BBC Voices

Conversation in St Albans about accent, dialect and attitudes to language.

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  • Is part of (Collection)

    BBC Voices Recordings

  • Recording locations

    St Albans, Hertfordshire

  • Interviewees

    Lopes-Dias, Martyn, 1962 April 11- (speaker, male, Elvis Presley impersonator), Lopes-Dias, Susan, 1963 July 20- (speaker, female, artist manager), Lopes-Dias, Stephen, 1958 Feb. 02- (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. Yiddish word used to mean hot translates as sweating, probably picked up as kids. Discussion of words used to describe ACTIONS. Yiddish word meaning to sleep comes from German word for sleep, one speakers family didnt use German words. Discussion of words used to describe PERSONAL ATTRIBUTES. One speaker only uses pregnant and not an alternative, more derogatory term because she has been pregnant twice and enjoyed it. Minger, meaning ugly described as new age lad talk. Discussion of words used to describe WEATHER AND SURROUNDINGS. Mens language more vulgar than womens, male speakers talk differently in front of children and women they dont know well.[00:08:52] Discussion of words used to describe PEOPLE AND THINGS. Ankle-biter, meaning baby, originates from Citizens Band radio slang. Different word used for male or female young person in cheap trendy clothes and jewellery. Story of 18/19 year old guy in baggy trousers waddling across road, thought he looked cool, speakers thought he looked ridiculous. Discussion of equally stupid clothes speakers wore as teenagers. Different words used for maternal and paternal grandfather. Discussion of differences between Yiddish (mixture of German, Polish, Russian, Hungarian and Hebrew) and Hebrew (modern language emanating from biblical Hebrew). Yiddish was spoken by most Eastern European Jews, dying out now but groups are trying to keep it alive, still used by Orthodox Jews because think Hebrew should only be used for prayer. Discussion of words used to describe CLOTHING. Difference between trainers and plimsolls, trainers didnt exist when children.[00:14:20] Stories of speakers family histories and discussion of languages spoken at home. Use of Yiddish within family, historically and now, still use rude Yiddish words. Lots of everyday American English slang comes from Yiddish, possibly because theres more openness about Jewish culture there. Not so many used by British non-Jews but being introduced by American Jewish comedians. Speakers dont speak but do understand Yiddish and have learnt to read, write and pray in Hebrew but cant speak much. Story of one speakers family history: mother rescued from Holocaust in Vienna by Royal Air Force, lost all family, father came to United Kingdom from Bombay, speaker was first generation to be born in United Kingdom. Parents retained sense of being Jewish despite not speaking Hebrew, followed Jewish festivals and rules. Description of two speakers (brothers) childhood in Jewish community in Welwyn Garden City, felt very Jewish, language not main part of Jewish identity. Can recognise Jewish people anywhere, get a feeling about them, like being in a club. Discussion of school experiences as Jewish children, treated the same, small amount of anti-Semitism at secondary school but brief. Hebrew central to praying, can understand service in any synagogue in the world. Story of Passover meal in United States of America being exactly the same as in England. Speakers have taught their children to read Hebrew too.[00:28:52] Discussion of speakers views on their accent. Speaker thinks he has no accent. Anyone outside Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire has an accent but no named accent for Hertfordshire. Southern accent is basic, boring, no nice twangs, not humorous, a typical BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) accent, easy to understand. Story of hearing wonderful Scottish accent in St Albans, nice to hear different accents. Discussion of English language slowly changing as a result of immigration into the United Kingdom. Story of speakers cousins acquiring a cockney accent after coming to England from India. Second-generation immigrants adopting local accents, strange hearing Indian with Birmingham accent, same happening to Jewish immigrants. Ubiquitous anglicised accent good in workplace but lose some of identity when lose accent. Story of communicating with Indian restaurant workers, easier to deal with people who have more anglicised accent. Mention West Indian man in television programme with Scottish accent, comedy caused by subverted expectations of how he will speak, hopefully this will lead to more tolerance and integration of immigrants. Discussion of compulsory English learning being part of British citizenship, should learn it to be able to contribute properly to British society and communicate with others. Easier for younger generation to learn.[00:44:04] Discussion of Jewish culture being taught in schools. Stories of speakers childrens experiences of learning about Judaism at school, generally positive. Other ways to learn about Judaism too, description of multi-cultural festivals in Luton, people sharing their experiences brings more understanding. Speakers only taught Christianity at school, attendance was optional which they think was wrong, should learn about all religions. Speakers children have grown up with Jewish culture even though not religious Jews, learnt about it through their lifestyle. Discussion of kosher (clean) meat, animal killed in a particular way. Kosher has come to mean legitimate, another misuse of a Jewish word. Discussion of Jewish culture being passed down through generations, needs to be kept up or will die out, takes hard work, each generation does less than the one before, speakers do their best. Considered Jewish if your mothers Jewish, so Jewish lines of the family can die out. Orthodox Jews make sure their children marry Jews, introduced to Jewish friends but not forced into it, this has happened to one speakers brother who has happy marriage. Can work better than more casual relationships, people dont try hard enough to keep marriages working these days. Discussion of conversion to Judaism, orthodox Jews might think its impossible, other Jews would be more accepting. Its a tough three year conversion course, would probably know a lot more about Judaism than those born Jewish.[00:55:26] Discussion of misuse of English language. Comment that kids speak is diminishing the language, people should take more care how they speak to children, bad language creeping in because it has become more acceptable, unnecessary swearing on television, use of arse on car advert is dreadful. Comment that swear words will become the norm and their severity will diminish, weve gone too far, cant recover the situation, there are no new bad swear words, theyre all out there now on the internet and in the media. 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 three interviewees were all born in England and share a very strong sense of being Jewish. Martyn and Stephen are brothers and Susan is Martyn's wife.

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