BBC Voices

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

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  • Is part of (Collection)

    BBC Voices Recordings

  • Recording locations

    Clapham, London

  • Interviewees

    Bourn, Alexandra, 1960 Oct. 10- (speaker, female, unemployed), Duthie, Charlotte, 1957 Feb. 02- (speaker, female, student), Richardson, Juliet, 1955 Sept. 13- (speaker, female, company director of furniture manufacturer)

  • Interviewers

    Phipps, Jason, 1970 March 16- (speaker, male)

  • Producers

    BBC London

  • Abstract

    [00:00:00] Discussion of words used to describe EMOTIONS. Mention pleased to meet you is non-U. Discussion of words used by parents, some now considered old fashioned. Mention pooped was picked up in America, thought it was frightfully cool. Comment that children refuse to admit they are tired. Mention a daily who possibly used poorly to mean unwell. Discussion of mother being rigid about speech, likes to use correct words, idea of correctness questioned by speakers. Comment that colder than a witchs tit at dawn, meaning cold, is used by father but not mother.[00:10:25] Discussion of words used to describe CLOTHING. Comment that some words are used in a tongue in cheek way to be witty. Discussion of fabric, used by teachers at school but never by speakers now, grandmother would say stuff. [Interviewer adjusts microphones.] Discussion of different types of trousers and words used to describe them. Differences between British English and American English words for items of clothing. Story of interviewers misunderstanding over use of fanny in America. Discussion of different types of shoes worn for various sporting activities and the different names for them, how this has changed over time.[00:20:44] Discussion of words used to describe PEOPLE AND THINGS. Mention that mother has been voted favourite English word of non-English speakers. Discussion of mothers reactions to different words used for mother and words speakers children use to address them. Story of their children being confused because most children at school use nan/nanny to mean grandmother instead of employed carer. Discussion of words and phrases invented to differentiate between maternal and paternal grandmother. Dislike of neutrality/political correctness of partner. Words for male partner changing with age of speaker, difficulty of using boyfriend after age forty, also affected by length of relationship and having had children together. [Brief break for drinks.] Discussion of Caribbean English.[00:31:15] Continuation of discussion of words used to describe PEOPLE AND THINGS. Neologism used for grandfather and male equivalent of nan. Story of using you know because of its association with an old friend. Comment that tool kit is specific to workplace. Discussion of definition of slag and slapper; opinions of boys wearing jewellery. Anecdote about calling a group of boys hanging around in country village gangs of Liss. Mention different words used for male or female young person wearing cheap trendy clothes and jewellery. Discussion of how twelve and thirteen year olds dress now, comparison with speakers clothing as teenagers.[00:42:12] Discussion of words used to describe WEATHER AND SURROUNDINGS. Discussion of use and opinions of toilet, and its alternatives, how this has changed over time. Story of father using going for a George to mean going to the toilet, claimed to be invented at Eton. Discussion of aversion to settee and couch. Mention origin of bourne, meaning running water smaller than a river. Discussion of different words used to describe main room of house depending on size and location of house and whether there is a television in it. Different words used in the past and by parents for main room of house; origin, use and meaning of drawing room.[00:51:05] Discussion of words used to describe PERSONAL ATTRIBUTES. Comment on having many words for rich because its an attractive quality. Mention wedged up is considered mockney. Comment that father used Latin words; mother used French phrases and spelt out words to prevent children understanding, though they actually did. Discussion of learning Latin at school, very useful for understanding Latinate English words and learning other Latinate languages, now being reintroduced into the curriculum. Comment that cack-handed means clumsy not left-handed. Discussion of subtle differences between words used to mean unattractive, a scale of severity, different words for building or person. Dispute over bun or one in the oven meaning pregnant. Story of mother making distinction between attractive and beautiful, how meanings have changed over time. Discussion of hierarchy of words for attractive; words used to describe attractive boys when teenagers. Comment that bolshy is onomatopoeic.[01:04:34] Discussion of words used to describe ACTIONS. Comment that skive is used to mean play truant from both school and work. Discussion of use and origin of ziz, meaning to sleep; different words used by mother to mean man or woman sleeping.

  • Description

    All three interviewees attended boarding school. BBC warning: this interview contains language which some may find offensive. 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.

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