WOE: Vernacular

She offers to help pack the shopping into the flimsy plastic bags, which I promise you all will be immediately reused as rubbish bags on site, and I reflect on how the world has changed.  Long ago, or maybe it wasn’t so long ago, women shopped with baskets on their arms and headscarves on their heads at small shops where the shopkeeper would have promptly identified me as a furriner.  I wouldn’t have had to say a word, I just wasn’t one of their regulars that was all.  Now I’m shopping in the same supermarket as I can anywhere else and there isn’t much call for conversation, no small talk, just business.

I’ve always prided myself on learning a smattering of the local language on my travels, backing myself up on occasions with a lingua franca.  I’ve spoken Spanish to a Bulgarian lorry driver.  I’ve negotiated for the carpark machine change in Greek and more importantly, found out which was the better brand of Ouzo.  I’ve learned greetings in Arabic.  I can read, but never pronounce, road signs in Welsh.  I’m a dab hand at manipulating phrase book stock phrases into something more useful.  I love words, whatever their language, and the privilege of being to able to communicate.

We finish packing, only a small shop after all, topping up on the fresh stuff that we can’t store for long regardless of the weather and she smiles, I smile.  I fish out the ubiquitous plastic rectangle from my purse, another change in this modern world of shopping.

I sum up my best expression, carefully practised in my mind, and as I hand over the card, say:



This is in response to the RemembeRED challenge to write a creative non fiction 400 word piece on Dialect and Colloquialisms, I came in with 280 words this week, always under or over!

I love the joys of dialect, the little quirky expressions and how the slightest change of a vowel can place you on the other side of the world so this challenge was right up my street, well good even.  I also want to dedicate it to my strange-talking Norfolk-boy husband who despite leaving the county of his birth when he was a child still can be relied on to say ‘bootful’ and ‘toosday’ as well as other curiosities.

Write on Edge: RemembeRED~

If you want to find out a little more about the language that they speak in this corner of England then check out these two links, some things are as alien to me as their landscape but in other pronunciations there is a similarity with the West Country tongue that I am far more familiar with, although less common and less retained than the dialect of the East.

The first is quite an erudite article from Wikipedia and the other the Friends of Norfolk Dialect’s own website.  Have fun!


25 thoughts on “WOE: Vernacular

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  1. “I love words, whatever their language, and the privilege of being to able to communicate.” I loved that line–it struck a kindred note!

    I also love how you interspersed the ‘vernacular’ within the passage–that was terrific.

  2. I love your voice here. So conversational, easy to read. I truly felt like you were telling me a story, felt a part of that story. And I must say, I want to stowaway in your suitcase on your next adventures. I wish I was so well-traveled. Language is something that fascinates me, and it seems like I could learn a lot from you.

    Loving this response to the prompt!

    1. That’s a lovely comment, I’m touched to think that my little piece can affect readers so much. I just love words and the world around and that’s what I always try and share on my blog. Thank you so very much for visiting. :)

  3. There’s such perfection in detail in this post, including your observations about the look of the shoppers as well as the way they’re speaking. I am hopeless with languages, and I have a feeling my ear for dialects isn’t much better.

  4. What I love most about this post is how you trace the history of a particular activity (shopping) through language. It helps the reader understand the past and the present. And how we got here. Great job!

  5. I’m just a bit envious of the dialects you’ve come across, even though you live in England. Perhaps some day I will get to experience the joy that is Europe.

    1. Ah, but you see we’re all envious to experience the joy that is the USA! The grass is always greener but at least the internet makes the world a little smaller! Thank you for commenting. :)

  6. I’m a total sucker for the local vernacular too! Growing up South of Boston, I arrived in Nova Scotia for college bearing a heavy New England accent… By Christmas Break of my first year I was being made fun of by my family for my new accent. I fully absorbed and enjoyed it.

    I still get caught saying ‘eh?’ often. And if you come and visit and ask for a drink? My response just might be;

    “Fill Yer Boots!”

  7. I like the layers of this post. On one level, you’re talking about the vernacular of your little corner of England. On another, you’re talking about how the language of shopping has changed in terms of dress, packaging, and size!

    1. Yes, I guess I am! I never notice these nuances of my writing until someone pops along who is obviously much wiser and more astute, I just waffle and follow the circuitous paths of my schemas. Thank you. :)

  8. See, now I’m jealous! All those great places I’ve never been to and likely never will be (I don’t fly…ever), but mostly the languages! I’m fascinated by languages, but my one try at learning a spoken language other than my own was a dismal failure. I am fairly fluent in American Sign Language – after flunking freshman Spanish I turned to ASL for my foreign language credits in school – but honestly, I don’t get a lot of opportunities to use it. It’s a powerful thing to be able to communicate in someone’s else’s language!

    1. Wow, ASL is pretty cool, I could never master the local BSL so well done you! I think you’ve nailed it, it is a powerful thing to be able to communicate in someone else’s language. Thanks for stopping by. :)

  9. You sound well traveled. I like how you brought us to something as common as a grocery store, took us away for a bit and then we returned, like we were on a journey of expressions. Nice job.

  10. I do that too. Try to learn a wee bit–hi, bye, thank you–in each language so that I can show folks in other places I’m trying at least. To talk their talk. Not assume that EVERYONE KNOWS ENGLISH.

    Loved ‘furriner.’ Heard that one before, for sure:)

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