'Gawd Luv A Duck' - never have. I've no idea what the phrase means and as I come from London I think I am supposed to. What I am getting around to is London and 'talking cockney'.
I've been in New Zealand a long time and I know, I just know, as soon as I say something, anything, well perhaps saying a bit more than anything, the person I am talking to will invariably comment on my accent. "You are not from around here are you?" they ask. "Are you from Inverochy? …my great grandmother came from there and you talk just like her."
"No" I say.
"Aberystwytth then? …my grandmother...."
"'Look" I tell them, "I come from London, the capital of everything. Like the big smoke."
"Oh! that's right, got you now", they say, "My Gran...."
At this stage I feel I should say something funny, London-ish, like Oh Gor Blimey (God blind me). After all, everyone that comes from London is cheeky, clever, smart, a wide boy aren't they? Bit spivvy, a Jack the lad, bit of a barrow boy, pearly kings, up the apples down the pears, in the rubber dub (pub) stone the crows, strike a light ect ect. All that old Madam.
Of course we don't speak like this at all. Hardly ever, not even for tourists and London is an ethnic city now, and has a different identity. An ethnicity city?
And as any proper Londoner would know, I'm not a cockney, and don't speak like one. But I do come from the East End so I know a little about London slang. But only a little.
It's popular belief that Cockney slang is/was used to confuse the coppers. Although any police that could not understand a conversation in any pub in the east end of London must be pretty thick.
Incidentally there is something Londoners used to use which perhaps would confuse the law - it confuses everyone. It's called Backslang and my Mother was the only person I knew who could speak it. I was never quite sure what she was saying or even if she knew herself but she was on pretty safe ground as no one else did either.
Cockney slang works like this: You take an expression that rhymes with a word then use the expression instead of the word. Simple eh? Then to make it easy and confuse the coppers, leave one word out. Like 'up the apples and pears' which means stairs just say 'up the apples'.
So that's what cockney rhyming slang is all about, innit? Plates of meat (feet), mince pies (eyes) - on yer plates, up the apples, use yer minces.
About four years ago I went back to East London, the place where I lived and grew up through the war years. Leytonstone to be exact. Most of my aunts, uncles and cousins lived there. Cosy, close together, as always in the East End. No malls in those days - High Streets ruled. We had four cinemas, gone now - turned into cheap clothing discount stores. The big pubs now all McDonalds, no fish and chip shops, not a mushy pea or a pickled gherkin in sight. My old uncle's barber's shop boarded up like many of the shops and nicely decorated with spray paint in Urdu? Thai? Bangladeshi? Arabic? Hardly any Poppy Pink people, Kina Browns yes, but not many Buttery whites, Sandspit hazels? Plenty, and tons of Summery Golden people, and the odd Froth Green (most Froth Green reside underneath the Railway arches). Quite a few Midnight Moss as well, lots in fact, and plenty of half and half and bits and pieces of other colours in the mix with names like above (which I nicked from a Resene Paint chart). That's what's happened to the East End.
But those sprayed shops, when I was young, were grimy, grotty old places owned by similarly grimy, grotty old people selling second hand junk. They look better now. Touched up in Urdu and Hindu with a hint of Bangladeshi (the shops not the grimy old people) the shops offer Difference. No kid nowadays would eat a gherkin fish and chips, but that was the only takeaway we had. There weren't any Thai stir fry prawns, no Tandoori Chicken, no Jasmine rice, no little Yasmins either, no curry no, no kebabs, no nothing 'cept greasy old grey fish and chips.
The Pubs? Tired old tiled drinking houses. Better off as Macca's. In fact the East End will sort it all out with the newcomers as it has for centuries. Sometimes you sense nothing has really changed. I knew that on the tube going home when the ticket collector adjusted his Turban and giving me a whiff of Dahi Aloo said
"You want to put some more clothes on me old son - it's bleedin' taters out there".
Home is always home no matter how you pronounce it.