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.