Norwegian Mathias Siverton is in search of the authentic Portadown accent – in his bid for a Master’s degree from his home town University of Bergen in the south-west of the Scandinavian country.
He’s in the throes of his thesis to decipher the accents of the English-speaking populations of the world.
And having listened to the exponents from all over the UK, Ireland, America, Jamaica, New Zealand and just about every dialect on earth, he is spending the next week in Portadown.
He started his quest in the Portadown Times where we advised him that ‘car’ is pronounced ‘khar’ and cabbage is ‘khabbage’. And we have a penchant for dropping ‘g’ at the end of a word.
He wants to tape record a cross-section of born-and-bred citizens, whatever age, social background, gender, religion, education…
He hasn’t chosen Portadown on a whim. A firm, long-standing friend of his family – Norwegian-born Colleen Erdal who has lived here since she was 15 - has influenced the 25-year-old student. Her English was “so-so” when she arrived, but now her accent is pure Portadown.
Said Colleen, “I’ve remained a great friend of Mathias’s family over the years, visiting them regularly, and we have watched Corcrain Flute Band take part in the Constitution Day (May 17) in Bergen.”
Mathias visited Portadown when he was just six, in 1996, and it coincided with the run-up to the Drumcree stand-offs. “I didn’t understand what was going on,” he recalled, “and I’m surprised it still hasn’t been fully settled.”
The litany of accents all over the British Isles fascinates him – from Cork to Geordie, Scottish Highlands to Cornwall – and he has discovered the different nuances between Portadown and neighbouring Lurgan, where a colleague carried out a study some time ago.
Football fan Mathias heard the two accents in full decibels on Tuesday night when he attended the thundering Ports-Glenavon ‘derby’ match at Shamrock Park which ended two-all. “It was a superb match,” he said, “a great atmosphere and a fair result.” Although the accents of the Ports fans weren’t exactly in agreement as they cited “poor defensive work”, with Portadown having led 2-0 with 15 minutes left.
Mathias was fascinated to learn that Norwegian international hero Ronnie Johnsen had made his Manchester United debut at Shamrock Park when they played the Ports in July 1996 in a friendly encounter, attended by 6,100.
The centre-back went on to enjoy an illustrious career at Old Trafford but it all started for him back in Portadown almost a decade ago.