Fen blow - We've all got a word for it
PUBLISHED: 12:58 23 January 2006 | UPDATED: 21:37 28 May 2010
Twice in the last month, someone has apologised to me for their Whittlesey accent. Or more accurately their Whi'ull-sey accent": the way they say words like wa-er" (meaning what comes out of a tap). And it has to be said that in a survey of so-called se
Twice in the last month, someone has apologised to me for their Whittlesey accent.Or more accurately their "Whi'ull-sey accent": the way they say words like "wa-er" (meaning what comes out of a tap). And it has to be said that in a survey of so-called sexy accents conducted a few years back, the "Fenny" brogue came nowhere.In fact, it's becoming increasingly rare to hear the true Fen accent. Over the years, incomers from Essex, London or the north have brought their own ways of speaking into the area and diluted the Fen sound.In more recent times, accents acquired in Pakistan or Lithuania have become as common as ones from Peakirk or Leverington.One particular characteristic of Fen-speak is that the speaker may slightly open his or her jaw and move the tongue a bit - but not the lips. Try saying (in a Fen accent): "We thinks Fen speak is all reet." That involves no movement of the lips - and little effort. Now say it in a very posh voice. That really exercises the mouth.Some will argue the Fen way of speaking is a sensible way of saving energy. Others suggest it's because Fen folk say so little, they don't know how to speak properly.Soon after I settled here, I was totally confused by someone whose lips never moved at all. "'Ow yer pain?" he asked. He meant: "Cash or credit card?"What really interests me are those expressions which exist in Fenland and nowhere else - such as a "two fer one", trandling, a purl and a spud.I'm reliably informed that trandling is the charming activity of trapping small birds at night with a net and lantern; a purl is a small stream and a spud is not a potato but a weeding tool.Two fer ones should be on sale widely: in case you're an incomer. They're suet rolls with meat and onions in one end and jam or fruit in the other end. You eat your way through it and that's a complete lunch.Over the years, I've collected a variety of little books listing Geordie, Norfolk and Lancashire sayings.I've never seen one for Fenland. If readers send in enough examples, we could perhaps publish a definitive guide to the Fen dialect.