Story for the Day: Accent
Frewyn is home to many different accents, but the accent from TussNaTullin, the Gaeltacht of Westren, is so different that it might as well be its own language. Many folk who grow up in TussNaTullin, like Sir Gaumhin did, have no idea that their particular brand of speech is nigh unintelligible to those outside of their village until forced to venture beyond its borders. In Gaumhin's case, he was raised in TussNaTullin's orphanage and placed into a foster home when he was fourteen, and while some found his accent difficult to understand, his three foster brothers reveled in his thick brogue:
The boys had demolished Gaumhin’s bowl of oats and sat with one hand to their ears, that they might listen to Gaumhin’s amusing accent all the better, and with one hand over their toothy grins, their eyes beaming with mirthful delight, their giggles ebbing out from behind parted and sullied fingers. They said nothing to Gaumhin’s question, only staring at him in expectant glee, waiting to hear what might next emerge from Gaumhin’s lips to delight and interest them.
Gaumhin sighed and shook his head. “Are yous havin’ a laugh at mah accent again?”
“You talk funny,” Ossin insisted, his eyes sparkling.
“No,” said Gaumhin, with calm conviction, “Ah doant talk funnae.”
“Yes, you do.”
“No, Ah doant.”
“Aye, ye dae,” Irall laughed.
The boys cackled in high glee, and Gaumhin gave them a flat look.
“No, Ah dunnae, and tha’ doesnae sound liek meh.”
“Aye, et doas,” Feidhlim chimed, with some difficulty at the imitation.
“No, it doesnae. Ye talk funnae,” Gaumhin playfully asserted, pointing his spoon at the boys. “Where ahm from in TussNaTuillin, everybodae talks liek thess.”
“Can we go there?” Ossin exclaimed, standing at once and leaning over the table, his countenance in a glow of joyous anticipation.
“So yous three can have a laugh?”
Eager nods went round, and Gaumhin only smiled at their aws of deflated expectation when their grandmother reproached them for their impropriety, saying in her soft tone how rude it was to take enjoyment in how someone else pronounced their words. Frewyn’s grand wealth of accents was a matter of pride, not a matter of joviality, and the boys scoffed and reclaimed their seats on the ground, slumping against one another in grim disappointment, pouting and sulking, all their unprompted ambitions destroyed.
“Well, Ahm no’ gettin’ rid of mah accent,” said Gaumhin, smiling, “so yous can laugh at meh all yous want. Took me fourteen year o’ cultivatin’ thess, and ahm no’ givin’ it up for naebodae.”
It was said with such unanswerable dignity as to make the children feel a sort of admiration for Gaumhin’s thick brogue, wanting one for themselves. The fascination of first meeting their new brother was here revived, and they remarked him with a renewed sense of ardent admiration: he was a novelty and a rarity all at once, speaking in so uncommon a tongue, treating their playful aspersions with all the good humour that could be requisite for an older brother.
“Can you teach us to speak like you?” said Ossin, with hopeful smiles.
“If ye liek, but if Ah dae, I doant want tae hear yous havin’ a laugh at meh anymoar. D’ye ken?”
They nodded and awaited their first lesson when their grandmother quietly asked them to differ their lessons for a later hour, that Gaumhin might at last eat something, but their brother was new to them and therefore only increasing the intrigue that his immense stature and amiable nature evinced.
He was allowed to eat one spoonful of cold oats before Ossin began again with, “Does everyone in TussNaTullin learn to speak Common with that accent?”
“Ah thenk everybodae in TussNaTullin is born with thess accent,” Gaumhin laughed. “If yous three thenk mah accent is no’ understandable, Ahd love tae see what you’d dae with some of the olj-ins in TussNaTullin who’ve never spoken a wurd o’ Common.”
“What do they speak?” asked Feidhlim, his eyes scintillating with interest.
Ossin’s brow furrowed and his nose wrinkled. “What’s that?”
“The Westren dialect of Old Frewyn,” Blinne replied. “Brother Biodhe told me that it’s one of the oldest dialects of Old Frewyn. Most of Tirlough’s poetry is written in Auld Fremhin. So is much of Brave King Breian’s correspondence with him.”
The boys snurled and laughed at their sister, declaring her as being ostentatious, wanting to boast her own talents in front of their new brother, attempting to establish herself as the superior sibling by professing what meager knowledge she had obtained from her lessons at the church. She knew little, of course, and the boys must know more when she only attended classes a few days a week, learning the chief of her lessons on Gods Day as she could, while they attended their classes every day.
The sting of their remonstrance struck Blinne most forcibly, for while the boys thought they were being capricious, Blinne felt their snide remarks as a most unforgivable slight: she had her reasons for remaining with her grandmother a few days of the week, and while she would have disclaimed and refuted their accusations, she would not appear inferior in character before Gaumhin by succumbing to a debate at the table. Her integrity as a standing pillar of the house must be upheld, and she therefore only pursed her lips and turned away, refuting every wretched feeling, commanding herself not to cry, effecting to govern her frustration and anger, recomposing by reminding herself that her younger brothers were only speaking from a sense of inadequacy, and consoling herself with the notion that Gaumhin would understand her silence.
He did understand her: the downcast eyes, the sorrowful shoulders, and the tightened fists betrayed how desirous she was of defending her position, but her silence only elevated her in Gaumhin’s eyes. He reckoned that something occurred to keep Blinne from her lessons, education that a lively and intelligent mind as hers desperately craved. He resolved to inquire after her later, and said in a defending tone, “Yur sesster might only go tae church a few days a week, but she pays attention when the Brothur speaks while yous lads are probably dreamin’.”
A defensive “nuh-huh” resounded from the table, and Gaumhin laughed and ate his dinner, his eye catching the slender smile curling in the corner of Blinne’s mouth and the expression of happy relief on her grandmother’s face as though pleased that one of their usual arguments had been averted.