The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Mar 17, 2011

Smiley Culture

Here's yet another example of why, despite living in London for several years, I'm still as distant from local dialect as I was living elsewhere in the world.

Say cockney fire shooter, we bus' gun
Cockney say tea leaf. We just say sticks man.
You know dem have wedge while we have corn
Say cockney say be first my son! we just say gwan!
Cockney say grass we say informer man
When dem talk about iron dem really mean batty man
Rope chain and choparita me say cockney call tom
Cockney say Old Bill we say dutty Babylon

This is a stanza from a 1984 hit song "Cockney Translation" by Smiley Culture, a reggae musician who grew up in South London, and died recently under rather bizarre circumstances. Clearly even at the time there was some divergence between Cockney and Jamaican-inflected slang, and so he needed to translate to show that, underneath, there was little difference between the world-views of the two communities.

According to Johnson, the Economist's linguablog from where I got this (and which you ought to read if you don't understand the lyrics either), youths in Brixton these days are far more assimilated into each other's cultures. I'm fairly certain, though, that any current slang will be as impenetrable to me as 1984. So am I jiggy wid it? No, I ain't.


km said...

Damn. I just learned after reading that article that Brixton's Electric Avenue lent its name to the song (and not the other way around).

What else don't I know?!

Fëanor said...

Did you know that 1 + 1 = 3 for large values of 1?

km said...

As a Hindu, I can't accept the duality of 1. As a Buddhist, I can't not reject the non-duality of 1.

Fëanor said...

And, as a Bond aficionado, one is not enough?

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