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Would you Adam and Eve it?

Author:School of Foreign Languages   Published:2012-08-16   Hits:

It’s a safe bet that some 200 countries and regions competing in the London Olympics are represented in the British capital. But who will represent London? One of the city’s oldest and signature communities is trying not to get lost in the *clamor.

Cockneys have been proud residents of London’s East End for centuries – and they want to make sure the world knows it.

Traditionally, a Cockney is anyone “born within the sound of Bow bells” – the bells of St Mary-le-Bow church in the heart of medieval London. It’s usually taken to mean a working-class native Londoner. Cockneys speak in a distinctive accent. East Enders, as they are often called, use a distinctive form of rhyming slang, in which “would you believe it” becomes “would you Adam and Eve it?”


*Flamboyantly dressed figures with their black costumes covered in thousands of pearl buttons - does that ring a bell? They are probably among the most recognizable Cockney symbols – the so-called Cockney royalty: Pearly Kings and Queens. Organized by local officials before the Olympics, these “Kings and Queens” met journalists and guests in an East End pub to help raise some awareness for the Cockney culture.

The “pearlies” have their origins a century ago in a street sweeper named Henry Croft, who adapted the button-festooned clothes worn by London apple-sellers to help draw attention to his charity *fundraising.

Today, pearlies across London elaborately decorate hand-sewn outfits to raise money for charity. Many pass their honorary Cockney titles on from parent to child. But they worry their traditions may soon be lost.

“We are dying out,” said Jimmy Jukes, the Pearly King of Bermondsey and Camberwell in south London. “A lot of people think we’re just about fancy dress.”

Changing times

Some believe the distinctive Cockney brand of English is also in danger of dying out. In today’s East End, the children of immigrants speak with Cockney accents, but their slang is as likely to come from American *jargon. Yet most Londoners recognize that “apples and pears” is a slang for stairs or “trouble and strife” means wife, even if they wouldn’t use the expressions themselves.

But don’t count the Cockneys out just yet. This is a community that’s proud of its *resilience. East Enders, after all, withstood the bulk of wartime bombing and personify Britain’s “Blitz Spirit”. Local resident Vicky Groves hopes to share that culture with the world during the Summer Games.

“All eyes are on London,” she said. “I think it’s great to be able to say, we’ve got traditions that go back hundreds of years.”

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