Friday 20 November 2009

Faaather's caaar's a jaaaaaguaaaar...

This morning, in the car on the way back from the supermarket, Boy #2 was doing his best to send me crazy. He had decided he was going to mimic the tannoy announcements he had heard in Sainsbury's by booming instructions at me from the back seat with his hands over his mouth - thus making his pronouncements impossible to understand. Our conversation went something like this:

Boy #2: "Calling all..mimm..ens"

Me: "I beg your pardon?"

Boy #2: "I said, 'calling all cmirmbintes.' "

Me: "I can't understand you, Boy #2. Take your hands away from your mouth..."

Boy #2: "No! That's the point! 'Calling all snutegetmrssns...' "

I never did get to the bottom of what he was trying to say. But it put me in mind of this post about children's accents over at A Modern Mother's blog a couple of days ago, and also got me thinking about something that happened last week...

I was sitting in the doctor's surgery with the boys when a woman of about my age came in with her mid-teen son. They chatted to each other in a mix of German and English whilst they were waiting, and it became clear that whilst she was German / Austrian / Swiss or similar, he spoke English with a very middle class accent.

Until, that is, his mobile rang.


Then he had a conversation with a friend in what is sometimes called Hackney Patois, his mum sitting next to him and stoically ignoring the whole thing.

Something tells me that if my boys spend their teen years in London this may well be my future. Good god. I can't wait, really...

For those of you who've never had the pleasure of hearing Hackney Patois, according to the Urban Dictionary, it is the result of a combination of East London cockney, Afro-Carribbean, general chavspeak and Hip-Hop slang. Essentially, it's the next step on from Ali G.

Check here if you want to know more...


  1. Well thank you very much for enlightening me in social etiquette! I didn't know there was an actual name for that particular teenage way of talking. I feel very out of touch so am heading immediately to the local yoof centre.

  2. Hmm I remember that from when we lived in Berkshire. My two are going to have right Northern (yorkshire) accents. Eye up

  3. You know what, that is my biggest fear about coming home. The American accent is one thing...but the London 'urban' teenager slang thing drives me mad. I can't stand the thought that the boys might cultivate this language. It just makes them sound like oiks!

  4. Sadly, it's not a new thing. I know several 30 something men who attended famous London public schools and speak like they grew up in the Queen Vic wiv Grant n Phil....

  5. My younger son, having finished his school days here in Australia, has a very Ozzie accent and as these days his speech is filtered through a very dense beard I frequently have no idea what he is saying! My nieces and nephews back in the UK appear to speak the Essex version of the Hackney Patios which is equally impenetrable to me. No wonder communication between the generations is so difficult - we are all speaking different languages!

  6. Should clarify I have no problems with the 'normal' Australian accent it's the 'youthspeak' that is so hard to follow.

  7. never mind what they say, it's what they write that I have a battle understanding. daughter's emails read like some kind of code. I'm getting the hang of them (ish) but have to translate for her father. which i admit makes me feel very hip and young and cool which i am not. (which she knows but he doesn't!).

  8. Just the fact that they spoke to each other in different languages makes me a tad cranky. Perhaps it's just me thinking the son didn't have the respect to speak to his mother in the language she wanted to talk in.


  9. My children sound more Scottish than their father sometimes, despite living in Belgium. And their dialect is a lot more "course" than mine, due to playground influences. I don't get it either.

  10. Although I spoke American with a Dutch accent, my kids just spoke Californian, although my son did have the tendency to talk tough and swallow his g's at the end of his verbs. It was peer pressure that made him do it. I always made it a point to speak better English than the average American and made sure my kids watched a lot of BBC programs on the PBS channel. I was a bit of a snob and wanted my kids to be erudite.

  11. As a Hackney resident this is my son's future. There's no getting away from Hackney Patois. I think you may have inspired me to do a lingo post!

  12. At present I can just about understand my boys, even though they have broad Suffolk accents - there again at their age I had a Canadian one..I wonder where it went?

  13. HCM - I think there's a name for pretty much everything like that now, isn't there? A sign of how the spin doctor is here to stay...

    MH - there are worse things. Namely, Hackney Patois...

    Nicola, I couldn't possibly comment (but obviously I agree)

    NVG, that's true, me too. Do they realise how silly they sound? (Although of course onlyif you knew them pre-the accent...)

    Sharon, again, true - although I bet this has been happening throughout verbal history. The funniest thing of course is to hear someone speak that way but in the wrong accent: check this one out:

    RM, oh I really REALLY can't wait for that...

    Aims, oh she spoke English to him too. Probably had already given up that fight!

    Mwa, I think they do it because they know it gets to us...

    Irene, nothing wrong with that.

    Troutie, I'll read it with interest!

    TW, kids are very adaptable - I'm sure that if you moved to Canada the boys would have those accents in a jiffy - and when you moved back here, they would be back to Suffolk again just as quickly.


Go on - you know you want to...