'Cheers' and 'Luve' - University induced linguistc stuff
It is not my favourite part of my university subjects, but I study linguistics as well. Sometimes it is interesting, sometimes I ask myself how people possibly get the idea to write pages and pages on ‘Left sentence periphery, verb placement and verb-second constructions in Old High German syntax’ (I did not make up this appealing beauty, I found it with one search in the library catalogue). But it trains my brain to listen a bit more carefully when I hear people talking.
I didn’t know anything about the northern or the Yorkshire dialect before I came here; well I knew that there was something called ‘the Yorkshire dialect’, but not how it sounded. Apparently, it has a lot of different characteristics, the detailed Wikipedia entry has a pretty long list. I mainly noticed one thing (which is the first thing on the Wikipedia list, so I guess it is very typical): Words like lunch, cut, mum, stuff are pronounced with a vowel that sounds more like the German ‘u’, they sound like a German who doesn’t know English would read them out with a German pronunciation. This is the most helpful explanation that I could come up with, I could use the phonetic transcriptions here, but do any linguists read this, I think not... You get used to the sound after a while. At first it was extremely strange, now I like it when I hear it, and I like that I will recognize it from now on and it will remind me of Sheffield.
Another thing: ‘Cheers!’ It is not only typical for Sheffield or Yorkshire or the North, it is everywhere in the UK I think. People say it everywhere, all the time, in all kinds of situations. Said to me it meant things like: ‘Thank you for buying chocolate, Pringles and something else unhealthy and goodbye!’, ‘Oh nice that you have 7,29£ in coins!’, ‘Sorry I stumbled on you!’, ‘Your ID shows that you’re over 18, get in here!’, ‘No problem, I am glad I could show you where the toilets are!’ A web page called ‘urban dictionary’ says cheers is ‘a word used by Britons on any occasion, covering any meaning from “thanks”, “hello”, “no problem”, to “an alien just raped your chinchilla in the left corner of my blue garden shed”.’ How nice.
Also funny for me is how students talk with teachers and lecturers here. They address them by their first names. At home we do that to some younger teachers at the English department, but generally not. Would be very confusing. And it’s not only the first names, it’s the whole attitude. They write mails like ‘Hey Matt, how is it going, about my essay topic I wanted to ask...’ They don’t bother with PhD titles like we do in Germany. We talked about politeness and forms of address in my Germanic linguistic course, and some students who spent an Erasmus in Germany told that they got very confused answers when they stared their mails with ‘Hi Angelika, wie geht es dir?’ In school and even at university now, a teacher’s first name is something private, something that you usually don’t know or that is funny to find out. I remember laughing with my friends about the idea that our German teacher’s wife would call him ‘Ulrich’. That anyone would call our German teacher by his first name. But when I think about it longer, I prefer the relaxed attitude here. It is annoying to look online if the teacher you’re writing to has a PhD before you can send the mail!