Big Ben is the name of the bell in Elizabeth Tower by the Palace of Westminster. According to Parliament’s website, on 11 July 1859 the ‘Great Bell’s strikes [were] heard for the first time …. and the quarter bells first chimed on 7 September.’
I didn’t know about this anniversary until a colleague told me. It was cool to find out something new about my city. But then she said to be a true Londoner you had to be born as Big Ben bonged.
Overcome by alliteration, I took a moment to gather my thoughts.
To be considered a true #Cockney you have to be born within the sound of Bow Bells; that’s St Mary-le-Bow church just down from St Paul’s Cathedral. And by that measure, Londoners are endangered.
The problem is that #London has got bigger and noisier, so the sound of Bow Bells doesn’t travel anywhere near as far as it used to. What’s more, because that area isn’t particularly residential it’s unlikely you’ll get many births there, so ‘proper’ Londoners are going to be really rare.
Yep, defining where someone is from is difficult. We haven’t quite figured out what it means to be British. A 2013 poll by NatCen Social Research found 95% of respondents felt speaking English was ‘fairly or very important’ to be truly British, but only 50% felt sharing customs and traditions were requirements.
So does that mean that Britishness is more about language and less about culture and shared experiences? It gets even more confusing when you consider that 74% of people said one has to be born here to be British; but what if you popped out when your parents (one Parisian, the other Devonian) were on holiday in Torremolinos?
How should we define what makes someone a something, whether that’s a Londoner, a Mancunian or a Brummie? Perhaps we should ask where they went to school or listen to their accent. Maybe it’s in the attitude or sense of humour.
When you’re speaking to someone, how do you figure out where they’re from?