This last week, whilst staying with my folks and talking to lots of native East Anglians, I have relapsed into using phrases like “Int it?” rather than “Is it not the case?” and “Oo-er” rather than “Golly!”. Unfortunately, I have not lost any of my Northern inflections – despite having every instance picked up on by (and duly mocked by) my parents. And despite being the presence of my parents, I am still swearing like a trooper - a particularly ill-mannered trooper who has just stubbed his toe.
However, there is one particular word that I would really like to get shot of as soon as possible.
The Whitby accent in particular is a hybrid of the North Yorkshire and Teeside accents, a union which results in the prevalence of the word pet as a term of endearment. And alas, I have picked up the habit of calling people pet when attempting to comfort, reassure or generally be friendly. I have even written it down once or twice.
I don’t do terms of endearment. Of course, sometimes, even those who use such words towards strangers can be very charming as long as they otherwise being friendly and respectful (the lady at the benefits agency addressed me as lovey yesterday, bless her). But most of us know the frustration of being addressed as pet, dear, darling or mate when one is otherwise being treated with the utmost disrespect. And I find that in many of the contexts in which these words are used they tend to be insincere or patronising – even, or perhaps especially, in the most intimate of relationships. I know this, because I find myself doing it when softening criticism, apologising, asking a difficult question, or otherwise being a git. The only thing worse than hearing an arguing couple, not an ounce of affection in their voices, continue to slip honey, love or sweetheart in between bitter ripostes is when you hear a parent shouting at a child along the lines, “Shut the fuck up petal, or you’ll be in for a slap!”
But pet... Perhaps it is snobbery to try and get rid of it? It is not as if I am saying it all the time. Perhaps I should embrace a hybrid dialect, oo-er, 'appen? Because it does become a hybrid; you think these things cancel one another out, but they don't always do that. I once stayed with a family in Falkirk, the mother of whom whom had been born and brought up in Essex and she had the weirdest accent you have ever heard - not because it was half-way in between, but because it constantly alternated, producing phrases like, "Och aye, cor blimey gov'nor!"
Anyway, after rabbitting on about nothing, I must subject you to the two versions of the Four Yorkshiremen sketch. The Four Yorkshiremen sketch was something that we used to perform amongst ourselves as children. We could all put-on a Yorkshire accent on account of our grandparents, and many of my Grandfather's stories would begin "When I were a lad..."
So we would compete with one another with the most ridiculous scenarios, although very often using bits from Grandad's stories, the phrase "remnant of barbed wire" used to come up a lot, for example and very precise imperial measurements; Grandad Kelly was a civil engineer and didn't see any reason not to detail the size and shape of things to the nearest sixteenth of an inch, even when recounting a tale to his very young and congenitally metric grandchildren.
Anyway, the original...
And the tribute...
When I started learning English at school, our teacher was German, so I picked up his accent because there was no other chioce. Since I was 16 I had friends in northern England (Lancashire/Yorkshire) who were a bit bewildered about my strange accent and did their best to teach me "proper" English. They seemed to be quite pleased about the results of their efforts. When I started taking English classes at university, we had a teacher from somewhere in Kent, who went completely nuts about my northern accent. I remember I did not have a very good time...
Conversely, I learned German from my grandparents/uncles/etc in the Saar near the French border. Everyone there thought it was hysterical to hear two small children speaking a French-influenced German dialect with English (Suffolk) accents. Shopkeepers used to have us ask for things twice not because they misunderstood, but because we sounded so strange!
Plus the dialect was of buggerall use to me in my (standard) German language GCSE in the UK years later. Near as dammit a completely different language.
Of course, English is phonetic - you just have to know which phonetics to use - germanic/teutonic, Latin, French, Greek etc!
When I realised that there are 8 different ways to pronounce the letter combination "ough" in English I stopped believing it was a phonetic language....
It's funny - there's some great dialects in York that you only hear in the run down areas. I wish there wasn't such a heirarchy of accents. It's the scourge of my life having people presume I'm a private-schooled rich lady just because I'm awful plummy like. And for that I've got my northern Nan to blame who decided at a young age to teach me to annunciate like the Queen. Good for interviews and 'speaking to the manager' but not for being respected.
I would love to hear your accent, Mone; sounds fantastic. I apparently speak French with an American accent, although I wasn't talk by an American.
Fluttertongue - much empathy. AJ has a Mancunian accent, and as well as his gender, there are some circumstances where it is much much better for him to do the talking. There are other circumstances where I, with a more mutual accent, am the best person to speak.
And although I enjoy the humour around accents and us all taking the mick out of one another, it really ought not to count for anything.
Mom makes fun of Dad because he says "thee-AY-terr."
and you thought all we 'Murricans sounded the same...
that is an excellent MP sketch. a friend and i were once riffing off, if not the actual sketch, that whole deal, you know, and somehow this is what we ended up with (we'd had a few beers):
"You should be thankful to be able to work in a cube! In my day we didn't have cubes! We didn't have floors! We didn't have ceilings! We had walls, and we were grateful for them! And we didn't go in for this newfangled 'third dimension.'" Two dimensions were good enough for my parents' generation, and they were good enough for mine! We were flat, but we were 'appy! In my grandfather's day they didn't even have that! All they had was lines! If they were lucky. My father's parents were infinitesimal points! You spend your childhood raised by an infinitesimal point, you'll be deeply appreciative of any parameters within a conceptual space that you can get!"
The Whitby accent, seems a cross between Yorkshire and Geordie (teeside being a close relative of Geordie or Geordie with h dropping?).
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