The Rhyming Cockney Accent of Britain

By Swathika.


Cockney, originally used as a pejorative term for all city-dwellers, is now used to refer to all the working-class people in London’s East End. It traditionally refers to the accent of English spoken by the working-class population of London, and it became known as Estuary English. Some of the common features of this accent are the glottal stop, substituting a /w/ for /l/, dropping the /h/ for the /a/ in words, and the rhyming slang.

However, studies have now shown that in London’s East End some traditional features of cockney have been displaced by a Jamaican Creole-influenced variety popular among young Londoners known as ‘Jafaican’, also referred to as Multi-Cultural London English.  But features of the cockney such as the double negatives, rhyming slang, and the glottal stop are still in use. Other features of cockney also include: the raised vowel in words like ‘trap’ and ‘cat’ so these sound like ‘trep’ and ‘cet’; non-rhoticity, meaning the ‘r’ at the end of words isn’t pronounced; trap-bath split, meaning that certain ‘a’ words like ‘bath’, ‘can’t’, ‘dance’, are pronounced with the broad-a in ‘father’; and th-fronting.

These videos from the British TV show “Mind Your Language” provide some examples of cockney rhyming slang.

This is a cockney slang speech example:

Norman Fairclough on the Rhetorical Style of Tony Blair

By Swathika.


The book New Labour, New Language by Norman Fairclough talks about how political leaders present themselves, and how the language used by a politician is different from that used by an ordinary man. And as you go on to read the book, you will also find that the power and position of a person, the occupation, age etc. influences the kind of language used by that person. One important part of this book is about how Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister, creates a character he wishes to present using his unique style of language, that is different from that of most other politicians and specific to him. Norman Fairclough tells us that Tony Blair presents himself as a ‘normal person’ as well as a ‘political leader’ via the rhetorical style he employs in his speeches. The main examples quoted in the book are as follows:


If you want to read the whole speech then click on this link: Tony Blair 1997 Labour Party speech. Here is a short clip:


In 1997 after the Labour Party had came to power, the newly-elected Labour PM Tony Blair summarized his objectives at the first Labour Conference in Brighton: (the conference’s slogan was “new Labour, new Britain”)

Today I want to set out an ambitious course for this country: to be nothing less than the model 21st century nation, a beacon to the world.

Norman Fairclough goes on to tell the readers that ‘Blair’s rhetorical style is not purely a matter of language. It is a matter of his total bodily performance, of which what he says is just a part. It is a matter of how he sounds, how he looks, the shifting expressions on his face, the way he moves his head and other parts of his body.’ So it’s not just the kind of words that Tony Blair uses in his speech. His body language also contributes to his political identity.

As you turn the pages, you will also see that Fairclough has talked about how Blair uses everyday English in his political speeches, presenting himself as a ‘normal person’, like any other person in the audience/public. In fact, Fairclough says that Blair himself wrote:

I feel like a perfectly normal person. I look at politicians who are older than me and I wonder when was the last time they had their own thoughts to themselves in their own way without feeling they had to programme their thoughts to get across a message … I don’t feel much like a politician.

Moreover, Tony Blair’s speech on the death of Princess Diana in 1997 is also a good example, showing how he reflects himself to be a ‘normal person’. In the speech, he says:

I feel like everyone else in the country today—utterly devastated. Our thoughts and prayers are with Princess Diana’s family—in particular her two sons, two boys—our hearts go out to them. We are today a nation, in Britain, in a state of shock, in mourning, in grief that is so deeply painful for us.

As Fairclough has written in his book, “Tony Blair combines an everyday emotional language (‘utterly devastated’, ‘in the state of shock’) with formal ceremonial expressions of regret (‘we are today a nation in mourning’) in a way which brings his emotional reaction as a ‘normal person’ (as he puts it, ‘like everyone else’) into his official task as Prime Minister”.

The following is an extract from a Guardian article, “Blair’s Rhetorical Style“:

This is the conventional sort of language that leaders use to speak on behalf of the nation on such occasions. Blair uses the first person plural (‘we’), and predictable, pre-constructed expressions (cliches)—’thoughts and prayers’, ‘our hearts go out to them’, ‘a nation in mourning’ (once you hear ‘our hearts’ for instance on this sort of occasion, you can predict ‘go out’). But threaded into this conventional public language is a more personal language (Blair begins speaking for himself, in the first person singular, and about his own feelings) and a more vernacular language. It is as if Blair (with his advisers—the speech has been attributed to Alistair Campbell) had started with the official form of words, then personalised and informalised it. He uses a vernacular language of affect as well as a public one—’utterly devastated’, ‘in a state of shock’. Notice also the way he re-words ‘her two sons’ as ‘two boys’, which again is a shift between a more formal way of referring to them in terms of their relationship to Diana and a more intimate, family way. Blair says he feels ‘like everyone else’—he is not only speaking formally for ‘the nation’, he is also speaking informally for ordinary people; and part of the power of his style is his ability to combine formality and informality, ceremony and feeling, publicness and privateness.

