BBC Voices

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

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  • Is part of (Collection)

    BBC Voices Recordings

  • Recording locations

    Workington, Cumbria

  • Interviewees

    English, Evelyn, 1954 Oct. 31- (speaker, female, neighbourhood warden), James, Harry, 1930 July 08- (speaker, male, volunteer minibus driver), McMullen, Kathy, (speaker, female, Walker, Helen, 1966 July 13- (speaker, female, White, Ann, 1954 Feb. 14- (speaker, female, carer)

  • Interviewers

    Armstrong, Joan, 1956 June 14- (speaker, female)

  • Producers

    Radio Cumbria

  • Abstract

    [00:00:00] Speakers introduce themselves. Discussion of words used to describe underwear, they use pants to mean trousers but to other people it means knickers. Description of nine year old grandson picking up broad Liverpool accent after living there for ten months, now sounds like a native, thinks its great but tries to stop him being very broad in certain situations because she thinks it can hinder you later in life. Anecdote about daughter finding it difficult to talk properly in job on reception in four star hotel, thinks its important to know right way to speak even if you dont use it all the time, lovely to keep accent to define where people come from. Discussion about retaining accents. Anecdote about being more correct on telephone as office administrator; story of compromising with Scottish manager so that both spoke with mutual intelligibility; shes proud of her local accent and isnt bothered about speaking Queens English. Difference between accent and slang, thinks using slang makes it more difficult for people to understand. Comment that broad Cumbrian can be difficult for others to understand, its often mistaken for Geordie. Keeping broad accent when working with youth group to connect with kids, they wouldnt listen to her if she talked posh, changes it sometimes to enable others to understand her, people think shes from Liverpool. Mentions naturally talking politely on telephone, otherwise uses local accent, anecdote about being called a snob by mates for talking properly in company. Description of changing speech in professional situations.[00:11:33] Discussion about regional accents on television news; huge variation in local accent, this gives people a sense of identity; annoyance at southerners linguistic expectations of and attitudes towards northerners, theyre not respectful enough. Story about sister retaining local accent after living in Australia since 1971. Comment that accent is picked up at school, her siblings accents reflect this; story of six year old losing Australian accent, picking up broad Cumbrian, comment that its easier for children to pick up/lose accents than adults; anecdote about daughter picking up southern accent on two week Sea Cadet camp; sister-in-law speaking French with Cumbrian accent after living there for twenty years, she switches between French/English. Description of switching between Cumbrian/Yorkshire accent depending on who shes talking to. Anecdote about being embarrassed about northern accent when younger, now she would want to stand out. Story about recognising people by their accent when tank driver in army, he wouldnt change his accent for anyone.[00:21:34] Discussion of accents they like/dislike, this has changed over time. Comment that rhyming slang and Romani is used to prevent other people understanding. Discussion of how education has affected their speech, corrected use of slang rather than accent, thinks this helps in later life when you have to talk proper. Mention slang words they have written on spidergram for throw/kit of tools/word for something whose name youve forgotten/baby/lacking money/unwell/drunk/left-handed. [Harry James leaves.][00:26:32] Discussion of change in speech when drunk, they swear more, use lots of slang and accent becomes broader, words used to describe a hangover. Discussion of attitudes towards swearing and use of swear words, comment that it has become part of the social language, not taken so seriously now. Discussion of influence of media and popular culture on language, words picked up from television, four year old singing F U right back after hearing it on radio. Comment that swear words and their implications are usually ugly/unpleasant; saying the F word is great for releasing emotions and getting your point across. Discussion of swear words being against women.[00:35:19] Discussion about British regional accents inciting animosity and stereotypical preconceptions, affected by television and people you already know with accents. Discussion of peoples ignorance about location of Cumbria, associating it with Sellafield; they would mention Lake District instead. Story of man in London recognising her Cumbrian accent, thinks her accent is a good thing because its a point of interest. Remark that Cumbria is often forgotten on weather forecast maps. Discussion about accent-related discrimination at job interview; relationship between Carlisle/West Cumbrian accent, she has mixture.[00:43:15] Discussion of words used to mean play, vary over time and location. Mention phrases she didnt understand after moving from Yorkshire to Cumbria aged thirteen. Discussion of words used to mean left-handed. Story of being ambidextrous and using both hands to play darts at work, earning nickname left paw, anecdotes about playing musical instruments with different hands.[00:49:23] Stories of purposely changing accent for effect, teaching Australian brother-in-law local pronunciation of worm, difficulties of speaking different dialect to your own. Discussion of disliking being spoken down to. Reasons for survival of Cumbrian accent, historically isolated, people work locally, families stay in villages; comment that she likes working in her own community.[00:54:19] Discussion about judging strangers by their speech, what they say or their accent, comment that West Cumbrians are very friendly people. Mention friend who speaks posh but is actually very down to earth; friend who swore posh, sounded funny. Discussion of words used to mean narrow walkway between/alongside buildings, different meanings of yard, words for childs soft shoes worn for physical education, description of old and new versions. Discussion of expense of children wanting to wear labelled clothing these days, was different when they were young; description of fashionable shoes worn in the past. Speakers re-introduce themselves.

  • Description

    All five interviewees are staff at the new community centre on the Salterbeck Estate. 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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