WHAT IS A COCKNEY?
Traditionally, a true Cockney is anybody born within the sound of Bow bells (the bells of the church of St Mary-le-Bow in the East End of London). In fact, the term is commonly used to denote people who come from a wider area of the innermost eastern suburbs of London and also an adjoining area south of the Thames.
‘Cockney’ is also used to describe a strong London accent and, like any such local accent, is associated with working-class origins.
Last of all, a few words about British identity and loyalty. How important is it to British people that they are British? Do they feel they ‘belong’ to Britain?
Perhaps because of the long tradition of a clear separation between the individual and the state, British people, although many of them feel proud to be British, are not normally actively patriotic. They often feel uncomfortable if, in conversation with somebody from another country, that person refers to ‘you’ where ‘you’ means Britain or the British government. They are individualistic and do not like to feel that they are personally representing their country.
During the last quarter of the twentieth century there has been a dramatic and severe loss of confidence in British public institutions. Nearly one third of the people questioned in an opinion poll in the early 1990s said that they could think of nothing about Britain to be proud of. In addition, almost half said that they would emigrate if they could - suggesting a low degree of attachment to the country. This decrease in confidence has been accompanied by a change in the previous rather patronising attitude to foreigners and foreign ways. In the days of empire, foreigners were often considered amusing, even interesting, but not really to be taken seriously. These days, many foreign ways of doing things are admired (although perhaps a bit resentfully) and there is a greater openness to foreign influences.
Along with this openness, however, goes a sense of vulnerability, so that patriotism often takes a rather defensive form. For instance, there are worries about the loss of British identity in the European Union. This is perhaps why the British cling so obstinately to certain distinctive ways of doing things such as driving on the left and using different systems of measurement.
It is in this climate of opinion that the dramatic increase in support for the government during the Falklands/Malvinas War in 1982 must be interpreted. Here was a rare modern occasion for the British people to be actively patriotic. Many of them felt that here, for once, Britain was doing something right and doing it effectively!
The British continue to be very bad about learning other peoples' languages. Fluency in any European language other than English is generally regarded as exotic. But there is nothing defensive or deliberate about this attitude. The British do not refuse to speak other languages. They are just lazy.
Date: 2015-01-02; view: 843