Friday, 18 October 2013

speaking int' dialect

This weekend is National Dialect Weekend in England.   It's focusing on the regional dialects of England, and celebrating the richness they bring to our language (and the connection to place and time they give).  Dialects are also very important in Scotland (where some people did once speak Scots Gaelic, but not all), from the frankly unintelligible Doric (which the big bloke out of Brave speaks), to the slightly scary Weegie (or West Coast) accent (although that's not as scary as someone from Livingston asking 'alright darling?').  I must point out that dialect refers to different words people use in different areas, and accent to how they say words, but the two are inevitably conflated, I reckon.

Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Cornwall, and the Isle of Man get different variations of Gaelic, but they all also speak English, with some fabulous variations.  I love the Manx 'what road's that down then?' (for where's that) and 'aye yessir' (yes).

I was going to say something like I'm fae Yorkshire me, but then I realised that fae would be the Scottish way of saying from, and living in so many places has got me befuddled.  

I do have a bit of Yorkshire accent/dialect.  I say onvelope, intead of envelope.  And when I get cross I might be mad about the way I've been tret, but mostly I have what my Dad calls a University accent - meaning most accent is lost and you use longer words!  What about you?  What do you say that shows your roots?  Does it come out more if you're mad?  Or if you're drunk?  Do you suddenly fall back into it when you speak to your folks on the 'phone?
A snicket
So there

Even though I'm dead posh sounding like, I do have words that I've grown up knowing were the right words, and so I still use them, although I'm getting used to people looking mystified.  You know that paved/tarmac'ed pathway between houses that pedestrians can use for a short cut?  I call that a snicket.  

One time in Rainy Town, Scotland, there was a blockage on the pavement ahead, and I called to the children that we'd go down the snicket.  I was stopped immediately by an elderly lady in her garden, telling me that it wasn't a snicket.  Snickets,  she told me, are not found in Scotland.  This was an alley.  So that's me told!

There are lots of things that people across the country use different words for.  What do you call a snicket?  A gym shoe?  Is that bug under the rock a woodlouse or a slater?  Are you ticklish in your oxter or your armpit?  Do you say aye or yes?  Wee or little?  In the scud or naked?

When we lived in sunny Suffolk the boy's teacher had a strong Suffolk accent, so it was rather unfortunate that she taught them ICT on the compooter on Toosdays.  She used to reward good behaviour with coobs in a jar.  When they filled it up they'd get a party!  My son insisted they were called coobs, not cubes, for quite a long time.  There's a great example of a Suffolk accent here.

My Granny was from Lancashire and always called the park the rec'.  Mind you she thought it was reet graidly too.

The British Library has collected sound recordings of English dialects, which are great to listen to.  See if you can find one from near you.

There is a worry that British dialects are dying out, and they might be getting softened a bit I suppose, but I still love that if you catch a train from Edinburgh to London, and fall asleep, you can always tell where you are when you wake up by the accents.  Even my children notice when we're going through Yorkshire.  'Mum!  Other people talk like you!'

And with that I shall leave you with a few gems.  The National Anthem of Gods Own County - Yorkshire (by the way, the tune for this is the tune that While Shepherds Watched was originally sung to - try it).  This version is just silly, but stick with it, Brian Blessed is coming (btw, Brian Blessed is from Yorkshire, proof, if such were needed, that it is truly blessed).

Here's some Manx dialect translation (watch out for swearing).

And to provide a wee bit of balance, this is an awesome example of the difficulties of dealing with accents.  It's in Scottish, yer ken? (warning: strong language).

Some other posts you might like: