Sound and vision blog

28 June 2013

Acky one two three I see children's dialect on TV

Jonnie Robinson, Lead Curator for Sociolinguistics writes:

As a Sky Blues fan it's great to see Cov take centre stage in ITV's new comedy drama Love and Marriage, which I can thoroughly recommend and not just because one of the main characters plays City's club mascot, Sky Blue Sam. Location drama is a great vehicle for exploring regional speech and identity, as are the Library's accent and dialect recordings. The accents in Love and Marriage are a bit hit and miss, but Niky Wardley is certainly convincing as Heather McCallister - not surprisingly given her performances as Lauren Cooper's best friend Liese Jackson in The Catherine Tate Show, which I've always considered the most linguistically accurate comic portrayal of that variety of teenage speech.

What excited me most, though, in this week's episode (26.06.13) was a scene at the family camp where Caitlin spotted someone hiding behind a tree during a chase game and called out: rally one two three Uncle Charlie I see you. Hats off to the scriptwriters for choosing that particular phrase as this brilliant seeking game is known by a variety of names across the country. I remember playing it almost daily as a child in the 1970s only a few miles up the road in Sutton Coldfield, where it was (and still is) 'acky one two three'. I don't know whether the scriptwriter or maybe Caitlin herself is a Coventrian, but if not they should certainly be congratulated on the thoroughness of their research. Mind you, I'm not sure why Pauline (played by Alison Steadman) responds with ready 1,2,3 Caitlin unless this is intended to lend even more authenticity to the scene in that grandma joins in enthusiastically but 'gets the words wrong'.

Research into children's lore carried out by Iona and Peter Opie in the 1950s confirmed a wide range of names for this game, including 'block one two three' in North East England and Scotland, 'relievo one two three' in Wilmslow, 'forty forty' in South East England, 'mob' in Bristol and South Wales, 'pom pom' in Norwich, 'I-erkey' in Leicester, 'hicky one two three' in Chester and - crucially - 'rally one two three' in Coventry (Children's Games in Street and Playground, 1984 p.161). More recently folklorist Steve Roud reports continued enthusiasm for the game and similar diversity in terms, even quoting an explanation offered in 2007 by a nine-year old boy from Coventry of the rules of 'rally one two three' (The Lore of the Playground, 2010, p.87). Sound recordings made by the Opies in playgrounds across the UK are available on the Library's Sounds site and the Playtimes website explores a century of children's games and rhymes through archival collections and contemporary fieldwork carried out in schools in London and Sheffield.

Sadly I doubt I'll play 'acky one two three' for a while, but when I do bagsy not on.

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