What are you called if you’re from Bow?

Putting it to the residents once and for all: how do the people of Bow define themselves?

Everyone knows that if you’re from Liverpool, you’re a Liverpudlian, if you’re from Manchester, you’re a Mancunian, if you’re from Birmingham you’re a Brummie … but what do you call yourself if you’re from Bow? 

We reached out for your help in settling the matter once and for all by posing this question on Facebook and Instagram, and there was no shortage of responses from our readers: over 400 of you replied across all of our posts. 

Turning a blind eye to some of the cruder comments, we were impressed by our local community’s power of imagination. From Burlington Bertie to David Bowie, the suggestions made for an entertaining read, and it was heartwarming to see how many of us count ourselves as ‘blessed’, ‘lucky’, and ‘proud’ to live in Bow. 

It seems many of us are content with the broader label of East Ender, or think of ourselves as Cockney through and through, but we were determined to get deep into the heart of what it means to be from Bow. 

After sifting through the myriad responses, we whittled it down to the most popular four from Facebook: ‘Bowdian’, ‘Bow Belles and Bow Boys’, ‘Bowhemian’, and ‘Bowite’. 

It’s got to be said, ‘Bowhemian’ took the top spot for our favourite in the office, a playful nod to the artistic heritage that we so love about our area. But when put to the people of Instagram, it was the Bow Belles and Bow Boys that came out on top, gaining 43% of the total votes. 

The cultural significance of the Bow bells of St Mary-le-Bow church in Cheapside looms large in our collective conscience, as we all know that to be born within the sound of the Bow Bells is the traditional definition of a Cockney, however much the term might be thrown around today. 

The sound of the bells of St Mary’s is also prominent in the story of Dick Whittington and his cat, in which the bells are credited with having persuaded him to turn back from Highgate and remain in London to become Lord Mayor in 1392. 

So, will this settle the debate once and for all? We’re not so sure. United by our diversity and difference, perhaps one blanket term will never be decided on. So whether you’re a ‘Bowite’, ‘Bowhemian’, ‘Bow Boy or Belle’ or ‘Bowdian’, one thing is for sure – Bow is a part of us all. 

If you enjoyed this, you may enjoy our piece on the history of Cockney rhyming slang.

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