Die Platteland

Of all the accents in the world, this one has my heart–the language of my people. South Africans. As we’ve seen, every country has become a great melting pot in its own right. So what makes my homeland so different? Why is it that people all over the world can’t seem to get our accent and manner right? For some reason the movies (unless there’s a South African actor) just never get our accent right. Why is this? Why is it so hard? For one thing our accent is very flat, some language trainer even called it lazy. We are very similar to the British in our nonrhotic manner. This just means that we pronounce our “r” sound before a vowel, very similar to the British. (We’ll talk about why that is later). I find it easier to take on our accent if you can speak a little Afrikaans. Run this phrase through Google translate and let it pronounce it for you, “Wors is wors.” It’s a phrase my old school teacher used to use. It’s an Afrikaans phrase meaning, “That’s just how it is.” In case you’re wondering why I’m saying that it is easier to take on our accent if you know Afrikaans, it is because of all the 11 official languages in South Africa, the Dutch and British languages had the biggest influence.

Speech

When you try to take on a language you don’t know or an accent you don’t know, the rules are very similar. Immerse yourself in their culture, learn their mannerisms and, most importantly, listen. What am I getting at? Before you try to mimic our accent, listen. I learnt Afrikaans by having Afrikaans friends and, yes, I was raised in South Africa, but my Afrikaans was horrid. If you want some tips on learning how to speak with our accent, remember to listen and learn. I know it seems as though I’m repeating myself, but that is really important.

Letters like “r”, in a nonrhotic manner are pronounced immediately before a vowel, (I know I mentioned this above already), but also in our accent you need to think about an “h” before your “r” sound. In other words, the “r” is pronounced as a neutral vowel. At the end of the word our “t” sound is spat out. Sometimes the “a” sound is pronounced “eh” such as in “m-eh-n” as opposed to “m-a-n”. Here we can see the Dutch influence through our Afrikaans language. Although our accent may have a British tinge to it, it doesn’t mean British slang is similar to our slang or accent. All this is coloured by the 11 official languages and others, not yet, recognized languages.

Slang

So now let’s talk about our slang. I’ve explained our language and how and why we say certain things the way we do. Most of our slang needs to be taken into context. Slang such as “ugh shame” can mean anything from “how cute” to “I feel bad for you”. In most nations it is used in a negative light, not in South Africa. When we say, “Yoh! Yoh! Yoh!” It’s an African phrase that the English and Afrikaans have taken as slang for “My goodness!” or “Wow!”. Other words such as “Eina!” (Khoi-san for ‘ouch!’), “veldt” (Afrikaans for ‘open field’ or ‘prairie’) are very good examples. Our 11 officially recognized languages have a massive impact on our language, by integrating themselves into our dialect especially in areas like Cape Town and Johannesburg where you can plainly see the impact these 11 official languages have on our South African slang and accent. Unfortunately, not all these languages are recognized as official but maybe someday they will be and there’ll be more of them impacting our children in schools as they grow up with greater exposure to them, thus further colouring our culture and speech.

Historical Influence

Remember when I said I’d talk about why we have the same nonrhotic manner as the British? In the year 1822, the English language became an official language. Although…another language had already made its way to the shores of what would later become South Africa, specifically the Cape–the Dutch (now the Afrikaans language). They had settled a colony and lived there since the year 1652, making them the first foreign nation to have made their home in Africa. This all due to the Dutch East Indian Company which had reached its shores in the same year. However the British settlers’ desire to make English the dominant language soon became evident by the introducing of British schoolmasters and Scottish clergymen for the influence of schools and churches. In the 1840s and 1850s more British settlers arrived accompanied by the men and women who would soon settle the area known as Natal. Most of these settlers were either aristocrats or retired military personnel. These people were mostly standard speakers of the English language. Although before the introduction of the ANC in 1994, the two main spoken languages were English and Afrikaans.

Conclusion

Our accent and language have many languages influencing it. This you can see when you hear an Afrikaans or English speaking person mix in one of the African languages and in the same breath throw in some Afrikaans and English in one fluid sentence. We are a diverse nation and no matter where you go, a new and exciting version of English emerges.

God bless/God seën/Inkosi ikubusise. Stay safe, my darling avidReaders.

Cockney English; East End London

In my previous article, I spoke about Appalachian English in America’s Appalachian mountainous regions. For this next dialect, I thought I’d take a skip across onto the next continent–namely England, more specifically the East End of London. This specific language is called “English slang”. The first time I heard it was when watching Only Fools and Horses with my mother. She loves that show and now I’m addicted, too.

