The study, commissioned by the Museum of London, included interviewing 2,000 adults, including half from the capital.
It revealed that the famous East End lingo is declining, with 80% of Londoners not understanding phrases like ‘donkey’s ears.
Participants were equally baffled by other rhyming slang, such as ‘mother hubbard’, which means cupboard, and ‘bacon and eggs’, which means legs.
The research suggested that Londoner’s own knowledge of the jargon is now almost as bad as those who live outside the capital.
Talking to the Telegraph, Alex Werner, head of history collections of the Museum of London said: “For many people, cockney rhyming slang is intrinsic to the identity of London.
“However this research suggests that the Cockney dialect itself may not be enjoying the same levels of popularity.”
“The origins of Cockney slang reflects the diverse, immigrant community of London’s East End in the 19thcentury so perhaps its no surprise that other forms of slang are taking over as the cultural influences on the city change.
The term ‘cockenay’ was used in The Reeve’s Tale, the third story in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, to describe a child who was “tenderly brought up” and effeminate.”
By the early 16th century the reference was commonly used as a derogatory term to describe town-dwellers. Later, it was used to indicate those born specifically within earshot of the ringing of Bow-bell at St Mary-le-Bow church in East London.
The report found that most Londoners now have a grasp of just a couple of Cockney phrases such as tea leaf (thief) and apples and pears (stairs).
The most-used cockney slang was found to be the phrase ‘porky pies’ with 13 percent of those questioned still using it. One in ten used the term ‘cream crackered’
Forty percent of the study also said they felt cockney was dying out, with a third admitting they were sad it was fading away.
David Crystal, honorary professor of linguistics at Bangor University, said: “Cockney slang was never widely known as it started as a secret way for people to talk to each other. As soon as the slang became known the cockney’s stopped using it.”
“In my files I’ve seen in the last two of three years slang such as ‘he was wearing his Barack Obamas’, meaning pyjamas and ‘he’s on the Adrian Mole’, meaning dole.
So while it might be true that cockney slang may be dying out it’s worth pointing out that whatever started our impulse to rhyme words is still with us today.”
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