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HERE is the regional weather forecast: it’s going to be “nesh” in the southwest of England, “taters” in East Anglia and absolutely “foonert” in Kilmarnock.
All these words mean “cold” and are evidence that dialect is flourishing in this country, according to a study. The British have resisted the onslaught of television and the internet, and our language is more rich and quirky then ever before.
Dialect has even halted the march of so-called estuary English, the flat-vowelled accent of London and the Thames Valley. This was once thought to be so unstoppable that even the Queen was influenced by it.
The findings are the result of a survey by the BBC Voices project of 32,000 people around Britain. It confirmed the suspicion that many rural dialects have died out but discovered that they’ve simply been replaced by new words.
A study in the 1950s showed there were 84 different ways of saying “left-handed” in the study. Now there are 240. “People are often going on about the spread of estuary English and have wrongly led us to believe that we’ll all be speaking the same soon,” said Mick Ord, the director of the Voices project.
Instead the researchers found astonishing variation, with nearly 500 ways of saying cold, 521 different words for friend, and more than 700 ways of playing truant.