Going round the Wrekin’
FOLLOWING my column in June about pronouncing things properly it made me think about differences in local dialect which can also cause problems. When I first married Mr F, I was a Midlands greenhorn newly up from Birmingham and I remember asking in a shop for almonds. After the third time I gave up: I was requesting ‘almunds’ not ‘armunds’ as you say in the south.
You say ‘to-mah-toes’ and I say ‘to-may-toes’ as our American cousins intone – notably in Gershwin’s song from the 1937 film, Shall we Dance, in which Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers warble away while dancing on roller skates.
These days the arguments would be more along the lines of ‘I say kwin-oa and you say keen-wa’ (for quinoa), wouldn’t they?
Our son-in-law knows we sometimes buy unusual foods and he recently told us he had once puzzled over a particular item which was illegibly scribbled on our shopping list in the kitchen.
He quickly realised the mysterious-sounding product was not ‘quoveris’ but Quavers, the cheesy potato snacky thing – a particular passion of mine (and only about 80 calories a bag if you’re interested, as they’re mostly made of air). Definitely not exotic.
Other quaint expressions I brought with me included troach (cough candy), pikelets (crumpets) and mardy (in a bad mood – sulky).
I decided to check out the interweb where it was very satisfying to find many of my old local expressions recorded. My parents often said ‘It’s a bit black over Bill’s mother’s’ if it looked like rain, but I never knew it was a reference to William Shakespeare’s birthplace because of the direction of storms from Stratford on Avon, only a few miles away.
I remembered ‘donnie’ is hand and ‘blarting’ is to sob but I was rather taken aback by the phrase ‘round the back of Rackham’s’ which meant being sexually promiscuous, apparently derived from an alleged red-light spot at the back of the department store.
Never! Rackham’s – now House of Fraser –was our top quality store – the sort of place you’d meet your mum for tea and scones. Was it really so different after dark?
I’d better sign off as I’m ‘Going round the Wrekin’ – which means to ramble on, derived from the name of a hill in Shropshire. Enough said.
Do let me know of any local expressions that you grew up with.
Email me at bmailbarbara@ gmail.com