Tag Archives: dialect

470. Understanding the Liverpool Accent

Helping you to understand and appreciate the Liverpool accent and Scouse English, featuring clips of comedy a short history of Liverpool and interviews with famous footballers, actors and musicians.

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Transcript – Introduction

Hello listeners – how are you doing? In the last episode we listened to some comedy routines by Scouse comedian John Bishop and I said we’d take a closer look at the Liverpool accent, break it down, listen to some more samples and also learn some typical words you might hear being used in Liverpool. So that’s the plan in this episode. All about the Liverpool accent.

There’s nowhere in the UK quite like Liverpool. You probably know it as where The Beatles came from, or because of the football clubs LFC and EFC. Perhaps some of you have visited it or studied there are students, because it’s a big university town.

I lived there for 4 years as a student.

My feelings when I moved there:
It’s definitely in the north! Up north.
First time I lived in the north, and there is a north/south divide in the UK
Climate is different
People are different to the people anywhere else – they’re cheeky, chatty, tough, humourous, a bit tricky sometimes, proud and also quite sentimental and sensitive about the city.

The place has a particular history that isn’t shared by other towns in England. Its cultural mix is different to the rest of the country. The accent in particular is very distinctive, and it’s confined to just the local Liverpool area – a relatively small space when you consider the accent diversity in other larger countries where the same accent may be heard for many miles, like for example in Texas. In England our accents are very specific and very local. Travel 30 minutes by car from Liverpool to neighbouring Manchester and the accent is very different and this is largely because of the history of Liverpool as an international port and the rich diversity of influences.

This is a corner of the country with a strong character and a recognisable accent to go along with it.

Scousers, or people from Liverpool are instantly recognisable by their accent. The sound of a Liverpool accent instantly conjures up certain images, certain cliches, certain reference points and a certain history which is unique to that part of the country.

In this episode the plan is to investigate the Liverpool accent, and to some extent the dialect, listen to some samples, find out some of the pronunciation features, and consider a little bit of Liverpool’s history and culture. We’ll listen to a few different people speaking in a Liverpool accent and I’ll help you to understand it all, and I’m sure you’ll pick up some nice vocabulary on the way – and not just local slang words but words that everybody in the country uses but which the Scousers might just pronounce in their own way.

The aim is to broaden your horizons, broaden your exposure to different accents and to help you get a full appreciation of English in all its forms.

The Milk Advert on TV

Let’s start with an advert that used to be on the TV and which millions of British people watched many times – The famous milk advert.This is what the whole nation (of my generation) might think of as a sample of Scouse English. Many of us heard it lots of times growing up and a lot of us even learned it. I used to be able to recite it word for word when I was a kid.

Picture two children from Liverpool who have been playing football in the garden. They come into the house to get something refreshing to drink from the fridge (or should that be “fridge”). One asks for lemonade, the other one chooses to drink milk because it’s “what Ian Rush drinks”.

Ian Rush was a famous footballer in the 80s. He played for Liverpool for years and scored many goals for them. He was Welsh. By the way, you should also know that there is a place in England called “Accrington” (north of Manchester) and their football team (Accrington Stanley) aren’t very good – so Accrington Stanley is a reference for an unknown football team that nobody wants to play for.

Audio sample 1 – The Milk Advert

Lee Mack making fun of the Scouse accent

Features of the Liverpool Accent

Let’s now take a closer look at the Liverpool accent, considering some of the main features that make Scouse English different to the kind of RP that I speak. Then we’ll listen to some more samples of Scouse speech and you can see if you understand them.

 

Consonant sounds

  • /k/ can become /x/ like in “loch” “Accrington Stanley” “milk” “Lee Mack”
  • /r/ sounds – alveolar tap “accrington stanley” “I’m afraid I’m not from round here” “alright”
  • /t/ can sound like /s/ “butter” “I’m going to go into town later, do you want something” “Come on then mate, let’s start. Come ed, Let’s get started.”
  • /g/ is pronounced not just with the /ŋ/ but all the way to a /g/ sound “sing” “singer” “Ere mate are you a singer? You gonna sing us a song?”
  • And yet sometimes it’s completely dropped like in “Eh mate what are you doing?” – “what are yew dewin? What are youse doing coming over here like that?” “Milk, that’s disgusting”
  • /h/ sounds are often dropped “That has never happened to be honest”
  • /d/ sounds instead of /th/ sounds – “They do though don’t they though?”

