Month: August 2017

Day’s a-dawning: What is Cockney Rhyming Slang?

We hear of the Cockney Rhyming Slang on occasion, but still don’t understand it properly! Why you might ask? Well, dear readers, we aim to provide a short overview of the history of this typically English phenomenon.

     I.        Background

Amongst historians, it is believed that the slang began to be spoken publicly around the 1840s. This is also because the first written evidence of the slang came to exist by that time, so really it could have been spoken for years before that.

It is unsure whether it began as a secret language among those born in Cheapside – to this day believed to be the Cockney borough of London – or whether it was a game of skill. As a secret language, it could have been used by thieves in order to not be arrested by the police. As a game, it tests the quick wit and vocabulary of a person.

    II.        Who can speak CRS?

Anyone can speak cockney rhyming slang if the principles are understood. Despite that perhaps the best at speaking this slang are those born and bred in London’s East End, specifically close to Bow Bells. Others noted that it is spoken in parts of Essex now.

  III.        How does it work?

The principles of rhyming slang are in the name: it has to rhyme. Essentially, the word you are trying to say should be said by another word that it rhymes with, i.e. ‘Uncle Ted’ = bed; ‘Scooby Doo’ = clue; ‘apples and pears’ = stairs; etc.

There are arguments that there is logic behind the expressions chosen and that the slang reflects this.

One slang expression we can explain to you is ‘apple and pears’ for stairs: it was common in the 19th century that apples and pears were displayed in a stair-like form when the fruits were seasonal.

We could also try to justify ‘Scooby Doo’ for clue because as it is known, the dog in the TV show and subsequent films was a little bit clueless as to what went on.

To conclude however, here is a very simple edit of different slang and what they mean. Enjoy it!

Languages: From the real to the fictitious

SpeakUp London wants to introduce you to a topic of interest which relates to what we do here: languages.

We teach languages that are currently widely spoken from the existing 6,000 that the world can speak. There are also those who catalogue how languages have developed over time. Maybe they even invent or discover new ones. These people are linguists. 


One author who succeeded in combining his love for languages with the creation of new ones was J. R. R. Tolkien, beloved author of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He is not the only one, but one of the most successful ones. Other languages created include Dothraki and High Valyrian from Game of Thrones and Klingon from the Star Trek franchise.


Born in 1892, Tolkien was young when language creation was at its zenith in the early 20th century; Esperanto is one of the few languages created at that time period that survived. He was also influenced from an early age by his mother, who taught him Latin, Greek and German. At the University of Oxford, he continued to learn more languages, which included Old English, Finnish, Welsh and Germanic languages, with a preference for Gothic.


Creating Languages

“Anyone who invents a language finds that it requires a suitable habitation and a history in which it can develop.”

There are traces of this implementation in the myths and languages used in Middle-Earth including name and places. The fictitious borrows from the real. For example, Sauron derives from Old Norse and Icelandic languages to mean ‘filthy’ and ‘uncleanness’.  Quenya, the High Elven language, has grammar rules originate from the Finnish language, and Sindarin, the spoken Elvish, is influenced by the Welsh language, a descendant of Gaelic.

For each language in the books to have a genealogy not dissimilar to human ancestry, a mythology w created. This mythology gives the language meaning. It explains why the harsher pronunciation in the Black Speech of Mordor create an association with evil. It is also why the Hobbits’ love for language means they can create riddles. Tolkien maintained that “language construction will breed a mythology” and in this, the man succeeded.  

The truth is if you have siblings you probably created your own language so that Mum and Dad wouldn’t know what you were saying or doing. If you want to become a writer, you can take heart and inspiration from great writers like these.



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Are you an active or passive bystander?

Every once in awhile, dear SpeakUp Londoners, we have to post something serious. Yes, that means it can be boring, but we hope it is interesting.  Today, we are hoping to teach you something  important, it might change your perspective on studying . It’a bold claim to make, but to understand the differences in active and passive learning have saved some grades in the past.

Active and passive learning are two theories that discuss how the brain learns best. Experts in education express preference in active learning over passive. The reason might be obvious: active learning involves doing more with your sensory faculties. While passive learning often involves muscle memory, meaning that it is all about remembering until the exam and then forgetting it, active learning encourages the development of new links, concepts that intertwine and stick in your mind.

Passive learning assumes that the mind is a sponge.

You just absorb the information. Active learning doesn’t just assume this but expands it via discussion, collaboration, critical thinking and problem-solving skills. In all honesty, you might recognise some of the things you do in class in terms of the active and passive learning strategies I have already mentioned.

On your own, active and passive learning strategies might look like this:

Active Passive
Summarise your notes Typing up notes
Create diagrams and graphs Copying from the textbook
Make mind maps Copying out quotes
Peer-to-peer testing Highlighting notes
Answering previous and similar questions Re-reading notes and textbook


However, it is understandable that not everyone can learn using active strategies. If you are a better passive learner, maybe little changes to your routine such as reading your notes out loud or walking around the room as you do that can help retain information for longer.

If you don’t know what type of a learner you are, we can recommend this quiz which will help you figure out what type of a learner you are.