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How Kent dialect and accent has changed over the years

Are the Down From London (DFL) brigade to blame for the loss of the Kentish accent? Is a woodlouse a cheesebug or a monkey pea? Find out more about our unique dialect and then take our quiz below to find out how well you know the local lingo...

"There is no such thing as a Kent dialect or accent," socio-linguist Dr David Hornsby boldly claims.

Over time the Estuary English accent has swept across the county and the view is we don't speak too differently to Londoners or people from Essex.

"There is no such thing as a Kent dialect," says socio-linguist Dr David Hornsby
"There is no such thing as a Kent dialect," says socio-linguist Dr David Hornsby

Scroll down for our Kent dialect quiz

People might be quick to blame 'DFLs' for infiltrating the Garden of England - but the senior lecturer of English language and linguistics at the University of Kent rebuffs these claims.

"If you’re in a city it is bound to happen and people were complaining about this 100 years ago," he says.

"London is changing and give it another 40 years and we will pick up what it is doing.

"You walk around places like Canterbury and Herne Bay, you will hear a lot of things that used to be London - like ‘H’ dropping and 'L' vocalisation."

There are still some examples of different dialects in Kent and the diversity of the accent is greater than you might think. Picture: Visit Kent
There are still some examples of different dialects in Kent and the diversity of the accent is greater than you might think. Picture: Visit Kent

In fact, there are still some examples of different dialects in Kent and the diversity is greater than you might think.

Dr Hornsby admits the county is absorbing cockney features - but if you go out to the villages, you are likely to hear Kentish traits.

"There is not much grammatical difference, whether you’re from Kent, Essex or even Northamptonshire," he says.

"But you do get different words and you can get disagreements about vocabulary."

He explains how he does an experiment with his students from the county where he asks them how they say "woodlouse".

'London is changing and give it another 40 years and we will pick up what it is doing...'

There are a range of answers, including cheesebugs, monkey peas and peabugs - and it does cause quite the debate.

On the north Kent coast, a crab is a ponger, pung or a punger - but in Folkestone it is called a heaver.

In Thanet, the word for an ant is pismire. But you don’t hear it anywhere else.

In Aylesham, they say “jitty” for an alleyway.

But Dr Hornsby is more interested in pronunciation features in Kent and how mining communities in the county have held on to Kentish traits.

Pictures of Aylesham when the first mining occupants moved into the new homes
Pictures of Aylesham when the first mining occupants moved into the new homes

He explains how Aylesham's history as a mining village meant those in pits across the whole country were encouraged to move to east Kent to work in the 1920s and 30s.

People in the village use a short “a”. For example, the way they say "grass" rhymes with "mass" rather than "glass".

In other places in Kent the long “a” is common.

But what about the west of the county?

There are one or two traditional features which have died out since the 1970s.

The Kent accent has been influenced by London
The Kent accent has been influenced by London

In the Weald, "weather", "bother" and "rather" would be "wea-d-er", "bo-d-er" and "ra-d-er".

But that form has died out and people will now say bo-v-er under the influence of London.

Also, the letter "v" would be replaced with a "w" - such as wery instead of very.

"What interests me is not the Kent dialect, rather the diversity in Kent," he says.

"You can pick up a number of features in settled and eastern Kent which are different to the rest of the county - but not everybody will have them.

"The more isolated you are, the more likely you are to keep traditional features or even invent new ones."

How well do you know your Kentish dialect? Take our quiz below.

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