David Rosewarne in 1984 maintained that there was a spreading uniformily affecting the way people in the south and east of England speak. No longer was 'Cockney' London the sound of the capital, now a new version of London speech - that he called Estuary English.
How widespread has the Estuarial phenomenon become? Using recordings from as far afield as Cornwall and Manchester, rural Lancashire, Cambridge and Newcastle to look at the features of Estuary that have found a place here - TH-fronting, glottal stops and such lexical items as the near national standard terms 'knackered', 'loaded' and 'pissed off'. The programme also looks at some of the new sociolects that are producing a form of national standardisation within particular communities (of interest) like gay slang.
We explore what actually is happening within the confines of London. If Estuary English has become a form of 'new RP', to what extent does old 'Apples-and-Pears' Cockney survive? Do people still use rhyming slang or is it now just a London publicist's promotional tool? What are the real features of Cockney (and where for heaven's sake did the term come from in the first place?) And what are the other dialects of the conurbation - the Clapham wives phenomenon? - the new middle-class vernacular, complete with pronunciation scheme, vocabulary and lifestyle (the word 'nan'/'nanny' as a perfect illustration).
Bestselling children's writer and poet Michael Rosen has written a specially commissioned verse about the myriad forms our current vernacular takes. Follow this link to read the poem.
Dermot Murnaghan has spent most of his career in broadcast journalism. Before joining the BBC, he spent more than a decade fronting ITV's national news bulletins from London. He joined the BBC in the Autumn of 2002, becoming Breakfast's main presenter immediately Read Dermot's article on Word 4 Word