It must have been a Cockney who said that St Bees came from St 'Ives.



The Bells

From about 1600, the tradition grew up that ‘true’ cockneys are born within the sound of Bow bells; the bells of St Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside, not in Bow, about three miles away.

Research by Dr Malcolm Hough in 1991 concluded that before the days of motor traffic Bow bells would have been audible at night all over London, but that they are now barely audible on the opposite bank of the Thames in daytime.

Hough created a map which plots audibility allowing for weather, wind, landscape and ambient sound. Broadly, the bells can be heard six miles to the east, five miles to the north, three miles to the south, and four miles to the west.

Thus, while all East Enders are Cockney, not all Cockneys are East Enders.The rule of thumb most commonly used is a radius of three miles from St Mary's. 

The bells of St Mary-le Bow weren't rung between 1856 and 1858 because a neighbour, Mrs Elisabeth Bird, complained about them ‘fearing she would die’. They were also quiet between 1926 and 1933, when they were out of order. The bells were destroyed in an air raid on 1941 and not restored until 1961.

Hence for several periods of history the test of being born within hearing distance has been purely notional.


I'm every bourgeois nightmare - a Cockney with intelligence and a million dollars.

Rhyming Slang

No one really knows how old Cockney rhyming slang is. One theory is that it came to prominence in the early/mid 1800s among London street traders to conceal illicit practices from the newly established policeforce but its origins may be much earlier. It was first recorded in print in the mid-19th century.

Many English people use Cockney rhyming slang without knowing it.
Scarper (Scarpa Flow – go)
Cobblers (cobblers awl - balls)
Rabbiting on (rabbit and pork – talk)
Telling porkies (pork pies – lies)
Not a dicky bird (dickie bird - word)
Use your loaf (loaf of bread – head)
Dickie-bow (dickie dirt - shirt)
Cockneys who go to university get either a Geoff, an Attila, a Desmond or a Douglas – Hurst (1st), Hun (2:1), Tutu (2:2), Hurd (3rd). A rather good modern Cockney expression (though not rhyming slang) is ‘He’s three stops down from Plaistow’ (i.e. Barking).

Cosmo Gordon Lang

As far as we can discover, Cosmo Gordon Lang (1864–1945) has never been rhyming slang for anything, but it’s astonishing that he hasn’t. 

Apart from the fact that his name is a perfect match for ‘Cockney Rhyming Slang’ both in rhyme and scansion, the connection is as appropriate as it could possibly be.
From 1901 to 1908, Cosmo Gordon Lang was Dean of St Pauls and Suffragan Bishop of Stepney where he did much to improve slum conditions and bring them to public attention.
Born in Aberdeen, he rose to become archbishop of York (1908–28) then archbishop of Canterbury (1928–42) in which role, along with Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, he secured the abdication of Edward VIII, and crowned George VI king in 1937. 


Anyone being born in Walford would not be a cockney. Eastenders is based in the fictional postcode E20. E18 is 8miles from St Mary-le-Bow, and E20 would be further away.

Dick Van Dyke claims that his cockney accent in the film Mary Poppins was so awful because his voice coach was Irish.

Cockney Cash Machines can be found offering a ‘speckled hen’ or a ‘horn of plenty’.


I guess I am the last of the Cockneys. 

A 'Cockney sparrer' is a chirpy, quick-witted person, especially a Londoner.

Carry On Up the Khyber is rhyming slang (Khyber Pass, arse).

Cockney origins

The word ‘Cockney’ is from Middle English coken-ey ‘a cock’s egg’, a small malformed egg laid by hens. This came to mean a spoilt child or milksop (feeble person), and was later applied by country folk to soft townies in general.