Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Taakin' Geordie

I found myself unintentionally using a word of Geordie dialect in conversation today, for the first time ever.

The word in question was 'tret'. The past participle of the verb 'treat' in English is usually formed in a regular way, as 'treated'. But Geordie has an irregular past part participle, which I love. I much prefer irregular verbs to regular ones. I know they are a nightmare for foreigners learning English - hell, even for some native speakers - but I still love them.

And I've been wanting to use it for years. But I couldn't use it deliberately - that would be cheating. I had to wait til it just came out on its own. And this morning it did. It's started to be part of my language.

When I first moved up here, I didn't think there were many words of Geordie dialect still current. But that was partly because most of the people I knew when I first moved here were not natives. Students, mainly, and lecturers. It wasn't til I moved up here the second time that I started meeting people who had lived here all their lives, hearing the way they talk.

But even then I didn't really get it. I thought that a lot of the words they used were just a different accent to standard English. But that's not really true. Some of my friends say 'the morra' instead of 'tomorrow'. That's not an accent thing; that's pretty old English there. Sounds almost Shakespearian to me, although I'm not sure it really is.

Gannin' is another. I heard that as a different way of pronouncing 'going' at first, but it's blatantly not when you look at it. And 'haim' - that's 'home'. I do often say 'gannin' haim', but that's a deliberate choice rather than a part of my language. 'Gannin oot' too - apparently these are phrases that had started to die out, but have started to make a comeback.

Grass is clarty round here, not muddy. You kna things, not know them, or if you don't, you divvent kna. People say wor, not our, especially for their relatives.

These words and phrases are starting to be part of my lexicon. And yet my accent remains solidly neutral, almost nondescript. To locals, I'm a southerner. To the north west, where I grew up, I'm generic northern... or sometimes posh Scouse. (I don't understand that label at all.)

The words are filtering in, but the voice that says them is resolutely the same as ever.

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