The name Cockney—a spoilt or effeminate boy— one cockered and spoilt—is generally applied to people born within the sound of Bow bells. Hugh Bigot, a rebellious baron of Henry III.’s reign, is said to have exclaimed—
“If I were in my Castell of Bungeie Tpon the water of “, I wold not set a button by the King of Cockneie.”
When a female Cockney was informed that barley did not grow, but that it was spun by housewives in the country—”I knew as much,” said the Cockney, “for one may see the threads hanging out at the ends thereof.” Minsheu, who compiled a valuable dictionary of the English language in the reign of James I., has a still older and odder mistake. “Cockney,” he says, “is applied only to one born within the sound of Bow bells, i.e. within the City of London, which term came first out of this tale, that a citizen’s son riding with his father out of London into the country, and being a novice, and merely ignorant how corn or cattle increased, asked, when he heard a horse neigh, ‘what the horse did ?’ his father answered, ‘the horse doth neigh;’ riding farther he heard a cock crow, and said, ‘doth the cock neigh too ?’ and therefore Cockney by inversion thus, incock q. incoctus, i.e., raw or unripe in countrymen’s affairs.” The City was sometimes called Cockaigne.
Source: A Handbook for London, Past and Present. Peter Cunningham. Published by John Murray 1849.

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