Bermudian English

From Academic Kids

Bermudian English is the variety of English spoken in Bermuda, a British overseas territory in the North Atlantic.

Historically, the variety spoken by the African-Bermudian community (the majority of whom were of lower economic status) was fairly different from that spoken by white Bermudians. To a new listener, the former has something in common with the versions spoken in the West Indies, such as Jamaican English (although these two are actually quite different; that of the Bahamas is the closest match to the Bermudian variety). White Bermudians in turn had a range of varieties, depending partially on social class, as well as the length of time the family had been in Bermuda. The strongest accents had some commonality with that prevalent among African-Bermudians, but was still quite different.

However the islands' relative proximity to the United States meant that US influence, through television and the large number of tourists was (and remains) increasingly strong. The variations common among white Bermudians are now fading, and a more neutral mid-Atlantic sound is now common; the old strong Bermudian accent is now really only heard from the oldest white residents. A very pronounced African-Bermudian accent is still heard from many African-Bermudians, however.

To British ears, Bermudian English among those of higher economic status now sounds similar to American English, although there are affinities with British English, namely the pronunciation of the letter 'z' as 'zed', not 'zee' (also found in Canadian English), and the use of 'football' as opposed to 'soccer', while British spelling is generally followed.

A unique characteristic of Bermudian English, in people with a strong Bermudian accent, is the pronunciation of 'w' as 'v', hence 'Bermudian words' is pronounced Bermewdjun vurds. Whether coincidentally or relatedly, the phenomenon of confusing 'w' and 'v' sounds in common in many other English dialects including those of the Indian diaspora, as well as in other languages such as Chinese. The letter 'e' is often pronounced as an 'a', hence, 'letter' is pronounced 'latter'.

There is a large amount of local slang. Bermudians' nickname for themselves is 'onion' on account of the fact that onions were once a major export, while Bermuda itself is often nicknamed 'the Rock', similar to the Rock of Gibraltar. Other terms include 'paper Bermudian', to describe someone (particularly from the United Kingdom) who has acquired Bermudian status, and the right of abode, as opposed to a local Bermudian or 'onion', and the colourful 'go Europe' to describe the sound of someone vomiting. 'Ease me up!' is similar to the US 'give me a break!'

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