BBC Voices

Conversation in Gravesend about accent, dialect and attitudes to language.

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  • Is part of (Collection)

    BBC Voices Recordings

  • Recording locations

    Gravesend, Kent

  • Interviewees

    Ball, Frank, (speaker, male), Ball, Prissy, (speaker, female), Ball, Waynus, (speaker, male), Cole, Mary, (speaker, female)

  • Interviewers

    Burn, Jo, 1965 Feb. 19- (speaker, female)

  • Producers

    Radio Kent

  • Abstract

    [00:00:00] Speakers introduce themselves. Description of upbringing on local estate, actually a friendly place despite what outsiders think. Discussion of Romani and English kinship terms. Comment that non-Romani speaker hears Romani words but doesnt use them herself. Remark that Romani words for grandmother/grandfather are same as mother/father because they are also considered parents. Comment that Romani isnt spoken all the time because lots of people dont understand it, was kept secret in past but more out in open now. Romani spoken with eyes and hands as well as mouth, one word might have many meanings. Speaker considers herself to speak Kentish even though other people think she speaks Cockney, comment that people from other parts of United Kingdom cant differentiate between the two, call all southern accents Cockney. Discussion of words children use to address adults, call good friends aunty/uncle as well as relatives, traveller children brought up to address all adults, family or not, as aunty/uncle to show respect for their elders.[00:09:23] Discussion of words used to describe Romani people. Non-Romani speaker uses travellers because its polite, thinks gypsies is rude, doesnt allow her children to use derogatory terms. Comment that lots of people in Kent, even those born there, talk like Cockneys using London slang. Pikies/didicoys considered bad, good words are Romanies (Rom), travellers or gypsies. Comment that most of their neighbours dont accept Romani lifestyle. Discussion of Romani words for non-Romani people, polite and impolite, even polite words can be derogatory because of history of relations between Romanies and non-Romanies, so might use them apologetically. Remark that Romani is used more in public than at home. Discussion of Romani and English words related to home and houses. Comment that a Romani is always at home if they live in a caravan. Mention cushty used to mean attractive. Discussion of possible origins of pikey: thought to come from savage pike fish, reflecting how other people consider Romanies to behave; pike also term for big, long weapon used by soldiers in the past, similar to tool carried by Romanies now for cutting wood. Pikey only used by non-Romani people. Discussion of words meaning good.[00:22:09] Discussion of language used by children on estate, Romani children using non-Romani words and vice versa. Discussion of features of Kent accent and variation across the county, comment that people in Kent sound more London than in London. Remark that people should be themselves and speak in their own way. Discussion about Romani children using non-Romani language, dispute over this being good, one speaker is disappointed to hear it, another thinks its good to know different languages. Comment that more Romani children go to school now because lots of travellers have been forced to settle in houses or still travel but want children to be educated. School teachers correct travelling childrens speech, this isnt a bad thing, it broadens their mind and gives them a better chance later in life. Travelling children need education now, didnt get it in the past. Not many travelling children go to university, perhaps non-Romani children are pushed more by their parents, traveller parents are satisfied if their children can read and write. Discussion of non-Romani children on estate using Romani language, disliked by one speaker, another thinks that children play together so its only natural that they use each others words. Comment that Romani children learn traditional Romani culture to preserve it instead of going to university. Remark that Romani lifestyle is very outdoor-based so travellers are sensitive to weather. Mention Romani word for bad weather. Description of Romani method of cooking outdoors over a fire, think their food tastes better that way, neighbour finds it interesting. Comment that Romani family might live in a house but still cook in traditional way.[00:35:12] Discussion of words used to describe PERSONAL ATTRIBUTES. Comment that one Romani word can have lots of different meanings. Discussion of meaning and use of chav, thought to have become synonymous with pikey these days. Remark that words for drunk describe differing degrees of drunkenness. Description of Romani superstitions, including words they would never say, use bangtail for rat and sab for snake. Non-Romani speaker describes her superstitions, these differ from Romani ones. Comment that lots of Romani superstitions involve animals, explain how some are sacred (would never kill them) and some are unclean (would never have in house), Romanies are animal lovers but think that animals should be in their own place outside. Explanation of Romani word meaning dirty, used to describe cat or dog. Non-Romani speaker has pets but keeps house clean.[00:48:05] Discussion of words used to describe ACTIONS. Comment that most Romani boys would retaliate if hit by another child at school, this gets them into trouble but its the way they think they should behave. Remark that non-Romani speakers child would also hit back at school. Comment on existence of prejudice that Romanies are turbulent people who fight and kill. Discussion of words used to describe EMOTIONS. Remark that cushty can mean many different things, as can other words such as bruv or chav, makes talking quicker, examples of ways to use cushty. Discussion of Romani and English words relating to food and drink, Romani speakers would use some English words. Words for meals and what they consist of, this varies between speakers. Comment that Romanies dont have fixed times for meals, they stop and eat/drink when theyre hungry/thirsty, whenever they fancy it.[00:59:27] Discussion of terms of affection, use any lovable, affectionate names for children but not husband/wife, doesnt seem fitting, are shy in that way. Discussion of Romani Christian names, often use biblical names, remark that Jesus, Mary and Joseph were travellers and there are lots of references to travelling lifestyle in the Bible. Comment that Romanies are very God-fearing/religious people, disapprove of mocking religion, believe in God in a strong way. Superstitious about burning bread in a fire because it represents the Lords body. Discussion of names of Romani grandchildren, mostly named after other family members. Names of non-Romani speakers children. Discussion of family sizes, comparison between Romani and non-Romani families. Comment that traveller families are usually big, they love children and have closer family relationships.

  • Description

    Recording made for BBC Voices project of a conversation guided by a BBC interviewer. The conversation follows a loose structure based on eliciting opinions about accents, dialects, the words we use and people's attitude to language. Three interviewees come from the same Romani family, while Mary is a neighbour on the Dickens estate in Gravesend.

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