Geordie dialect gannin out of fashion

Martin Wainwright, The Guardian, Friday April 6, 2001

Forgotten voices have sounded a warning that one of England's most distinctive dialects may be doomed to disappear.

The Geordie sing-song tone familiar along the Tyne is likely to survive, according to academics, but population movements and the power of TV are killing its unique vocabulary with alarming speed.

Research into a previously unstudied archive of taped interviews with people in Gateshead recorded 33 years ago revealed words and phrases which few young contemporary Geordies would know.

Joan Beal, head of the research project, cited disused terms like "nooled" ("henpecked" in the 1960s but meaningless now) as proof of the pace of change. The roll of verbal dinosaurs is so long that the new survey, based at Newcastle and Sheffield universities, suggests that only catchphrase cliches like "hinny", "wor lad", "gan nin" or "howay" have a more than evens chance of surviving, thanks to their place in songs or Catherine Cookson's books.

The archive, kept at the Catherine Cookson archive of Tyneside and Northumbrian dialect at Newcastle University, was collected by a previous generation of north east academics, who interviewed a 83 people to start a local "linguistic map". Apart from the language, the results showed a pattern of life - from extreme reluctance to leave the area to different children's games - which has also been destroyed.

The death of Geordie as we know it will not, however, completely wipe out regional vocabulary because of the constant minting - on Tyneside as much as in Liverpool or Bristol - of new terms. The survey points out that a 1969 Geordie might know all about "nooling" but would struggle with "charver" (a thug) or "mint" and "belter" (words in the north east for fantastic.)

Placed on the web by John Wells 2001 04 05
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