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24 September 2014
BBC Bristol: The website that loves Bristol: A Sense of Place

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Accentuating the positive
'Bristol' dictionary THIS STORY LAST UPDATED:
14 August 2003 1331 BST

Do you think the Brissle accent is gert lush? Or does it make you sound like a Wurzel?


Would all the Bristol words and phrases make a whole dictionary?
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A Sense of Place

University of Bristol

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Academics agree, accents make us fit in when we are children. Shared words and phrases help give us our identity.

But, with so many families moving from one part of the country to another in search of work, many once strong dialects are being watered down or changed altogether.

A study by Tim Shortis, a research fellow at the University of Bristol's Graduate School of Education, aims to find out what the patterns of changing use of accent are, and how that affects dialect in relation to what is happening with language elsewhere.

The research has already thrown up a few interesting possibilities about Brissle-speak.

The dialect words 'casn't' and 'bist', as in, how bist?, (how are you?), appear to be on their way out while 'ideal' and 'where's that to?' are resilient.

'Hark at ee'

Using words and phrases ironically, rather than literally, is another way dialect survives, although, not in its original form.

So, for example the phrases 'gert lush' and 'hark at ee' are more often used jokingly now than 10 years ago.

Fossil words and phrases tend to be used by Bristolians to send themselves up in a playful way.

Many of the teenagers involved so far in the research only realised they had a Bristol accent l when they went on holiday for the first time and into a social situation with people who were not from the Bristol area.

"People were surprised that the perception was that Bristolians are all farmers," said Tim Shortis.

The main words which show how much a dialect is changing are those for good, bad and very.

A couple of years ago everything was pukka or pants whereas now, both words seem desperately over used and out of date.

Bristol dialect Standard English use
Where's that to? Where is it?
I was led down I was lying down
We was there yesterday We were there yesterday
I was sat/ I was stood I was sitting/I sat
I didn't do nothing I didn't do anything
Theirselves Themselves
Look at them people Look at those people
He do's it He does it
He can do it hisself He can do it himself
Casn't Can't
I looks at I looked at
Theys [real gems] They're [real gems]
Lush Nice/good
Gert/Gurt Really big
Mind [mid-sentence or used as a tag] You know what I mean?
Proper ['PrAprR] Good or 'decent'
They [kiddies] Those [kiddies]
Like [used in mid-sentence]
Laters See you later/goodbye
Babys/Babs/Bab Baby/affectionate term
Kiddie Teenager or youth
Me/My lover Mate/pal/dear
She's [got a nice finish] It goes all right
Scrage To scratch yourself
Hard 'en Usually a young person with an attitude
Babba Baby
Coopie down Crouch down
Slider Playground slide
Keener 'swot', or someone who works too hard
NeveR [emphasis on R] Never
AlaRm [mid-word emphasis on R] Alarm
Right [initial emphasis on R] Right
Rising intonation - using statements so they sound like questions
DrawLing [L pronounced within a word] Drawing
Area L [Bristol L specific to Area] Area
IdeaL [Bristol L specific to Idea] Idea
Funera [omission of L] Funeral
wURs [different vowel & R pronunciation] Worse
'ave, 'im [Silent initial H] Have, Him
Bath, Glass ['a' as in sat] Bath, Glass
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Listen to A Sense of Place on BBC Radio Bristol and the BBC Bristol website:
28 April:
Bristol Derby Passion
5 May: The Bristol English Dictionary
12 May: Blind Bristol
19 May: Pier to Pier
26 May: A Picture of Bath
2 June: The Front Line
:: Talk Bristol
Do you have a view on this story? Why not tell the rest of Bristol on BBC Bristol's very own chat forum, Talk Bristol.

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