Vowel sounds

  • /ɜː/ like “bird” becomes [ɛː] like “air” – “work”, “first”, “bird” “Are you always the first one to get to work in the morning”
  • /a:/ sounds in the south are like /æ/ in the north (normal in the north generally) “bath” “grass” “laugh”
  • But sometimes it goes wider like aaaa in “card” or “pokemon cards”
  • /ʊ/ in book sounds like /u:/ “book” (but not every time – sometimes they say it like me, and words like ‘took’ and ‘look’ are often pronounced. I don’t know why it’s “book”)
  • /-er/ sounds at the ends of words normally pronounced with schwa sound are pronounced with an /e/ sound “computer” “teacher” “fitter” “singer”
  • /ʌ/ becomes like /ʊ/ or /ɒ/ “but erm… shut up” “shut up will ya”
  • “Errrm“
  • /eə/ sometimes becomes /ɜː/ – “hair” “over there”

All those features are interesting, but there’s a good chance that all just went over your head. Really the best way to get used to hearing scouse English is just to listen to some people using it.

Audio Sample 2 – Jamie Carragher “Butchers” the English Language

Just listen and tell me these things:

  • Who is he?
  • What’s he talking about? (general subject)

Audio sample 3 – Stephen Gerrard, former England captain

  • What is he looking forward to?
  • Is he worried about the regime change with Fabio Cappello (known for being a discipinarian)
  • Does he have a message of hope for England fans?
  • What would it mean to David Beckham to achieve 100 caps?

Audio Sample 4 – Wayne Gerrard – a spoof of Scouse footballers by Paul Whitehouse

Wayne Gerrard (spoof)

Language:

  • Just get my head down
  • Let my feet do the talking
  • Very pleased for the fans
  • Very pleased for the manager
  • One game at a time
  • Keep my head down
  • Let my football do the talking

A short history of Liverpool

Liverpool is in the north west of England. It’s a port town on the river Mersey, just where the north coast of Wales meets the west coast of England.

Liverpool started as a small trading port probably in the 13th or 14th centuries.
By the 17th and 18th centuries it was the primary port for trade with Ireland. There was lots of trade with Ireland, and also ships coming from Norway and Sweden or other scandinavian countries.

The industrial revolution, globalisation and Britain’s colonialism meant that Liverpool became a hugely important port for British ships heading to the Americas in the 19th century.
As a result by the mid 19th century, Liverpool was a hugely important city for trading with the new world.

The population of the city grew quickly with amazing diversity – everyone from around the world was there, including large numbers of Irish and Welsh workers, scandinavian sailors but also Chinese workers, Caribbean workers associated with the slave trade.

Liverpool was one of the most important and most impressive cities in the world at this time.
It was sometimes called the New York of Europe, and you can see evidence of that in some of the buildings – parts of the city resemble some of the style of New York buildings, especially in the old part of town and by the docks.

The diverse history is still evident in the cultural make-up of the city. There is still a large Chinese community and also many families of Caribbean origin in parts of Liverpool.
The biggest influences though were the Welsh and certainly the Irish communities who moved in for the manual work that was available there in the 19th century. Liverpool is heavily influenced by the Irish, and it was described as the capital of Ireland just because so many Irish people lived there.

All of these influences can be heard in the Liverpool accent – some Irish, some features of Welsh (which is a totally different language to English) and also some scandinavian influences and many others that make Liverpool so different. That’s also combined with the local Lancashire accent too. All of it combines to create this particularly rich and vibrant form of English.
The city was very rich and very important during the industrial revolution, but conditions for many people were appalling – living squeezed into dirty and dangeous slums.

