As a child and early teen, the vocabulary and pronunciation of my native tongue were expanding. We lived in a relatively posh neighbourhood. The influence of the maternal side of the family, hailing from the Black Country was limited. Sadly the memory of my grandfather speaking has faded.

According to Wikipedia the ‘Black Country dialect preserves many archaic traits of Early Modern English and even Middle English and can be very confusing for outsiders.’

A typical informal greeting would be ‘Owamya aer kid?’ (How are you?). A suitable response could be, ‘Ar ah’m owkay tar’ (Yes, I’m okay, thank you).

My accent has softened; it is frequently incorrectly identified as Scouse or northern English. This would fit with the influence of the paternal family coming from Wales.

Being a shy introvert, I relied on myself to interpret and solve the idiosyncrasies of the English language aided with a dictionary, although I did not understand phoentic spelling.

A notable example of silently self learning was the word ‘determine’. For years I read it as ‘debtor-mine’. I somehow interpreted sentences without understanding the meaning of the word.

What a revelation it was when the realisation dawned.

5 thoughts on “Debtor-mine

  1. I remember the TV programme about a famous theatre director who came to work in a Black Country housing estate….and all the groups he worked with, whether singing or reciting, found that Shakespeare’s work scanned and made sense when they performed it…far better than any Posh accent!!

    • At secondary school school in the 1970s, I couldn’t pull off a Scottish accent to be able to play Dr Macfarlane. The director changed the character’s name to Dr Stonehouse so that I could perform with my broad accent.

  2. I love a speaker of English whose ancestry shows up in their lexicon and prosody! I want to ask (but don’t as usually not good manners) to tell me the story behind their atypical words and speech. My foot in the door is to catch a word and ask what does it mean and hope they will tell me more.

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