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  • Help with Dialect

    I've been interested in writing Ripper fiction for awhile, but cannot get past the hurdle of writing in the East End (Cockney?) dialect of the time. Most recently, I read "Jack Knife" by Virginia Baker to get a flavor of it, but was mostly unsatisfied (by the dialect, the story was worth the read). Can anyone recommend a book in the genre to use as a model? I suppose there is Dickens (not in genre of course!) but that is like trying to copy the swing of Ted Williams.

  • #2
    Originally posted by Barnaby View Post
    I've been interested in writing Ripper fiction for awhile, but cannot get past the hurdle of writing in the East End (Cockney?) dialect of the time. Most recently, I read "Jack Knife" by Virginia Baker to get a flavor of it, but was mostly unsatisfied (by the dialect, the story was worth the read). Can anyone recommend a book in the genre to use as a model? I suppose there is Dickens (not in genre of course!) but that is like trying to copy the swing of Ted Williams.
    Hello Barnaby,

    Cockney, or Cockney Rhyming Slang, itself, isn't a dialect as such. The orginal East End dialect is now almost obsolete, but had inclusions of CRS phrases. Another form of this phrasiology is "Butcher's backslang."

    Rhyming Slang phrases are derived from taking an expression which rhymes with a word and then using that expression instead of the word. For example the word "look" rhymes with "butcher's hook". In many cases the rhyming word is omitted - so you won't find too many Londoners having a "bucher's hook" at this site, but you might find a few having a "butcher's".

    The rhyming word is not always omitted so Cockney expressions can vary in their construction, and it is simply a matter of convention which version is used.

    CRS is not a language either. Cockney Rhyming Slang originated in the East End of London, but has uncertain roots. It is said that it was once spoken by the thieves of London. This idea can be historically traced, and within my own family, the use of cockney was widespread at various times.

    From what I was told as a small boy, the thieves and suchlike of the East End, in local pubs, began to talk in this manner so that policemen, upon entering, had no idea of what they (the thieves) were talking about. Apparently this started in the middle to late 1800's. (however, see below) It lulled towards the First World War, and was taken up again during WW1 to apparently limit the knowledge of the German population in the area. Again, it more or less stayed very localised until WW2, when it saw a 2nd flourish. Strangers to the East End were always looked upon as suspicious, and the heavy bombing of the East End during WW2 made the locals that lived through it very wary indeed of anyone with German antecedants. After WW2, it again started to die out as the older generation from the Victorian Era passed away, and television revived the usage through various popular programmes. This bought CRS to the masses of the whole country. Since then, it has developed and grown, with many new phrases being introduced. Most, if not all of those who at one time spoke the original CRS, are now dead. But there are older generation East Enders who still use some of the phrases, as well as many who now live in Essex.

    It would certainly have been a very effective code, being incomprehensible to the authorities or any eavesdroppers who were not familiar with the slang. There is little evidence, however, to suggest that it was particularly widespread, and it was very localised. There are different areas of East London that used different rhyming words as well. Bow and Hoxton are two examples.

    The problem in researching its origins is that it was largely a spoken language with very few written records. What is more, if it was a secret code used by traders, entertainers, and thieves, then the secret has been well kept. We will never be certain how widespread its usage once may have been.

    The Cockneys were – and for the mostpart still are – working class Londoners. The word comes from cockeneyes (14th century) which means eggs that are misshapen, as if laid by a ****. The word went through a series of usages over the centuries, and it came to be used to refer to city folk, ignorant of 'real life'.

    Nowadays the definition of Cockney is often one which originated during the 17th century... though there is little known written down about cockney from this era. It refers to anyone born within the sound of Bow-bells. These are the bells in the tower of St. Mary-le-Bow, commonly but in fact erroneously called Big Ben (Big Ben is not the tower, but the largest of its bells). The term is still usually used in a somewhat derogatory sense.

    Some slang expressions have escaped from London and are in popular use throughout the rest of Britain. For example "use your loaf" is an everyday phrase for the British, but not too many people realise it is Cockney Rhyming Slang ("loaf of bread: head"). There are many more examples of this unwitting use of Cockney Rhyming Slang.

