Jeopardy! category: CNN WORLD LANGUAGES (26-1-2015)
$800 clue: (Max Foster reads:) To keep up on events in London, it helps to have a bit o’ knowledge of Cockney rhyming slang, like knowing that the “Baked Bean” is this local personage
The gist: Since the first recorded use of the Cockney “language” is in 1776, it would conceivably refer to at least two of them. Queen Victoria (1837-1901) and Queen Elizabeth II (1952-) may well both have been referred to as “baked bean”… although I couldn’t find any direct references to such. In any case, Cockney slang has probably been around longer than 1776, although it’s difficult to tell for sure. One line of evidence suggests it might go back as far as the 16th century, as some writings have words spelled phonetically, like “frust” for “thrust,” as if a Cockney (or proto-Cockney) speaker were saying them. The nineteenth century saw the first linguistic attempts to record Cockney speech patterns, and the colourful characters of Dickens’ underworld, like the Artful Dodger and Bill Sikes of Oliver Twist, helped to popularize the image the Cockney as clever if unscrupulous, and with a distinct speech, in the public imagination. As with basically all slang still in use, Cockney rhyming slang continues to change, mutate, and a grow with the times, as new phrases (and persons) replace old references (“Tony Blair” for “flare” instead of “Lionel Blair,” for instance). Recent linguistic research has identified a more scientifically-rigorous equivalent to the Cockney dialect, known as Estuary English, referring to the estuary of the River Thames. It’s spoken mainly in the southeast of London, and sharing many features with what is popularly known as Cockney.
The clue: This one requires a basic understanding of how Rhyming slang works, plus some quick thinking to figure out that the most likely London local who rhymes with “bean” is “the Queen.” Apparently that thinking was too quick for the contestants, since none of them got this one, but they’re the ones with the pressure on them. Plus, as “the Queen” is really a title, and not a specific individual, it was a little more confusing than it needed to be.
In Jeopardy!: Sorry, but “the queen” returns over 2000 clues in the J!Archive, while “Queen Elizabeth II” gives over 250, and I just don’t have time for that. “Cockney Rhyming Slang,” even though it isn’t actually the correct response to this clue, gives a more manageable 44, nearly all of them coming from eight separate Cockney Rhyming Slang categories, with absolutely no discernible patterns to them. You’ll just have to rely on your rhyming skills if you happen to get one when you’re on the show.