Saturday, 11 July 2015

Have a gay old time

It's the day of the Durham Miners' Gala. Held on the second Saturday July and also known as the Big Meeting it's been a northern institution since the nineteenth century. 

I once happened to be in Durham when it was held. I wasn't aware of that at the time. I was visiting a friend and we went into town for a look around. What we got was brass bands, banners and brass hats with the Mayor on the Town Hall balcony waving genially to everyone who marched past. That was a long time ago. There are no mines in County Durham these days. But there's still a Durham Miners' Gala. 

Or rather, gay-la. That's how it's always been pronounced, rather in the idiosyncratic local way that 'Beauchamp' is pronounced 'Beecham' and 'Magdalen', maudlyn. 

The event made the BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning. The pronunciation didn't. Or rather - it did in the snooty 'some people call it Gay-la' condescending tones of Justin Webb that as far as I'm aware they never use when uttering the idiosyncrasies (or is that, idiocies?) of the upper class. 

I was rather irritated by the whole thing. Perhaps you can tell. What annoyed me wasn't the fact that they referred to both gala and gayla (there are plenty in Durham who say gala) but the patronising way they seemed to do it.

They'd never consider offering alternative  pronunciations of upper-class linguistic affectations, after all. And for the majority of the listening public, hearing words like Chalmondeley or Caius on the radio isn't going to be much help spelling them.

Still, it does provide the rest of us some amusement. Here are two limericks I found on the subject:

There once was a student at Caius
Who whizzed down the slope on his skaius;
But a fellow from Magdalene
Said 'I prefer dagdalene - 
'I've got where I am by degraius!'

Or how about this, 

There was a young fellow from Wymondham
Who grew some tomatoes and tymondham;
When he started to scoff
He found they'd gone off
So he said something peevish and bymondham.

Boom! Boom!

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