    Some books on Cockney, you can find here..

    http://www.fun-with-words.com/crs_books.html

    One thing is for certain. All languages, dialects, or in this case, phrases, develope and grow. If not a living langauage or dialect, it is certainly alive.

    I hope this has been of some help to you.

    best wishes

    Phil
    Last edited by Phil Carter; 12-20-2009, 12:53 PM.
    Chelsea FC. TRUE BLUE. 💙


    Justice for the 96 = achieved
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    • #3
      Barnaby,

      My advice is two fold.

      One, do a goole search for Lee Jacksons excellent site 'The Victorian dictionary'. There is a section on slang.

      Two, get yourself a copy of Mayhews The London Underworld in the Victorian period. That has a little slang but also uses colloquialisms.

      Cheers
      Monty




      Author of Capturing Jack the Ripper.

      http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/1445621622

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Monty View Post
        Barnaby,

        My advice is two fold.

        One, do a goole search for Lee Jacksons excellent site 'The Victorian dictionary'. There is a section on slang.

        Two, get yourself a copy of Mayhews The London Underworld in the Victorian period. That has a little slang but also uses colloquialisms.

        Cheers
        Monty
        Monty,

        Very good advice indeed. Thanks for the reminder... I got lost in typing historical hand me downs for a while there..lol

        best wishes

        Phil
        Chelsea FC. TRUE BLUE. 💙


        Justice for the 96 = achieved
        Accountability? ....

        Comment


        • #5
          Monty is an 'iron'!

          And by that, I don't mean to say that he is a supporter of West Ham United!

          Originally posted by Phil Carter View Post
          Nowadays the definition of Cockney is often one which originated during the 17th century... though there is little known written down about cockney from this era. It refers to anyone born within the sound of Bow-bells. These are the bells in the tower of St. Mary-le-Bow, commonly but in fact erroneously called Big Ben (Big Ben is not the tower, but the largest of its bells).
          The sound of 'Bow Bells' emanates from the bell-tower of the Parish Church of St. Mary le Bow, … which is situated ~300 yards east of St. Paul's Cathedral, … on Cheapside, Parish of St. Mary le Bow, Cheap Ward, City of London.

          This would suggest, of course, that the term 'Cockney' was originally intended to refer to all Londoners.

          Two of the main reasons that 'Cockney' has come to be synonymous with 'East-Ender', I believe, are the following:

          1.) An erroneous assumption, on the part of many, that the sound of 'Bow Bells' emanates from the bell-tower of the Parish Church of St. Mary Stratford Bow, … which is situated on Bow Road, (in what was, in 1888) Parish of St. Mary Stratford Bow, County of Middlesex; thus placing the sound's origin in the 'heart' of today's 'East End'.

          2.) The simple fact that London culture has continued to thrive in today's 'East End'; … most especially in those areas of the outer 'East End', such as East Ham, Ilford and Barking, … which were not even part of London, until 1965.

          Originally posted by Barnaby View Post
          I've been interested in writing Ripper fiction for awhile, but cannot get past the hurdle of writing in the East End (Cockney?) dialect of the time.
          It must be remembered that this mystery evolved in what was the inner portion* of 1888's inner 'East End' (i.e. that portion, which was - and still is - situated within the concavity of Regent's Canal).

          * That's right! The "inner portion" of the "inner 'East End'"!

          This area has, for centuries, been a 'melting-pot' of immigration: From other parts of London; from other parts of Great Britain; from other parts of Europe; and in the last fifty-to-sixty years, … from other parts of the globe.

          Case in Point:

          How many of the victims of the so-called 'Whitechapel Murders' were born in the 'East End'?

          My Point:

          I seriously doubt that the area in question had a specific dialect, in 1888, which it could call "it's own"!

          Comment


          • #6
            Hi Barnaby,

            I would suggest avoiding dialect as much as you can when writing dialogue. Even if you get it exactly right it will still be indecipherable to many of your readers and spoil their enjoyment of the story. Instead, describe how your character talks.

