I’ve lived in the East Midlands for 12 years, on and off. My son is an East Midlander. I’m from South East London and have a very broad saahf Laahndan accent (my written English does not reflect the accent I have when I speak).
Not for the first time at my current place of work, though it’s been a while as I now work somewhere with mostly decent people for two years, I have just been subjected to an idiot suddenly deciding she’s got the bottle to start taking the mickey out of my accent. Namely by responding to most things I say with the normal idiot “jellied eels” and “gawd blimey guvnor” while pretending to stretch imaginary braces doing the Lambeth Walk or something, I don’t know. But all to the general laughter and actual clapping of half of my office colleagues. She’s obviously been doing this for a while behind my back but now she’s decided she’s got the support of the rest of them, so it’s OK to do this to my face while they all piss themselves while my dignity goes down the pan. I’m 49 – at my age this nonsense is not something I want to deal with.
This is not a new phenomenon to me, but this particular occasion has been a humiliating and enraging one. In googling this sort of thing, when it’s mentioned in media at all, it seems that the media has some mental schism that seems to just assume it’s always about either non-native English speakers or some poor victimised person from the UK regions being abused by stuck up RP Londoners.
Nonsense. Since living in the East Midlands I have encountered more casual racism and small minded provincialism than any place I’ve ever lived or been (and I’ve moved around a bit). I’m not talking about some joshing or light little pokes about pronunciation, all of which is fine – I’m talking about more serious forms. If it were not for the fact that I have to stay for the sake of my son I would be long gone. To be a “cockney” (which I am not anyway) anywhere north of Hertfordshire is licence to be lampooned, with a significant number of people not giving a damn about it being “inappropriate”. All the while simultaneously maintaining an idiot victim complex about the influence of “southerners”, hilariously. It’s no surprise that my actual friends up here are of East European or Asian descent.
I don’t mean to suggest it’s purely an East Midlands thing. It’s simply something you are suddenly aware of when you move to a different part of the country when you may not have been before. It’s not something I’ve brought with me, it’s a learned outlook due to the behaviour of my illustrious countrymen. I am actually of the opinion that, North or South (or the bit in between), in reality there’s literally no difference between any of us really, besides a few words like “cobs” and “rolls” and accompanying accents. And yet there exists this insistence that there’s this massive cultural divide. It basically doesn’t exist except in the form of learned, handed-down prejudice. I could look out my window at the street I live in near Nottingham or at the high street nearby and it could be the same as any commuter belt town near the M25, with people doing exact same thing, eating the same foods (oh yes they are!), listening to the same music, reading the same books, holding the same small-minded drivel opinions.
I’ve spent the last two days stewing about this (does it show?), and I shouldn’t have to be bothering about this crap. I’m not the sort to go making complaints to management, but Monday, I’m going to HR and the MD. I’m pretty sure I’ll get traction, even if it’s just because we’re struggling in current climate enough as it is, and I hold an important enough position that they don’t want idiot infighting putting people off their game.
I’ll not stop until I make that lass sorry she stuck her head above the parapet.
I suggest you do the same. Don’t let them get away with it, websites like this shouldn’t have to exist.