Did you know that food taken taken to eat at work is called bait in north-west and north-east, England, bever in the south and docky in the east of the country. Here is a project that makes all these words available. Hundreds of recordings of ordinary people from Cornwall to Northumberland have been put online by the British Library Sound Archive, in a project that combines a pioneering survey of speech patterns half a century ago with more recent interviews conducted by the British Broadcasting Corporation (bbc). At the core of the archive is the work of Harold Orton of Leeds University who, with a Swiss colleague Eugen Dieth and numerous field workers, collected data in 313 English localities between 1950 and 1961; this remains the only systematic survey of the country's native dialects.
When the bbc recorded people's everyday experiences in their own words for a series forty years later, it transpired that regional variations in vocabulary remained remarkably intact. Jonathan Robinson, the archive's curator noted, "In many ways people are much happier with regional accents today and less embarrassed by them than when Alf Ramsey had elocution lessons in the 1960s to prepare himself to manage the England football team". The collection can be seen at collectbritain.co.uk.
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