“Proper London”

When I moved from London to Norfolk in 2012, I soon realised that my distinctive city accent was unfamiliar to many people I met locally. At least four people asked me if I was Australian, one asked me if I was Canadian, and another said he had never heard anyone from London speak, except on television.

I found it hard to believe that many people who had watched Michael Caine films, or the London-set soap opera ‘Eastenders’ had no idea that they were listening to London accents. Julie didn’t have the same issues. Although her accent is undoubtedly ‘Southern’ as far as British people are concerned, she is from Hertfordshire, not London. Although only 30 miles north-west of the capital, their accent is not the same as those of us born and bred in the centre.

When she worked at a bank in Dereham, she made friends with some of her colleagues. One in particular, Jo, was considerably younger than Julie, but became one of her closest friends, even to this day. Jo is from Norfolk, and has a distinct Norfolk accent. But she is also widely travelled, and can recognise British regional accents very easily. One evening, I had offered to give Julie a lift to a girl’s night out, at a restaurant in North Tuddenham. We picked Jo up on the way, and chatted happily during the 15-minute journey.

As they got out, Jo turned and said, “You’re proper London, you are”.

Thinking about that earlier today, it occured to me to explain some of the differences in what is undoubtedly working-class ‘London English’. One of the obvious speech patterns is that the letter ‘H’ is rarely sounded in casual conversation.

Hotel becomes ‘Otel’. Hat will be ‘Att’, with the emphasis on the ‘T’. This also applies to names of course.
Harry = ‘Arry’
Henry = ‘Enery’
Helen = ‘Ellen’
Then in general, ignore the ‘H’. Hitching a trailer would be ‘Itching a trailer’.
Going to hospital might sound like ‘Going to awspittle’.
Having a laugh is always ‘Avving a larff’, and so on.

A reply of I haven’t got any, would always be ‘I ain’t got none’.
I will fetch my car would be ‘I’ll get me motor’.

Words containing ‘th’ will usually have the letter ‘V’ substituted, sometimes more than one. Or the letter ‘F’.
Neither = ‘Neaver’
Whether = ‘Wevver’
Nothing = ‘Nuffin’

Others beginning with ‘th’ will have those replaced with an ‘F’.
Thing = ‘Fing’
Thermometer = ‘Furmommetta’
Think = ‘Fink’
Thought = ‘Faut’
Theatre = ‘Fearter’

I could go on all day.

So if you ever hear me talking, when I am relaxed and not being ‘careful’, bear in mind you may require a translator.

The Difficulties of English Pronunciation

My blogging friend David Miller of  https://millerswindmill.wordpress.com/ sent me this amazing poem that highlights the problems of learning how to pronounce words in English. It is a wonder that anyone is able to master it as a foreign language, and that’s even before you add regional accents into the mix. It is very long, but I hope you enjoy it.

The Chaos (by G. Nolst TrenitĂ©, a.k.a. “Charivarius”; 1870 – 1946)

Dearest creature in creation
Studying English pronunciation,

I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse

I will keep you, Susy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.

Tear in eye your dress you’ll tear,
So shall I! Oh, hear my prayer,

Pray, console your loving poet,
Make my coat look new, dear, sew it!

Just compare heart, beard and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,

Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it’s written).

Made has not the sound of bade,
Say said, pay-paid, laid, but plaid.

Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as vague and ague,

But be careful how you speak,
Say break, steak, but bleak and streak.

Previous, precious, fuchsia, via,
Pipe, snipe, recipe and choir,

Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, shoe, poem, toe.

Hear me say, devoid of trickery:
Daughter, laughter and Terpsichore,

Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles.
Exiles, similes, reviles.

Wholly, holly, signal, signing.
Thames, examining, combining

Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war, and far.

From “desire”: desirable–admirable from “admire.”
Lumber, plumber, bier, but brier.

Chatham, brougham, renown, but known.
Knowledge, done, but gone and tone,

One, anemone. Balmoral.
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel,

Gertrude, German, wind, and mind.
Scene, Melpomene, mankind,

Tortoise, turquoise, chamois-leather,
Reading, reading, heathen, heather.

This phonetic labyrinth
Gives moss, gross, brook, brooch, ninth, plinth.

Billet does not end like ballet;
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet;

Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.

Banquet is not nearly parquet,
Which is said to rime with “darky.”

Viscous, Viscount, load, and broad.
Toward, to forward, to reward.

And your pronunciation’s O.K.,
When you say correctly: croquet.

Rounded, wounded, grieve, and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive, and live,

Liberty, library, heave, and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven,

We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.

Mark the difference, moreover,
Between mover, plover, Dover,

Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police, and lice.

Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label,

Petal, penal, and canal,
Wait, surmise, plait, promise, pal.

Suit, suite, ruin, circuit, conduit,
Rime with “shirk it” and “beyond it.”

But it is not hard to tell,
Why it’s pall, mall, but Pall Mall.

Muscle, muscular, gaol, iron,
Timber, climber, bullion, lion,

Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, and chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor,

Ivy, privy, famous, clamour
And enamour rime with hammer.

Pussy, hussy, and possess,
Desert, but dessert, address.

Golf, wolf, countenance, lieutenants.
Hoist, in lieu of flags, left pennants.

River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.

Stranger does not rime with anger.
Neither does devour with clangour.

Soul, but foul and gaunt but aunt.
Font, front, won’t, want, grand, and grant.

Shoes, goes, does. Now first say: finger.
And then: singer, ginger, linger,

Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, age.

Query does not rime with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.

Dost, lost, post; and doth, cloth, loth;
Job, Job; blossom, bosom, oath.

Though the difference seems little,
We say actual, but victual.

Seat, sweat; chaste, caste.; Leigh, eight, height;
Put, nut; granite, and unite.

Reefer does not rime with deafer,
Feoffer does, and zephyr, heifer.

Dull, bull, Geoffrey, George, ate, late,
Hint, pint, Senate, but sedate.

Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific,

Tour, but our and succour, four,
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.

Sea, idea, guinea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria,

Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean,
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.

Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion with battalion.

Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, key, quay.

Say aver, but ever, fever.
Neither, leisure, skein, receiver.

Never guess–it is not safe:
We say calves, valves, half, but Ralph.

Heron, granary, canary,
Crevice and device, and eyrie,

Face but preface, but efface,
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.

Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust, and scour, but scourging,

Ear but earn, and wear and bear
Do not rime with here, but ere.

Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew, Stephen,

Monkey, donkey, clerk, and jerk,
Asp, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.

Pronunciation–think of psyche–!
Is a paling, stout and spikey,

Won’t it make you lose your wits,
Writing “groats” and saying “grits”?

It’s a dark abyss or tunnel,
Strewn with stones, like rowlock, gunwale,

Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict, and indict!

Don’t you think so, reader, rather,
Saying lather, bather, father?

Finally: which rimes with “enough”
Though, through, plough, cough, hough, or tough?

Hiccough has the sound of “cup.”
My advice is–give it up!