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This line is often used in TV shows, usually when a character is trying to use an english accent. He will use a british slang and say something along the lines of

'ello gov'nor!

Two examples from the top of my head, although there are a lot more:

  • In New Girl S04E11, when Jess is going to London for Christmas, she is so excited that she tries to fake a British accent and says

    'ello gov'nor!

  • In Community S03E16, Troy is busy and so Abed has to use the dreamatorium with Annie, who is supposed to play temporary Constable Geneva. She does it all wrong however, jumps out and says in a bad british accent:

    Oy gov'nor, quantum spanner innit [..]


So it seems to be used as a gag to show that someone is really bad at British accents. Here's my question:

What's the origin of this line and why is it so popular in shows/movies?

Is it a reference to a famous movie scene? Or something that is just a common gag among Americans?

Bonus points if you can name the first show or movie where it was used.

  • It's a cockney expression that goes waaaaay back. Alfred P. Doolittle says it quite often in My Fair Lady (pygmalion). I'll research more but my thought is that that's the movie that propelled it as a meme. The OED cites it first from 1827. Oliver Twist was the first movie – Ben Plont Feb 12 '15 at 1:20
  • Yeah, this has been used in films as a meme to some extent but it was actually something people said. urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=%27Ello+gov%27na If you want the first instance of it used as a gag, you might want to adjust your question. :) Oh, and I'd guess it's popular because it sounds funny and is easy to say. – Catija Feb 12 '15 at 1:37
  • It is not a gag to show someone is bad at English accents. It is a stereotype of what certain speakers of British English say. It is also not a common gag among Americans. We don't go around saying that. Maybe to some British friends of ours, but again only to stereotype them. – pazzo Feb 13 '15 at 15:01
  • "Bob's your uncle!" – Shiz Z. Feb 13 '15 at 19:56
  • @δοῦλος I'm pretty sure that, when on The Daily Show, John Oliver has used both 'ello gov'nor and Bob's your uncle on a relatively regular basis. Granted, he is British. But he's doing it as a mockery of what Americans think Brits say... – Catija Feb 13 '15 at 20:08
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The OED cites 'guv' and it's variants as entering the language in 1852 via Punch magazine. This is when the word 'guv-ner' was popularized.

I originally thought Oliver Twist (1948) was the first movie to use the line " 'ello guv-nor ". However I found an earlier movie Convict 99.

Here's a link. The morning governors start at 40:11, they end 40:16.

  • 2
    Good find. You should include your info from the comment above. Seems relevant too. – magnattic Feb 13 '15 at 12:31
  • @Ben: I just searched the OED, but can't find anything for "'ello guv-nah" or variants. What exactly is it listed under? – Hugo Feb 17 '15 at 13:01
  • @Hugo try "guvnor". I'm still trying to get back into the OED. I found the reference at OED online, but couldn't access the information. I need to get to the library and use the resources there. oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/guv%27nor I've got this much right now. – Ben Plont Feb 17 '15 at 16:51
  • @Hugo Here's this as well. oed.com/view/Entry/82777?rskey=sMeg5F&result=4# Though it doesn't list 'ello Guv-nah from Oliver Twist in 1844. That one, we know exists before these other examples. – Ben Plont Feb 17 '15 at 16:56
  • @Ben Strange, OED online's first guvnor is from an 1852 Punch ("I say, Guvner...") and there's no "'ello guv-nah" mentioned. But "'ello guv-nah" isn't really a set phrase, just 'ello+guvnor. Oliver Twist was published in 1838 but I don't find any guvner or variants in the book and no "ello gunah" or variants at all in Google Books in the 19th century... If you can find an example in Oliver Twist or the OED 1827 cite, then the OED would be happy for the antedating! – Hugo Feb 18 '15 at 12:02

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