Accentuating the Positive

According to weather forecasters (and I’ve no reason to disbelieve them), West Yorkshire is preparing itself for a couple of blustery days. These meteorological soothsayers indicating mild zephyrs, currently gently swaying a large buddleja in my back garden, will shortly progress into a force capable of blowing your hat into the next village.

Footnote – I’m unsure if soothsayer is the correct definition with which to label a weather forecaster. After all, during half century on this dysfunctional planet, I’ve never heard any of them utilise the word sooth…… With the exception of meteorologists bearing strong Scottish or Geordie accents while pronouncing the word south!

Spending my fledgling years in Gateshead, in the north east of England, I’d many mates who used the word sooth as an alternative to the term describing the compass point polar opposite of north. These well meaning fellas strong dialects providing conversational soundscapes on subjects as diverse as apartheid in ‘Sooth Africa’, that my Leeds birthplace was ‘doon sooth’, along with yarns of seaside trips to Sooth Shields.

Such are the vagaries of the English language, in particular regional dialects, that although south was pronounce sooth in the area of my upbringing, southerners weren’t labelled sootherners. From my experience they were referred to as southerners on the sooth, errr… I mean south, banks of the Tyne. Alternatively, anyone from south of Durham county were cockney so and sos.

Footnote – The expression so and sos wasn’t really utilised as a suffix to the term cockney. The multitude of brisk nouns that bore favour with my childhood associates are unsuitable for addition in this chronicle.

My accent as a child was a mix of Geordie and the West Yorkshire colloquialisms picked up from my Leeds born and bred parents. Even now that mix exists. Although, as I’ve lived back in Leeds for the last 25 years, I’m told it’s now more heavily stacked in the area of my roots than previously.

Also working for nine years in London, during the late 1980’/early 1990’s, my existential journey has bestowed regular exposure to numerous accents, dialects and colloquialisms. The diversity of which I find endearing. Even the ones which render me clueless as to what’s been said. A scenario I ordinarily counter with a polite smile, and a hope I’m not grinning Cheshire Cat-like at, unbeknown to me, just being labelled a bumbling idiot!

In Yorkshire, county of my roots and home for the last 25 years, there are a multitude of dialects and colloquialisms. Terms and phrases which highlight we Yorkies can’t even agree on what’s the correct name for a sandwich, or the batter scraps accompanying our fish and chips.

Whether delivered in the soft Teesside influenced tones adopted in agricultural North Yorkshire, the broader South Yorkshire dialect of former heavy industrial areas like Barnsley, Doncaster and Sheffield, folk from North Sea coast towns of Bridlington, Scarborough and Whitby, or residents of former mill towns perched on Pennine Hills, we vehemently disagree with each other whether a sandwich is a butty, barm cake, bread bun or sarnie.

I learned at a very early age about the differences in regional terms. As a young child, after moving to Gateshead from Leeds with my dad’s job, I couldn’t understand why locals in my new home town called a buffet a stool, along with putting something called peas puddin’ on a sandwich named a ham stotty.

The young GJ Strachan was also baffled by the new (to him) expression of ‘bairn’, which I witnessed adults using to describe their young children. Hearing the frequent utilisation of the term initially leading to me assuming all the kids in Gateshead were called Ben, even the girls. A misunderstanding my mum soon clarified.

From a personal perspective, despite resultant underlying identity crisis issues, I think residing in three different regions of England for long periods of time has afforded me a good insight into the regional nuances in mindset, terms, colloquialisms…… But most of all, I learned not all cockneys are so and sos!!

Footnote – The expression ‘so and sos’ isn’t the suffix to the term cockney I wanted to utilise. However, as above, the brisk nouns I could’ve proffered are unsuitable for addition to this chronicle.

Leave a Reply