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Of Cockney and Bekinese: From London to Manila

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I recently finished a book entitled The Story of English (Third Edition. McCrum, MacNeil, Cran, 2003). The single volume discussed the spread of the English language from its humble European origins to becoming the world’s lingua franca . It’s a fascinating study of the evolution and acceptance of English – as a primary or a secondary language – or even transforming it to a completely different role and form.

I was drawn to the eighth chapter of the book The Echoes of an English Voice. In ‘The London Language’ and ‘Born Within the Sound of Bow Bells,’ the author discussed Cockney as “simply the language of all Londoners who were not part of the Court, and was spoken by all sorts and conditions of people, craftsmen, clerks, shopkeepers, and tradesmen”. In short, it was a language that was used by the working class. Cockney was first recorded around the end of the 14th century.

The Story of English and it's relation to Bekinese

As I read further, I observed that Cockney had some parallelism with what we call here in the Philippines as gay speak, or more popularly called bekimon, bekispeak, or bekinese. Both have the love for the “nuances, rhythm, word-play, innovation” of the English language. Cockney and bekinese have codes and rhyming slang. Both are evolving as the years pass by. Some have observed the decline in usage of Cockney speak, whereas bekinese seems to thrive and is adding more to its vocabulary everyday.

Examples of Cockney lifted from the book are: Cain and Abel for table, Tom Nicks for six, and Alan Whicker for nicker (which means pound). In the Philippines, there is Aida Gonzales for AIDS, Wynona Rider for winner (or to win), and chapter for ugly.

Difference between bekinese and Cockney

The difference is, while Cockney is widely used (or even encouraged) to gain advantage (especially for the tradesmen), gay speak is more often that not shunned and discriminated upon because it is identified with a marginalized group of people. Cockney is overt; gay speak is not. For as long as the LGBT community is shunned upon, anything associated with them will also be shunned upon.

The ugly side of bekinese

There is an unfortunate ugly side to gay speak just like in any language. It is something that everyone who uses the language should acknowledge. One of the reasons why gay speak is frowned upon is because it is covertly used to insult others. This is done even when even when the person is present especially those who don’t understand it. It’s rude and it’s a sad thought, but one that I am sometimes guilty of.

My opinion, though, is that bekinese is a colorful and fun language that we could use. I am sure that Cockney was and is still used in the same derogatory manner as gay speak. But it shouldn’t end there. I do believe that gay speak was created for entertainment, and I think that it should stay that way. It would definitely make this society a gay-er place to live in.

Flat shoes, mga ‘teh?

Updated on June 7, 2021.

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