Here is my article from last weeks Irish Examiner’s Feelgood. It tells the tale of what happens when a Dublin girl meets a Cork/Kerry accent.
Recently one of my children has spoken of the possibility of leaving home to work in Dublin. I was only a little younger than she is when I left to live in Cork. I’m not sure if at the time I believed I’d never go back, but twenty-seven years later I’m still here and while I’ll always speak of Dublin as ‘home’, I love living in Cork.
Our home is a village five miles from the city centre. Recently I tried to explain to my children that in Dublin they would be classed as ‘Culchies’. They totally disagreed, insisting they are residents of Cork city, but as I sit here typing, the fields opposite full of cows, I don’t believe Dubs would agree.
If my daughter leaves Cork I wonder how she will find moving in the opposite direction?
When we decided to live here permanently, I’d imagined one city to be pretty much like another. To familiarise myself with the roads and streets of my new home, I filled the car with petrol and headed off to explore. One hour later I’d been everywhere and was beginning to realise Cork city was not like Dublin and there was also a very different accent to deal with.
I’d have been deaf not to notice yer mans Cork accent when I met him first, phone calls in particular being a nightmare. However, it wasn’t until I went to visit his family for the first time that I fully realised the wonder that is the Cork/Kerry accent and the speed at which it is spoken.
My, now in-laws owned a shop which was a hive of activity, especially on a Sunday after Mass. Despite the language barrier I was happy to make a guest appearance making up for my lack of understanding by smiling and nodding an enormous amount.
I remember one particular Sunday helping out when the shop was very busy. Perhaps it was because I was new and pretty useless with a cash machine, or maybe the locals were curious as to who I was, but the queue for my till was double the size of the other. Sensibly I was moved to the sweet counter where I relied on customers to point out what they wanted. I was beginning to feel a little more confident when a young boy stepped up and asked for a variety of sweets in a very strong accent. I struggled through and finally, his arms laden, he asked me for a bag. Unfortunately I couldn’t for the life of me understand him.
“Can I have a big please?”
“Ahbig?” I asked.
“Yes,” he nodded.
I stared at the array of sweets around me, trying to see one which might sound like ‘ahbig’ to no avail.
“I’m sorry what are you looking for?”
“Ahbig, please,” he repeated, his arms dripping with sweets.
I stared blankly at the shelves once more before a genius solution struck me.
“Oh I’m sorry we are out of those.”
“In Dublin they say baaaag,” he said with a grin in my direction as he handed the demented boy a bag.
Over time my comprehension improved but my confidence remained low. One day, not too long after the bag incident, we were invited to a wedding. I begged yer man not to abandon me during the day with fast speakers, explaining at length how the Dublin accent was slower, more distinct and easier to understand.
In the bathroom later that day I overheard my name mentioned outside the cubicle.
“She’s a lovely girl.”
Pleased with what I’d heard I listened on,
“She’s a lovely girl alright, but God Almighty I haven’t a clue what she’s saying.”
******* Just to help you understand how challenging a Cork/Kerry accent can be here is a kerry accent in full flow.