With an estimated 65,000 speakers, Bermudian English is the smallest national variety yet to be represented in the OED. It’s also one of the oldest; settled in 1612, Bermuda was one of the very first places—after Jamestown, Virginia—where English was spoken outside the British Isles. This long history, along with diverse linguistic influences, has resulted in an unusual English variety that is often said to sound American or West Indian to a British ear, and quaintly British to American listeners. While it’s true that Bermudian English shares a range of words and sounds with British, American, and Caribbean Englishes, it also has many unique features, meaning it’s probably most accurate to say that it’s a dialect in a category of its own.Excerpt taken from the OED blog post, ‘From chingas to chopsing: introducing Bermudian English’ by Dr Rosemary Hall, which explores the history and current status and linguistic features of English in Bermuda
Bermudian English words recently recorded in the OED
- aceboy, n.
- acegirl, n.
- Bermudian English, adj. and n.
- chingas, int.
- chopse, v.
- chopsing, n.
- go long, phrase in ‘long, adv.2′
- Gombey, n.
- greeze, n.
- gribble, adj.
- mice, v.
- mug, adj.2
- Onion, n.
- well, adj. and n.3
- wrinch, v.2
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The OED works in partnership with external experts from or in Bermuda to ensure that our entries for Bermudian English words draw from local knowledge and expertise and reflect the everyday reality and distinctive identity of the Bermudian English-speaking community.
Bermuda’s location is probably one of the reasons why its dialect has been under-studied for so many years, even among scholars of lesser-known varieties of English. Linguists classify World Englishes into groups including the British Isles and the Americas and the Caribbean, and while Bermuda has links with both of these areas, it does not neatly fit into either category. Equally, as a dependent territory that was uninhabited when it was discovered, Bermuda does not meet the criteria for either of the World Englishes types of ‘settler colonial’ and ‘postcolonial’, but sits somewhere in between. A bit like the Bermuda triangle, it’s ambiguous, but that’s what makes it so interesting!
Excerpt taken from OED blog post, ‘From chingas to chopsing: introducing Bermudian English‘, by Dr Rosemary Hall