BBC Voices

Conversation in Luton about accent, dialect and attitudes to language.

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  • Is part of (Collection)

    BBC Voices Recordings

  • Recording locations

    Luton, Buckinghamshire

  • Interviewees

    Maguire, Michael (Mick), 1946 Dec. 28- (speaker, male, interviewee), O'Hehir, Martin, 1934 April 30- (speaker, male), Ward, Joseph, 1938 May 02- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Griffith, Annette, 1965 May 05- (speaker, female)

  • Producers

    Three Counties Radio

  • Abstract

    [00:00:00] Speakers introduce themselves. Discussion about living in the Luton area, think its a decent town despite its negative image in the press, terraced housing in industrial towns projects a particular image. Comparison with where speakers come from in Ireland. Description of small Irish village, no industry for men, cinema and dance hall, not much happened. Farming community where people created their own entertainment: house dances and music in kitchen, went into nearby town at weekends, 1930/40s no electricity in houses, only had battery powered radio. Another farming community with school, pub, butchers, garage and shop. Discussion of reaction to Irish accents when arrived in England. London 1954, worked in shop, totally different accent to public, perhaps toned it down more quickly to be understood than those working in different environments, has been rubbed off over the fifty years since. Speakers accent was faster when first arrived in England, sometimes missed out half of words, this confused people. Worked in factory with English people, told hed become Englified, got English accent, when returned to Ireland, used mate which never did before, meat pronounced like mate in Ireland. Gay meaning happy has changed in England but not Ireland. Story of uncle calling speakers son a gay little fella which surprised his English wife. Description of Scottish influence on Northern Irish (Ulster) dialect, accent and intonation, settled by Scots in 1600s, use lots of Scots/Middle English words. Moving to London has changed the way they speak and perceive their language. Living in Luton has had a big influence on their accent, though it would change if they moved back to Ireland.[00:14:54] Discussion of how speakers describe their accent. Northern Irish accents harsher than the rest of Ireland, clip words a lot; get softer and faster the further south you go. Speakers accents are diluted Irish. Discussion of words used to describe PEOPLE AND THINGS. Different words used in Ireland/England, used Irish words when first arrived but have now adopted the English, cant avoid using local vernacular if want to communicate effectively. Discussion of rooms in house, parlour only used on special occasions, lounge meant bar in Ireland, socialised in kitchen because it was heated. Some Scottish words used in Ireland came from an older era. Story of first seeing a television in Ireland in 1952, half the town watched boxing final in one house. Another speaker first saw television in London, mother described it to him before, sounded marvellous. No electricity in 1940s rural Ireland so no television, just battery powered radio. Rural electrification scheme in Ireland, 1954-1960. Radio would be in kitchen where everything happened, parlour posh but unused. Lots of houses didnt have radio so people gathered in one house to listen to football or hurling, socialising in peoples houses was a big thing in the country. Story of not being allowed to go to toilet at school unless called it lavatory or asked in Gaelic.[00:28:19] Continuation of discussion of words used to describe PEOPLE AND THINGS. Quare one, meaning male partner, connoted someone who was a bit odd or got up to mischief. Parents called each other mum and dad in front of family at home, used first names outside. Use of yoke to mean something whose name youve forgotten. Description of what was trendy when young in Ireland. Discussion of words used to describe CLOTHING. Mens vest called either semmit or singlet depending on area of Ireland, trousers still called pants. Speakers 40 year old daughter uses gansey to mean sweater, despite being born in England, picked it up from him which he is pleased about. Story of shoes called gutties worn as an alter server at mass, didnt make a noise walking around alter, toes came through the edge when grew out of them. Wore sandshoes to go to beach so didnt scuff good shoes. Description of strand compared to beach (more developed).[00:43:07] Discussion of words used to describe PERSONAL ATTRIBUTES. A persons deformity (not politically correct) or profession might have been used to differentiate them from others with same surname. Gaelic word for left-handed used universally in Ireland, not derogatory, still use it now but would have to explain meaning to English people, if used to mean left-footed implied that they had different religion to you. Mention that words for pregnant were whispered, never spoken aloud in front of children. Comment that six months gone might mean pregnant because they had left the area. Discussion of words used to describe EMOTIONS. Mention poorly thank God meant fine in reply to how are you?, thank God used with everything. Comment that only men sweated, women perspired. Famished meant cold in Ireland but hungry in England. Banjaxed means tired but used by radio presenter Terry Wogan to mean broken/gone wrong. Thick had different meanings in different parts of Ireland, either annoyed or ignorant.[00:55:38] Discussion of attitudes towards swearing. Swearing in the past was friendly, more aggressive and nasty today. In Ireland used hoor to mean a great fella; fecker was used, but didnt mean what youd expect. Jaysus used in a friendly way, not meant confrontationally. Dont particularly like swearing, reflects the way people act today. A normal part of peoples vocabulary, or lack of, cant express themselves so use a swear word. Speaker hears grandchildren say words he would prefer they didnt say. Swearing is getting heavier, acceptable on television now, even in soaps before the watershed. Discussion of changing speech between family/friends and people from different backgrounds, might use different words to avoid unnecessary explanations.[01:01:44] Discussion of words used to describe ACTIONS. Words vary across Ireland. Discussion of words used to describe WEATHER AND SURROUNDINGS. What local means to speakers. In Ireland where are you a native of? asks which town or area, not country. Discussion of frequently used words. Peoples speech influenced by their upbringing, education and where they are from. People try to change the way they speak for many different reasons, such as bettering themselves or moving to different environment. Obviously accents change over time depending on where you live but you should be yourself, as long as people understand you, instead of deliberately setting out to change how you speak. Irish people on television are described as having a mid-Atlantic accent, Terry Wogan still has Limerick accent, if a little bit refined now, still know hes Irish. Story of some children in spelling competition on television not understanding questions because presenter talked with BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) accent. Presenters dont have to speak in a particular way anymore, things have moved on. Speakers re-introduce themselves.

  • Description

    Recording made for BBC Voices project of a conversation guided by a BBC interviewer. The conversation follows a loose structure based on eliciting opinions about accents, dialects, the words we use and people's attitude to language. The three interviewees are all members of the Luton Irish Forum and have roots in different parts of Ireland.

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