The English language is an Anglo-Saxon dialect that
has been enriched by the influence of Latin, Old Norse and Norman French.
During the days of the British Empire, the language also absorbed words
from India, South Africa and North America. Today, English contains more
than a million words, including words from more than 50 languages.
Within England, there are many regional differences
in the use of English. People from Northern England, the Midlands, East
Anglia, the Southwest and the Southeast not only pronounce words in
distinct ways, but use words that are not used in other areas. For example,
in Lancashire, people may say "gradely" when they mean "good" or "very."
In Yorkshire, older people may still use "thou" to mean "you," and the
word "the" is shortened simply to "t", as in "t'road." There are even
a few speakers of Cornish, a Celtic language, in Cornwall.
East End Londoners, or Cockneys, invented rhyming
slang. A friend or mate is a "china plate," a flight of stairs is "apples
and pears," feet are "plates of meat." Sometimes these expressions are
further shortened, so that gloves, or "turtle-doves" in rhyming slang,
are called "turtles," while a hat is called a "titfer"(short for
tit-for-tat). Another type of London slang is back slang, in which the
letters in a word are reversed; for example, a boy is a "yob."
Over the years, attempts have been made to standardize
pronunciation and vocabulary throughout England. In the late 19th century,
schools taught "Received Pronunciation," using the speech patterns common
in the southeastern counties. In 1926, the British Broadcasting Corporation
(BBC) formed an advisory committee to ensure uniform pronunciation and
vocabulary on the airwaves. Today, differences of pronunciation and vocabulary
are less extreme, but they are still noticeable.
Did you know?|
Visitors to England often struggle to pronounce local
place names and surnames correctly. For example, Barnoldswick is pronounced
"Barlick," Cholmondeston is "Chumson," Trottiscliffe is "Trosley," and the
surname Featherstonehaugh is "Fanshaw."