National Geographic : 1953 Sep
again, forgetting I'm not at home!" when we were stopped by a hand in a white glove, and a hel meted head was lowered to the car window. "Now, sir," said the po liceman, "if you come round this corner, please do use the right side of the road!" He was stern but regretful, as if re buking a willful child. "I'm awful sorry, con stable," began my friend. "Don't worry," cut in the policeman. "I'm just telling you for future ref erence. I'm sure you won't do it again. Go Sir Winston ahead! " ahea" Recently knighted These boys, though the uniform of the they lack the massive Churchill leave No. presence of the old bobby, are nevertheless quite as effective and just as efficient. The disappearance of the Cockney accent I mean the real, rich old-time "Gor-blimey" type of Cockney speech-is due to education and to the radio and the film. Even in White chapel anyone today who greeted a friend with " 'Ello, me old cock sparrer," would be re garded with suspicion as a curious survival. With a more polite, standardized speech a lot of the raciness has departed from the Lon don streets. Like all living dialects, Cockney has changed from time to time. Readers of Dickens will remember that Sam Weller and other characters pronounced the letter "w" as "v," and later in the 19th century "th" was pronounced as "f," so that "think" be came "fink" and "thanks" became "fanks." And a pamphlet just issued for the use of Lon don County Council school inspectors notes that one of the most deplorable tendencies is a lazy habit of omitting the letter "t" so that "water" becomes "wa'er" and "butter" be comes "bu'er." I first noticed it when I heard a Cockney talk about "a lo' o' li'le bo'les" instead of "a lot of little bottles." The Cockney accent had an extraordinary gusto and was the perfect medium for the expression of ironic witticism. I, for one, regret its gradual passing. "The City"-One Square Mile I went down to the City one day to meet the Lord Mayor of London, Sir Rupert De la Bere. The City (with a capital C) is a con stant puzzle to the stranger. When a Lon doner refers to the City, he means the square mile where London began, 1,910 years ago. This area was walled by the Romans and in 309 ( Inited Press Beams as He Starts for the Coronation ,the Prime Minister wears the Star of the Garter and Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. Here he and Lady 10 Downing Street to take their place in the procession. time became medieval London. It contains St. Paul's Cathedral, the Bank, and London Bridge. Close by is the Tower of London. The Lord Mayor of London is, as a histori cal character, second only to the monarch. His state is that of a medieval baron, and he takes precedence within the City boundary over everyone except the sovereign. On cere monial occasions even the reigning monarch asks permission to enter. The Lord Mayor has his marshal, his sword and mace-bearers, and his chaplain, and he travels in state in a gold coach not unlike the royal coach. He is elected by the Aldermen and holds office for only 12 months, during which time he must live and sleep in the City in his splen did official residence, the Mansion House, op posite the Bank of England. Since the "square mile" is now a business area, its few thousand other residents are chiefly caretakers. I arrived an hour or so before the time of my appointment and took a walk round the City. I was surprised to notice little change in three years. Cheapside still bore many signs of the war, and the enormous blitzed area round St. Paul's Cathedral and between Cheapside and Moorgate had not been rebuilt. I wandered into the Guildhall where, amid considerable excitement, the new Gog and Magog, the guardian giants of the City whose predecessors perished during the air raids, had just been installed in the minstrels gallery. I well remember the terrible morning of December 30, 1940, when I climbed my way through rubble towards this building to be met by the librarian, who had been up all night fighting the fire and looked like an exhausted coal miner. He told me with tears in his eyes that Gog and Magog had gone up in flames.