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Charlie Haylock: 17th April 2024

Following the AGM on Wednesday, the packed audience was well entertained by Charlie Haylock, a popular Suffolk speaker on dialect and language. He is well known as the dialect coach for actors, including Ralph Fiennes, on the Netflix film 'The Dig'. He also features regularly on BBC Radio Suffolk and in the East Anglian Daily Times, and he has published a number of books on accent and dialect. He told us that his first book, Sloightly On Th’Huh (Countryside Books: 2004), outsold Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code in Suffolk.

Charlie led the packed audience on a lively romp through the history of spoken English. We were entertained and informed in equal measure, as he combined an encyclopaedic knowledge of the roots of the English language with a witty delivery that carried us along. Using a flip chart, Charlie talked us through the various invasions that helped to form the language, with each invading force bringing different sounds. They settled in different parts of the country, leading to the different dialects and different accents that we still have.

The English language has the largest vocabulary in the world, with over 600,000 words in the Oxford English Dictionary. Charlie gave us many examples of the way in which the English language has absorbed words from around the world, so many words inherited from so many places. One example is ‘crinkle crankle walls’, which are particular to Suffolk. These are wavy, single brick walls, brought to Suffolk by the Dutch. The name comes from ‘crinkle’ (old English) and ‘crankle’ (old Dutch), both meaning winding.

Charlie is a gifted mimic who glided effortlessly through the dialects of the UK, celebrating the various regional accents. He explained how the shape of the mouth and the position of the tongue dictates how we speak, suggesting that the Suffolk accent is very difficult to imitate. 

Many English words have different pronunciations of the same spelling, and some words have many different meanings. He ended his very entertaining talk with an amusing poem on the many uses and meanings of the word ‘up’. I would certainly recommend an evening in the company of Charlie Haylock. Much more information about the story of the English language can be found in his book, In a Manner of Speaking: the Story of The English Language (Amberley Publishing: 2017).

Dymphna Crowe

At the end of Charlie’s talk he mentioned the Eden Rose Coppice Trust which is a local charity in Ipswich, (Brickmakers Wood) and Sudbury (Quay Lane). He is a patron of the charity which offers end-of-life care in a unique, imaginative and successful way.

Charlie emailed to say that if we looked online for Eden Rose Coppice Trust we would get a great deal of information. 

Contact details are: team leaders Rob and Jo Brooks on 0800 772 3755

He said Rob and Jo would be more than helpful and also are willing to give talks to various organisations about their work.


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