My London Library: No 3 – Cockney Alphabet

  • Title Cockney Alphabet by Rufus Segar (1965, Parrish)
  • Cost £1.99
  • Bought from Oxfam Books, Herne Hill
  • Genre Humour

The Cockney Alphabet is a humorous alphabet originally devised by music hall duo Clapham & Dwyer in 1929 that rewrites the alphabet with cockney phonetics, starting with A for ‘Orses (Hay for Horses) and ending with Z for Effect (Said for Effect).

There are loads of different versions and this wonderfully illustrated little toilet book from the 1960s has a nice potted history of the form, including a list of four of the most popular alternative versions.

Like rhyming slang, the alphabet can be rewritten to take in topical themes or personalities (this book has U for Fox, or Uffa Fox, a now forgotten British sailor; it also has Q for Beatles over the traditional Q for the Dole).

This version was compiled by Rufus Segar, who says it is by no means definitive, arguing that ‘Letters such as D, G, H and S still remain to be bettered.’ (Although I do like his S for Ixiation over a mountain of Chapman brothers’ skulls.)

Some of the contributions can be hard to comprehend (D for Payment?) but Segar insists that ‘with perseverance and some latitude in pronunciation they will suddenly become meaningful’ (ah, ‘Defer payment’!). And we can’t ask for more than that.

Best bit Illustratively: ‘G for Police’; phonetically, ‘M for Sis’.

Verdict Time for an update?

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2 responses to “My London Library: No 3 – Cockney Alphabet

  1. D for Payment – not entirely satisfactory, I admit, but is it just d. (old-style penny) for payment? I like your library, Pete. Very much.

  2. A witty and insightful blog on a great city! I have been reading the book Amazing People of London http://www.amazingpeopleclub.com/bioview/amazing-people-london.html
    Keen Londoners may find this book of interest.
    Keep up the good work!

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