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November 19, 2008

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I've been out of London too long to know whether this expression is still current among Cockney-speakers, but if it is, they quite certainly will say just "whistle". The rhyming bit of rhyming slang is almost always dropped.

But then I doubt very much if Carola is Cockney-speaking ... metropolitan middle-classers like to display a smattering of working-class slang - though what she thought readers would make of it in Fort William or Walsall or Belfast (or Oakland, California), who can tell?

Long's entire commentary is completely tongue-in-cheek; at least, that's the way I read it.
The use of the rhyming slang whistle-and-flute to refer to a bespoke cashmere-mix suit is meant to be ironic.

@Virtual Linguist: I don't think the entire commentary is tongue-in-cheek, although using street patois in this context does display a bit of attitude. But I'm not familiar enough with her writing to say for certain.

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