Gradually Britain’s position as the global industrial imperial power started slipping, and the two world wars sped up that process. Many young men were killed in World War 1, and between the two wars Liverpool was partly redesigned with many residential areas being built around the outskirts of the city, and lots of the people who previously lived in the slums being relocated there. This changed the nature of the city, with large outlying residential areas with row upon row of terraced houses.

World War 2 was devastating to Liverpool as it was the target of bombing raids by the Luftwaffe. Like many cities in the UK, Liverpool got pounded by bombs night after night and lots of buildings were destroyed, and they stayed destroyed for many years.

When the Beatles were growing up in Liverpool in the 1950s it was common for children to play in bombsites – in the remains of buildings destroyed by bombs, and even when I was living there in the 1990s I saw lots of empty spaces in residential streets where buildings used to exist but still hadn’t been replaced since the war.

With the end of the industrial revolution, Liverpool’s importance slipped and basically since WW2 Liverpool has been a rather tough place to live, with various social problems, unemployment, poverty, and perhaps the sense that the city has been somewhat ignored or forgotten by the country which used to rely on it so much.

These days the city is known for The Beatles, the football clubs and players, some cultural things such as the vibrant art scene and just the scouse people themselves who are known for their humour and their unique character.

Here’s a female voice – Jennifer Ellison, an actress from Liverpool.

Audio sample 5 – Jennifer Ellison “Mum of the Year Awards 2013”

Vocabulary

Here are some bits of the dialect or just typical sounding words.

To be honest, you hear most of these things in many parts of the country, but listen out for how scousers would say these things.

  • ‘Me’ not ‘my’ – “You’ve broken all me biccies!”
  • ‘You’ (plural) – ‘youse’ “Youse are all a bunch of bleedin eejits”
  • Adding “me” at the end of a sentence starting with ‘I’. “I’m dead hungry, me.”
  • Mate – “Alright mate, are you a student?”
  • “Sound” – “He’s alright isn’t he, him? Yeah, he’s sound.”
  • “Boss” – That’s boss that. Have you played FIFA. It’s boss.”
  • “made up”
  • “Eeeerm”
  • “Eh!”
  • “Alright?”
  • “Laa”
  • “Ta-raa”
  • “See ye later”
  • “Come ed”
  • “Go ed” “g’wed”
  • “Alright! Calm daaaawn!” (cliche)
  • “Bevvies”
  • “Nice one son”
  • “Gutted”
  • “Scran”
  • “bevvie”
  • “Bacon barm” – “two bacon barms please”
  • “brekkie”
  • “Chocka block”
  • “Like” – “I was like, walking down the Scotty road and I seen these two like students.”

Lots of people in the UK got to know Scouse very well from watching Brookside, a soap opera that started in the 80s. It was about middle class and working class life in Liverpool and it often showed scenes of social problems including frequent arguments between the main characters. This helped to build the stereotype that Scousers are argumentative and prone to social problems.

Audio sample 6 – Brookside argument

Summary

  • 3 people – Barry, Barry’s mum and Billy
  • Barry wants his money
  • But the account is £500 short
  • Because his Mum lent it to someone else (Billy)
  • So, let’s cut out the middle man, give us the money
  • He hasn’t got it – he needed it to pay the mortgage and the car
  • Barry gets angry with Billy saying “you’ve got it made here”
  • Barry is angry with Billy because he’s borrowing money from his Mum
  • “I’m going to have to go back to the car fella, tell him I can’t have the car”
  • You’ve screwed up our Christmas!
  • Then he pushes him.

Cliche

This cliche of argumentative Scousers was summed up in a series of sketches on a comedy TV show called Harry Enfield’s TV Programme.

This cemented the stereotype of Scousers as:

  • Argumentative & violent – often fighting and infighting
  • From large families with lots of brothers
  • Always wearing shellsuits
  • Unemployed – around the house all day
  • With mustaches and curly permed hair

Audio sample 7 – Harry Enfield – The Scousers (the cliched view)

Language:

  • Alright, calm down calm down.
  • Are you telling me to calm down?
  • Alright you two, break it up!
  • What’s going on here eh?
  • Friggin
  • Do you have to make such a friggin fuss about it?
  • Just keep out of it Barry.
  • Are you telling me to keep out of it?

