Now that I’ve officially graduated, I can mull over my past three years at university. But having already done one too many posts on how it is the end of an era, I decided to focus more on how university affects language.
Anyone who has gone to university will tell you that you very quickly realise how differently people do things. Try to cook with your new flatmates for the first few weeks and you’ll see that there are a million different ways to do something as mundane as just cooking rice. Do you pour boiling water over it at the end, do you rinse it prior, do you weigh it, measure it in cups or just guess and hope for the best? And it strikes me that language is much the same: diverse, depending on area and upbringing, but also on a personal level.
I spent the majority of my first year doing something only a Midlander can appreciate – defending the fact that I am neither Northern or Southern, but actually from that middle area that no one seems to realise actually exists. Going to university in the Midlands, everyone seemed to either have travelled up and down, with no one really understanding my little sideways sidestep. Banter, mate.
By rights, I should call that piece of bread that doesn’t come in a sliced loaf a ‘cob’, but instead I call it a ‘roll’. One particularly amusing moment was when my housemate, Ella, after being in Nottingham 3 years, asked if a cob was like corn on the cob when passing a sandwich shop. I’m not sure, but I think the Sheriff of Nottingham hangs people for that. But seriously, if you’ve not caught wind of the great bread debate, you should, because some people get very worked up. (In fact, and here is a geeky language comment, but I find the diagram below very interesting as it highlights just how many bilabial sounds are in the various dialect words – I wonder if anyone has researched why that might be?)
The pinnacle of hearing language at uni was when I discovered that my housemate, Clare, who grew up in Essex, used the same word ‘peng’ as me to mean something particularly delightful. Actually, I tell a lie. It was when my other housemate, Ella, who grew up in Oxford, used the word without even realising. Now that’s language mingling.