“Dis der Riot Act and you’ve all got to read it, right?

“Boys, if dere was a PhD in bein’ fick, youse wouldn’t be able to find a pencil.”

These are a couple of quotes from Detritus, the Troll in the Watch.

Are the words “dis”, “der”, “dere”, and “fick” an attempt at transcribing a particular accent, e.g. cockney? What about “youse”, which sounds more Scots? Are these words trying to indicate a low level of education or intelligence?

  • 3
    At some point it is revealed that the crystalline troll brains do not work well at Ank Morpork temperature. When Detritus is trapped in a refrigerated warehouse his brain powers up to full capacity and (amongst other things) his enunciation improves markedly, so yes, this has something to do with intelligence. – Eike Pierstorff Jan 23 '20 at 8:44
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    In my head it always sounded like the sterotypical gangster/mob heavy. "Mr Crysoprase is very angry wit you...". I can't find a video showing what I mean now. – Darren Jan 23 '20 at 12:10
  • In the Nigel Planer audiobooks, the trolls have a pronounced Scottish accent – Valorum Jan 23 '20 at 12:26
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    We don’t got no accents. Youse is der ones wiv der funny accents. – Graham Lee Jan 23 '20 at 13:44
  • @Darren that was my first thought when I read the examples. The stereotype is based on an Irish-derived New York city accent originally native to the Tenderloin, which fits fairly well with AaakahM's answer below. – Zeiss Ikon Jan 23 '20 at 14:24

The features suggested by these spellings are:

  • Th-fronting ("This" -> "Dis", and "thick" -> "fick")

    Th-fronting is a prominent feature of several dialects of English, notably Cockney, Essex dialect, Estuary English, some West Country and Yorkshire dialects, African American Vernacular English, and Liberian English, as well as in many non-native English speakers (e.g. Hong Kong English, though the details differ among those accents).

  • g-dropping ("being" -> "bein'")

    Today, G-dropping is a feature of colloquial and non-standard speech of all regions, including stereotypically of Cockney, Southern American English and African American Vernacular English. Its use is highly correlated with the socioeconomic class of the speaker, with speakers of lower classes using /n/ with greater frequency. It has also been found to be more common among men than women, and less common in more formal styles of speech.

  • A particular informal plural form of you ("youse")

    Ireland, Tyneside, Merseyside, Central Scotland, Australia, Falkland Islands, New Zealand, Philadelphia, Rural Canada

There doesn't seem to be one single accent that's mentioned in all three of those wikipedia pages. Were it not for that 'youse' I'd say that surely Cockney was intended, but I can't square that with 'youse' at all.

  • Being American, I more equated the Troll accents with that of areas in New York City. Also, as there are many troll gangsters, I hear them in the style of characters from Damon Runyon stories like Guys and Dolls and Little Miss Marker. – VBartilucci Jan 28 '20 at 14:26
  • @VBartilucci I hear you, but do those accents have 'fick' for 'thick'? – AakashM Jan 28 '20 at 15:31

It's not cockney - it's just a common (as in low, not widespread) southern accent associated with uneducated thugs or gang heavies (even youse is used by this stereotype in some contexts, such as "any of youse know how much trouble you're in?")

For an example of how this sounds:

Compare this with the East London/Cockney accents of characters like Eddy, Turkish and Brick-Top in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch.

  • This. I was going to paste dis link but yours - sorry, youse - is better. – DJClayworth Jan 23 '20 at 21:31

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