Wednesday, 14 July 2010
Minding My Language
Last week marked the second anniversary of my arrival in Ireland. Somehow in the past two years I’ve avoided both being turfed out of the country by officialdom and chased into the Irish Sea by an angry mob. Long may that continue.
Like most Londoners I always had that snooty assumption that everyone else had an accent, not me. I was soon disavowed of that of course and two years on it’s clear that my time in Ireland has had a tangible effect on my speech. My nasal cockney whine has been diluted, nay, improved by a number of words and phrases that I’ve absorbed without even realising. Things that, when I do visit London again, will have everyone from friends to bar staff looking at me askance.
The top ten things I'd never said before two years ago are:
1) Using the phrase ‘at this stage’ when I mean ‘now’.
2) Referring to more than one person collectively as ‘lads’ no matter what their gender make-up may be.
3) Saying ‘sorry’ instead of ‘excuse me’ when trying to attract the attention of a stranger.
4) Saying ‘how’re ya’ or ‘howzigoin’’ when in the past I’d have just said ‘hello’. I’ve also been known to ask ‘whats’s the story?’
5) Using the word ‘grand’ instead of ‘good’. I’ve surprised even myself by occasionally using the phrase ‘powerful stuff’ in the same context.
6) The word ‘after’ is inserting itself into an increasing number of sentences, such as, “I’m after heading into town”.
7) Using ‘will ya stop’ instead ‘my goodness’, ‘golly’ or any other instance of affirming assent or expressing surprise.
8) Where once I’d have said, ‘great!’ or ‘brilliant!’ I now hear myself saying, ‘mighty!’
9) When people ask how I am, I reply ‘oh, happy out’ or ‘there’s not a bother on me’, when before I’d have just said, ‘fine, thanks’.
10) I knew I’d really arrived when I mentioned my mother in a recent conversation. For the best part of four decades I’ve referred to her as ‘my mum’. Suddenly she became ‘the mammy’. Sheesh.
There’s no way back from this, is there? Even if I watched every episode of The Bill back-to-back and dined on nothing but whelks and jellied eels for a month my speech would betray the fact that I am no longer a Londoner. I still sound a bit like one, but now my accent and phraseology seems to lie somewhere between Dublin and London. At the moment I've identified it as a point a few miles south and east of the Isle of Man, but it's slowly encroaching further west with each passing year.
Cor blimey. An' no mistake.