Being a Geordie has always been important to me because it gives me a place to be from. I went to uni in the South and never moved home after that, and for the past 10 years I’ve been living abroad. About 7 years ago, I noticed that my accent was becoming softer; my strong “o” became a mopey “eu”, my decisive “-n” became a whiny “-ing”. Nobody actually seemed to care or notice, but in the process of becoming more like them I was feeling less like me.
I began to look down on people who had softened their accents. I saw it as a weakness in character and a mark of vulnerability. I was indignant that I should need to give up my identity to be understood, and I judged myself for bending unconsciously.
My solution was to become bi-dialectal. From one day to the next I decided only to speak Geordie with other Geordies, and to speak a generic Estuary English with everyone else. This way I’m always in control. I made myself conscious of every difference between Geordie and standard English, and drawing this clear line quickly reversed all of the damage done to my original accent. When I speak Geordie now, it’s with a full sense of pride in that core identity. It means that wherever I am, I’m still from somewhere.
Because of all of this I live with two areas of linguistic discrimination. I still can’t help judging people with weakened regional accents as if they’re trying to snub their roots. Ironically enough, though, there are also the people who find out I’m a Geordie but hear my posh accent and assume that THAT’S an attempt to snub my roots, rather than a way of protecting them.