November 25th, 2011


Understanding dialects

This morning I was watching "Breakfast" on BBC1. I missed the names of the presenters, but the woman was speaking pure modern "BBC English" with no trace of any regional accent. Then she said,

"There's a big old voice on her!"

I blinked, because AFAIK that was pure Wenglish

Nobody - not the other presenter or the guests - had any problems with it, but I started wondering:

- Would all inhabitants of the UK from outside Wales understand exactly what she was saying?
- Would inhabitants of other English-speaking countries understand it?
- Would people who had learned English as another language understand?

So, what do you think she meant? I'll update later with a translation.

ETA: "What an enormous voice she has!" or "She has such an enormous voice!"

Much as I suspected, you focussed on the vocabulary aspects, but what caught my attention was the sentence structure.

"There's" is used a lot in Wenglish, but not in the usual sense::

"There's lovely!" "There's daft you are!"

What you should by now have noticed is that "has" is absent from the original sentence; replacement by a preposition is quite common in Wenglish, taken from Welsh, as Welsh has no verb "to have". It is usually replaced by words for "with"; it was a bit naughty to use "on" because "ar" is normally used for possession on a temporary basis. But Wenglish is not as consistent about this as Welsh is..

"Old" as an intensifier is not exclusive to Wenglish, at least I don't think so (a little later the weather forecaster referred to "some strong old winds") but it's less common in other dialects.