Thursday, April 01, 2004

Fit like, min?

Apparently, accents and dialect are undergoing some kind of revolution. And it is noticeable that here in deepest Buckinghamshire, everyone speaks a kind of smoothed out Estuary English - I hear my children occasionally venture a "nuffink". So, I was curious to hear what my native tongue was like, back in Aberdeen for the first time in over two years.

Whenever I travel by air, I am struck by a linguistic phenomenon - everyone on the plane speaks English when we leave London, yet as we descend into, say, Prague, everyone is chattering away in Czech. Somehow, along the way there is a gradual transition - barely noticeable as it happens, but there nonetheless. And it happened on the flight to Aberdeen. As we left, the cabin was full of "Awright, mate?", as we landed it was "Foo ye deein'?" And I'm delighted to report that the Aiberdeen accent is as healthy as ever. That impenetrable blend of Scots dialect and Scandinavian vowel sounds is still as baffling to the outsider as ever, and for possibly the first time in my life, I was glad to hear it.

For who, really, loves their own accent? As soon as you encounter the wider world, and discover that everyone else talks like newsreaders or extras from Eastenders, a sense of shame about your own tongue makes itself felt. It sounds and feels uneducated, and - if you're chameleonic like me - it fades away, unnoticed. You might be sitting with others, watching a news bulletin about fishing, and when the interview with an Aberdeen skipper has your friends scratching their heads, you feel like apologising. Or pretending you didn't understand it, either.

But surely we should be celebrating these dialects? Surely they're part of our heritage, and while you can't preserve language in amber, perhaps we could take a bit of pride in how we sound, and learn not to be embarrassed by our idiosyncratic vocabularies.

Oh, another bit about second hand bookshops: what hope is there for the trade when one of the greatest of them, Leakey's in Inverness, has absolutely no web presence at all. It's the kind of place which should be being celebrated by someone, if not itself, but it's invisible. And it really is worth a visit, if you're ever up that way.

No comments: