Cockney Disappearing from London.

This MetaFilter post has a roundup of links pertaining to the arrival of Multicultural London English (MLE) and its gradual displacing of Cockney as the form of speech of working-class London youth. This brief BBC News story from 2010 refers to “a study by Paul Kerswill, Professor of Sociolinguistics at Lancaster University .. to be published in early 2011,” but it doesn’t seem to have been published, and the Wikipedia article doesn’t have any sources more recent than 2011. Anybody know more about this interesting development? (Apparently kids today are no longer dropping their aitches!)


  1. They don’t say aitch, either – they say haitch.

  2. Wasn’t Cockney already displaced by Estuary English by the 1980s at the latest?

  3. From his bibliography @

    Contact, the feature pool and the speech community: The emergence of Multicultural London English.
    Cheshire, J., Kerswill, P., Fox, S. & Torgersen, E. Apr 2011

    Article in Journal of Sociolinguistics

    Identity, ethnicity and place: the construction of youth language in London
    Kerswill, P. 2013 Space in language and linguistics: geographical, interactional, and cognitive perspectives. Auer, P., Hilpert, M., Stukenbrock, A. & Szmrecsanyi, B. (eds.). Walter de Gruyter, p. 128-164 37 p. (linguae and litterae; vol. 24)


  4. Here. “Due to be published in early 2011” means 2013 in academese.

  5. Haitch has always seemed to me to be a product of education in a certain strain of Catholic schools with Irish backgrounds.

  6. Oh! No!!
    So must we now say farewell to “Forty Fousand Fevvers ona Frush” and the Cockney Alphabet too?

    So all together now, and sadly too, one last time:
    A’s for ‘Orses
    B for Mutton
    C for th’ilanders
    D for Dumb (‘ow’d THAT get in there?)
    E for Brick
    F for Vescent
    G for Police…

  7. Bathrobe says

    They don’t say aitch, either – they say haitch.

    Good on ’em!

  8. D for Dumb (‘ow’d THAT get in there?)

    D for ‘ential.

  9. That was more a comment on the initial letter of ‘Dumb’ than anything else.

    There are of course lots of variations.

    I also checked, and it looks as though I was too pessimistic about the TH-fronting, so the frush is still decently clad.

  10. Chris McG says

    Haitch has always seemed to me to be a product of education in a certain strain of Catholic schools with Irish backgrounds.

    My very English (to the extent of singing Land of Hope and Glory in assembly) C of E primary school taught us haitch.

  11. J. W. Brewer says

    Quoth wikipedia: “The non-standard haitch pronunciation of h has spread in England, being used by approximately 24% of English people born since 1982[5] and polls continue to show this pronunciation becoming more common among younger native speakers. Despite this increasing number, pronunciation without the /h/ sound is still considered to be standard, although the non-standard pronunciation is also attested as a legitimate variant.”

  12. Deef or dumb.

  13. Ah, of course. Thanks!

  14. C for Sailors is, I believe, the canonical version.

  15. I went to school in West London, graduating around five years ago. The only people who spoke cockney-tinged English were those whose parents were themselves Cockney, or members of the older generation (whether they were Caribbean/Greek/Turkish/South Asian) who grew up in London when Cockney was more widespread. These days most young Londoners speak an English which approaches MLE. This isn’t strictly restricted to those who are working-class, but even those who went to expensive fee-paying schools in London. Of course, as always, many, if not most, are also conversant in Standard English. When I get together with my friends, we code-switch when conversing. This used to confuse non-Londoners whilst I was at university in the shires. Londoners would try and tone-down London-specific registers of English, but the same applied to Northerners.


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