Today’s post isn’t one that I wrote. I’ve been on the internet way before there was a world-wide web. When it was all Gophers and FTPs in the early 1990’s and even in the late 1980’s on local Bulletin Boards or BBS. In some ways the internet of old was a bit better than today; there was less on it and it was at least until the late 1990’s, harder to navigate but it was niche and in some ways had a higher ratio of useful information and much less junk and no advertising.
Today’s post is related to the English language. I’ve written previously on Do Accents Hold You Back? Was it something I said? – Accents and dialects of the world and Great Britain Britain and America – Two countries separated by a common language and the related Words we still use from Shakespeare! which takes us onto U and Non-U and the eternally popular History of social classes and does class matter? so in this socially isolated days I thought I would add this to the mix.
I come from Newcastle or Newcastle Upon Tyne to give the full name and people from there do have a strong accent and a sense of independence and unique culture that you don’t find in many places in the U.K. and the accent is both said to be the friendliest in the country and perhaps along with Glaswegian, the hardest to understand. People from the region are often talked down to or made fun of in various way including how they speak. Much of my school life living near London was just one long tease about my accent and just last year was sneered at in a discussion my betters from the home-counties because I have a brain and and different life experiences and correspondingly voted differently.
It’s that old trap of making the mistake of thinking someone is stupid or inferior based solely on their origins or use of language and most countries have areas that are dismissed as such. In the UK it is generally the West-country, Birmingham, Liverpool, ‘The North’ which is basically anywhere above London, Essex and industrial Scottish cities, particularly Glasgow. There are states in America that have the same reputation and we all know of entire countries that are labelled similarly even though if you happen to have a friend or family from them they are of course different and not included.
One of the things I used to enjoy doing at University and to a degree still do is confound expectations and not be like what people think I am or do what people think I do. On the commuter trains there was a pecking order of reading material. The Times and Financial Times readers would look down on the Guardian and Mail readers and they in turn would look down on the tabloid readers who would look down on this shabbily dressed African and Asian History and Politics student until I’d pull out my Aristotle, Milton, Hobbes, Rousseau type works which made them go back behind their newspapers or indeed shuffle nervously if I would laugh out loud or say things like “Hmmm, it’s so simple really” which would normally have them squirming away and wishing they’d never started this round of intellectual apartheid.
Anyway, it’s something I always knew but the real roots of Anglo-Saxon Britain and England in particular are best preserved in the Northeast of England. We don’t speak English incorrectly, we speak it as it originally was meant to be whereas those further south and particularly in London have gone way off-piste.
The Angles and Saxons brought with them to Britain a language which was the forerunner of modern English and indeed it was the Angles of Denmark that gave England its name – meaning the Angle land. Over the centuries the old Anglo Saxon language changed beyond recognition with the gradual introduction of Latin, Norman-French and other foreign influences.
Today the only part of England where the original Anglo-Saxon language has survived to any great extent is of course the North East. Here the old language survives in a number of varieties, the most notable of which are Northumbrian and Geordie. It is from the ancient Germanic and Scandinavian language of the Angles that the unique local dialects of Northumberland, Durham and Tyneside, all primarily owe their origins.
GEORDIE WORDS, ANGLE ORIGINS
Distinctively Geordie (someone who comes from Newcastle) and Northumbrian words are more than 80 % Angle in origin, compared to standard English, where the figure is less than 30 %. Modern English words by comparison are predominantly of Latin origin because modern English derives from the dialects of southern England which were continuously influenced by the Latin and Norman French favoured by the educated classes of Oxford, Cambridge and London.
Geordie words should not therefore be seen as sloppy pronunciation or a poor use of language, as they are in fact of great antiquity. Indeed many old words and phrases commonly used in the old works of Chaucer and Shakespeare which are no longer used in other parts of Britain have survived as common usage in the North East.
Of course some Geordie words are of more recent origin or are corruptions or words borrowed from other regions, but often the similarities between Anglo-Saxon and Geordie can be quite surprising. For example Geordies in the same way as the Anglo-Saxons use the word `WIFE’ as term for a woman whether she is married or not, while the Anglo-Saxon word ALD (OLD) is similar to the Geordie (AAD). Thus in Anglo-Saxon ALD WIFE literally meant `Old Woman’ .
Sometimes a Geordie may appear to be using words incorrectly , but this may not always be the case. For example a Geordie may say Aaal Larn yer (meaning I’ll teach you) as in the Anglo Saxon Laeran which meant teach. Other Geordie words of Anglo Saxon origin include Axe (ask) from the Anglo-Saxon Acsian, Burn meaning stream, Hoppings meaning fayre and Gan which is the Geordie and Anglo-Saxon word meaning to go.
The unique way in which Geordies and Northumbrians pronounce certain words is also often Anglo-Saxon in origin. Thus Geordie words like Dede, Coo, Cloot, Hoos, Wrang, Strang and Lang are in fact the original Anglo-Saxon pronunciations for Dead, Cow, Clout, House, Wrong, Strong and Long.
These old words have survived in the North East for a number of reasons primarily associated with the region’s historical remoteness and isolation from southern England. The turbulent border history of this region was also a major factor in discouraging outside influence although some Viking words have crept into the local dialect from the neighbouring Viking settled areas of Yorkshire, South Durham and Cumbria.
This article was originally published on the http://www.thenortheast.fsnet.co.uk/GeordieOrigins.htm website which seems to have vanished or at least gone into a period of self-isolation.
To finish off today after deriding them earlier!! Here is a great post about the somewhat mystifying to outsiders Cockney Rhyming Slang.