Thursday, 15 September 2016

The Sad Demise of Speaking Kentish....

When talking about dialect it becomes clear that there is a confusion in some people’s minds about what is dialect and what is accent. Dialect of course describes original words that are spoken and generally recognized in a local area or a county. Accent, on the other hand describes how English words are pronounced which can differ substantially from place to place. It’s hard to expound much on how dialect terms originated because they seem to have sources in a variety of areas – Middle English, Anglo Saxon, Dutch, Old German and French for example. Many Kentish dialect words have proliferated into wider use though far more have remained exactly where they began in little pockets of the county, in villages and market towns. The decline in use of local dialect has been drastically speeded up over the past century, possibly initially with compulsory schooling where the ideal for every child was to receive an education based on standard English. The next push co-incided with the advent of radio, followed by television and ease of travel. Our grandparents and great grandparents rarely ventured far from their homes whereas we now travel far and wide. Originally the Kentish dialect also divided itself into a number of areas – that which was spoken in the East, the West, and that heard in communities close to the London border. Though a lot of the original words have long disappeared, the Kentish manner of speaking is largely preserved though some of it is easily confused with the cockney idiom. H is almost always silent – W at word beginnings disappears – V often becomes W. This is much more evident to those of us now living in other parts of the world when we suddenly hear again the accent that was all around us during our childhood. I grew up understanding that when someone was angry or annoyed they were having a `paddy’. If my mother was fond of something she would say she was `partial’ to it. When she greeted people in the street she `passed the time of day’. If she thought I might be unwell she described me as `being peeky.’ She often said she was `glad to see the back of’ someone. If she felt annoyed or depressed she was `having the pip’. If we were near our destination we were `pretty nigh’ there. She didn’t like it if others `put upon’ her – meaning they selfishly bothered her or demanded something of her. I’m sure many of my Kentish compatriots are able to fill in the gaps with a great many more of these half forgotten terms.

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