The West Country
In this video, I look at the West Country, or South West England.
It looks at various diverse things, such as:
- the geographical boundaries
- west country way of life
- a few well-known people from the region
- local words and phrases
- Star Wars
- food and drink
(I did say it was diverse!)
Today we’re looking at the West Country.
I suppose the first question should be what exactly constitutes the West Country.
Cornwall and Devon? Sure. Dorset and Somerset? Absolutely.
Wiltshire and Gloucestershire? It depends on who you ask.
So in other words, the exact border to the West Country is not clearly defined.
Speed of Life
The first thing I noticed when I used to go down that way from around London is that the the whole pace of life is slower and it takes a while to get used to it.
It used to really annoy me was I was a student with a crappy car and couldn’t afford a proper one and people down in the West Country with new sports cars were driving slower than me.
They used to annoy the hell out of me. I suggested that we could swap cars. Why did you buy a sports car to drive it like an old granny? I mean this, is ridiculous and used to stress me out a lot.
But thankfully I’ve gotten used to that now and everything’s fine.
The thing you’ll probably notice is that the people down that way tend to be not very communicative. They don’t use many words, so a typical kind of conversation in a pub when someone goes in would be:
B: yeah. you?
And then they go back to staring into the drinks. And it is okay; nobody is trying to be funny or offend anyone. They just don’t really use many words.
Words and Phrases
While on the topic of words they do use, there’s quite a few common expressions you’ll find for things that they like.
If something is described as ‘proper job’, ‘ellovagurd’ or ‘andsome’, you know that they like.
A few other words you might come across:
‘Janner’ is someone from Plymouth and whether or not it’s meant positively or negatively will depend on the tone in the context.
‘Grockles’ is generic West country term for holidaymaker and you can be fairly sure the guy with a t-shirt that says “I’m not a grockle, I live here” is a holiday maker.
Another thing they often say is if they’re surprised, especially at someone’s behaviour, e.g. if someone says something ridiculous, outlandish, immodest or whatever, the normal reaction you will get is that they just turn around and say “‘ark at he”
If people refer to you as ‘me handsome’, ‘me darlin’ or ‘me lover’, that means they like you so be happy about that.
Although there are people who are well-known from the west country, they kind of don’t epitomise the west country mentality.
One notable exception to this is the Cornish comedian Jethro. He’s kind of funny and if you’re easily offended perhaps don’t go and look at his stuff. But if you despise political correctness, don’t mind the odd bad word, then he’s probably worth a look.
If you think you recognise this Southwest accent from old pirate films, you would be right. This is most likely down to an actor called Robert Newton who played a few pirates in the 1950s. He came from Dorset and exaggerated his accent to play the Pirates.
If for you, a typical pirate says “arrr shiver me timbers” and “arr me hearties”, then that’s as his fault. So now you know.
Ironically, one of the most instantly recognisable characters in modern film history was played by someone from the South West but nobody knows him. That is odd. The guy I’m talking about is a guy named David Prowse and he is a fine physical specimen at six foot six tall, which is nearly two meters and the character he played was Darth Vader, of course from the Star Wars films.
As an aside, the film producers royally shafted him. Throughout the whole of the film production, he wasn’t aware of the fact that they wouldn’t be using his voice. He has got quite a strong Bristol accent and a lot of the time they jokingly referred to him as Darth Farmer during the filming. It was only when they came to the premiere of the film that he realised it wasn’t actually his voice that they were hearing.
With the benefit of hindsight, it was, of course, a much better idea to use James Earl Jones to do the dubbing. David thought that when they take the mask off, they’ll see it’s me and for that frame, they used another actor. I actually feel quite sorry for David Prowse; I think you got very very poorly treated during the filming of Star Wars. Just my opinion.
Most people know that in Scotland, there is a Gaelic, in Ireland there is a Gaelic, in parts of Wales as a Gaelic background but what a lot of people don’t realise is that Cornwall also had its own version of Gaelic which is called Curnow.
Until about 100 years ago, there were actually people who spoke this as their first language. This actually goes back to the times of the Roman invasions and the places that have these Gaelic histories is where the Romans didn’t quite get to.
Some of the things you’ll see just define logic and reasoning and they can’t be explained – you just have to see them and understand it.
For instance, there’s a fairly common naming standard for towns at the mouth of a river. For example, the town at the mouth of the river Fal is Falmouth; the town at the mouth observer Exe is Exmouth; the town that the mouth of river Plym is Plymouth.
But there will always be exceptions. For instance the town at the mouth the Teign looks like it should be pronounced ‘Teignmouth’ but is actually pronounced ‘Tinmuth’.
There’s a little village in Cornwall on the south coast called Mousehole which looks like it should be pronounced ‘mouse hole’ but is pronounced ‘mouzle’.
There’s lots of these little examples and if you find something unusual just accept it and don’t try and understand it.
There’s quite an intense rivalry between Devon and Cornwall.
For instance, they don’t agree on how to make pasties or Oggies as they’re called.
In Cornwall, they think that the pastry should be joined around the edge whereas in Devon, they think the pastry should be joined in the middle.
Both think that their clotted cream is a superior clotted cream.
If you think about the fact that there’s only three ingredients to making cream tea, it’s absurd that they can’t even agree on how to do that!
In Cornwall, they say the cream is the most important part so you’ve got the scone, the jam, and then cream on top.
In Devon, the cream is so thick, it’s difficult to spread properly on the softer, runnier a jam so they put the scone, the cream, and then the jam.
Other Food and Drink
But don’t worry, they both taste delicious and can be a part of your calorie controlled diet so you can eat them without getting fat 😉 Would be good if that was true…
By all means try the local scrumpy cider but don’t worry if you don’t like it – you can get beers and other spirits and drinks that you’re used to.
The other culinary delights that you’ll find around the South West are fish and chips because of an awful lot of coastline.
The quality and price will vary a lot. The only thing I can suggest is to ask some of the locals for some recommendations and act accordingly.
I think that wraps up our look at the southwest. I’m sure I miss something, so feel free to comment below on why I omitted certain important things and I’ll give you the best answer I can.
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Also, if you liked this video, you might be interested in other videos in this series.
Did I miss anything out? Or have you been to that part of the world and agree (or disagree) with anything in the video?
If so, please let me know in the comments below.