Ross Killed Her

23 Oct

‘Roskilde,’ the woman said. Just for a moment, I thought that she was talking about the beautiful Danish city that I’d visited the summer before last. ‘No,’ she repeated, ‘I’m sure Ross killed her.’ Ah. Accent had led me astray.

Today’s interruptions were of a kind more charming than yesterday’s. Okay, so the three older women on the table next to me were having one of those conversations in which soap opera characters are spoken of as if they were real, but I’ll forgive them that. At least, they weren’t in the library. In fact, they were eating breakfast, while I was drinking my coffee and writing. In any case, it wasn’t the things that they were talking about that appealed to me but the broad accents in which they were saying them.

The beautiful cathedral at Roskilde

The beautiful cathedral at Roskilde

During the brief period that I eavesdropped, I was treated to an exhibition of dialect and rich pronunciation. Shew. It’s a genuine East Anglian dialect word, the past tense of ‘to show’. My highly literate daughter sometimes says it and I’m always torn as to whether I should correct her or not (apparently, it’s a nightmare having an educationalist for a father…). After all, these differences are to be cherished and it’s the dialect of her county. She say. In ordinary conversation, ‘says’ – the third-person singular, present participle of ‘to say’ – doesn’t exist. It’s the same for all regular verbs. No one would write the words thus. This isn’t a case of ignorance but one of dialect. And then there’s accent. Dow-wen and tow-wen magically gain an extra syllable while com-pooter loses the invisible ‘y’ before the ‘u’ of its second syllable.

A church in East Anglia

A church in East Anglia

Apparently, as local accents and dialects have disappeared from rural England – only the wealthy can afford to live in English villages – so they’ve strengthened in certain towns and cities such as Liverpool and Newcastle. That certainly seems to be the case here. It’s all to do with the protection of identity, I gather. And it offers a glimmer of hope, suggesting that globalisation may not succeed entirely in homogenising the world’s culture. Maybe it won’t kill off every dialect and accent after all. As to the identity of the woman whom Ross killed, it’s something I fear I shall never know. Fortunately, it’s knowledge that I feel I can live without.

All text and images © PSR 2015

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2 Responses to “Ross Killed Her”

  1. masgautsen October 24, 2015 at 7:39 am #

    Roskilde is a place i’ve never visited and all I think about when I hear the name is the festival ☺

    • Paul Sutton Reeves October 24, 2015 at 11:12 am #

      Hi Maja. Yes, the festival seems to be what the city’s famous for these days but the cathedral is amazing!

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