The Beatles

The Beatles are also famously from Liverpool, but nobody seems to really speak like them any more. The accent has become more nazal and harsher. The Beatles spoke in this kind of “Beatle voice” which you don’t hear so much any more.

You can hear the scouse in their voices though if you listen carefully.

Audio sample 8 – Beatles

 

Audio Sample 9 – Local documentary on YouTube

Mini doc www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIcPTpWq5jY

427. British Comedy: Limmy’s Show

traffic.libsyn.com/teacherluke/427-british-comedy-limmy-s-show.mp3An episode analysing more British comedy, this time focusing on a couple of sketches from Limmy’s Show, an award-winning TV comedy produced by BBC Scotland. See below for transcriptions, notes and videos.

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Introduction

I was vaguely planning to go through a sort of history of British comedy in chronological order, over a series of episodes, but I just feel like doing an episode today about a series called Limmy’s Show because I’ve been enjoying it recently.

In this episode you’ll get

  • Listening (obviously) but this one’s going to be a little tricky because you’ll be listening to a couple of sketches that might be hard to understand for various reasons.
  • Culture. Since this is comedy, there’s a lot of unspoken meaning which you might not notice. Humour is well-known for being one of the most difficult things to pick up on in another language, which is precisely why it’s a good idea for me to go through some comedy with you on the podcast. Of course, you might not get it. You might not find it funny. That’s fine. What I find enjoyable might leave you completely cold. That could be a question of taste, but it could be a question of cultural context. In fact, in my experience of being a teacher, I’ve noticed many cases of my students just not getting comedy when it’s shown to them. Even stuff that’s considered by the majority of people to be funny, just doesn’t work with learners of English. It’s not until you get to a proficient level of English that you start to notice the unspoken humour or subtlety of a piece of comedy in English. This is because it requires really advanced English skills to notice the nuances that make something amusing, but also because of the difference in mindset or cultural context. You simply might not find it funny just because of cultural conventions. This is why some people disparagingly refer to “British comedy” as being weird, unfunny, very surreal or conceptual. It’s not really that intellectual, it’s just subtle and I think we have a broad scope for comedy. Anyway, I’m not going to get bogged down in trying to explain British comedy, it’s better to just show it to you and try to help you understand it as best I can. But the point I was trying to make is that I want to try and close the gap between what I understand and enjoy about a comedy sketch, and what you might understand and enjoy about it. So, hopefully I can bridge a cultural gap as well as a linguistic gap by doing this sort of episode.
  • Vocabulary – there’s is some good, meaty vocab in the sketches we’re going to hear, from several different registers. You’ll hear some slightly formal spoken English from an executive level business man talking to the police, and some informal English with slang, spoken in a dialect. There will be vocabulary.
  • Accent – the sketches we’re going to study are all set in the Glasgow area of Scotland, so you’ll be hearing some English spoken with Glasgow accents – some quite mild and some really strong.
  • Amusement. Who knows, as well as all this English practice, you might also simply enjoy the sketches! I hope so.

What is Limmy’s Show?

Limmy’s Show is a sketch show which was broadcast on the BBC in Scotland a few years ago. A lot of the sketches from the show are on YouTube and in fact that’s where I’ve seen all of it.

Limmy’s Show is written and directed by a guy from Glasgow called Brian Limond. I think he got his show after getting quite well known from doing a podcast and some YouTube videos. He also did performances at the Edinburgh Festival. Basically, he got a sort of cult following on the internet and that led to him getting his own TV sketch show on BBC Scotland. The thing is, his show was never broadcast in England, only on TV in Scotland, which is a pity for the English because it’s a really good show.

Buy Limmy’s Show on DVD here

I guess that the Scottishness is a large part of the appeal of the show. I think it has a lot to do with it. All the characters in the sketches are Scottish and speak mostly with Glaswegian accents, and the scenes all take place in and around Glasgow.

