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How Bermudians speak English

On a six day visit to Bermuda, your correspondent became intrigued by the variety of accents.

On a ferry ride, a very zippy jet-powered ferry from Hamilton to the Royal Navy Dockyard, an elder ferry worker referred to his proper yet distinctive accent as “British Bermudian.” He distinguished it from the Queen's English and from a West Indian accent. Tongue-in-cheek, he attributed British Bermudian to the temperate sea breezes on the island, warmer than England and cooler than the West Indies.

Jean-Marie runs a “garden inn’ in Southampton and although our timing didn’t work out to stay there, we visited! She has a lilting accent from (warmer) Antigua. She married and settled with a Bermudian and settled here, but goes back to Antigua every year. A garden tour included the greenhouses full of smal,l green poinsettias which she imports as slips , feeds and grows, prunes back in September. In the following months she draws the curtains  to provide just the right amount of night darkness so that they turn brilliant red at Christmas. Unfortunately, two back-to-back hurricanes caused her to twice enlist neighbors and draft her sons to haul the plants into the house and back to the greenhouse; the salt mist blowing in the one semi-open side of the greenhouse could have “burned” the leaves brown and gotten into the potting soil.

At a lovely Airbnb, across the road where we stayed, the innkeeper’s partner, Danny, exhibited a British Bermudian accent, also. His heritage is very varied-including Scottish and Indian from India. Ironically, some of his family were originally settled in a more northern area of the island populated by Native Americans (American Indians) a legacy of the confusion attributed to Christopher Columbus in the 15th century who thought he had reached the east Indies. He recounted that the 300 year-old house was once a horse stable for an inn and brothel that had stood across the street; evidently it was popular with sailors on the then sparsely populated island!

Your correspondent also came upon other English accents- someone who spoke with a rather posh accent and yet another with more working class. Perhaps most surprising was the “Bermudian” accent that was American! Robert’s English family, whose genealogy he has been documenting (3000 individuals so far), has been on the island for a few hundred years. A grandmother may have spoken with an English accent, he recalls, but recent generations like his have been sent to boarding school beginning at age twelve following through with university in the States.