Pompey slang takes centre stage in Radio 4 show Tongue and Talk: The Dialect Poets

IF YOU know your ‘squinnies’ from your ‘dinlos’, there’s a show going out on national radio for you when it takes a look at the Portsmouth dialect.

Friday, 22nd July 2022, 3:27 pm
Updated Friday, 22nd July 2022, 4:40 pm

The opening episode of the new series of the Radio 4 show Tongue and Talk: The Dialect Poets focuses on the city and is being broadcast on Sunday (July 24) at 4.30pm, and will be available on the BBC Sounds app and website afterwards.

Portsmouth poet Maggie Sawkins, winner of the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry, explores the language, dialect and poetry of her hometown.

Maggie was contacted by the show’s producer Catherine Harvey to see if she’d be interested in taking part in an episode on Portsmouth.

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Maggie Sawkins, front right, performing with other members of Tongues and Grooves

Maggie said: ‘A couple of months later she came back to me and asked if I’d like to host it, which I wasn’t expecting, so I said “yes”!

‘I’ve done little bits and piece of radio before, but never curated a show like this.’

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Maggie met fellow poets Denise Bennett and Liz Neal at the Historic Dockyard, to ask whether the Pompey dialect has been relegated to the margins or is now moving into the modern mainstream.

At Fratton Park she chatted with George Marsh, former Poet in Residence, to find out how working with Pompey fans inspired his poetry.

And the Square Tower in Old Portsmouth, the home of her own poetry and music club, Tongues & Grooves, she spoke to Al Wright about his novel The Winch, set in a futuristic Portsmouth where people still use a version of the dialect.

She also talked with poet Jackson Davies about 'sailor speak', and graphic designer George Bodkin, from the art collective Pompey Banana Club, to discuss how dialect has moved from street slang to being celebrated in various art forms around the city.

‘Over two days I did about eight hours of recording,’ Maggie added, ‘which they’ve edited down to 27 minutes.

‘Dialect takes in words peculiar to an area and the accent. When I was researching this, I did find words peculiar to Portsmouth like squinny. I asked a friend on the Isle of Wight, and they had never heard of the word – and they’ve lived just across the water their whole life.’

Other episodes in this series will explore Hull, Liverpool and Cornwall.