NaPoWriMo 18 – The language of childhood

Childhood was bilingual /Our mam says “Ay up”

Playground and classroom/I’ve forgot me dinner money

Strict demarcation/I’ve left it at ‘om

Classrooom was knowledge/I’ll tell thee summat

Playground was wisdom/Tha dun’t pick mother-die

Class room was orderly/Give us some spice, then

Playground was marauding/Yon bairn’s roaring

Childhood was bilingual/We were only laiking




I feel this probably needs some kind of explanation. I was brought up in Barnsley, on the South Yorkshire coalfields, pre-internet and all that. The local dialect had the kind of richness you get in a cohesive, fairly closed community. People used “thee” and “thou” (“thee” and “tha”); we lost the letter “h”, but gained the glottal stop as an additional and well used consonant; and there was a smattering of old Norse words in there, remnants of the Danelaw.

So the second half would run:

My mum says “hello”

I’ve forgotten my lunch money,

I’ve left it at home.

I’ll tell you something,

You don’t pick cow parsley.

Give me some sweets, then.

That little kid’s crying.

We were only playing.


It was an accepted fact that picking cow parsley would kill your mother, hence the local name.

My children have a different accent to me: brought up in Devon, their accent is broadly middle class, with a faint West Country burr. Their folklore is much more influenced by the media – the internet in particular – but I suspect it is no more accurate, but just as fervently held.