Have you ever fallen under the spell of a cockney? The term was originally reserved for Londoners who were born within earshot of the ringing bells of St. Mary-le-Bow, a historic church in East London. The bells of St. Mary-le-Bow were destroyed by German bombs during World War II, so you could say a true cockney hasn't been born since 1945. Today, "cockney" is a tip of the hat to good 'ol fashioned, hard-working Eastenders.
Cockney insults display a level of shrewdness that's difficult to rival. Let's start with a brief history. Cockney rhyming slang may have been around since the 16th century, but it really came to life in the 1840s, among market traders and street hawkers. You could compare it to a secret language. Cockney slang was meant to disguise the traders' conversation from regular passersby. Brilliant, right? Imagine how many unassuming customers were taunted!
Today, you won't interact with too many costermongers (those selling fruit and vegetables from handcarts) as you stroll through the streets of East London, but, this is where the clever way with words originated and it's something that's endured.