Thursday, 21 August 2008

Larn Yer'sel Geordie (Man): Volume XIII

Earlier tonight I got wrong off my 2½ year-old daughter after I – abruptly, because a bit irritated – called her ‘man’: to wit, ‘Aw pack it in, Cordi man.’
‘I’m not a man, Daddy’ is (roughly) how Cordelia replied to me, in her 2½ year-old way, a bit vexed and perplexed. And she was quite in the right. After all, what did I think I was doing passing down to my daughter a slovenly colloquial habit, liable to obscure for her the very concept of gender difference?
The simple answer is, of course, that it’s a Geordie thing: one to which I paid no real mind until about 6 years ago when Dick Clement’s and Ian LaFrenais’s Auf Weidersehen Pet came back on the BBC, and I persuaded My Darling Wife to watch it with me. In an early episode Neville (Kevin Whateley) was arguing with his wife Brenda (Julia Tobin) in their patented manner; and when, exasperated, he addressed her as ‘Brenda, man’, my Darling Wife seemed to find this one of the oddest and funniest things she’d heard all week. And, suddenly, I saw it in the same light, even though beforehand it had seemed to me as natural as rain.
Such stuff is on my mind because this week I happen to be writing about the north-east and its literary lineage, at the invitation of the excellent New Writing North. Consequently I’m thinking again about the linguistic habits and rich and varied dialects of the region – or what Alan Plater calls ‘the notoriously tricky accents of the north-east, where speech patterns change almost street by street.’
For a different part of the same purpose I’ve also been revisiting the north-east bits of coverage of Crusaders, including this very early interview for the Journal, which suffers from a few mis-transcribed errors of fact but was a great boon to get at the time, and got me off to a good start in trying to express my particular debt to “this fantastically rich and dynamic region that has nevertheless suffered economically, so it has this grandeur to it but also this background of problems…”

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