I tried to challenge myself to write using the Black Country dialect. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s where I call home.
Now, I am born and raised in the Black Country, however, not all of us have all of the ‘quirks’ when it comes to spaking *ahem* speaking. Actually, we’re all a tiny bit different and that’s one thing I think makes us exciting and unpredictable.
Some of us have a couple of give-away phrases that you can identify us with, and others are undeniably Black Country in everyday speech, to ‘outsiders’ it’s usually a moan about our mumble in my experience… but I’m not ashamed of my accent. I want to celebrate it and it’s mumbling rhythms, hence my attempt to reconnect to it a bit.
After seeing a lot of writers and performers celebrate and highlight the heritage of the Black Country, I started to think about it too. As a writer, you are subject to ‘correctness’ and ‘proper’ when submitting work, my Black Country-isms have been beaten out of me with a stick! Or rather a red pen (for example: ‘could of’ instead of ‘could have’).
Starting to try and write in a dialect, even one I know, has been incredibly difficult. In fact, I was sad that I struggled with my little exercise, I had to read and re-read out loud and try to picture ‘Would my grandparents have said it like that? Or Bob down the road?’. So that is how I’ve tried to take the plunge into this challenge.
I didn’t just want dialogue, to show off the ‘yow’ and ‘yam’s’ so I tried to put some rules in, I had to use the letters of the alphabet (No I didn’t include Z for stripy Oss… for reference see the Black Country alphabet song) to write a little passage, using the letters of the alphabet in order (A, B, C…) and how I’ve heard my fellow Black Country fellows pronounce them (what is the plural for that? Black Country folk? Black Country-ites? Black Country-ans? Someone drop me a message if you know…). So, as a dialect writing challenge to myself, this is a rough, wobbly start, please fellow Black Country folk… be kind.
The Key for the Alphabet is at the bottom of the page*
Ay? Behave yourself. Eya, see what’s happening now –
Dee down the road, er husband’s gone off – E ay a good ‘un.
I said Eff ‘im, yow con do better bab. She’s still crying and cuffin though.
I said, Gerrid of his crap bab, gee it the bin mon.
Aint ya learned by now he’s a wrong un?
She loves him though – Jay, his name is.
I said bab, don’t let him back in the house…
She just blubbed and said ‘kay.
not if ‘ell freezes over!
Come and speak to me or our Em if you need to.
En then she just blarted like a wammel.
I didn’t know what to do! I’m supposed to pick our Sam up from school.
Oh, she peed about then!
Gooing on about queuing at the shaps for some junk and suck.
Ar said, Bab, dow worry abaht that, especially now,
Av a cup of tea, yow look like ya need it.
Vee, er over the road was winda twitching at this point.
I ad to get on with me own jobs, so I said,
I’ll ring ya later bab, yam better of on yer own than with your ex.
Why she went with ‘im I dow know.
If her brother gets ‘old of ‘im he’ll wind up jed!
For my first attempt, I didn’t cringe that much reading it back as I thought I would. It definitely needs more work and I definitely want more practice writing in my dialect, but I’m pretty happy with the first go. ‘Z’ was hard. I tried to build a story, a bit of gossip around my challenge to give it some direction, and that’s another area where I can build upon but for today that wasn’t really the point. It’s kind of nice to speak aloud some of the pronunciations and not hear someone questioning it or trying to correct what I’ve said. I actually smiled a lot writing this and thought of people I knew growing up.
Safe to say, this has been a tough exercise, and far from perfect.