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Friday, April 20, 2012

A Quick Guide to Informal London Speech

The City of London skyline as viewed toward th...
A Quick Guide to Informal London Speech
By Roberta Stuart
If you are staying in a Hyde Park hotel, London offers the chance to experience a variety of language use that you may find interesting - and depending upon where you come from, not always easy to understand!
Here are a few examples of what you may hear.

"I come down the stairs"
Originally considered part of Cockney English (Cockneys traditionally originate from the part of London to the East of Tower Bridge on the north bank of the river) but today now relatively commonplace in all parts of London, the verb "to come" is sometimes strangely conjugated.
Often "come" is used instead of the correct past tense "came".
"Fink and Fort"
In the 19th through to the middle part of the 20th centuries, some London English traditionally pronounced the "th" sound as an "f". So, "think and thought" became "fink and fort" etc.
Strangely, this is now becoming less commonplace, presumably as a result of standardised education and the mass media. Nevertheless, in and around your Hyde Park hotel, London residents may still be heard dropping the "th" occasionally.
"I know-ist that"
For reasons that are still not clear, over the last decades of the 20th century, through large areas of United Kingdom, but notably London, the sound of the clearly enunciated sharp "t" in the middle of words has declined rapidly. Sometimes it is now so softly pronounced as to be virtually non-existent, leading to words such as "noticed" sounding closer to something like "know-ist", and words like "better" now sound closer to "beh-ah". There is also some circumstantial evidence that the "t" sound is also declining at the end of words, to be replaced by an "eh". Examples might be words such as "bought" being pronounced as "baw-h", "right" as "rye" or "what is" as "whas".
"My plates of meat are killing me"
This is traditional London rhyming slang with "plates of meat" meaning effectively "feet". It is sometimes doubly confusing when abbreviated as in "my plates are sore". There are many, many such examples. There was a significant decline in the use of rhyming slang during the latter part of 20th-century. From your Hyde Park hotel, London areas to the east may still occasionally use rhyming slang, though it is now largely the preserve of older people or Londoners who may utter phrases of it occasionally out of a sense of tradition and nostalgia, rather than daily use.
"Ah neh-vah"
A huge and relatively recent change to London English has come about as a result of the fusion between what is called 'estuary English' and the English spoken in the Caribbean islands.
Estuary English had its origin in the area of eastern England where the Thames meets the sea. A distinctive accent with some interesting pronunciations, for reasons that linguists still argue about, this spread rapidly across much of southern, eastern and even central parts of England during the latter 20th century.
In London and some other urban areas with a significant Afro-Caribbean population, estuary English has blended with local accents to create a now quite distinctive new accent and pronunciation set that can be heard across a very large geographical region encompassing millions of people. This is extremely hard to describe in words but it is commonly results in a shift in tone and a pause in the middle of words. Thus "I never" can sound much more like "ah neh (pause and change tone) vah".
From your Hyde Park hotel, London will offer you all this linguistic richness, to say nothing of a multitude of foreign languages, all within a short walk!
Looking for a Hyde Park hotel, London? Roberta Stuart is the Travel Manager for Worldhotels, a company offering the best rooms at Hyde Park hotels, London and a selection of unique four and five star hotels around the world.
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