Tuesday, 16 February 2016


This week's topic is " Dialects " ....something that I find particularly interesting, possibly since I've lived in a variety of different places.

I was born in London and spoke with a very distinct ' Cockney accent' that thrilled the Aberdeen folk when I went there on holiday. It was always " cor blimey " this or that : I tickled them when I referred to haystacks as ' red Indian 'ouses ' ( I was very into Westerns.)

Aged 5 we went to live in Aberdeen and I restarted infant school. I can't ever recall being made fun of for my speech. Of course up there, although it was a Scottish accent, they spoke with a North Eastern brogue now referred to as ' Doric'. I was NOT encouraged to speak it, although I understood it perfectly as my mother spoke the Doric very broadly.  I came home from school one day to grandmother's house and proudly told her of the poem I'd learned that day and started to recite -" Oh mi mother, and mi faither..." At which point I was stopped and told not to recite this to my parents. To this day I don't know any more of the verse!

One way in which I could use the NE tongue was in rhymes....like those used in playground games such as skipping or ball games. Now these I do recall--

 1)      Queen Mary, Queen Mary my age is sixteen ,
           Mi faither's a fairmer on yonder green.
           He's plenty o' money to dress me sae braw,
            But there's nae bonnie laddie to tak me awa

2)     My ma's a millionaire
         Blue eyes and curly hair.
         Wakin' doon Buchanan Street
          Wi' her big banana feet !

3)   ( a cradle song )
         Far will my bonnie bairnie lie, bairnie lie, bairnie lie ?
          Far will my bonnie bairnie lie ? In the caul, caul days o' the winter oh .
          He'll lie in his mammie's bosie oh, bosie oh, bosie oh.
          He'll lie in his mammie's bosie oh. In the caul caul days oh the winter oh.

I apologise for the spellings, they are the nearest I can make to the sounds ( the computer selection keeps trying to change them too!)

Later during my teenage years I became interested in folk music, especially Bothy Ballads and traditional country songs. So that provided me with a wealth of words only used in that dialect. Of course different areas of the North East had their own dialects and used their own words to name birds, fish etc . Many of these words are becoming more out of use since the introduction of so much television and films into people's lives.

Not being ' allowed ' to use the local dialect had its advantages, for I was able to work in education near Oxford and I think that might have been difficult had I been too " broad."

Many years later I returned to the North East, with my Oxford born husband, who relied on me to ' translate' for him. He adored the stories in books like " A touch of Doric" and appreciated the humour. He was caught out a couple of times early on. Once he went to the gent's toilet when someone said " How are you loon ? " . He nearly punched them until I explained that " loon" meant "lad". Another time he was dancing with a friend and she said something about " breather ", so he escorted her to the fresh air ! I had to explain that this meant brother. ( she had said something about her brother !) .Another time ... ," Puir Geordie he's deed 'n' awa ". My husband asked if it was usual to bury someone in the wall!

In The Highland regions they speak almost perfect English for these reasons...after the rebellion of 1775 many English regiments were stationed in the highlands and influenced the speech, Gaelic was outlawed in the schools and the coming of radio ( with the perfect English commentators ) was widely listened to . English ,you see , up there was learned from books and the radio as a second language. So visitors are often surprised by the excellent diction, for they never developed slang or colloquial words. Although it is spoken with a gentle lilting air.

Strangely, last evening whilst eating out , the conversation came round to dialects and we were relating the different "twangs" heard throughout the country and the diversity of the English language.

Thanks for reading, Kath.



Adele said...

The merging of all the Southern English accents is producing a new dialect known as 'Estuary English.' Rp is going buy the buy as the Cockney habit of turning 'th' into 'f' and 'r' into w' spreads like wildfire across the country, thanks to television shows like East-Enders and TOWIE. Lancaster University based Professor David Crystal has a lot to say on the subject and may interest you.