Not every character speaks the same way. Even on the relatively small land mass that is the British Isles, the variety of accents and dialects is enormous. So it can be a lot of fun to play a character with a different mode of speech to distinguish them.

There is some challenge involved with this. When typing out accents, it's very easy to slip from adding color to one's dialogue, into making it a chore for others to read. What you hear in your head when cropping words with apostrophes or replacing letters may not match how others read it. Even if your intention is for the character to be difficult to understand, it runs the risk of making the character less fun to RP with.

Most authors avoid excessive "accentification" (new word; use it, love it) for this reason. The goal of every writer is to engage the reader. The moment the reader has to stop and re-read something, you've started to lose them. The same applies to writing in a MUSH. Our own fun hinges on being entertaining to others. So consider the advice most of those authors use when writing their stories: Don't overdo it.

This isn't to say there is no room for using accents. But the main thing is to keep them legible and comprehensible. But how to distinguish the accent without constantly narrating that the character is Cockney, Scottish, etc.? After all, a simple form of Cockney can look a lot like an American Southern accent when typed out.

The answer is simple, but may require a bit of research on your part: Slang. The use of words and phrases distinctive to a given culture or dialect do far more to bring the sound of that accent to life than any number of apostrophes or letter substitutions, and it will make your character sound much more authentic. After all, no American southerner would ever call his hat a "titfer", any more than a cockney would call a group of his friends "all y'all".

Following are some primers on a few of the more common methods of speech found in British RP. Bear in mind that these are highly generalized, and could undoubtedly be refined even further to even more specific dialects. But they'll help you to get the flavor of your character's speech across without resorting to excessive accentification.

Speaking Like a Cockney

  • Don't try too hard: Cockney is a very heavy accent, and the truth is that if you try too hard, it's just going to be illegible. Keep it simple, and use the slang to emphasize the dialect.
  • Drop those H's: "H" at the beginning of a word is dropped. For example, hole become 'ole, and heavy becomes 'eavy. Be careful. Overdoing this is one of the easiest ways to make your typing illegible.
  • Th-Fronting: The "th" in words like think or this is pronounced with a more forward consonant depending on the word:
    • Unvoiced "th" (three, thing) becomes "f" (free, fing).
    • Voiced "th" at the beginning of a word (these, this) becomes "d" (dese, dis).
    • Voiced "th" in the middle of a word (mother) becomes "v" (muhvah).
  • There are a lot of other nuances to Cockney — such as glottal stops in words like "better" — but they simply don't translate well into text ("be'uh"…say what?). Remember, give an impression. Don't try to emulate every sound. You'll just confuse your reader.

Cockney Slang

Cockney slang is some of the most unique and interesting in the world. Cockney Rhyming Slang is a complex and creative method of using rhyming phrases to replace other words. For example, instead of "road", a Cockney might say "frog and toad". Even more confusing, the phrases are often shortened to the non-rhyming component. So "George is down the road" becomes "George is down the frog."

There is no comprehensive list of rhyming slang, as it is constantly evolving, frequently incorporating cultural references. There are also often multiple slang terms for the same thing. It is intentionally difficult for outsiders to understand, so tread carefully in its use. Just like with overuse of accentification, if your speech can rarely be understood because you're using too much slang, you're just making things harder on your fellow players, and they may be less inclined to RP with your character.

Here are just a handful of examples that can be peppered into common speech.

apples and pears stairs
ball and chalk walk
boat / boat race face
bo-peep sleep
bottle / bottle and glass arse (as in "courage")
bread / bread and honey money
bees and honey money
cobblers / cobblers' awls balls/bollocks (usually mean like "rubbish")
crust / crust of bread head
field / field of wheat street
frog / frog and toad road
jimmy / Jimmy Riddle piddle/widdle (urinate)
rabbit / rabbit and pork talk
titfer / tit for tat hat
trouble / trouble and strife wife

