Cockney Of The North: Northumberland Widow Receives ‘Brown Bread’ Letter For Dead Husband
ARE you brown bread? That’s Cockney rhyming slang for “dead”. Sheila Delhoy spotted the phrase on a letter sent to her husband Ken who died in February 2008. In 2010, Northumberland-based building suppliers Wack wrote to “Brown Bread” Ken. Now the same firm has delivered another letter to “Brown Bread”.
Says Sheila: “When my son Tony found out he rang the company straight away. He said to them ‘are you going to make this an annual thing to remind my mum her husband is dead and make her upset?’”
The company has blamed “data disruption”, which is not Cockney rhyming slang for anything but sounds a lot like nu speak for balls.
Of course, what’s also odd about this is that a Northumberland company should use Cockney rhyming slang at all. Is the Geordie dialect gannin out of fashion? And, in any case, cool kids in London don’t do Cockney no more; they speak in a Jafaican dialect. You, lahke, get me, blud?
Paul Kerswill, professor of socio-linguistics at York University, has investigated the rise of Multicultural London English, a composite blend of West Indian, South Asian, Cockney and Estuary English. He says: “There are two things going on: youth slang, which a lot of people use. But there are [also] core users of MLE and to them it is a dialect and an accent. It doesn’t have to have slang in it. It’s a new kind of Cockney in a way.”
Kerswill adds: “A lot of the core speakers are in the East End of London, where they have low opportunities, and so one of the mechanisms when people find themselves unable to make progress in life or [are] discriminated against is to speak differently, to use that as an exclusionary strategy.”
But Wack is based at 27 Atley Business Park, Cramlington, Northumberland. That’s not quite London. Might it be that the anonymous data base disruptor is behind the times in more ways that realising his customers is not longer looking for work?