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SCOUSE

SCOUSE [From 18c lobscouse, a sailor's dish of stewed meat, vegetables, and ship's biscuit, not unlike Irish stew. Lobscouser was a slang name for a sailor. The terms Scouse and Scouser for someone from Liverpool seem to be recent, and probably arose because the city is a port and stew was a feature of the diet. The OED cites the Southern Daily Echo (1945), in which ‘a scouse’ is explained as ‘a native of Liverpool where they eat “scouse”’]
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1. Also Scouser. A person born in the city of Liverpool, on the River Mersey, especially if from the working class.

2. The often stigmatized working-class speech of Merseyside. The ACCENT combines features of LANCASHIRE with varieties of English from Ireland and to a lesser extent from Wales, brought in by 19–20c immigration. Accents range from broad Scouse though modifications towards RP and RP itself in the middle and upper classes. Among the distinctive expressions in Scouse are the Pool, a nickname for Liverpool, and Liverpudlian (the correct name for someone born in Liverpool, substituting puddle for pool). Non-Scousers, especially from north of the city, are sometimes called woollybacks (sheep), a nickname suggesting rusticity and lack of wits.

Pronunciation

Of the following features, 1–5 are widely regarded as SHIBBOLETHS, especially when several occur together: (1) A merger of the vowels in such pairs as fair/fur and spare/spur, realized as an /eː/ or /ʒː/. (2) As in other parts of the north-west of England, syllable-final -ng is pronounced /ŋg/, as in ‘long-g’ for long and ‘sing-ging-g’ for singing. (3) The vowel in such words as pin and sing is pronounced /i/, so that they sound close to ‘peen’ and ‘seengg’. (4) The sound /r/ may be either an alveolar continuant or an alveolar tap that is particularly distinct initially (rabbit, run), after stops and fricatives (breathe, grass, three), and between vowels (carry, ferry). (5) A /t/ between vowels is often replaced by /r/, sometimes shown in print as rr, as in ‘marra’ for matter: What's the marra with you then? In a publicity drive for the Liverpool clean streets campaign, litter was described as ‘norra lorra fun’. (6) Some speakers, especially working-class Catholics of Irish background, replace /θ, ð/ with /t, d/, as in ‘dese tree’ for these three. Month may be pronounced ‘muntth’. (7) In syllable-initial and syllable-final positions, a fricative can follow a stop, as in ‘k/x/ing’ for king (where /x/ represents the fricative in ScoE loch), ‘me d/z/ad’ for my dad, ‘back/x/’ for back, and ‘bad/z/’ for bad. (8) Scouse is often described as having a flat intonation, in effect a rise with a level tail where RP has a fall: in the statement I don't like it, it goes up on like then runs level, whereas RP starts going down on like and keeps going down. There is also a kind of fall in yes–no questions where RP would have a rise, so that in the question Are you from Birkenhead?, Scouse falls on Birk where RP rises. (9) Until recently it was possible to distinguish the speech of Irish Catholics from Protestant English through the pronunciation of some words: a double advertisement on local buses in the 1960s read on one side of the bus ‘Treat us furly, travel early’, on the other ‘Treat us fairly, travel airly’ (the latter denoting Irish-derived usage).

Adenoidal speech

The voice quality of speakers of Scouse has often been described as adenoidal, and phoneticians have speculated about the origins of such a feature. David Abercrombie, noting that children may acquire a quality of voice from others who have a problem, observes: ‘A striking example … is afforded by some urban slum communities where adenoids, due doubtless to malnutrition and lack of sunlight, are prevalent, with their consequent effect on voice quality, but where people can be found with adenoidal voice quality who do not have adenoids—they have learnt the quality from the large number who do have them, so that they conform to what, for that community, has become the norm…. The accent of Liverpool seems to have had its origin in such circumstances’ (Elements of General Phonetics, 1967). Gerald O. Knowles adds: ‘In Scouse, the centre of gravity of the tongue is brought backwards and upwards, the pillars of the fauces are narrowed, the pharynx is tightened, and the larynx is displaced upwards…. The main auditory effect of this setting is the “adenoidal” quality of Scouse, which is produced even if the speaker's nasal passages are unobstructed’ (in P. Trudgill (ed.), Sociolinguistic Patterns in British English, 1978). The effect is primarily achieved by the sustained closure of the velum or soft, palate. See DIALECT IN ENGLAND.

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Scouse

Scouse the dialect or accent of people from Liverpool; a native or inhabitant of Liverpool. Recorded in this sense from the mid 20th century, the word is a shortening of lobscouse.

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