THE current furore of the Halesowen headmaster 'banning' pupils from speaking Black Country in school is very silly.
The dialect as spoken today is a weakened and tame version of what was spoken 50 years ago, and the influence of more service jobs and most of all television has contributed to this. No student would ever apply for a job by using an attempt to write down the dialect.
In 1960 I was a teacher in Macefields Secondary School, Old Hill, and I was intrigued at the different varieties and vocabularies among the pupils.
I found that in some cases I had to correct their language and point out that they shouldn't mix 'strong' dialect with 'weak'.
For example 'Thee bist, ay yer?' mixed the two; they should have said 'Thee bist, bisn't?' or 'Yoh am, ay yer?' and this applied right across the board to cossn't (can't) 'assn't (haven't)
But more interesting still to me was a test I gave them, writing ten sentences on the board such as 'Ah'm off t'a mi lezzer mowed': mi mother's a chetter payler so er ay 'um ert night'. [I'm going to have my hair cut: my mother peels potatoes (at the chip shop) so she's not in nights].
To my surprise, only two pupils who lived on the left hand side of Old Hill Cross, coming from Reddal Hill direction, had a clue as to their meaning.
But all except one on the right hand side toward Holy Trinity found the sentences easy.
I repeated this experiment with every class I taught.
Speaking Black Country was definitely a class division and white collar workers were unlikely to use the dialect as broadly as those who worked in heavy industry or chain making.
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