It first dawned on me that my Midlands accent was particularly prominent when I was in my first year of university. It was approaching dinner (lunch) time, and I said: “Christ, I could eat a scabby ‘oss”. Suddenly, the conversation went dead. My Northern friends genuinely responded like I’d just started speaking in parseltongue. As the years progressed, my pronunciations became a source of entertainment for the people on my undergraduate course. Words such as ‘five’, ‘move’, ‘pikelet’ and ‘mom’ received a lot of complaints especially, with one student telling me to ‘learn the Queen’s English’. My accent also led people to question whether I was intelligent, or whether I was paying somebody to write my essays for me. If I’d received £1 every time somebody said to me “Om from Burrrrmingham”, I imagine I might be very rich by now. Of course, I’m not actually from Birmingham, I live 20 miles away – but nobody ever seemed to want to know that.
I’m from the Black Country but have lived almost 40 years in Hampshire, I spent some time in school in Hants as well as much of my adult life. While I no longer speak with a strong accent it has marked me out as someone to laugh at or simply actively hate. Sitting miffed in interviews with people laughing so hard whenever I spoke they couldn’t catch breath. I’ve been asked if I know who my father is and received a long letter suggesting I never again aspire to anything due to my background, I’ve been refused service in shops, banks and cafes and graded downwards despite coming equal to or better than other peers. It still can be a daily issue to have someone somewhere remind me I’m a Midlander… I sometimes thank them for letting me know as it’s easy to forget without the constant reminders… always with a twinkle. The idea, it seems from some, is to bring me down a few pegs, put me back in that box from which I wriggled.
None of my schools nor FEs expected anything of me, nor offered support, the educators were in some respects actively hostile. Similarly I’ve had employers apologise to visitors in advance for anything I may do and say on the basis that I come from the Midlands… and I was never ever allowed to represent any organisation I have been involved in… just in case it’s infectious maybe?
Many have suggested elocution lessons and moving back to the Midlands despite having spent most of my life in the South East. I recall one director filming where I worked saying I was a long way from home, I didn’t catch on immediately since this is my home so I said no I just live across the water… he looked confused, I caught on and laughed and explained (I’ve thought about having leaflets printed it happens so often)
What really gets to some people is that I’m not ashamed of being a Midlander in any way shape for form, yes it’s a different culture to here. I now sound very posh (according to the Midlanders) when I travel back there to visit relatives so I’m neither fish nor fowl really. I like both areas and people, not everyone means it badly and those that do tend to regret it when they find their friends laughing at them when I tease them back.
All in all, like many of my fellow Midlanders, I’m a well read, auto didact with a dry sense of humour and a friendly manner. I must be a serious challenge to prejudices if I have them working so hard to try and make me feel bad about myself… but I am the only one with that power over me, perhaps one day more people will understand that and accents will become an interesting difference rather than an object of hate and ridicule.
I am from Dudley in the Black Country and moved to Derbyshire when I was 8. Instantly I received comments about how I spoke and people couldn’t understand me. As a result my accent changed over time to be more ‘posh’ sounding so I could clearly get my point across. But at 17, comments are still made on how I pronounce certain sounds and I’m told I don’t say certain things correctly.
My mom and sister still have the accent and people instantly comment on how they don’t sound like me, often with a negative tone. I am unsure if it is intentional or not.
Also, when I’ve met people through friends, I have received comments such as ‘Well it’s a good thing you didn’t come with that dreadful accent’ among other hurtful comments.
At school I study English Language and it’s awful to look at the stereotypes associated with my accent.
I had a job in a cafe where there was another person from the Black Country and our boss made comments hinting that she didn’t approve of how we spoke.
I think it appalling that people think this is acceptable behaviour and that you can judge the a person’s capabilities solely on how they speak.
I am from the Black Country. Yes, everyone thinks that I am a Brummie but you know different.
However, the accent to an outsider is very much the same.
I have moved from a working class area to quite a posh area and I was actually asked once ‘Oh, you live in Hagley…..?’ err Yes, I know where I live (my accent does not reflect my social status….How can I possibly live in this area….how could I possibly afford it??)
I have moved again to Malvern and if another person in Waitrose or any other shop for that matter asks me if I am on my holidays I think I will scream!! I am sure that they must send the security guard following me as someone who speaks like me must be a shoplifter!!
So, so cross about the accentism in this town, making me out to be ugly or uneducated.
I am actually a solvent, successful business woman but I am made to feel inferior to my neighbours and fellow residents. I did think about getting ‘accent reduction’ lessons but realised if I spoke differently, I would no longer be ‘me’
What would you do?…..I want to be able to give a meaningful response when I am asked if ‘I am on my holidays’ without being rude or cross and I would like to point out that I am not ashamed that I come from a working class background. I will always feel inferior and that I do not belong because only of my accent. It is a shame to have to face discrimination every day that I shop or chat to the locals but I can’t see anything changing anytime soon.
I’m a PhD candidate and associate lecturer, originally from Wolverhampton.
I never really developed a thick Black Country accent. Whenever I speak to people at conferences and I tell them where I’m from, there’s always a somewhat congratulatory “oh, you can’t tell!” reaction.