Monday, 6 April 2015


Dalooney, The Body and myself are talking outside Rob Kenny’s lovely café, Pura Vida. Just behind us the lads from the council are hammering a pneumatic drill into the bottom of Quay Street.

In less urban corners of the Emerald Isle people seek the first cry of the cuckoo as the signal of Spring. In Galway City, it’s the Lifting of the Cobbles Festival, whereupon hundreds of the thousands of cobblestones lining the streets of the medieval heart of the city are ceremoniously raised and then lowered once again.

The cacophonous cocktail of metal, stone and diesel that’s rebounding off Jury’s walls is so loud it leaves me trying to read The Body’s lips.

As it happens, over the years I’ve tried the same tactic in normal conversation. The Body has a deep and very particular voice, which can be difficult for this Englishman to hear at times. When himself and Whispering Blue are swapping stories, I sit back and smile - at them not with them - because I don’t have a clue what they’re saying to each other.

One mumbles “Blahimm shissshhhgaboodle?” to which the other replies heatedly “Frickle jug mug kashh-heesh!

At which point they both roar with laughter and I laugh too, because they are my friends and even if I don't get their joke, that doesn’t stop the entire vignette being funny to me.

It’s puzzling that after over 20 years I still find it difficult to understand my closest Irish friends, because when I’ve lived out in the countryside, I’ve generally acclimatised to the local vernacular fairly well.

I’m one of those dreadful people whose accent wobbles with the wind. This is no mere fickle foible. I don’t do it on purpose. Neither is it linked to any vain desire to be liked. A fine colyoomist I’d be, if all I sought was acceptance.

However when I try to stop doing it, I consciously have to force myself to talk in my normal voice. Maybe it’s linked to my Jewish history, a desire to assimilate, to blend in? Or is it simply a subconscious desire not to be blamed yet again for the British Empire?

Whatever it is that drives my inadequacy I do know that when aided by several whiskies and abetted by a late nighttime hour, my voice grows deep and gravelly while my accent becomes sufficiently authentic to make a Connemara farmer ask

“Local man are ya? Where is it you’re from then?”

I was in no way trying to pass myself off as local, but he was genuinely shocked to find out I was a Londoner. Mind you, my friend in Castlebar has for years shrieked with horror and shrunk back whenever I unleash what she delightfully describes as:

“Your feckin’ leprechaun voice.”

She reckons that himself the farmer and all others who’ve mentioned my accent in any complimentary way were taking the piss, telling me how good it was, while I was foolish enough to swallow their bait.

I’m naturally paranoid, and therefore see myself as pretty good at identifying verbal attacks, but I’m not Irish so I cannot disagree with her.

This mimicry is not something I aspire to, although occasionally I do find some pleasure in it. When a Melbourne taxi driver declared

“Chroist! Ya don’t saaaarnd like a Pom!” 

I was delighted. A mere three months in Australia and my voice no longer sounded like the locals’ favourite target of abuse. 

Anyway, although fake accents are utterly cringeworthy, I’d feel more false trying to control the sound of my words. They just tumble out of my mouth in whichever accent my subconscious decides.

As a scribbler who harbours romantic notions of being a custodian of the language, I care about words, or rather those who abuse words by repeating them.

At the moment we’re in the midst of a bizarre epidemic that involves the infected not being the inflicted. For some reason believing that their audience does not have ears, infected people become stuck saying the same thing over and over again, until you want to ask them if, by any chance, they forgot to take their meds today?

“So he’s slagging off the tourists and I’m saying no, not the tourists, that's your wages, that's your wages, don't be giving out about the tourists, that's your wages. Your wages. That's your wages.”

Yeh, you know what I mean.

Then there’s those who make you laugh with a good joke but feel the need to repeat the punchline ad infinitum. The first time you heard it you found it genuinely funny, so there’s room for residual humour on the second and third repetition, but after that you just wonder about the psychological trigger that needs to wring every joke like a damp flannel.

Language has its fads and fashions, while some words change forever. Last September this colyoom was giving out about the overuse of the word ‘So’, particularly the way that media presenters and experts were starting their sentences with the word to sound irritatingly patronising:

“So this is a cow and the cow eats the grass and then we milk the cow.”

Sadly Double Vision’s ability to spot changes in the language is as hot as ever. Way back in 2007 this colyoom first pointed out how people were starting to us the word ‘iconic’ too much. Now cheese and onion is an iconic potato crisp flavour and another powerful word has become worthless; a spent force.

So now everyone is starting sentences with so. Not just TV presenters but all of you. So that’s the end of so as we know it. So the language changes almost as much as my accent, and I have control over neither.

I have no control over the noise from that pneumatic drill either, so the lads and I go into the café to enjoy the upstairs view and embark on a conversation. I’ll try to understand them, just as my friends will have to struggle with however I to sound to them!

© Charlie Adley

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