Monday, 12 October 2009

speaking Brizzle

Listening to Arthur Smith on R4 a moment ago, talking about the "North South divide", got me thinking of regional accents. I spent my early years in Lancashire but there isn't much trace of that in my accent now. At least, I don't think there is. I worry quite a lot about my voice, because I want to be able to 'pass' on the phone; it's a nuisance sometime when I'm gendered male in telephone conversations.

I find that if I consciously put on a northern accent, my voice deepens; if, on the other hand, I adopt a Valleys accent (the South Wales valleys, you understand) the pitch of my voice goes up quite a lot. But I don't want a Valleys accent, thank you very much. So I continue with my voice exercises and slowly saunter up the gently sloping foothills of pitch....

Anyway, Bristol has a very distinctive accent. Though, like so many regional accents, it's not as distinctive as it used to be, what with people being more mobile these days, and watching television lots. I once asked a barmaid where her accent came from; she had a curious rising intonation at the end of her sentences, and sounded Austalian.

"Bristol," she said, evidently wondering how I could be so stupid.

Discussing this with a chap who worked in the Oxfam bookshop once, he told this story of a fellow Bristolian he'd met in the Far East during the war. As happens at times like this, they were swapping experiences of their shared city, and the fellow Bristolian said, "Go on then, what part of Brizzle am I from?"

My friend thought a bit and said, "Old Market?"

"Nooooooo!", he said, as though my friend was mad; "Lawrence Hill!"

As you can see from this map, the two locations are a few hundred yards apart....

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