Most Guernsey people do not think they have an accent at all. And they may not, to all intents and purposes, but there will always be something lurking in there which no amount of elocution work will eradicate.
It may not even be a way of saying something, but a word or expression that has ‘Made in Guernsey’ written all over it.
Saying ‘Cheerie’ when you leave is a prime example. There is nothing intrinsically funny about it, but it can cause the non-local to smirk.
And we are the only community in the world to wear bathers, rather than swimming trunks or the dreaded ‘cossie’.
There is such a thing as a Guernsey accent and it is nothing to be ashamed of. It is not the most beautiful sound in the world, but nor is it the ugliest.
To the untrained ear there are broad similarities with Australian, in the same way as Jersey people can sound vaguely South African. But it varies in ways that defy analysis and is constantly changing.
There may have been a time when you could tell what part of the island someone came from by the way they talked, but you’d be hard-pressed to do it now.
The difficulty nowadays is to decide when something is genuine and when it is said with irony – in other words, when the speaker realises what it sounds like and is saying it in a jokey way.
At many of our beaches there is something that might be called a p’yer. And a Guernseyman of a certain age might well tell you where he’s going on ee’s ‘ulldees. He will be hoping to fund the trip by winnan the luttrey. A younger person might tell you the same, but in a deliberately accented way, just for his own amusement.One expression that is usually genuine is when you’re invited to somebody’s house, but the offer is to ‘come home’. It may seem like a contradiction in terms, but you know what they mean.
On the other hand, does anybody really still say ‘caw hang’, meaning crikey?
Does the old term boudiax (or boudou), meaning yuk, ever get a serious airing?
When tomatoes were big business, many people worked in voinries, rather than vineries. And you’ll still hear that, faw shaw.
One intriguing little item is the expression that describes a service that saves you having to do it yourself. Imagine the phonetic alphabet, the one that toddlers learn, and say the letter f. ‘They’ll do it f’you’, with the emphasis on the f.
When did this crop up and where did it come from?
You didn’t hear it 20 years ago, yet it is clearly a Guernseyism, rather than something that was picked up from Neighbours or Bargain Hunt with David Dickinson.
As has been noted before, there are so many non-Guernsey voices on local radio and television that it is hardly surprising things are changing.
Politicians such as Peter Roffey and Eric Walters still parade their vocal roots, but they are in a minority.
Meanwhile, the national backlash against ‘proper’ English continues.
UK broadcasters nowadays have an insatiable appetite for regional accents, but ours is not among them. Not that they would know it if they heard it, which is really part of the problem.
The presenters on children’s TV are no longer the type who set an example with their intelligence and educated voices. Now they sound as though they had been skateboarding in the BBC car park before having their cigarettes confiscated, being thrust into a studio and taught to read the autocue.
While someone with a Londonish sound may be perceived as being streetwise, Liverpudlians come across as wacky and irreverent and Geordies can have an air of natural wisdom, the vowel sounds of the outskirts of St Peter Port would just confuse people.
In fact, it is more than that. The Guernsey accent is one of those that provoke amusement, just as Brummie, Welsh and that universal country twang do.
Just as the language is changing, so are our names. The births, marriages and deaths page tells the story eloquently.
Monikers like Hedley and Edith are definitely out (although there will always be exceptions, so hello to any young Ernies and Gladyses).
In the last 20 years, the Greffe has seen an influx of Sophies and Edwards, with Jordan and Kylie (possibly pronounced Koyley) thrown in.
The cool-sounding Ryan (or more likely Royan) may be only one letter short of Bryan, but it seems to make all the difference.
And Kieran has appeared, as if we had had an influx of Irish workers (which may have been true in the 1960s, but not now).
Certain people, if they want to borrow a book, go deown the loibree.
If you put your car on the Creown P’yer, you are parking it. But that could be park with a vowel like a sheep’s baaa, or it could be a deeper sound. So you would either be paaarking your caaar or pahking it.
One strange element of Guernsey pronunciation (and it is surprising how many people say that word as pronounciation) is an apparent confusion between the sound of an o and a u.
Thus we have people talking about being op the pob. But if you work there, you have got a jub at a pob.
I’m not claiming to be an authurraty on this, I’m jost pointing a few things eout.
The cheap and cheerful way of doing a Guernsey voice is to put ‘eh?’ on the end of everything.
But remember, mickey-takers: it’s not big and it’s not clever. It’s certainly not difficult.
What about you, anyway?
An Australian friend of mine, who might not sound exactly like Sir Les Patterson but is discernibly from that part of the world, once passed derisive comment on a Guernseyman who had a broad Yorkshire accent because he was brought up in Keighley.
I myself briefly developed a Canadian sound when a new classmate (we were 10) came back to the island after his family’s short-lived emigration. I thought it would impress the girls.
But the people who stand out most among the critics are those who would consider themselves to have a neutral accent.
Many even went to school over here – but a school where real locals are an endangered species.
After all, there is well-spoken and there is affected. Does your house have rooms or rums? Is France in Europe or Yorup?
And when you are 65, are you going to retire or ritaar?
Over here, of course, we are going to retoyer. As soon as pussable, loike.