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Gerraway with accentism – I’m proud to speak Yorkshire

4 155 0
10.06.2019

Hopefully you haven’t subjected yourself to Still Open All Hours, the mystifyingly popular sequel to the classic Ronnie Barker comedy series of the 1970s-80s. If you have endured a whole episode then you’ll know that the Yorkshire dialect is a key element of the show’s humour. I watch David Jason’s Doncaster-based japes with a stony face. Perhaps the charm of the series is lost on me because I’m bored out of my chuffing mind by seeing Yorkshire’s working-class communities parodied for comic effect.

We’re used to these trite “wi’ nowt teken owt” portrayals of regional dialect. Still Open All Hours, like Last of the Summer Wine, stands in a long tradition of hackneyed portrayals of bolshy but benign Yorkshire-sounding characters offering gentle, down-to-earth “by ‘eck, lad’ humour” with their hilarious flat vowels.

This week, I’ll present an episode of Radio 4’s Tongue and Talk series, focusing on Yorkshire dialect. During the interviews for the programme, I heard many people lament the death of the sounds and words that comprise it. I was told time and again that it is disappearing: “true” Yorkshire English is scarce, fragile and imperilled. For many it seems to symbolise a time when communities were close-knit and common identity was bolstered by a shared use of language.

I was told that these days barely anyone uses authentic Yorkshire dialect, save for a few enthusiasts and older people. And yet I hear it, and use it, all the time. Yorkshire English isn’t an archaic form of speech, lost........

© The Guardian