Sound and vision blog

Sound and moving images from the British Library

09 September 2010

Voices of the UK – do you feel trachled or wabbit?

The interviews that we’re listening to are all centred around a discussion of vocabulary. Each participant is asked to provide their words for a number of different concepts such as ‘attractive’, ‘to sleep’ and ‘friend’. We’re just over halfway through the recordings and have already noted down a wide range of words, showing that regional variation in vocabulary is still very rich.

In these two audio extracts people in Braemar, Aberdeenshire and Dalmellington, Ayrshire talk about their words for ‘tired’. These include ‘trachled’, ‘knackered’, ‘wabbit’ and ‘forfochen’. So far we’ve found ‘knackered’ to be used in most parts of the UK but the other three seem to be particular to Scotland and the north.

It’s interesting to note the discussion the participants have about these words. In Braemar, for example, one speaker remarks that he would use ‘trachled’ to describe a person who is walking slowly. Another comments that for her the word is associated with a mother who has been worn out by young children. The Dalmellington speakers debate the nuances of the meaning of ‘wabbit’ which also evokes the idea of being exhausted by children.>

All of these words have the same literal or denotative meaning of ‘tired’. This is what would be found in a standard dictionary definition. It’s the connotative meanings, the associations and value judgments that people attach to the words, that vary. In some cases these are very personal but they can also be socially or regionally shared.

We all have our own range of words for expressing the idea of being tired, each with its own set of connotations. These can influence the word we choose to use in a given situation and might go some way to explain why one person will say ‘trachled’ when another would use ‘wabbit’.


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