In the 1970s a series of books (well, they were more like pamphlets really) were published that illustrated local English dialects by making fun of them, not in a nasty way, but affectionately, by people who wanted to record local phrases and pronunciations before they disappeared. One of the first was “Krek Waiter’s Peak Bristle” (translate as “Correct Way to Speak Bristol), which included such useful terms as “Bem Breckfuss”, and “Count’s Louse”.

There were three “Bristle” books, and these were followed by others, including “Arfur Tow Crate in Staffy Cher”, which also spawned a sequel. While “Bristle” made great play of the Bristol ‘added l’ (for those who don’t know, many words ending in schwa have /l/ added to them – including Bristol itself, which was earlier “Bristow”), the Staffy Cher books were able to draw on the vowel system of Stoke on Trent (Potteries) dialect as well as its grammatical idiosyncracies, and unlike the Bristol examples, they need to be ‘translated’: “Dine thar straight” (‘down thy street’), “Kind Slice” (see “Count’s Louse” above) “Eye Straight” and “Eye Lean” (High Street and High Lane).

Apart from poking fun, these books actually demonstrate some aspects of English phonology that turn up even in more standard forms of the language – so “Bem Breckfuss” includes the assimilation of alveolars to labials, and both “Count’s Louse” and “Kind Slice” shows the frequent interpolation of a plosive between a nasal and a sibilant. Non-phoneticians are often surprised to learn that their speech also exhibits these features.


  1. The first of these that I came across were the Strine books by the famous Australian linguist Afferbeck Lauder, who introduced the world to the ever inquisitive Emma Chizzit.

  2. John – I’ve just looked up Mr Lauder in Wikipedia, to discover that he was really called Alastair Ardoch Morrison, and that among his achievements was to be chairman of the Currency Note Design Group, which helped with the design of Australia’s first decimal currency notes. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to have persuaded them to use any of his Strine phrases on them …

  3. The dialect of the Potteries has had very little written on it, given that it is a distinctive form of English.

    The examples that you give illustrate how RP /i:/ could be pronounced as [eɪ] and RP /eɪ/ can be pronounced as [i:] in traditional Staffordshire speech. I understand that you originate from the Potteries. Is this vowel switch still common for residents of the area?

    Have you ever thought about writing a post on the Potteries’ phonology? It would be very interesting to read comments from a native, before any further de-dialectisation takes place.

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *.