talking pure Bollocks. You’ve been warned.