Isle of Wight Words

Ventnor Blog’s Isle of Wight Words is a truly touching feature of the hyperlocal site, bought to the island by Sally and Simon Perry.

Ventnor Blog (which isn’t just about Ventnor, but covers the whole island) had been pondering a dictionary of island phrases for some time, but as with so many things, they ‘just haven’t found the time to get around to it.’  Step forward the mysterious Mr Caulkhead, who used a telephone and ipadio to broadcast local colloquialisms over the internet.  Ventnor Blog picked up on these witty audio posts via Mr Caulkhead’s Twitter stream and published them, alongside brilliant illustrations by local artist David Knight, as Isle of Wight Words.  The result is utterly charming, and really celebrates the island’s unique character.

What is really special about it is that Mr Caulkhead has used a an incredibly simple device to imaginatively express what he finds special about his area.  Ipadio is a free tool that allows you to stream audio over a mobile or landline phone live to the web.  This will stay on your ‘phlog’ page and you can tag, add photos and a description to your broadcasts.  You can then embed your broadcasts into a blog post and link them to your Twitter account.  Of course, if you’re lucky enough to own a iPhone, you can use equally easy application Audioboo to to this.

Ventnor Blog responded to Mr Caulkhead’s endeavours in kind, pairing his creativity with artwork by David Knight, who had approached the site interested in submitting a regular piece.  His illustrations match Mr Caulkhead’s sweet yet irreverent tone to create a series of quirky, adorable posts.  As Simon Perry says, ‘that’s one of the great things about the Internet, people adding to what’s available.’

Mr Caulkhead has been prolific with his colloquialisms.  So much so, that Ventnor Blog are planning to post one Isle of Wight Word a day ‘as long as they continue.’  This is reason alone to subscribe to the site, whether or not you live there.

As you listen, you’ll hear that Mr Caulkhead’s pieces develop, moving to take the form of the spelling of the word, pronunciation, its explanation and it being used in the context of a sentence or two.

He also expands it into vital information like, if ‘whistersniff’ were in the English dictionary, it would be worth upwards to 120 points in Scrabble.

However, Mr Caulkhead remains strangely elusive.  He prefers to remain anonymous so the writers of Ventnor Blog can only correspond by email and they have no idea who he is or what drives him to broadcast.  They have essentially collaborated with a stranger by partnering his locally-based output with some lovely images and presenting it to a wider audience.  Mr Caulkhead has reacted to this new audience, responding to their comments on the blog and becoming more comically theatrical with each broadcast.

Now, all areas have local words, sayings, accents and ways of putting things which really characterise that community.  How might you creatively express these?  You could, like Mr Caulkhead, just broadcast the audio. Or you could match the audio to some nice visuals such as artwork or photos setting the scene.  Or, if you wanted to inject some life and action into the words, you could film them and post them on a video sharing site like YouTube or Vimeo, which can then be embedded into a blog post.  If your site covers quite a large area, like the Isle of Wight, people may say things differently from one village to the next – do those in West Wight speak slightly differently to those in East Wight?  You could map these idiosyncrasies using free mapping software such as Googlemaps.  Or, like Ventnor Blogs originally intended to do, you could produce a simple dictionary of local colloquialisms.

The point is the software to do any of the above is free and easy to use to communicate what sets your place apart from anywhere else.  So take a look at examples of how others have done this, play with the tools to hand and have a go at defining your community in a way that will engage locals and strangers alike.

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