My son Felix, who is half Swedish, speaks three regional dialects of English fluently — RP, or BBC English, which is what we speak at home; Essex/Estuary, which is what the aboriginals of Saffron Walden spoke when he worked in the Hamleys warehouse here; Belfast, where he was at university. All these had to be learnt separately, and there are some dialects he never mastered at all. Once, in Belfast, he was introduced to a Glaswegian freind of a friend who launched into a story and spoke, Felix swears, for eight minutes without more than one word being comprehensible. That word, emerging into sudden audibility from the middle of the talk, was “titwank”.
His friend Oskar stayed in Sweden but nurtured a passion for Jamaican music. He’s now studying journalism, and came over to London to do a project on cup clashes, which culminated in a trip to Straford to hear eight different sound systems competing. The bass was so loud it pushed the air from their lungs. He and Felix were the only whites in the room; and whenever a DJ said anything, Oskar was the only one who could understand a word of it.
To add a final note of international surreality, the winning outfit was Japanese.