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...