THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Sound and vision blog

19 December 2018

WordBank Acrostic Challenge: Celebratory Selection Part 1

UOSH Volunteer and poet, Amy Evans Bauer, writes:

Thank you to everyone who got their thinking caps on, filled their boots, threw their hat in the ring, rolled their sleeves up, took up the gauntlet and otherwise accessorised so as to take part in the WordBank Acrostic Challenge call for poems, puzzles and lists!

ScrabbleIn the words of Lead Curator of Spoken English Jonnie Robinson @VoicesofEnglish, we asked people to

                                Unleash

                                Our

                                Slang

                                Hoard

 

Participants chose to spell WORDBANK, VOICEBANK or UOSH. The adventurous tried their hand at an advanced challenge of WORDBANK UOSH. We asked for one line or more to begin with a lexical item from WordBank.

We were delighted to receive entries from all over the world taking part in this celebration of linguistic diversity, informal modes of linguistic inheritance and non-standard spoken English. The acrostically challenged from the UK to South Africa and the US got puzzling.

Our writers have their say through words contributed to the Library by visitors born between 1925 and 2000, and explore place, romance, pain, childhood, nights out, and more. We even had an Anglo-Saxon riddle, appropriately enough given the current exhibition Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War exhibition, and a re-imagining of the playground chants in the Opie Collection of Children’s Games and Songs.

I was struck by the agility of each writer-as-listener, without exception. Entries ranged from witty musings on the process, and a-geographical medleys, to fully-fledged dialect poems fluent in Lallans (Lowland Scots) or Yorkshire dialect. We hope you agree that each reads as a wonderful microcosm of the collection!

I also reveled in hearing how much fun was had by all: “Thank you so much!! I loved writing this!!!” and “I had a great time in the WordBank! It’s the language obviously—but also the accents!”

Here’s to our nimble wordsmiths—champion slangsmiths, every one!

Trophy

[Boeotian alphabet]

’Tis the season for two-part creatures (panto, anyone?). In Part 1 of our selection below, you’ll find poetry, comedy and riddling. Part 2 will follow with lively lists and 2 longer poems. 

If you click on the hyperlinks that we have added to each acrostic, you can listen to the recordings that form the fabric of these intricate, archive-led sonic tapestries.

*

We’d run, unleashed from indoors, 

Over soft sand and sturdy blades of marram grass.

Racing, panting, spluttering, swither; down to the water then in,

Dodging jellyfish, splashing, squealing,

Brassic fun. I flap with my arms,

Aeroplane aquatics in a shallow lagoon.

Now sand castles. Dig, deeper, that’s the moat. I

Kneel on something sharp. Blood. ‘Come and have a cwtch’ she says. ‘You’ll mend.’

               —Frances Jones

*

Wheesht!

Whauphill whair I ne'er heard the curlew cry

Only Johnny Robb w' his mismatched een

Rules owre the moonllcht fields ahint the byre

Dealin' oot daith while we keep at hame

Bakin' oor breid but scunnered fo' a' that

As the big yins a' bigg their big hooses

Nae less, nae mair, we maun just haud oor tongues

Kennin' a', not greetin' like twa wee bairns.

               —Robert Hampson

               Lallans (Lowland Scots)

*

Vardos moored in Kent’s fields, chavvies playing 

Opies turned their chanted games to wavs

I hope your chickens turn to emus and kick your shit house down’ 

Curses deftly reference Ozzy outback lavs

Eight, nine, ten’s a clean expletive if you’re Pennsylvanian Polish

Bashert is a stoic, Jewish ‘c’e sera’

Acky, atta, panshite, mumpus, once at risk of fading from us, 

Now are

Kosher, ordered, safe, and catalogued.

               —Anna Savory  @AnnaSavory

               Opie: Opie collection of children’s games and songs

*

Wrong, just wrong

outen as we were, holding battery eggs,

runted chocolate. Both half-grown,

dimpsy and mussed.

Bishy you and me—well—

azizam, I never quite knew me.

Nithered, nesh,

kecks like a shy fey boy.

               —Kirsten Irving  @KofTheTriffids

*

What the

Oy vey

Rat-arsed!

Don’t piss on my shoes and tell me it’s raining

Blud.

Awesome

Nerdy

Kecks!

               —Stephen Cleary

*

Wor(l)d-weary,

Or what?!

Reading acrostically is… em

Difficult, deffo, at the… em

Best of times.

And this is not the best of times

Nevertheless, I soldier on—undaunted?!

Keep the faith!

               —Jayne Lal

*

Speech

Word hoard widening,

Oratory turns to paper,

Random chances of locality— 

Drei the wird of word

Branching like yew, elm, oak, ash

Across skins and seas.

No-one can doubt its power,

Knowing it is heard.

               —Clare Mulley  @simply_spiffing

               Play on Anglo Saxon riddle style

If you didn’t have a chance last month but would still like to try your hand at a dialect or slang acrostic, we hope you have a spell-tastic time!

Amy’s at-sea poetry installation SOUND((ING))S is available to hear online or to read in chapbook form as the transcript PASS PORT.

Index