Speaking Like an Irishman

  • There is no "th" sound:
    • Voiced "th" (the, these, them), becomes "d" (de, dese, dem).
    • Unvoiced "th" (three, thank) becomes "t" (tree, tank).
    • Be very careful with these, as overuse can quickly make your poses unreadable.
  • Softened consonants: Hard consonants at the end of a word are softened or dropped.
  • "Having" language: You do not speak a language, you have a language. ("I have some Welsh.")
  • Forget Yes and No: Don't even use them. Instead, repeat the verb of the question. ("Can you swim?" "I can.")
  • I'm after…: Rather than “to have just done” for a recently completed action, we would say “to be after doing.” ("I'm after a long walk.")
  • Amn't: A contraction for "am not".
  • You: Yee (singular), or yez (plural; pronounced "yeez")
  • Your man/one: Not literal. Just a way to avoid using someone's name. Could be a complete stranger or a close friend. ("Your man's knackered.")
  • Lads and colleens: Men and women
  • Sláinte: "health," an Irish drinking toast (pronounced: slawn-cha)
  • Whiskey with an E: If you're Irish, it's spelled whiskey. Let the Scots drink their whisky.
  • Gaeilge: Irish Gaelic

Irish Slang

ages long time
arse backside
arseways complete mess ("I did it all arseways")
bloody strengthening adjective, used liberally
bollocks stupid / crap / expression of frustration
bolloxed very drunk
boss polite generic term when you're chatting to someone
boyo a young male person
brasser prostitute
brutal terrible
bushed very tired
chancer dodgy / risky character
cheek disrespect / talkback
cheers thank you, goodbye
chinwag a chat
class great
cod having someone on ("Aw, g'wan, yer only coddin' me")
craic fun, enjoyment; also "how are things?" (How's the craic? Any craic?)
Divil devil
dodder waste time
dodgy suspect / mechanically impaired
eejit idiot
Fair play! Well done!
feck f*ck (expletive)
get off with (someone) make out, kiss
git horrible person
give out complain
gob mouth ("Shut your gob!")
gobshite idiot
gone in the head mad, crazy
grand fine, lovely (grand altogether: especially fine)
hoor prostitute
hawareya hello (salutation)
hump off Go away / Leave me alone
kip, to have a short rest
knackered fatigued, very tired
local, the the nearest pub / saloon
manky very dirty
one a female person
puck a sharp blow
pull your socks up Get to work / get busy
queer strange
scrap fight
shag have intercourse
shenanigans different things going on
snog make out, kiss
thick stupid / unintelligent
yoke thingamajig — used often

Helpful Links on Irish

English and Slang in Ireland
Abroad - Irish Slang
Gaelic Phrases

Speaking Like a Scot

  • If there are two short words together, pronounce the two as one. "Did not" often becomes "didnae" or "dinnae." Likewise, "can not" becomes "cannae".
  • Drop the trailing "g". For example, say "evenin’" instead of "evening." "Sewing" becomes "sewin’".
  • Replace "o’s" with "ae" sounds. The "ae" sound, officially known as the Near-Open Front Unrounded Vowel, is an "ah" sound with more emphasis on the "a" and less on the "h". You hear this sound when you pronounce words like "have" and "that" in American Standard English. Try making the "ah" sound in words like "Not" to become "nae." Words that end in "oo" sounds get more of the "ae" pronunciation as well.
    • "To" is pronounced as "tae". "Do" becomes "dae". Additionally, "no" gets a bit of an "aw" sound at the end making it sound like "naw" or "nae".
  • The glottal stop (the sound made when you close off airflow in your throat) often replaces "t" in the middle or at the end of words. Emulating this in text is not recommended. It is the easiest way to turn reading your poses into a frustrating chore.

Scottish Slang

Awright ya? hello
aye yes
bairn baby, small child
bevvy drink, beverage
da father
dobber fool, stupid person (or worse)
fae from
gob mouth
haver silly talk, nonsense ("stop yer haverin'")
hen term of endearment for a woman
I dinnae / I dinnae ken I don't know
ken know, understand
kip sleep, nap
knob an irritating or contemptible person; also a penis
laddie a male person
lassie a female person
maw mother
nae / naw no
nae danger no chance, no way
numpty lovable idiot
pish urinate, piss
pure very, totally ("He's pure raging.")
skint poor, no money
skuddy naked
tae to
wee little
Whit like? / Whit like are ye? How are you?

More accents to come…

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