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8:42pm on Saturday, 14th May, 2005:



I had one of those spooky coincidences happen to me today.

I read in The Independent that the new stage musical version of the movie Billy Elliot has a Geordie/English dictionary in the programme. Geordies are complaining that it's a class thing, suggesting that a bunch of hoity-toity Southern smug people are feigning being unable to understand the accent because that would taint them with a whiff of Northerners by association. If they let on they understood it, might that imply they had perhaps had some contact with actual Geordies? Perish the thought! The theatre, however, countered that no, it's not for the benefit of swanky, stuck-up London theatre-goers: it's because Americans in the audience are unable to follow Geordie.

OK, so that was one thing.

Also today, some manga I ordered from Amazon a couple of days ago arrived. I read through book one of Excel Saga, and was amazed to find one of the characters was speaking in what seemed to be a Geordie accent. For all the world, his speech wouldn't have looked out of place in Sid the Sexist out of Viz. Yet Excel Saga is published by Viz comics (an American publisher with no relation to the Viz comic we have here with Sid the Sexist in it — there's more than one spooky thing going on here). My copy of Excel Saga volume one is not a special UK-only version or anything, because a) they don't do them; and b) it uses American spelling, eg. "vise" rather than "vice". Atthe end of the book (which, its being in Japanese format, is near what we'd call the front) there is an actual explanation for the way the character, Sumiyoshi, speaks. In the Japanese version, he speaks with an accent from the North of Japan, and in translation they decided to go with a Northern English accent (rather than an equivalent US accent). It really is Geordie, and — gaah! — it' really is based on that of Sid the Sexist and Biffa Bacon out of Viz.

That was the other thing. Spooky coincidence.

Hold on, though. If this book is sold mainly in America, then Americans must have no problem with constructs such as, "Aye, and thez people like worselves then so it aal evens oot in th' end" and, "Wull why ded ye nae say so, man?". So why would they need a translation for Billy Elliot the musical?

Yup. Class thing.

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Copyright © 2005 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).