When I was young (1950's southern England) I learned that Berkshire, pronounced "BARK-sheer" was a county the other side of London, and that a "berk", pronounced to rhyme with "work" or "jerk", was a deplorable individual. Later I learned that "berk" is rhyming slang for "Berkshire Hunt", thus "c*nt".

But they don't rhyme in my pronunciation! How did this come about? Is it subsequent spelling pull on "berk", did Cockneys at the time say "BERK-sheer", or something else?

EDIT made it clear that I never thought that "berk" and "jerk" were regarded as rhyming slang.

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    Where did you read that the rhyming slang involved "berk" rhyming with "jerk"? If you can provide a source that would help with an answer. The sources I've found suggest that "Berk," short for "Berkshire Hunt" is a shortened rhyme slang for "cunt," but make no mention of "Berk" being rhyming slang for "jerk." – RaceYouAnytime Oct 29 '17 at 8:55
  • Sorry @RaceYouAnyTime that was sloppy writing on my part. "Jerk" was an unfortunate pronunciation example. Question (I hope) clarified. – NL_Derek Oct 29 '17 at 19:29
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    Just because Berkshire is pronounced "Bark-" in RP or Standard English does not mean that it's pronounced that way in every dialect, including Cockney. – Andrew Leach Oct 29 '17 at 20:41
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    I no longer try to understand why certain place names are pronounced the way they are in English. After Worcestershire I gave up. – oerkelens Dec 16 '17 at 12:51
  • @AndrewLeach the name of the county of Derby is pronounced 'Darbyshire' in SP but 'Derbyshir' in most Derbyshire dialects. Another good example perhaps. – BoldBen Dec 16 '17 at 17:33

Wiktionary explains:

In both Berkeley and Berkshire, berk is pronounced in RP like bark (IPA(key): /bɑː(ɹ)k/). In other cases such as Cockney and American English pronunciation, it rhymes with work.

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