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29 October 2014

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The Voices Recordings

About this interview
Five firefighters Ex-servicemen discuss military slang and remember the Miners' Strike, which split communities.

Ivan Langton, Richard Johnson, Kev Duke, Mark Collishaw, Danny Mason,

Click on names to find out more about the participants.

Relationship of interviewees: Colleagues

Where: Ashfield, Nottinghamshire

Language of interview: English
About this interview
Voice clip 1
Although from different parts of the armed forces, they all understand the same military slang: "doby" for "washing" and "ish" for something which is good. They also discuss how the words evolve, some from India and from Africa.

Voice clip 2
Use of the word "scab" to describe a strike-breaker during the Miners' Strike - a dispute which split families - is discussed. Ivan says his brother didn't go to his father's funeral after falling out over the strike. "Scab", they say, is more powerful than any swear word; it cuts deeper.

More clips from this interview

Ivan Langton, Firefighter
"Shot duck" has a dual meaning when playing football where Ivan lives - a compliment on sporting skills, or a sharp reprimand.

Kev Duke, Firefighter
Calling a well-built man "love" turned out to be a big mistake for Kev in Mexborough.
Interview's notes

Long description of interview: The firefighters work in the Ashfield area of Nottinghamshire. Three of them are born and bred in the area, one is a 'southerner' and another from Yorkshire. They are all also ex-servicemen, from the Army, Royal Navy and RAF. They are vocal and interesting on the use of military slang and when they discuss the power of the word 'scab'.

Recorded by: Sarah Julian, Radio Nottingham

Date of interview: 2005/02/02
Interview's notes

Jonnie Robinson, Curator, English accents and dialects, British Library Sound Archive, writes:

Listen to the way these speakers pronounce the in the following statements: people are still carrying it on from the miner's strike; anybody in the fire brigade; if you swear at somebody it'd probably just be in the heat of the moment and in the front office. Definite article reduction - an abbreviated form of the word 'the' - is a distinctive feature of speech throughout Yorkshire and some neighbouring counties. This is often inaccurately represented by mimics who imply that people say t'fire or t'miner or simply omit the definite article altogether. In fact it's an extremely complex phonetic process, perhaps best understood as the combination of an unreleased and therefore inaudible <t> sound, produced simultaneously with a glottal stop (although even this is something of an over-simplification).

The grammar of the dialect of this area also exhibits a number of non-standard grammatical features. The construction when he were on strike is unmarked for person and would be rendered as when he was on strike in Standard English. In some dialects in the north of England and in the Midlands, many speakers mark the past tense of to be by saying I were, you were, he, she and it were, we were and they were, whereas speakers of other dialects differentiate by using I was and he, she and it was. The northern pattern is in fact more regular and indeed mirrors the model for every other verb in English - consider I played, you played, I went, you went and so on.

Another extremely subtle difference between various dialects across the UK is the way in which the negative particle, not, is attached to words in speech. Listen to the way these speakers say didn't and wouldn't in the statements it didn't just split friends and it split families up didn't it; my brother wouldn't talk to my dad; my dad wouldn't go on strike and he wouldn't talk to him. They completely omit the sound in both cases - something that is again typical of many speakers in the north and Midlands.

There are, however, certain features of these speakers' accents that are much more localised. Listen to the vowel sounds they use in words in the following three sets: personal, word and worst; miner's strike, my, died, fire and like and now, how and about. This and the vowel sound used in them in the phrase you don't like 'em is typical of speech in this part of the East Midlands and gives the accent such a distinctive flavour.



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