The sketches feature different characters, mostly played by Limmy. He plays a range of characters from different social backgrounds.

The sketches are often quite surreal, bizarre or dark. Often they feature characters with weird behaviour, or Limmy talking directly to the camera about an aspect of life that he’s noticed. Some sketches just make me think, or just confuse me a bit – but in a good way.
Sometimes they’re laugh out loud funny, sometimes just amusing and sometimes just a bit curious in the way they present quite odd observations about everyday life. Some sketches are a bit disturbing, and others are even a bit sad. All in all, Limmy’s Show is original and refreshingly unconventional, as well as being funny.

It’s worth mentioning again the significance of the accents you’ll hear in Limmy’s Show. As I said, they’re all Scottish, specifically Glaswegian. Some of the characters speak with very heavy Glaswegian accents, and I think that’s part of the appeal to be honest. You don’t often hear those accents on TV. Sometimes they’re difficult to understand if you don’t come from there. Even people from the UK, like people from London struggle to understand the show sometimes, especially when certain characters are talking. There are loads of comments on YouTube from foreigners around the world, including native English speakers in America, saying that they can’t understand anything. Some people on YouTube request transcriptions because they can’t understand the sketches and you can see that other people have written out full transcriptions to the sketches in the comment section on YouTube, and there are loads of other comments from people saying “Oh, thanks so much, I never could have understood this without the transcript!”

So, you get the idea that this is going to be some proper Glaswegian English that you’re going to hear.
For me, that’s one of the reasons I like it so much. I love the accent. It’s awesome. I love hearing the particularities of the way these characters pronounce words and phrase their sentences. In a way it becomes more expressive and characterful, to the extent that the accent and speech pattern is a large part of what makes the sketches so fascinating and enjoyable.

So, let’s enjoy listening to Glaswegian English here.

I’ve got a few sketches I want to deal with, from a couple of characters. I’d like to go through loads of these sketches but I can’t do them all. So, I’ve picked out just a couple of ones that I like and that feature slightly different accents and characters, showing a bit of diversity in the way they speak.

Mr Mulvaney

We’ll start with a sketch featuring a character called Mr Mulvaney, who is an executive level business man from Glasgow.

Here’s how we’re going to do it.

  • I’ll just play the sketch to you first without a lot of explanation.
  • Simply listen and try to follow what’s going on. If you don’t find it funny, then no bother.
  • Just try to work out what’s going on. I’ll give you a little bit of detail at the start.
  • Afterwards I’ll explain what happened and talk about why I think it’s funny.
  • Then I’ll go through it in more detail, pausing after each bit, explaining vocabulary, accent differences and repeating what he says.
  • You can find the videos on my site if you want to watch them again.
  • So that’s the process.

Mr Mulvaney – Creme Egg

The scene
Mr Mulvaney is sitting in his modern looking office. He’s the director of the company. It looks very corporate. He’s in a suit and has grey hair. The company logo shows that this is the Mulvaney Group – it must be a large corporation. Mulvaney looks serious. His office building is open plan, with glass partitions between each section, so Mulvaney is alone in his room but he can see outside into the rest of the floor through the glass walls.

He calls his secretary to order a taxi for later. It’s all businesslike and serious. Then he sees a couple of police in uniform enter the building and talk to someone on reception. At this point, Mr Mulvaney panics!

A summary of the whole sketch

An executive business man overreacts when he sees the police in his office building and assumes they have come to question him about a crime he has committed. It looks like he’s committed a very serious crime, like a murder, and he frantically tries to work out his story by having an imaginary conversation with the police. On his own he practises telling his story as convincingly as possible, even adding authentic sounding questions from the police. It turns out that he hasn’t done anything very serious. He’s just stolen a chocolate bar from a shop, but he’s acting as if it’s a capital offense. In the end we realise that the police aren’t even looking for him and we don’t really know why he’s doing the things he’s doing. He could in fact be suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder.