Finally, Fairclough also says that Blair uses vernacular expressions like “quit whilst I’m ahead” as a way of claiming his ‘normalness’, although the usage of ‘whilst’ rather than ‘while’ makes him sound more middle-class and ‘whilst’ is now considered to be archaic. And he also writes that Blair uses several conversational features such as repetition, incomplete utterances, fillers etc. suggesting that he is responding in a thoughtful way rather than reeling off prepared answers, which most politicians are expected to do.

Thus, politics has a very different and unique connection with the English language, and the language used by politicians is intertwined and linked with several other factors, reflecting the identity of the person. People should understand this interconnection and must not be just blinded with the sophisticated lexis used.

What a world we live in

A submission by Prof. Nimsay.


What a world we live in.

We’ve got civil wars, nuclear bombs, racism, sexism, discrimination, greed and selfishness. Not to mention immense, irreversible pollution, global warming, wrecked environments, shattered ecosystems and innumerable extinct and endangered species. No, seriously, this is some planet we’re living on.

I got an Instagram account recently and discovered this account called @hotvocals. The profile says ‘singing and inspirational videos’. So I went to go look through them.

There were videos on kids in Syria. On kids who’d been sent to foster care because their parents are being deported. On refugee children who lived lives full of suffering and were separated from their families.

How can you do this to them? How can you make claims that we’re a civilised planet, that we’ve accomplished so much, that we can do so much, but yet we have rotten cores? We tear apart cities, but we build them again in advertisements. Everything seems so superficial.

We consider ourselves a comprehensive, advanced society, do we not? I mean, there are people who do so many things, and are successful and achieve so much. We have motivational speakers who jet around the world giving speeches about unity and peace and so on. We have presidents who make grandiose statements about what they promise to do.

And we have a five year old child in Syria, begging for a little water to drink.

Everywhere, people face so much difficulty. And there are so many who do nothing about it. Half the rich people in the world don’t bother about the staff they have. Why should they care? They aren’t expected to worry about the millions of starving refugees. But if they did, wouldn’t they be able to help so much? If they extended even a pinky finger of help, they’d be able to provide for so many people.

So why don’t they?

Unfortunately, this world is way too full of greed and selfishness. That’s why the whole thing started, didn’t it? Because people were too greedy to be content, and too selfish to settle things on their own. One of my favourite Calvin strips is this one where Calvin asks his dad how soldiers killing each other was supposed to solve the world’s problems. His dad doesn’t answer, just stares at Calvin for a while. In the last panel, Calvin says, “I think grownups just act like they know what they’re doing.” Now if that isn’t accuracy, what is?

What do we still have to fight for? What do we still have to blow up cities for? What do we still have to gun down women and children for? People just give obscure answers. Everyone has been so blinded, so manipulated that they don’t even question anymore. Why do soldiers need to fight and kill each other and lose their lives while taking away others? Why? Does anyone even have an answer anymore? Why can’t the leaders of armies, or world leaders, or anyone who is in conflict just hash it out with each other? Why must you involve so many people, make innocents suffer, throw an entire country into chaos and bear so many losses? Why are you doing that? It’s not the only way. And it’s not like charging at each other and blowing up everything and everyone is getting you anywhere, is it?

So many wars that are going on now are a result of people being selfish and stubborn and letting things get out of hand. And it’s ended up in constant riots and protests and deaths. For all the world leaders who propagated peace and unity, rubbish. You think sending ten year olds off to war and storming an innocent woman’s home is peace?

All the people who were unwillingly dragged into war do not deserve to live their lives in terror and suffering. They do not deserve to struggle for basic necessities. They do not deserve to lose their child when a boat capsizes. They do not deserve to lose everything they have. They don’t deserve to be put into this kind of situation. And this is why I think governments and world leaders are selfish, because they continue pulverising and destroying without caring for their citizens. They just go on bombing and blasting without a shred of concern for the consequences. And in the end, it’s the innocent people whirled into the fray who get hurt and lose the most.

What happened to humanity?

It takes a really heartless person to cause suffering to a child. Won’t it weigh on their conscience? Apparently not.

Give the children a chance. Give them the life they deserve. Don’t take it away.

The Iron Lady and her changing voice

By Swathika.


Margaret Thatcher, the former British Prime Minister, who is well-known as the “Iron Lady”, is also known for changing her voice throughout her service as the Prime Minister of Britain. She was coached to lower her pitch to sound more masculine. This was used by the media to write articles about her varying voices with headlines like “From ‘Shrill’ Housewife to Downing Street”her voice was described as powerful and persuasive, soft and cajoling, distinctive, and was said to be one of her most potent political weapons. The lowered pitch was not only to sound more masculine but also to develop a calm and authoritative tone, revealing the extent to which power changes the way people speak.

Below is a video in which people talk about how certain kinds of voices are better suited for certain activities than others.