Cockney

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The term Cockney has both geographical and linguistic associations. Geographically and culturally, it often refers to working class Londoners, particularly those in the East End. Linguistically, it refers to the form of English spoken by this group.

Contents

Etymology

The earliest recorded use of the term is 1362 in The vision of William concerning Piers Plowman by William Langland and it is used to mean a small, misshapen egg, from Middle English coken (of cocks) and ey (egg) so literally 'a cock's egg'.[1] In the Reeve's Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer (circa 1386) it appears as "cokenay",[2] and the meaning is "a child tenderly brought up, an effeminate fellow, a milksop".[1][3][4] By 1521 it was in use by country people as a derogatory reference for the effeminate town-dwellers.[1][5] The term could also be used for a young male prostitute; in this the progression exactly mirrors that of punk and gunsel in America. The term was used to describe those born within earshot of the Bow Bells in 1600, when Samuel Rowlands, in his satire The Letting of Humours Blood in the Head-Vaine, referred to 'a Bowe-bell Cockney'.[6] Traveler and writer Fynes Moryson stated in his work An Itinerary that "Londoners, and all within the sound of Bow Bells, are in reproach called Cockneys."[7] John Minsheu (or Minshew) was the first lexicographer to define the word in this sense, in his Ductor in Linguas (1617), where he referred to 'A Cockney or Cockny, applied only to one born within the sound of Bow bell, that is in the City of London'.[8] However, the etymologies he gave (from 'cock' and 'neigh', or from Latin incoctus, raw) were incorrect. Francis Grose's A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1785) derives the term from the following story:

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