I came to Devon the early 1980s, as a student at Exeter University, known for its poshness. The Sloane Ranger was in full force. Essex girl rocked up. ‘I ‘aven’t got an accent!’ I announced, glottal stops ‘n’ all. As soon as I uttered this the full force of my speech’s estuarine nature hit. Today, it is less pronounced but comes back in force when I return to Southend-on-Sea to see the old folk.
Back in those days the Devonian accent was rife, with its beautiful rolling ‘Rs’. ‘Me loverrrr’ was the preferred way that we were greeted in those days by the cleaners and porters in our Halls of Residence and in the local shops. It’s proper pirate-y. I grew to love a West Country accent and learned over the years that it varies geographically. Some of my fellow students from the Bristol area had their own version.
Hot Stuff was brought up in Taunton and yes, he’s got those distinctive ‘Rs’. It was part of the draw. His accent is mostly restrained but get him together with his Zummerzet mates and he’s transformed. You almost need subtitles to aid understanding. And there’s some distinctly regional phraseology that he uses as well. ‘Ow’s it hangin’?’ isn’t a reference to the position of a bloke’s trouser snake. It means ‘How the devil are you?’ for the more refined amongst you. Oh, and if you want to sound upmarket try saying ‘ears’ instead of ‘yes’!
Today the West Country accent seems to be dying out. Louis is Devon born and bred yet speaks ubiquitous ‘posh boy’, the latter day version of received pronunciation, named by me! Not a dropped aitch in sight either even though he’s been listening to his mother for years. Just occasionally though when he’s asking for directions, he’ll ask ‘Where’s that to?’ a colloquialism from around these parts. It gives me a tiny bit of hope that the local dialect might survive.