Alot of this language’s expressions and vocabulary have now become a part of the language. In fact creating new phrases is no longer something only Cockney speaking people do. Before you think Britain was the only country to have this influence. Right up until the 20th century, this particular slang was used in Australia, too. Due to the almost code-like manner of this dialect, people used to think that it was used by salesman or criminals to convey secret messages. Some even held that it was a community’s way of discriminating from outsiders.

In Cockney rhyming slang words are replaced by phrases that rhyme with the words. For example the phrase “Adam and Eve” refers to “believe” and “plates of meat” refers to “feet”. In Cockney rhyming slang there is no hard and fast rule with this dialect. Words can be phrases or they may be shortened (e.g. bottle & glass/plaster). As an outsider, this will make it incredibly difficult to learn this dialect of English. This version of English is mostly spoken by working class Londoners. Cockney speaking people are born within hearing distance of the bells of St. Mary-le Bow in Cheapside, London.

The word “Cockney” is derived from the Middle English word “cockenay” or “cockeney” in the 14th century where this referred to “cocks’ egg”, “milkshop” or “cockered child” meaning a spoilt or pampered child. There are 150 terms often referred to as “Argot” or some type of coded language. As I mentioned above, this coded language would make it awfully difficult to understand and thus was the perfect language for communicating something in confidence with another person. If you were to look into these phrases you would see that a lot of them have their roots in history and this seems to strongly influence the various phrases. Instead of some covert criminal language, these phrases have become innocent nicknames. In the 1950s many working-class Londoners would use this language, changing it as they pleased. This vocabulary has become a reflection of pop-culture (TV shows such as Faulty Towers and Only Fools and Horses). However the arrival of rap/hip-hop/text messaging/young slang have become a threat to this now-dying language. In an effort to save it, Museum London has launched a campaign by which they teach East End Londoners to speak it and have now begun to recognize it, out of the 100+ languages in England, to recognize it as an official dialect. Thereby saving this beautiful and fun dialect.

If you ever get the urge to learn some Cockeny Rhyming Slang, I have attached a link below. I have printed this out myself and keep it in my notes. Some of these phrases and words are wonderful. Please, if you get time, take a look there will be no regrets. Also, if you are Cockney, please please PLEASE DM me on Instagram or even get a hold of me on Twitter. I love your dialect.

https://www.ruf.rice.edu/~kemmer/Words04/usage/slang_cockney.html

God bless everyone, stay safe

Appalachian (Appa-lach-ian) English

The Appalachian Mountain Region. Home of Appalachian English.

In the eastern United States is a version of English native only to the Appalachian mountain region. Stretching from Alabama to Canada, this language is spoken in parts of Georgia, North & South Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Their language is rather unique and has been described as sounding like singing. With a rich vocabulary using words such as “tote” in place of “carry” and “poke” as opposed to “bag”. Some have even referred to this dialect of English as “hillbilly talk” because of the nature of it’s song-like characteristics.

So, where did this dialect originate? The answer is rather surprising, although given the nation the Appalachians find themselves in is quite the melting pot, it really shouldn’t. Also, the fact that the Appalachians (Appa-lach-ians as they call themselves) have a tendency to make up their own words makes it even harder to recognize. However, in truth, the dialect originates from the Scots-Irish that inhabited that area centuries before as they brought their version of English over from Europe. Their descendants are now the Appalachians living in towns such as Graham County continuing to advance and evolve the Appalachians’ English.

It’s really interesting to see what words they have invented. Words such as “si’gogglin'”meaning “not straight/bent”. My favourite has got to be “gaum” meaning “cluttered”. Sometimes where I work, I feel like it’s too “gaum”. I love that word. Other words and their definitions include:

  • “fler” meaning flour
  • “airish” meaning chilly
  • “dope” meaning soda-pop
  • “boomer” meaning a noisy creature–squirrel/wharf-rat
  • “scald” meaning that farming land is infertile (dead land)

Appalachian English is one of the oldest varieties of English. The preservation of this ancient dialect is due to its isolation in the Appalachian mountains. It is the most ancient and protected dialects in America. This ancient English is actually believed to be a remnant of Elizabethan English. Phrases such as “afeared” and “might could/might be able to” are remnants of 17th & 18th century English. This further adds credibility to these claims. Appalachian English is said to be one of the purest spoken forms of English.

One of the most ancient dialects of the English language, Appalachian English is an accent that is hard to lose. Just like the accent, the people who leave the Appalachian region soon find themselves coming back looking for that feeling of home that the only Appalachians can provide.

Unfortunately, I was unable to get a link for an Appalachian dictionary. Although I doubt it would’ve been much help, especially with them making changes to the language all the time. Still, I was looking forward to finding one for myself. For now there are dozens of videos on Appalachians and their hometowns. Check them out if you want more of this wonderful dialect.

God bless you all, my precious avidReaders. 🧐