Daily Telegraph, London, 16 November 1996

I believe in Estuary English

By Sinclair McKay

LET'S be frank. Estuary English - the accent favoured by Essex dwellers, EastEnders characters and much of the young population of southern England - can occasionally be rather grating for everyone else. But there is simply no excuse for the attack launched upon it this week in the new edition of Fowler's Modern English Usage

R. W. Burchfield, the editor, points to some of the central sins of Estuary: the use of the word "cheers" instead of "thank you"; the word "mate" replacing "friend"; and replacement of the letter "t" with a glottal stop.

Oi: leave it aht, orwight? First of all, Estuary is a perfectly legitimate accent in its own right. Estuary is the aspirant child of Cockney, having emigrated, like its users, from the terraces of the East End. Why is it any more "graceless" than Scouse or Mancunian? Could it be that Burchfield and other detractors are guilty of a little unconscious snobbery? There is the objection, raised elsewhere, that Estuary is difficult to understand. Maybe this is why each Estuary sentence is followed by the supplementary question "Know wha' I mean?" But no one would dare to say this in public about the Geordie accent, even though one BBC documentary about a Newcastle housing estate had to carry subtitles.

In the offices of Tatler magazine, there is one very smart woman who spends her morning recounting the previous night's episode of EastEnders. She takes particular delight in mimicking a character called "Bianc-ah". This is exactly the right approach. Britain has a spectacular range of colourful accents. They are there to be enjoyed and, if not enjoyed, then cruelly impersonated. But never despised. Besides which, "cheers" is just so much nicer than the rather stiff "thank you". Innit?


by John Wells 1999 06 28

This author confuses Estuary English with Cockney - 'Oi: leave it aht, orwight' is surely Cockney. The term EE is pointless if it is just a synonym of Cockney.

The whole drift of Rosewarne's original claim about EE, developed by Coggle and others, was that EE is no longer just a London local variety, but (allegedly) spreading much more widely.

Placed on the web 1999 06 28

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