Regional words are at risk being phased out as north battles south for supremacy.
Reporter Charlie Bullough looks at reports on the demise of dialect and the people who are fighting to keep it alive
The days of having a bap with your tea may soon be numbered.
New research claims the UK looks to be facing a regional identity crisis with more than two-thirds of the population snubbing their regional dialects.
The findings of the ‘Words That Suit Your Region’ survey were published ahead of National Dialect Day on October 20.
The survey by Suit Direct gathered results from 2,000 participants from around the country to determine the most popular words for items that spark debate across regions, like those for bread and the evening meal. It also wanted to see what the existing attitudes are towards regional words.
It found that 71 per cent of UK people don’t believe it’s important to use regional names for items and nearly a quarter say that their accent has changed since moving.
‘Dialect has changed over the centuries with necessity as people find a need to communicate more widely beyond their own village or valleySid Calderbank
But reports of dialects dying out doesn’t stun the man behind National Dialect Day.
Lancashire dialect historian Sid Calderbank said: “I’m not shocked or surprised at all because dialect has changed over the centuries with necessity as people find a need to communicate more widely beyond their own village or valley.
“Originally it was travel or trade. I can’t sell you a sack of corn unless we call it the same thing. There are loads of words that are particularly to a region, a town or village or common to a particular industry, like agriculture, coal mining or fishing.”
The survey showed that the north of the country appears to be showing defiance in the face of changing attitudes. In the North East, 42 per cent of the population believes it’s important to use regional terms, more than double of those surveyed in London, which was on 18 per cent.
The position is different north of the border too, with 35 per cent of the 500 Scots polled saying it was important to use ‘Scottish vocabulary’ rather than ‘English or southern’ words.
Mr Calderbank said fears about dialects dying out are nothing new as a book was compiled in 1746 to record and preserve Lancashire dialects. But he added: “The old dialects only exist in studies in academia with linguists or exist in the performance of reading the old stories, singing the old songs or reading the old poetry.”
A hot topic of debate in the dialect poll was food, with one of the most fiercely contested national arguments was over bread.
Half of the country say that the small, white, round-shaped bread is a ‘roll’. But the most-popular term in the North West, ‘bap’, only makes up 39 per cent of the population. In Yorkshire 39 percent of the region say roll, The county’s traditional ‘bread-cake’ polled 32 per cent while bap accounted for 29 per cent.
The North East scored the highest in rejecting what are typically believed to be words originating in the south, with 38 per cent of people saying they would never use a ‘southern’ term for an item. This is followed by solidarity from other large northern regions such as North West (36 per cent) and Yorkshire and the Humber (34 per cent).
But despite the divisions, it appears that the bottom half of the country has the majority of control on the most divisive words.
The south rules in terms of what the country calls its evening meal, despite strong opposition from England’s northern regions, with 53 per cent of the country opting for ‘dinner’ instead of ‘tea’.
The northern term makes up 41 per cent of the population’s choice, despite being the most popular with those in the North East, North West and Yorkshire and the Humber, while only six per cent say ‘supper’. A spokesperson for Suit Direct, the company which organised the survey, said: “Regional dialects are a major part of the country’s heritage and these findings give an interesting and potentially concerning insight into the future of the UK’s regional words.”
“The research has also taken on a fun element and we hope we’re able to settle a few discussions across the country.”
The nation’s rich vocabulary and sayings will be championed during the National Dialect Festival at the Savoy Hotel in Blackpool on October 19 to 21. The centrepiece of weekend-long event is National Dialect Day, which was established by Sid Calderbank in 2008 to celebrate dialects across the country through speech, poetry, story-telling and song.
Keynote speakers include transport and logistics professor Paul Salveson, who will give the opening address, and Catherine Harvey who co-produced the recent BBC R4 documentary series ‘Tongue and Talk: The Dialect Poets’.
Mr Calderbank added: “Dialect enthusiasts will be coming from as far afield as Northumberland and Devon. We will also have people from the Lake District, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.
“We wanted to provide a national event to meet up with supporters so individual societies aren’t on their own.”