What I find funny about it this sketch

  • The fact that he’s a high-powered business man who is involved in petty theft is sort of funny because of the contrast between his high status and the low status nature of the crime.
  • There’s a contrast between the serious way he is acting and the pettiness of the crimes he’s committed.
  • Comedy sometimes comes from the reveal of something previously hidden. These scenes reveal something about his personality and what he’s done – he’s the managing director of the company, a very serious role, but his life is on the edge of spinning out of control, like in some kind of thriller.
  • The performance. Limmy’s performance is really funny. He switches between different attitudes quickly: calm controlled businesslike manner, the panic and fear of being caught by the police, him getting a grip on himself, playing the part of the police officer very convincingly, him acting all indignant and shocked when the police suggest that he might have committed the crime, protesting his innocence, the relief of getting away with it, the determination to stop this kind of crazy behaviour and make sure it never happens again.
  • Playing with TV conventions. This is the sort of thing we have seen many times in TV shows, books and films. There are loads of thrillers in which someone in a high status position has committed a crime and when the police come to ask questions they act cooperative and yet completely innocent, while silently panicking on the inside. Every other murder mystery has a character like that in it. This time it’s played for laughs because the crime is not serious at all – it’s just a stolen chocolate bar or something.

Mr Mulvaney – In The Car

Mr Mulvaney – Fire Alarm

Part 2 coming soon…

With analysis of a completely different sketch by Limmy.

Other episodes about British comedy from the archive

 

279. Marcus Keeley / Northern Ireland / Accent (Part 3)

Welcome back to part 3 of this short series. In parts 1 and 2 we got to know my guest a bit, and talked about Northern Ireland. Now in part 3 we are going to have a good listen to Marcus’s Northern Irish accent, compare the way he and I speak, and also learn a few common phrases and slang from Northern Ireland. Enjoy!

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3. Belfast accent (Check out this page on English in Northern Ireland from the fantastic British Library website)
I want my listeners to at least be aware of the accent(s) in Northern Ireland. Ideally they’ll be able to recognise it, or even copy it (just for fun). I also would like to find out about some of the specific phrases that are used in that part of the English speaking world.
– Is there a variety of accents in Northern Ireland?
– What is Ulster Scots?
– How would you describe your accent?
– Do people judge each other on their accents?
– What do you think of other accents from the UK? What do you assume about a person when you hear their accents? Is it fair to judge people by their accent?
Say some specific things: (These may be stereotypes)
“How now brown cow”
“Sit down”
“How are you?”
“I’m feeling a lot better now thank you”
“This is the first farm in the whole country to produce such excellent cheeses”
“She wanted to pull me into the pool”
“Can’t you see that the lift is completely full, you fool!”
“I can’t get this boot on my foot”
“I love coming to Paris because of the good food”
“I’m from Northern Ireland”
“I took the ferry to Derry and it just cost a penny”

How would you say these things, with specific phrases? (Check out this page with a list of common phrases spoken in Northern Ireland)
– Alright mate?
– I’m going to the shop, do you want anything.
– It’s a really hot day, isn’t it?
– I’m going to bed.
– Oh, go on!
– Look at her face! She’s got a weird looking face.
– Yes. (like, “yes, I’ll have a pint if you’re buying”)
– Come on, now.
– “Get a hold of yourself!”, “Wise up!”
– That film was really great. (or just, That was really great wasn’t it?)
– I agree, totally, good, etc. E.g. “Come on, this isn’t working. Let’s go to the pub” – “Yeah, totally”
– You stupid idiot!
– Could you give me a fag/cigarette?
– The police.
– Have you finished (your tea)?
– Are you mad?
– OK, I’m going home for dinner.
– Good, fine, great, etc. (dead on, cracker, sound)
– Alright, let’s have a little drink.
– Can you lot keep the noise down? I’m trying to sleep in here!
– She looks like your mum.
– What’s “spotty dog” (great) and “wind your neck in?”

Nadine from Girls Aloud “I’m going to give him a bath”

Frostbit Boy (The strongest Northern Irish accent I’ve ever heard!) Basically he’s talking about the difficulty of walking to school in the very cold weather.

Why are there so many accents in Northern Ireland?

Markus keeley pic copy 2