Dulltown, UK: Today’s quotation if from Vladimir Nabokov‘s short story A Russian Beauty
Well, then, in 1919 we have a grown up young lady, with a pale broad face that overdid things in terms of the regularity of its features, but just the same very lovely. Tall, with soft breasts, she always wears a black jumper and a scarf around her white neck and holds an English cigarette in her slender-fingered hand with a prominent little bone just above the wrist.
If you overheard a conversation in the street here in Dulltown you might come to the conclusion that all the men here are named May.
‘Hey May, have you got a spare ciggy?’
‘No, sorry May, I’ve given ’em up…’
No, you see it’s the way we talk here in this town, it’s part of our version of the northern English regional accent; we are very reluctant to sound the consonants at the ends of our words – well, the sharp-edged ones anyway. Being the city’s inbuilt accent, folk here stick to it, because if they didn’t they might be accused of ‘trying to sound posh’, or being a bit ‘jumped up’…
So the word ‘mate’ becomes ‘may’ – actually no, it doesn’t – it is definitely not the word ‘may’ as written, it is much more subtle than that. The ‘t’ is replaced by a fleeting phantom letter which ends the word off – the sound made by a short hard expulsion of air from the throat with the mouth hanging loosely open – a sort of ‘uh’, but not quite. You’ll regularly hear it kill off the ends of words such as: ‘fight’, ‘bite’, ‘state’, and ‘great’.
I think this thing is called a ‘glottal stop’ – Oh, I’d better quickly look that up…
Yes, that’s right, glottal stop – that itself is a pretty nice pair of words don’t you think? You could even apply the glottal stop to those two middle ‘t’s in ‘glottal’ if you wanted. Go on, give it a try dear reader! Apparently the GS is common to many languages.
But let’s pause for a moment – it will be well worth your while clicking here.
Now then, let’s take the word ‘hot’. Here, not only do we glottal stop the ‘t’, we also drop the ‘h’ at the beginning (in true northern style) which reduces the word to a very short sound indeed, which is impossible to write down or spell – it’s almost just a quick truncated honk.
I’ll tell you what, let’s use the inverted comma for the dropped ‘h’ as usual, and the asterisk for the glottal stop. So, if you were in Dulltown, and wanted to remark, ‘Hasn’t it got hot mate?’ and you wanted to pretend to be local (for some reason) you could try saying, ‘Annit go* ‘o* ma*?