Class accents, part 2 (Mockney and Cockney)

In Gran Bretagna l’accento non determina la regione di provenienza, ma la classe sociale di appartenenza. È una questione piuttosto classista, e parecchio osteggiata dagli inglesi stessi: è così che nacque il mockney, l’accento utilizzato dall’upper class per rendersi più popolare… (LANGUAGE LEVEL B2 – UPPER INTERMEDIATE)

Rachel Roberts (Standard British accent)
I will say one thing and that is that, while I think that regional accents are… are very important, they’re part of our culture, they’re part of our identity, it’s one thing if you are going out and talking with people from your in-group (1), you know, with your friends at the pub or wherever, because your regional accent allows you to share (2) humour and understand each other much better, but nowadays, in an international context, it doesn’t really work (3), and I think we all need to learn, not to speak perfect Queen’s English, but to speak very clearly, to be able to communicate with other cultures, and I can see a time in the future when maybe Germans and Italians will be able to do business together more easily with their English that they have learnt correctly, rather than somebody arriving and speaking with a… with a very strong regional accent.

Mark Worden (Standard British accent)
Yeah, ‘cause often… people often have two accents and it’s not just in Britain. I mean, I remember in the United States once I was on a shuttle bus at JKF airport or something and there were some… basically, some black guys who worked at the airport and they would be sort of talking to each other in the sort of local “rap speak,” I guess, and then a lady asked them for directions and they immediately switched to sort of polite American (4), and say, (imitates Standard American accent) “Yes, ma’am, it’s over there” (resumes British accent) and it was quite amazing (5) and I think the English do that as well.

Rachel Roberts:
I used to do that at school because I went to a school that wasn’t particularly nice, and if I had gone there speaking like I speak now, as my Mother insisted I should speak, they used to… probably would have beaten me up (6) or something! So I used to go to school and (imitates local accent) speak really rough (7) and talk like that (resumes “normal” accent) and then go home say (imitates “posh (8)” accent), “Oh, hello, Mother, I’m home” (resumes “normal” accent) and speak really nicely at home!

Mark Worden:
Well, you’re not alone. Apparently, David Gower, the English cricket captain in the 1980s, he used to sort of (imitates the “rough” accent) talk like that (resumes “normal accent) to the team mates (9) and then  (imitates the “posh” accent”) with his Mummy (resumes “normal” accent) he’d speak very nicely, and whenever she saw him interviewed on television, she couldn’t believe that this was her own son, so it’s…

Rachel Roberts:
Yes, yeah, well, that’s probably where Mockney comes from, when a lot of rock stars… I think Mick Jagger is famous for speaking Mockney, when he probably naturally had… was quite “well-spoken,” as we say, and yet, as… because he wanted to be a cool rock star, would speak with a fake Cockney accent, you know, and you can… the difference is, with Mockney, that although he’ll (imitates the Mockney accent) talk like that and talk with the accent, (resumes “normal” accent) he doesn’t make grammatical mistakes, whereas a… a… maybe a… a real Cockney would say something like – you know Cockney being the slang from London – a real Cockney would say, (imitates Cockney accent) “I don’t know nuffin’,” (resumes “normal” accent) which is incorrect, and Mick Jagger would say, “I don’t know… (imitates Mockney accent) I don’t know anything” (resumes “normal” accent) because it was, you know, innate for him to say it correctly!

Mark Worden:
Well, another example is Jamie Oliver, the cook who has done this great career because he’s sort of not a snob like all the other celebrity chefs and (imitates the Mockney accent) he talks like that (resumes “normal” accent) everyone think he’s genuine – because he talks like that – but in actual fact (10) he also comes from a very middle-class and twee (11) background, and… and a few years ago I happened to meet – without wishing to namedrop (12)– a guy who’d… who’d grown up in the same village as… as Jamie Oliver and they were childhood friends (13), and the guy talked just as we are talking now!

Rachel Roberts:
Oh, really? Oh, really?


1    from your in-group: del tuo stesso gruppo
2    allows you to share: ti permette di condividere
3    it doesn’t really work: in realtà non funziona
4    switched to sort of polite American: hanno cambiato, sono passati a un modo di parlare (in americano) educato
5    quite amazing: abbastanza sorprendente
6    would have beaten me up: mi avrebbero picchiata
7    rough: (in modo) grezzo
8    posh: snob/raffinato
9    team mates: compagni di squadra
10  in actual fact: in realtà
11   twee: affettato, stucchevole
12  without whising to namedrop: senza voler fare namedrop, ovvero “buttare lì un nome per vantarsi o fare credere di avere conoscenze importanti”
13  childhood friends: amici di infanzia


Ma’am. Madam, signora. Potrebbe sembrare un termine slang, ma è invece una parola estremamente formale: gli inglesi si rivolgono così alla regina, gli americani lo usano anche per rivolgersi alle donne comuni.

Mockney, Cockney. Come spiega Rachel Roberts, Cockney è l’accento (“povero”, diciamo) di Londra, mentre Mockney è un neologismo che significa “finto Cockney”. Si tratta di una portmanteau word (parola macedonia), cioè un neologismo (sincratico) che si crea mettendo assieme due altre parole, in questo caso mock (finto) e Cockney.

Well-spoken. Eloquente. Well-spoken significa letteralmente “parlato bene”, ma in realtà non si riferisce alla capacità di esprimersi di una persona, bensì al fatto che abbia “l’accento giusto”.

Nuffin’. Niente. Qui Rachel Roberts imita foneticamente la pronuncia Cockney della parola nothing. L’errore grammaticale non è la pronuncia, bensì l’utilizzo di nothing al posto di anything (la doppia negazione è un errore in inglese).

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