From the Archives: August 22nd, 1992

In this Irishman’s Diary Kevin Myers delved into the origins of the ‘Dort’ accent – a ‘dismal argot whose users tend to greet one another with the aspirated diphthong Hoi’

 

An extraordinary phenomenon has occurred in Dublin in the past decade or so. It is the spread of an entirely new accent through large areas of Dublin’s southern suburbs. Originally this accent was spoken solely by adolescents, to the immense distress of their parents, who had trouble disentangling the mangled vowels and the traffic jam of diphthongs. But in the passage of time the speakers of this new and grisly argot have grown up, and now these noises can be heard on RTÉ.

Inexcusably, no ministerial order has been issued under the Broadcasting Act outlawing such accents on the grounds that they might result in acts of violence and vandalism. This is the kind of negligence for which society might in the long term pay a high price.

In the meantime we should examine the problem, if only to judge its scale and to wonder if there is anything to be done about it. Unless I am mistaken, the phenomenon is to be found almost solely on the southside of the city, reaching into Kildare and Meath. It seems to be absent from the northside.

It is not just a question of people on the northside disliking the accent; they hate it and the people who speak it. There has been no more forceful reminder of the incredibly powerful class divisions which scar Irish society than the emergence of a new dialect in the southside to reinforce those divisions.

Very possibly the geological fault at the base of this division is the supposed existence of the Golden 400: the 400 families in Dublin who constitute Dublin society, such as it is; a dismal and pathetic notion, but one that is nonetheless held. Naturally, the children of the quattrocentarians speak this new QC-ish lingo, and so too do those who aspire to QC status.

It is difficult to define the accent concerned. Those whose palate is contaminated by this dismal argot tend to greet one another with the aspirated diphthong, Hoi. They drink pints of Hoineken, which they think is cyool. They seem virtually incapable of pronouncing the letter ‘r’.

Funnily enough, though it is not a Protestant accent, one main vector for the spread of these dreadful linguistic noises seems to be integrated Protestant schools on the southside. Since the older generation of Protestants did and do not converse with the assistance of the strangulated vowels and attenuated diphthongs of QC-ish, we can be sure that this is not merely a confessional dialect. Yet the traditional Protestant schools have become educational garrisons of this vocal pollution.

Of course, they are not Protestant schools any more: they are bastions of the Catholic middle class who send their children there for a variety of reasons – mainly, that they are looking for a more liberal ethos than that in Catholic schools or they are seeking the cachet they believe exists in Protestant schools.

One could very probably draw a QC-ish graph from the spread of this oral pollution along the DART. There is an isolated pocket of it in Howth – rather in the manner in which weeds can be transported far from their natural source across continents by railways – and then there is a sudden and complete disappearance of the palatal yuck as the DART moves through Kilbarrack and the other northside stations until it moves through the city centre.

Then begins a gradient, rising as the line passes through Lansdowne Road and becoming quite steep as it heads past Sandymount. As it passes the seafront towards Blackrock, especially with the proximity of St Andrew’s, the accent becomes more and more pronounced until one reaches the dread zones of Dalkey and Killiney, where the din is as all-pervasive and as deadly as white noise on a torture victim.

But the question remains: why? Why have so many young people in the southern suburbs chosen to adopt a language which is as non-Irish as they can possibly make it?

And is this noise to be permanent? Are its speakers merely the pioneers of a new and ghastly linguistic disorder which will forever make its home in the southern suburbs while in the northside the more robust traditional linguistic habits of Dubliners will be preserved as eternal shibboleths? It’s enough to turn one to drink: A point of Hoineken, pleeese, bahman.

Read the original here

Selected by Joe Joyce; email fromthearchives@irishtimes.com

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