3 ISSUES FOR JUST £3 Subscribe to Devon Life today click here

Maid in Devon: Pat Keenor talks about what makes Devon different to any other place on Earth

PUBLISHED: 13:45 30 January 2015 | UPDATED: 13:45 30 January 2015

Pat Keenor

Pat Keenor

Archant

This month our columnist PAT KEENOR reflects on what makes Devon delightfully different to any other place on Earth…

I REMEMBER when I was a child being in the car with my mother and father, on the way to the races somewhere. My father had taken an unfamiliar route and had driven the wrong way down a one-way street. He was stopped by a policeman, notebook in hand.

Father then launched into a convoluted explanation, in broadest Devon, about being new to the area and not seeing the sign. The policeman stared at him in utter incomprehension. He let him gabble on a for a while, not understanding why he decided to take “thiggy rawd” rather than the right “rawd”, before holding up his hand and stopping him in his tracks. The PC shook his head in bewilderment before waving him on his way, muttering: “Be careful next time.”

I was reminded of this incident the other day when I was reading an internet article asking foreigners what they found strange about Britain. It caused something of a furore with, literally, thousands of people commenting. Most of the comments about “weird Britain” were predictable, like our obsession with tea and the fact that Britain and America are two countries divided by a common language.

In fact, an Asian American couldn’t believe it when he visited Cambridge and saw a young man who looked around his mid-twenties drinking tea from a Victorian teapot “with the flower design and everything”. You could almost hear the shock in his voice as he wrote: “I’m talking about those teapots that appear antiquated and seem like they’re over 100 years old!”

But one person had asked: “Why do accents change every 50 miles?” I wanted to tell him that in Devon, it isn’t the accent that changes, but the whole language. The dialect is dying out now, of course, and we all tend to speak like TV presenters but go out into the rural areas and have a chat with a true Devonian and I’ll wager many of us would be totally flummoxed.

The article got me thinking about what the rest of Britain finds weird about Devon and I must admit I was spoiled for choice.

We may, as a nation, be overly concerned with tea but many Devonians I know are obsessed with swedes – note the small ‘s’; I’m not talking about our Scandinavian cousins.

I once spent an hour arguing with someone about the difference between swedes and turnips. They were convinced that a small turnip grew up to be a big swede. When the transition occurred, she wasn’t quite sure. I knew – being a good old Devon maid – they were two different vegetables. Someone else I met thought the two names were interchangeable. I soon put them right… See? Obsessed.

I wondered, too, how visitors mind being called “my lover” or “maid” by complete strangers. Or by seeing grass growing down the centre of country lanes and the fact that herds of cows and flocks of sheep have the right of way as they are driven from one field to another.

The smells of the countryside can come as a surprise too. Forget the sweet wafting scent of wild flowers in the meadow, it’s more likely to be the smell of dung being spread in a field.

Exeter and Plymouth are our big cities – and, incidentally, anywhere past Taunton is “up north”. Never mind the frightening statistic that you’re never more than 6ft from a rat, if you live in Devon you’re never more than ten minutes from the nearest Fergie – and that’s a tractor, not the former manager of Manchester United.

Your favourite drink is scrumpy cider. But it amuses you that one of the favourite tipples of Scottish drunks is brewed by Devonshire monks at Buckfast Abbey.

In fact, the abbot was forced to respond to the statistic that Buckfast Tonic Wine was mentioned in 6,496 Scottish crime reports from 2010 to 2012. He said it “was not made to be abused” and couldn’t be blamed for problems arising from social deprivation.

And finally, the pronunciation of place names was baffling to many with one person asking: “How in the name of Lady Jane Grey does ‘Leicester’ only have two syllables?”

I refrained from adding my comment to the site and telling him that in Devon we have two Woolfardisworthys, one in Mid Devon and one in North Devon, and both are pronounced Woolsery. I think he would have exploded.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Devon Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Devon Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Devon Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

Yesterday, 10:59

The South West Coast Path is celebrating 40 years by calling on people to help raise £40,000. To show their support, teams from Devon’s top tourist attractions are preparing to take to the trail. CHRISSY HARRIS finds out more

Read more
Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Away from the hustle of places like Woolacombe and Ilfracombe, North Devon is peppered with tiny coves, empty beaches and wooded walks leading to secluded bays that feel a million miles away from the tourist trail. BECKY DICKINSON reveals her pick of the best kept secrets on the North Devon coast

Read more
Friday, September 14, 2018

As part of her regular series where she visits Devon’s best places for 24 hours, Lydia Tewkesbury has this time been to Sidmouth

Read more
Thursday, September 13, 2018

Ranging from rocky and windy walkways along the South West Coast Path to the sandy beaches on the picturesque coastline, the district of North Devon is one of the prettiest coastal areas in the South West of England. In no particular order, here are 10 of the prettiest villages in the district of North Devon

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

In Devon’s towns and cities there’s an awful lot you can do in just 24 hours. For her regular feature, Lydia Tewkesbury travels to see what you can do in a day in Kingsbridge

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Villages in Devon are some of the prettiest in the South West. From beautiful little hamlets on the outskirts of the moors to seaside communities, we pick 10 villages in Devon you need to visit

Read more
Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Dust off your walking shoes and head to South Devon – here are 6 reasons why the area is so good for a stroll writes Victoria Rogers

Read more
Tuesday, September 4, 2018

From sandy beaches and lighthouse-topped cliffs to views of the Jurassic Coast, the Devon coastline offers many perfect locations for a seaside walk. We pick 10 of the prettiest routes to take

Read more
Tuesday, August 28, 2018

There is something quite life-enriching about being by the water and in Devon there are plenty of ways to enjoy it, writes Fran McElhone. Including surfing, wild swimming, water skiing and more, here are 10 great ways to enjoy Devon’s water

Read more
Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Encompassing large swathes of Dartmoor and plenty of the county’s most distinctive sections of coastline, it’s no wonder that the South Hams district is home to some of Devon’s prettiest places. We pick out 10 of the best towns and villages the area has to offer

Read more
Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Devon is as beautiful underwater as it is above. Chrissy Harris highlights the best places to discover our county’s hidden depths… Here are 6 great places for crabbing, rockpooling and diving

Read more
Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Simone Stanbrook-Byrne suggests a selection of 5 walks with stunning views to enjoy over the summer. Grab your boots and the relevant OS map and off you go!

Read more
Friday, August 3, 2018

From a hot tub Land Rover to a Romany caravan, Claire Saul picks out 7 Devon holiday lets that make hot topics for conversation

Read more
Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Whether you’re up on Dartmoor, gazing down on the seaside from the South West Coast Path or visiting one of our stunning stately homes, breathtaking views are all around our county. We’ve picked 23 places where you can get Devon’s best views

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy



Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search