Words like "yoot," "nuff" and "nang" - meaning child, very and good, respectively - are forming the new accepted slang in London's inner boroughs.

 

Today, you're more likely to hear about someone's "blud" - friend - or "headin' Westside" - going home - in London's East End than a reference to having a "butcher's hook" - having a look - or "being someone's china plate" - mate.

 

Cockney took root in the Victorian era as the unofficial phonetic twang of everyday London, largely defined in popular culture by Dick Van Dyke's soot-covered, dancing chimney sweep in "Mary Poppins" and Eliza Doolittle, the down-and-out London flower girl in George Bernard Shaw's famed play, "Pygmalion".

 

But British researchers say that it is a new "multi-racial vernacular," shaped by second and third generation London immigrants, including West Africans, Afro-Caribbeans and Bangladeshis, that is taking hold among today's working class.

 

New speech

 

London immigrants are said to
have shaped the new language

Sue Fox, a research assistant in the Linguistics Department at London University's Queen Mary College, said: "In post-war London, you saw a lot of migration out of the city by white, working-class families into suburbs like Essex and satellite towns.

 

"Now, you have African, South American and Asian families blending all of those old influences from cockney and their native languages together into a new variety of speech."

 

Fox and a team of three other linguists from Queen Mary College and Lancaster University interviewed about 100 north and east London youths, from ages 16-19, for a three-year study into London speech patterns.

 

Researchers found that a new type of speech, influenced by a dizzying number of foreign languages and pronunciations, rap music and popular TV programmes, have altered traditional cockney.

 

TV influence

 

Among the most prominent television programmes is "Da Ali G Show," a British Channel 4 show - also screened on HBO in the US - which features a hip-hop obsessed Briton, Ali G, speaking in Jafaican tongue, decked out in colourful jump suits and gold jewellery.

 

"This is not young people trying to be cool. This is the speech they have everyday access to"

Sue Fox,
Research assistant, linguistics department, London University

Fox said: "I think writers on those shows hear these things on the streets and take the most extreme forms of what is said to build this type of caricature. It's an exaggeration."

 

However, researchers say the new form of slang is not a passing trend, but rather a more deeply rooted shift when new words and phrases are compared to their older cockney counterparts only five and 10 years removed.

 

Fox said: "This is not young people trying to be cool. This is the speech they have everyday access to."

 

Michael Plumbe, chairman of the Queen's English Society, a London-based institute pledged to preserve proper British English grammar, usage and pronunciation, said, while Jafaican and other dialects may be "rather ugly on the ear", they deserve recognition as legitimate forms of proper speech.