The North and South of England03-Sep-2012
The North and South of England
Like all countries, the different areas of England are very diverse in their history, food and language. Let’s take a whistle stop tour of the North and South of England!
The North of England has a very industrial past, with shipyards, mining towns and textile factories dominating their major industries. However, during the age of industrial decline and the Great Depression in the 1930s, these resources became less valuable: for example, coal was replaced by cleaner energies and textile production was imported more cheaply from foreign countries. As a result, the North suffered greatly as there had been an over-reliance on these industries, and the area became quite poor.
Down in the South of England, the services-oriented capital city, London, boomed during the industrial decline of the mid-twentieth century. People flocked to London to find work, and the regions surrounding London became equally as popular. Today, we call these areas ‘commuter towns’ because the majority of people who live there do so to be able to commute into London for their jobs. Because of this huge influx of people in the South, there was a huge boom in house-building and, by extension, in electrical manufacturing (making toasters, kettles and radiators). These kinds of industries outlived the industrial decline felt in the North because they could not be imported so cheaply from other countries. London also profited from being the financial centre of the country, which means that there was and will always be a service-centred industry at the heart of the South.
Perhaps the biggest distinction of all between the different parts of England is the way that people speak. Not only are the accents in these areas very different, there are also different vocabularies and dialects.
Northerners tend to leave out certain sounds from words, or certain words from sentences; the most common examples of these are “I’m goin’ t’shops” or “I’m going the shops” as opposed to “I’m going to the shops.” Another typical feature of Northern English is using a short a in words like ‘bath’, ‘grass’ and ‘laugh’, copying the a-sound in ‘fat’ or ‘cat’. You can go here for more Northern colloquialisms and pronunciations, but even within the Northern accents there is huge variation between a Yorkshire accent, a Manchester accent, a Liverpool accent and a Newcastle accent.
Southern accents are generally less coarse and are closer to RP (Received Pronunciation, or Queen’s English than their Northern counterparts. This is because RP originated from London and the surrounding counties (the Home Counties) in the 16th and 17th centuries when the area was full of well-off people. Southern accents employ the long or broad a in words such as ‘bath’, ‘grass’ and ‘laugh’, the same a-sound as in ‘half’ or ‘father’. On the other hand, Cockney is a rather coarse example of a Southern English accent, originating as it does from East London, which used to be a lower-class part of the city. Features include replacing ‘th’ sounds with an ‘f’, the use of double negatives (‘I didn’t see nuffin’ [nothing]), and dropping ts and ps from words so that ‘water’ becomes ‘woah-ah.’
The BBC has set up a website called Voices, with links to recordings of various different accents around England, which would be particularly useful if you want to explore the different English accents with your students.
Below is a list of a few words and their common replacements used in the North and South:
Good: Sick (South) Sound (North)
A house: Tanner (South) Gaff (North)
A tantrum: Benny (South) Radge (North)
Really/very: Bare (South) Reet (North)
Informal greeting: Easy (South) Na’ then (North)
The North tends to have a more varied dialect, as they have different names for the standard or accepted word used in the rest of the country: for example, in the North, a sandwich is referred to as a butty; a bread roll is known as a cob; and a crumpet is known as a pikelet.
English food tends to be quite dense due to our cold climate. While there are regional dishes that I’ll cover below, there is one meal that unites the whole of England, and that is the Sunday roast. Typically eaten between 1pm and 4pm, the Sunday roast is a huge gastronomic affair, beaten only by Christmas dinner, with cooked meats, vegetables, potatoes and gravy heaped up on a plate. It’s very much a family affair, and is most popular in the colder months. Very nice followed by a nap on the sofa.
Food from the North
Yorkshire pudding is not a sweet dessert, but actually a side dish served with meats, vegetables and gravy. It is made from a batter (the same used to make pancakes) which is poured into smoking-hot oil in a tray: the batter puffs up really quickly and they become golden brown, crispy on top and doughy on the bottom. Perfect for mopping up left over gravy!
Lancashire Hotpot is a one-pot stew made of mixed lamb and vegetables (carrot, turnip, potatoes, onions or leeks) that is then covered with sliced potato. It is quite a liquidy dish and is very hearty, served most often in the winter. The name comes from the pot that the dish is cooked and then served in.
Stottie cake is a type of bread made in North-East England. They are round and fairly flat, with a mound punched out at the bottom. Stotties are most frequently eaten with warm fillings – the bread is very dense and doughy so it does not become soggy when filled with hot food. The name of the bread comes from the Newcastle word ‘to stott,’ meaning ‘to bounce’ – legend has it that if a loaf of this is dropped on the floor, it would bounce right back up because of its density!
Food from the South
Jellied eels are not as popular as they used to be in the 19th and 20th centuries when eels so heavily populated the river Thames that they were the cheapest food type for London locals. Jellied eels are made by boiling chopped up eel in a spicy stock and then allowing that to cool until the jelly sets. They are often served with mashed potato and are still available from shops in East London.
Clotted cream is a rich dairy product produced in Devon and Cornwall, down on the South coast. It has a dangerously high fat content of between 55% and 64%! Clotted cream is the creamiest cream you’ll ever taste and is most often served with scones in coffee shops in the South of England. Not to be missed!
Cornish pasty is a pastry filled with beef, diced potato, turnip and onion and baked in the oven. It is shaped like a D, and is closed so that the outside is flaky and golden brown and the filling and the inside of the pastry are steamed. Pasties in general are very popular and there are many flavour variations available in bakers all around the country, but to be a Cornish pasty it must contain beef, potato, onion and turnip.
To show your students what a varied country England is, go to the National Tourist Board’s Youtube channel