BBC Voices

Conversation in London Colney about accent, dialect and attitudes to language.

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  • Is part of (Collection)

    BBC Voices Recordings

  • Recording locations

    London Colney, Hertfordshire

  • Interviewees

    Garner, Kenneth, 1934 May 25- (speaker, male, retired), Garner, Sheila, 1935 May 07- (speaker, female, Pearson, Janet, 1939 March 16- (speaker, female, Pearson, John, 1944 Aug. 05- (speaker, male

  • Interviewers

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

  • Producers

    Three Counties Radio

  • Abstract

    [00:00:00] Speakers introduce themselves. Discussion of words used to describe EMOTIONS. Knackered meaning tired considered a bad word, story of being reprimanded by boss for saying it in front of ladies at work, now avoids using it in female company, grandchildren also think its rude. Discussion of words used to describe ACTIONS. Definition of slang: a convenient piece of language, something youve grown up with and use amongst your peers. Discussion of words used to describe PERSONAL ATTRIBUTES. Comment that cack-handed and widdershins can mean awkward and anti-clockwise respectively, in addition to left-handed. Mention homosexuals were referred to as left-footers in the north in the past. Discussion of definition of unattractive, ugly has a stronger meaning and might describe someone with a dodgy feature. Word for attractive depends on the context, a difficult concept to define because its subjective. Origin of doolally meaning insane: regular Indian army posting in hot area of India (Deolali), white British soldiers went mad there because of the weather.[00:19:40] Discussion of words used to describe WEATHER AND SURROUNDINGS. Descriptions of rooms in houses when younger, had best room (rarely used) and room for living in (cheaper to keep one room warm), for one speaker this changed when television was put in front room, then started using it every day. Story of front room only being used by customers for mothers sewing business. Description of a settle. Stories of getting first settee after marriage. Mother not allowing the use of alley, had to say sideway to refer to lanes around houses during childhood. Speaker uses different words in the north (where he grew up) than in the south (where he lives now), called alley cats jigger rabbits in the north but in the south no one understands it. Discussion of annoyance of euphemistic nature of American term bathroom used to mean toilet, perhaps similar to lavatory which actually means place to wash Ablutions used to mean washroom and toilet in the forces.[00:34:37] Discussion of words used to describe PEOPLE AND THINGS. Scottish words are thought to be used in the north because they were always raiding that area of England. Using girl to mean female partner of any age is now very non-politically correct, though women dont object to it in speakers experience. Stories of women being referred to as girls: female cricketers, women in golf club and mothers co-shop-workers (even though in their forties, in front of customers it was ladies, now would use women). Discussion of words used to mean lunch box, description of Hertfordshire clangers (Cornish pasty with meat and vegetables at one end and jam or apple in the other, loaf shape with wall in the middle, was taken out for beaver (mid-morning or lunch break) with some cold tea). Comment that father used beaver to refer to his beard. Remark that mate can be used in an unfriendly way when said sarcastically. Different words used to distinguish between maternal and paternal grandmother. Stories of words for grandmother used by Welsh and South African friends and relatives. Comment that parents rarely called each other by Christian name except when calling from a distance, fathers nickname confused speaker as a child. Discussion of unexpected shortened versions of first names and nicknames, perhaps used originally when people only took names from the Bible. Discussion of words used to describe CLOTHING. Stories of shoes worn for physical education at school when children.[00:49:50] Speakers discuss how they would describe their accent. One speaker doesnt think shes really got one, nothing special about it. Another speaker has an accent from growing up on Hertfordshire farms, very aware of it, has never bothered to change it. One speaker thinks her grammar school tried to get rid of any accents so she hasnt got one. Another speaker has a northern accent, was a mongrel to start with: Yorkshire parents brought him up on Merseyside, because of this he tries to imitate people he speaks to; describes his perception of the other speakers accents. One speaker has lost her Essex drawl after living in Hertfordshire for fifty years, unlike brother who stayed in Essex. The strongest Hertfordshire accent can be heard spoken by older people in remote country pubs. Definite difference between Hertfordshire/Essex and Hertfordshire/Bucks accent. Story of mother going on summer holidays to Devon for six weeks, returning with Devon accent and being told to talk properly by her mother. Your environment and who you mix with affects your accent, stories of how relatives speech has been affected in this way: not put on, its what they have become accustomed to. Comment that the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) encourages you to sound like yourself these days.[00:58:16] Discussion of swearing. There is too much now, spoils films, makes you think people have lost all vocabulary and fill in with swear words, awful, unnecessarily rife in football, hate it. Dont mind nudity in films but swearing is annoying unless its the odd word in context. Story of daughters Muslim friend being taken to see a film that turned out to be full of swear words, spoilt the evening. People purposely put swear words in plays and films now to shock. Speakers father never swore. Perhaps a generation thing, programmes are being created for a different audience, for the younger people who do all the swearing. Notice children swearing on the street, perhaps its for bravado or to shock older people. Speakers didnt swear like that when younger, men might have sworn amongst themselves but never in front of women, never used four letter words Perhaps displayed more of a class distinction in the past, story of language being worse by both men and women on factory floor than in laboratory where people were more educated. Definitely linked to bravado, same with smoking, depends which crowd you mix with. Both female speakers had never heard four letter word when young. Swearing is unnecessary in television, theatre and film, it spoils it, should be cut out. In the past it was part of the purpose of the BBC to set a standard, now it conveys a message that normalises street language, should set higher standards and discourage swearing. Language will put speaker off a film, knows certain actors are in films full of four letter words and will switch off television when they appear. Discussion of films that arent offensive, difficult to find a film to watch with grandchildren. The odd swear word is normal but using them as adjectives in ordinary speech or using four letter words is disliked. Speakers re-introduce themselves.

  • Description

    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. The four interviewees are friends who run a family history group together.

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