My old Principal was a former computer teacher who had been granted early retirement on account of partial deafness caused by the screeching of the old-fashioned printers. He was born and bred in Lancashire but had come to a school in the Forest of Dean, 140 miles further south and having a very different dialect. At his 65th birthday celebration in the Speech House his old headteacher told this story about (let’s call him) Eric:
Soon after he had started at the school, the head was passing in the corridor and asked him how he was getting on. “I can’t hear what the boys are saying,” said Eric.
Later, after Eric had had a hearing aid fitted, the head asked him again. He replied, “I can hear what the boys are saying, but I can’t understand what they are saying.” Dean, in rural Gloucestershire and close to the Welsh border, speaks its own language.
Time went by and Eric eventually picked up the lingo. The head repeated his query, and Eric said, “I can hear what the boys are saying, and I understand what they are saying. But – I don’t like what they are saying.” Dean people, a tight community, are accustomed to running their own affairs and speaking their minds freely, hence their Speech House.
In 2016, after the RefEurendum and Trumpquake, this tale has a fresh resonance.