Go­ing round the Wrekin’

Harefield Gazette - - OPINION -

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

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