Monday, 20 February 2012

Fenland Voices

A man came to preach yesterday at the chapel. He has been many times before, and I have met up with him at several of the preachers' meetings, so I have had the opportunity to get to know him better. His family has been in this village for many generations, and their names are inscribed on memorial plaques, so they number amongst the honoured dead here as well as having many living members.

I'll call him Mr B. He is an older gentleman, and has been leading services for about 50 years now, he told me. He didn't go through the course I am undertaking at the moment, as it is a relatively new direction for Local Preachers. He took services for some time and then had to have a talk with a superintendent, who passed him fit to preach without supervision. Mr B was probably only about 18 when he began taking services as a favour to a friend who needed someone to take a service in a bit of an emergency!

God shines through Mr B. He reads the Bible and preaches without notes beyond what he has scribbled in the margins of his ancient Bible. He takes a service most weeks in the circuit and explained to me that he spends several evenings each week just preparing for each service, reading the texts in the Bible, commentaries and books by others, to be able to put together a sermon to share God's word with each congregation that he visits.

Why talk about Mr B today? Well, he said something in his Fen accent yesterday which reminded me of something a young mother in the village had said about this accent. Mr B had cause to say the word "human" yesterday. That "u" sounds more like "oo" in the Fens and so we heard "hoo-man" and I instantly thought of the mum who had heard her child say "moo-sic" instead of "music" and been mortified that her child would grow up to develop a Fen accent. The mum is from another area of the country which has a distinctive accent, and perhaps she would prefer the child to speak that way, but the child lives in the Fens, and will go to school and live amongst others here who speak that way.

Does it really matter? I am something of an accent chameleon, able to moderate the way I speak in order to fit in with the company I am in, and I think that a lot of people are like that. I have always done that and seem to do it automatically - I don't think about it! In Scotland, I soon picked up phrases and changes to verb placement in the sentences and used them quite easily without thinking about it! It was as easy to stop speaking in that way the minute I came back to live in England and was no longer surrounded by people speaking like that.

I don't think that accents are important in the grand scheme of things, and the comment I made to the FH yesterday is that if that child grows up to be half the person that Mr B is, she will do well, however she speaks!


Angela said...

I am totally with you on this one- I was born in Essex [and my accent gets thicker when I'm back with the cousins] but grew up in Norfolk, where the hoomans play moosic. Now I'm in Leicester with the flat vowels and misplaced 'h's. But if a preacher [lay or 'professional'] is talking about Jesus, I don't care what the accent is. "Tell me the old, old story..." is fine, however you pronounce it!!
[word verification today is 'economy' - how do they decide on these bizarre things??]

Wannabe Sybil said...

People will judge on all sorts of things. Accent is just one of them, and is one of the more irrational. Maybe the mum was just trying to have her child judged differently.

Some people are prejudiced by colour, some by religion and some, sadly, by accent - the reaction of Yorkshire folk while I am in full Lily Savage flow is quite strong, and quite unfounded. And I think one of the glories of the UK is the intricate patchwork of accents that can sometimes place you within five miles. Sometimes you just have to hear the message not the music.

Angela - my word is edusaim, and I don't even know what it means (or what accent I should use lol!) WS x

Mac n' Janet said...

I find accents fascinating. We're from California and assume we don't have an accent, though folks from other parts of the country say we do. I lived in the mid-west as a child (Missouri and Oklahoma) and tend to made "a"s sound like "ar", as in Warshington. Now we live in the south, Georgia, and I find myself saying things like "Yawl" , which means "You all".

Stella said...

Your local preacher sounds like a lovely old gentleman. I remember several like him who just radiated the love of God. Not least my own dear father who received his certificate for 50 years as a local preacher and also my uncle who received the same certificate as well. Sadly, both have been dead for several years.

Scarlet said...

My accent is a real mish-mash as I moved around the country as a child. When I moved from East Yorkshire to Winchester I was told I sounded common, so adopted a different accent. When I moved from Winchester to Lancashire I was told I sounded 'posh' so I changed again.My children were brought up in the same Lancashire town as their cousins but were always told by them that they sound ' posh' so maybe I haven't adopted as much of a Lancashire accent as I think I have.

mrs barson said...

Im a Northern Girl my accent is predominantly Mancunian/Lancastrian however ive seen my accent change since i moved to North Wales its softened a little and having a best friend who us very broad fen shes from March ive developed a fenland lilt so tend to annoy my mancunian family with it