            On the subject of rhyming slang may I prevail upon my friend Phil Carter to translate "Aris" in its full tortuous form.

            Regards,

            Simon
            Never believe anything until it has been officially denied.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Simon Wood View Post
              On the subject of rhyming slang may I prevail upon my friend Phil Carter to translate "Aris" in its full tortuous form.
              Hello Simon,

              You asked for this my old china....

              Aris.... from Aristotle... Bottle.. from bottle and glass... becomes arse.
              Carry on like this and I will end up writing a rookery. Nah. I'd end up Brassic any road up.

              best wishes

              Phil
              Last edited by Phil Carter; 12-20-2009, 06:09 PM.
              Chelsea FC. TRUE BLUE. 💙


              Justice for the 96 = achieved
              Accountability? ....

              Comment


              • #8
                Hi Phil,

                Ta.

                We get our new dog and bone on Tuesday. I'll give you a Bravington.

                Regards,

                Simon
                Never believe anything until it has been officially denied.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Septic Blue View Post
                  Originally posted by Phil Carter View Post
                  Nowadays the definition of Cockney is often one which originated during the 17th century... though there is little known written down about cockney from this era. It refers to anyone born within the sound of Bow-bells. These are the bells in the tower of St. Mary-le-Bow, commonly but in fact erroneously called Big Ben (Big Ben is not the tower, but the largest of its bells).
                  The sound of 'Bow Bells' emanates from the bell-tower of the Parish Church of St. Mary le Bow, which is situated ~300 yards east of St. Paul's Cathedral, on Cheapside, Parish of St. Mary le Bow, Cheap Ward, City of London.
                  I was subtly hinting that you might wish to correct yourself.

                  Surely, you did not intend to suggest a connection between 'Bow Bells' and 'Big Ben'.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Septic,

                    I think I wrote it correctly... These are the bells in the tower of St. Mary-le-Bow, commonly but in fact erroneously called Big Ben (Big Ben is not the tower, but the largest of its bells).

                    BIG BEN is the name of the largest bell in the Westminster bell tower. TOURISTS, inparticular, ERRONEOUSLY call this set of bells, Bow Bells.

                    I believe you may have mis-read my comment.

                    best wishes

                    And a Merry Xmas

                    Phil
                    Chelsea FC. TRUE BLUE. 💙


                    Justice for the 96 = achieved
                    Accountability? ....

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Literary representation of contemporary London 'working class' speech patterns can be seen in Somerset Maugham's 'Liza of Lambeth'

                      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liza_of_Lambeth
                      allisvanityandvexationofspirit

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                      • #12
                        Thanks for the help, everyone!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Cockney slang is a mine field because it is such a living language an evolves on a year by year, some would say month by month basis. I am not an expert, not even a cockney, not even a Londoner but When I looked at this a couple of years ago, the rhyming slang for a prostitute was a "Roger". But if you used this in your story you wouild look a bit Chicken Oriental
                          as it comes from the actor Roger Moore (hence 'whore') who wasnt doing his stuff until well after 1888!
                          Wouldn't want you to look a Ravi Shankar

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                          • #14
                            Aris.... from Aristotle... Bottle.. from bottle and glass... becomes arse.
                            Our wonderful modern word arse comes from the Old English aerse (sorry, don't know how to do dipthongs). Nothing to do with Cockney rhyming slang. Aerse simply meant 'rear' or 'behind'. As in modern German arsch.

                            Bottoms up!

                            Graham
                            Last edited by Graham; 01-31-2010, 11:35 PM.
                            We are suffering from a plethora of surmise, conjecture and hypothesis. - Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure Of Silver Blaze

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                            • #15
                              I think you will find that rhyming slang is a recent invention, I believe it became popular only after the start of the 20th century.

                              The only London speech peculiarity I can think of from the latter part of the 19th century is the habit of swapping w and v sounds.

                              doris
                              ..."(this is my literary discovery and is copyright protected)"...

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