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wish there was fookin titles on the telly

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Ha ha ha ha ha! British people watch The Wire with the subtitles on. So funny. Sometimes they tell me this, when they’re brave and confident, sometimes I just overhear it. Ha! My wife and I can’t get over that. Silly British people! It’s juss Baldimore, sheeeeeet.

Tonight, though, we watched the first hour of the first episode of the Red Riding triology on Channel 4, which is based on a series of novels by David Peace. Was excellent! Best British TV we’ve seen! But, um, the Yorkshiremen, wtf? It’s like barely a discernable language they’re speaking sometimes. * I provided semi-simultaneous non-translations (based on information gleaned from a review I read yesterday) that went something like Um, he’s being sarcastic, um, about the fact that the other guy, um used to work in London and I think this is, like, somewhere else.

* I understand that if a proper English person said this it might be construed as offensive. I can’t be offensive in this way, as I am luckily an American, and we weren’t around when the fights started. Or we left just after… Bad scene…. Happened to ask my class today why sometimes “tea” is, like, tea and sometimes it’s dinner. People got a little upset, tensions unusual at my uni flared up momentarily. It was refreshing but also scary. Try asking that question, Americans, when you’re working a room of class and geographically mixed Brits. It’s interesting! Preview: posh ones categorically deny that tea every means anything other than tea and biscuits. Other ones will respond, “yeah that’s because your grandparents ate more than one meal a day.” Sheeeeeeet.

Written by adswithoutproducts

March 6, 2009 at 10:48 pm

Posted in britain, teevee

6 Responses

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  1. Do British people really need subtitles for the Wire? I only started watching it after I moved to the US, but I don’t think two years in California will have improved my knowledge of Baltimore accents that much. That being said, isn’t there a scene at one point where the detectives bring in someone else to listen to the wire, because even they can’t comprehend some of the accents?

    Yorkshire accents, on the other hand, are genuinely incomprehensible. Or, rather, there seems to be a radical accent difference with age; I grew up in Yorkshire, and there were older Yorkshire people that me and my Yorkshire-born friends had great difficulty understanding.


    March 7, 2009 at 7:43 am

  2. Trust me, they apparently do. I just keep finding this out, over and over.

    I’m not sure that the Red Rover series isn’t playing up the bafflement, but yes, the initial scene especially probably feels just like the initial scene of the Wire for those on / from opposite sides.

    AH that scene you referenced… We think alike – I tried to find a clip of it to stick up here, but alas none exists at the usual places. It’s a fantastic scene. Presbo figures out what they’re saying because he had been trained in listening close by playing the Rolling Stones over and over and sticking his head up against the speaker. Two or three things that are wonderful about this scene: First, the bafflement of the white (and some black!) cops at the idiom of the black criminals that they’re listening to illustrates the weird historico-linguistic gap between white and black in a place like Baltimore. The whites speak a variant “general northeast catholic-ese,” a variety of the stuff that’s spoken from Baltimore in the south to parts of Boston in the north. The black characters – who are the descendents of people who’ve moved north (a long way or just from Virginia) looking for work during and after WWII. So two linguistic groups at play. Second: Presbo cites “Brown Sugar” as the song that taught him to hear this stuff – and, if you remember or go look up the lyrics, Brown Sugar is a white guy’s song about the historical arrival of a black girl in New Orleans – a song that tells the backstory, in a way, of how these mutually-incomprehensible groups came to end up in the same place. Of course, Presbo and the others don’t see that that’s what they’re talking about, but they are.

    Amazing scene. Wish I could have found a clip on-line.

    (And sorry to go crazy with all this. Been teaching too much, including about US / UK dialect and the Wire, so I’m rather overstuffed with useful or useless info…


    March 7, 2009 at 8:02 am

  3. Sorry to lower the tone an octave or eight, but note the appearance of subtitles here when a London Vice journalist travels to the wilds of the north-west to discover for himself how the natives life –


    March 7, 2009 at 10:03 am

  4. Tea anecdote very amusing. Due to a decade of class-crossing, I often mix these things up – when at my mum’s in Southampton I have dinner at midday and tea at 6, when in London I seem to have lunch and then dinner. And of course, breakfast is all-day.


    March 7, 2009 at 1:12 pm

  5. That’s funny. I don’t know anyone (including myself) who watched it with subtitles, but maybe they’re all lying to me. I don’t think (as a Brit) that I’m lying to myself; but then I relish in confusion due to having grown up with a mother so impatient for resolution that, when someone on the telly said an even-only-vaguely ambiguous line, she would demand that I immediately explain what was going on. Though actually the only thing I found confusing was some of the drug slang, which I gather most Americans would not have on the tip of their tongues, either.

    Another way to provoke insurrection among your students: ask them what they call the meal after dinner(/tea). Mum calls it ‘pudding’. Dad calls it ‘sweet’. I call it ‘dessert’. Brother calls it ‘afters’. Something went wrong in my house.


    March 8, 2009 at 11:48 pm

    • I might get in trouble for this tomorrow, but my wife is like your mother a bit. She asks me constantly for near-simultaneous translation of this stuff.


      March 8, 2009 at 11:50 pm

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