bigjohn

There is many a good tune played on an old fiddle.

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“Gawd luv a duck, guvn’r !”

Posted by Big John on August 18, 2016

My mother left school at the age of thirteen in 1918 and after a brief period working in a draper’s shop she started work at the local laundry. It paid a few pence a week more than working behind a shop counter, but it was hard work in unhealthy and unpleasant conditions.

I only mention this because the other evening I watched, with interest, the movie “Suffragette“, a fairly mediocre historical drama that recalled the English Suffrage movement, in which Carey Mulligan played Maud, a Bethnal Green laundress.

The laundry scenes looked authentic and the character’s name was right for the period, as all my mum’s friends were ‘Mauds’ or ‘Adas’ or ‘Ethels’ and I’ve plenty of photos of my mother in those hats, but, as with so many period pieces these days, such as ITV’s “Mister Selfridge” most of the actors seem to struggle with the accent of a working-class Londoner.

Notice that I say ‘Londoner’ and not ‘Cockney’, for London accents do vary and ‘Cockney’ traditionally referred to someone “born within the sound of Bow Bells” which meant mostly the poorer parts of the East End and a small area of ‘Sarf Lundun’. Today it is generally, if wrongly, used to describe the dialect of all working-class Londoners.

Now I lived and worked in London for most of my life. In my youth my friends, neighbours and family were blue collar workers, but I can honestly say that I never heard anyone speak in the strange way most actors do when playing shop assistants, taxi drivers, postmen and, ‘Gawd and Dick Van Dyke forbid!’, chimney sweeps: for they seem to adopt what I can only describe as a weird slightly lisping ‘Estuary English’ crossed with an almost baby sounding ‘Mockney’.

I wonder if, when some of them reach Hollywood, they are any better at ‘Brooklyn’, ‘The Bronx’ or even …

… ‘Nu Joisey’ ?

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2 Responses to ““Gawd luv a duck, guvn’r !””

  1. not too long ago I sat through a play in london, my Aussie best girlfriend insisted, and cringed through the entire, since the “american” was played by an eh and abooting Canadian, since they can’t hire Americans if there is a commonwealther who can play it. the highpoint, though, was Juliet of the Spirit, where German neighbors called me in to check if I recognized the actress as American. Not in any part of the US I’ve ever been in. but of course she was doing her Americans speak german like this accent. I feel for you, John. And all your londoner buddies.

  2. Ginnie said

    Hey … I was born in the lovely state of New Jersey … but I have to admit that the “Joisy accent” is a fact. I will be forever grateful that we moved when I was a wee child. (I loved your comment about the WW II service men and women on my blog, John. There aren’t too many of us left that actually remember that stuff first hand.)

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