A long Wikipedia article on West Country dialects (“any of several English dialects or accents used by much of the indigenous population of … Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Dorset, Bristol, Gloucestershire, and Wiltshire”) has some very interesting tidbits, like this:

In the Bristol area, a terminal “a” (realised as [aw], c.f. Albert as “Awbert”, cinema as “cinemaw”) is often perceived to be followed by an intrusive “l”. Hence the old joke about the three Bristolian sisters Evil, Idle and Normal — i.e., Eva, Ida, and Norma. Also the name “Bristol” itself (originally Bridgestowe, variously spelt).

And this:

The West Country accent is probably most identified in American English as “pirate speech” — cartoon-like “Ooh arr, me ‘earties! Sploice the mainbrace!” talk is very similar. This may be a result of the strong seafaring and fisherman tradition of the West Country, both legal and outlaw. Edward Teach (Blackbeard) was a native of Bristol, and privateer and English hero Sir Francis Drake hailed from Tavistock in Devon. Gilbert and Sullivan’s operetta The Pirates of Penzance may also have added to the association. It has also been suggested that Westcountryman Robert Newton’s performance 1950 Disney film Treasure Island may have influenced people’s preconceptions of what accent a pirate “should” have.

Unfortunately, as the Masters of Wiki say in a box at the top of the page, “This does not cite its references or sources,” and I imagine it is not devoid of misstatements; if anybody has corrections to make, please do so (and you can, of course, edit the Wikipedia article yourself).
Thanks for the link, Betsy!


  1. For more on the possible dialectal sources for pirate speech, see Mark Liberman’s 2005 and 2006 Language Log posts commemorating Talk Like A Pirate Day.

  2. Haha, the article has disappeared. I wonder what the Wikipedia equivalent of a Heisenbug is?

  3. I trust LH is familiar with Scrumpy and Western music, particularly the oeuvre of The Wurzels.

  4. Hervé MICHEL says

    I beseech you to lend an indefinitethird second of your time space of mind to consider this text through the URL http://arvemchelp.i france.com/
    [I dont know why the submission has been refused due to questionable content of i france.com (space addes between i and france] which consists on my comment on the intraduction of FW I made these last ten years and among which a résumé which can give you the taste of it in French language you state as in your comprehension
    Kind regards
    Hervé MICHEL
    Montrouge FRANCE

  5. Are these the same accents they used for the Hobbits in LOTR? These accents always sound so American, aside from the cadence being just a little off. That’s no surprise, I suppose. I wonder then why New Englanders don’t sound more Home Counties.

  6. Intrusive “l”s are interesting little beasties. The other example that comes to mind, and which has always perplexed me, is the “l” that emerges in the word “both.” Some 40,000 hits show up in Google , although most of the top hits seem to be analysis of the phenomenon… “bolth of them” gets about 500 hits. (Oh, I just found LINGUIST List thread about it…)

  7. On my qwerty keyboard the “l” key is almost directly below the “o” key. Mystery solved.

  8. I’ve heard there is a Cornwall link to the Jamaican accent as the small white population in Jamaica’s early history was made up of seafaring Cornish people. Is this true?

  9. Benny: This one I hadn’t heard. The belief that the Jamaican accent derives from Welsh is debunked in Frederick Cassidy’s magisterial Jamaica Talk.
    For judicial reasons, Jamaica is, or was, divided into the three counties of Cornwall, Middles*x, and Surrey. (The spam filter won’t permit me to type the name of the English county where I was born!!)

  10. Sorry about that. I get exasperated and add common words to the spam filter and then everybody has to suffer.

  11. Language Hat: I was just surprised.
    Further on the Jamaica-Cornwall thing. I’d not heard of any special connection to Cornwall, however Jamaican novelist John Hearne (bona memoria) in one of his ‘Cayuna’ novels written in the 1950s (Cayuna is a very thinly disguised Jamaica) has the English initially call the island ‘New Cornwall’. I have no idea if he was referring to any actual early English maps of Jamaica calling the island ‘New Cornwall’ or for that matter ‘New Devon’, but he may have seen one such. I haven’t.

  12. I wonder then why New Englanders don’t sound more Home Counties.

    About half of the first major wave of settlement in New England came from East Anglia.

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